Anime Review: "Tokyo Revengers" Season #1

I’m starting this review off up front by saying that “Tokyo Revengers” is, for me, a 10/10 series, but I’m a big softie when it comes to anything unique. I tend to score things a bit on the higher side, so, for you it may be an 8 or a 9 (if you like the same kind of things I do), but I want to be up front that I think this is a great anime and that it absolutely must be seen. I’m putting this at the beginning of my review, because I’m going to sound pretty mean about this anime a bit later, but I want it to be known that it’s very minor stuff, mostly dealing with visual elements, and doesn’t change the fact that this series deserves near perfect marks for its originality, story, and characters, and by no means does the visual side detract from any of that. This was not a bad adaptation, it just wasn’t a legendary one.

Premise is cool. Time travel + Delinquents. If you’ve got any interest in seinen/shonen, that should be enough to get you to watch it and also enough to keep you from asking too much about the plot, or reading up about it online. Once you KNOW that the series is about time travel (which is NOT a spoiler), you know that you shouldn’t research too much, or you risk ruining it for yourself. This series delves heavily into dealing with disappointment, regret, and facing the failures of your past; I believe these are themes a lot of people can relate to. I certainly did. If I had the chance to go back in time, there’s a lot of stuff I would do differently…

Disclaimer: if you’re the type of person who has to have an explanation for how time travel works…

Maybe sit this one out. Not every plot device needs to be explained up front, and we don’t get one here, and if that’s gonna be what you’re thinking about the whole time while you watch this anime, don’t bother with it. I daresay, this one’s not for you. Since I’m saying this, you clearly understand that I’m not the type to get hung up on stuff like, “bUt HoW dOeS hIs TiMe TrAveL wOrK?” BS. I can suspend disbelief, realize that this is sci-fi, and just roll with it. It worked in “Boku dake ga Inai Machi” and it works here. Honestly, what I found much harder to believe was that these were all 13-14 year olds kicking each other’s butts and riding motorcycles all over the place with not a single parent in sight, especially with Japan’s strict traffic laws. The “past” of this is 2005, not 1985. I definitely don’t recall things in Japan being like that at all when I was living there, just a few years later, but, let’s set that aside as well (for the sake of the plot).  I loved this series on a conceptual level – the characters seemed fresh, the story put an original spin on the typical time travel premise, and the plot was twisted enough that I had no idea where things were going, leaving me absolutely gob smacked at the end.

Now, I haven’t read the manga yet, but I’ve seen quite a bit of the art. I thought it was amazing. To be frank, the anime failed to live up to what the manga put on the table, and I can make that judgement based entirely off of skimming through panels in the first few volumes.

All of my complaints about this show come down to visuals, but they’re extremely shallow complaints, coming from someone who has become jaded by bad adaptations and hastily produced garbage.

As far as “Tokyo Revengers” is concerned, the cinematography wasn’t bad; it was normal. The Director behind this didn’t do a bad job, by any means, but he’s a relatively new face. At the end of the day, I’d say he did a commendable job working on such a big project as this, which will most likely be a HUGE financial success, and is already the highest rated series by this studio of all time.

The animation quality, as a whole, wasn’t bad; it was normal. The studio behind this, LIDENFILMS has made a lot of series that had that, “commercially successful” feel to them, but lack when it comes to rating. They’re not out there making art pieces, and they’re not producing shows that can get sold on their sakuga alone. They make anime that look mostly average. From the visuals alone, you probably wouldn’t be able to figure out what studio made this. Very mainstream.

Art, background, fights. All the visuals were normal. They lived up to expectations. None of it looked phoned in, but at the same time, didn’t look like it was painstakingly crafted in some artisan way. There were no copy-pasted cars in any of the scenes, but there were also not that many shots bristling with life from the mid 2000’s shown to give us atmosphere.

It was all just… normal.

The visuals were all very standard, traditional, and popular, in that plastic, mass-produced kind of way. It feels weird to use this as an insult, but it had a very “seasonal anime” vibe to it. I’m afraid people won’t be talking about it years, or even months from now, even though they should be. It could have been an 11/10 anime that gets brought up in the same sentences as stuff like “Steins;Gate”, “Erased”, or “Evangelion”, but I doubt that’s going to be the case even if it’s trending on twitter after the finale. Watching it, I couldn’t help thinking, how damn good it could have been if it had been done with more “style” to it, because “style” is definitely what the manga has in spades. The manga art re-defines stylish, in a retro-future kind of way, taking your typical “delinquents” imagery and amping it up to a hundred. I would have loved to have a little more of that in the adaptation, which for me, fell pretty flat. In my head, when I think of delinquents, my mind goes to “GTO”, “Cromartie High School”, or “Slam Dunk”, and to the 90’s aesthetics. I think it would have been really cool to have seen something more along those lines, in terms of aesthetics, with the adaptation of this series.

To conclude in one really long sentence: “Tokyo Revengers”, the anime, was an absolutely unique experience that was adapted well enough that I won’t forget it, or take points off my review because of the animation, but not well enough that I’ll likely re-watch it, buy it, or add it into my favorites list; however, it made me interested enough in it that I’ll most likely BUY the entire manga, even if I have to import it directly from Japan because there’s no official physical release.

Which brings me to the P.S. to this review where I’d like to talk about censorship.

At the time of reviewing this series, which is just following the finale, there’s no print version of this available in the US. I’m not even sure if there’s an official English release in print anywhere. You can find the manga, digitally, to purchase easily enough, it’s right there on Amazon, available through Kindle & Comixology, among other places. Now, why this did not have a physical book, is something that baffled me thoroughly, and after discussing it with a friend on twitter, they suggested that it’s almost certainly because of the “problematic imagery” i.e. the “Manji” character seen blazing throughout, on the flags, and apparel belonging to gang of the main characters in the story . Or, should I say, it WOULD be seen throughout the show, if you’re watching the “Tokyo Revengers” uncensored version, and not the censored version that’s available through legal streaming sources, such as Crunchyroll in the states. The “Manji” is apparently controversial because uneducated people are too stupid to realize the difference between it and the Nazi swastika. One is a spiritually religious symbol, with thousands of years of cultural heritage. One is a white-power hate sign. I don’t usually get up in arms about censorship in anime, because usually it’s for one of two reasons: 1) titties 2) gore. Fundamentally, I don’t think having censorship of that kind of stuff is a bad thing, since modern streaming services put all the adult titles right there next to the kiddie grade stuff, making it just as easy to watch “Redo of a Healer” as it is to find “Reborn”, and that’s a mistake you don’t wanna make when you’re babysitting… I am, however, completely opposed to companies fucking thought policing us over anime imagery, judging us to be too fucking stupid to educate ourselves about the difference in a symbol’s meaning. It took me 30 fucking seconds to navigate to shorinjiryublog via a quick google search to find a full on explanation of the difference in meaning between a swastika and the Manji. If you’re old enough to watch an anime about time traveling delinquents, you’re fucking old enough to do that level of homework. So, big fucking middle finger to whoever made the decision to censor this for western streaming.

I added in a bunch of "fucking" (adj) to punch up this uncensored review, for my personal blog for little reason other than to make a statement about censorship. If you don't like it, f$%& off and read it on MAL.

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