April 5th, 2015.
The (Next) Great Director:
Based on a manga by the mangaka behind Trigun (Nightow Yasuhiro), directed by the director behind Kyousougiga (Matsumoto Rie), this is one of the shows I was most looking for before the season began. Did it deliver? It did. Yes, it’s mostly a spectacle thus far, but so very well done.
The categories are going to get a tad mixed this time around, but it’d make sense.
Presentation / Directing:
First thing first, this show just screams Baccano! in terms of how the story begins and is told, and just like in the preview, that the main character is voiced by Sakaguchi Daisuke who also voiced Jacuzzi Splott in Baccano! just reinforces that further. That mental image, and the whole “monsters against the powers that be” make it so that even as I watch modern and futuristic tech, I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t set in the 1930s.
Speaking of things that remind me of other shows, The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions are notable where almost every single shot contains references to other ideas, and this show, in turn, seems to be referencing those two Matrix films. Libra being discussed with lines of green code, a secret group, like Morpheus’s cabal; the elevator is very similar to some shots’ framing from The Matrix; and of course, that door in the wall, similar to various doors opened in the first film, or where we see Seraph in the 2nd and 3rd films.
And the last one, Femt, a hedonist, who creates chaos just because it’s more fun that way, seemingly? He’s the Merovingian, but he’s also voiced by Ishida Akira, who portrayed Inari in Kyousougiga, the director’s last show, and one could consider it to be a commentary on Inari’s character, as well.
Every time a “demon-door” opened (or the memory scene), or when Zapp fought off the demon, it was like an explosion of colours that reminded one of how extremely colourful and vibrant Kyousougiga has been. Femt standing on the table with his megaphone and the shadow-puppets? Also felt extremely Kyousougiga-esque, and that’s great.
Theme / Plot / Some More Directing:
Super-powers! Chaos! Fun! But also “I am a coward” voiced by Jacuzzi Splott, and “I am afraid to be eaten up by the city,” and there’s no city to gobble you up like the city that doesn’t sleep, is there? So this is not only Baccano!, but also Durarara!!.
Speaking of the city that will swallow you up, how about when Femt showed up on the monitors and everyone ignored him, as a random yahoo to ignore, who can’t actually do anything, or even if he can, they’re just all too busy about their own business? Stereotypical and caricaturized New Yorkers, but also made me think of Samurai Flamenco on one hand, and Gatchaman Crowds on the other. Interesting. Are those people who got swallowed by the city, or ones who conquered it?
The whole imagery I pointed to as similar to The Matrix’s, combined with the constant imagery and metaphors of “opening doors” combined with this great image, which gives Leonard’s journey distinct overtones of entering the underworld. Something to think of.
I know I’ve already compared this show to so many shows, but if I had to truly compare it to one show, meta-thematically, it’d be Ping-Pong the Animation, for reasons discussed in my episodic notes for that show – Ping Pong had a pretty simple story structure, and characters we all already knew, and yet it was my favourite show ending in 2014. Not because it was new or innovative, but because it was just so masterfully done in terms of execution and direction.
Kekkai Sensen might not break any thematic ground, tell us any new stories, but it seems like it’s one of the best at telling that story, by the first episode alone.