I’m not sorry. I’m not. Okay? I binged all of Neo Yokio, season 1, in a day while doing homework. It was one of my better life choices recently. You can hate. That’s your choice. But sorry to disappoint you, reader, but the universe is dictated by forces far greater than purist anime fandoms. Less hate, more vibes, please.
First off, it is anime. Not just because that is internationally the accepted term for any animated product but because it was also animated by a Japanese company (written by an American). So get your poor attitude about it having some American creators and go away. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it or read this blog. I just think you really really really should because it is great.
Second, this is now second only to FLCL in my favorite cartoon series of all time. If films were on that list it might drop several points (sorry, Jaden but Hayao Miyazaki has made some really great films). The series, though short, is super funny, engaging, nuanced, nostalgic, fresh, and just all around wonderful. Sure the animation isn’t always on fleek (if you didn’t know, neither is most anime but hey) and some of the stories are plain silly or laid back but the series makes some pretty deep cuts about modern society while maintaining a personal brand of decadent frivolity.
The show is about a glum aristocrat living in a mega city-state of alternate history New York (or maybe far future New York? Who knows right?). While trying to maintain an elite lifestyle and mope, the main character is pushed by his aunt to complete exorcisms. Like all great anime, the lead character is magical or something. Unlike a lot of anime, he could really care less.
The short six episodes tell the story of his time right after a major break up with his girlfriend. While finding his feet, he meets a girl he liked from before his relationship. While exorcizing a demon out of her, he asks her out. However, unlike everything else in his life, she doesn’t fall into his lap. Her time possessed leaves her wanting more out of life than fashion and giant Toblerones.
Pretty much everything in the series is about Kaz, the protagonist, trying to navigate his feelings while completing his duties for his family. It explores the social dynamics of the working class and leisure class rich while making social commentary on life, wealth inequality, patriotism, mecha butlers, and the concept of friendship.
Did I mention that Jude Law plays the mecha butler? Cause Jude Law is the mecha butler.
People have complained about the voice acting. I thought it was great. Jaden Smith sounds bored but guess what–that’s his character. I mean, LOOK AT THE LIST OF VOICE ACTORS:
Tavi Gevinson, Susan Sarandon, The Kid Mero, Desus Nice, Jason Schwartzman, The IT Crowd: Season 1“>Richard “I’M IMPOSSIBLY AMAZING IN ANY ROLE” Ayoade, Alexa Chung, Steve Buscemi, Annet Mahendru, Ike Barinholtz, Stephen Fry, Katy Mixon, Nico Muhly, Frank Vincent, “>Ray “MUTHA FUCKING” Wise
Most of the voices are so good and compelling that I didn’t even stop to check who they were for most of the series. I stopped for Jude Law (guilty as charged) but the rest were amazing and blended into the fabric of the world they built. I mean, come on, Steve Buscemi shows up and I didn’t bat an eye. Everyone was perfectly matched/designed for their role.
Speaking of the world, it is fabulous. It is seemingly set in the future but the dates they give are near contemporary. It mentions real-world places and social situations but with oddities. Such as, Neo Yokio is seemingly New York (it’s near a New Jersey and has similar neighborhoods). Yet there is still a USSR (which hasn’t been around for a number of years). Also, there is magic and demons. It’s a beautiful tapestry of a world. I would liken it to the world of an 80’s cartoon but 40 years later.
So there are super high-tech mecha butlers, neighborhoods built underwater, and diamond encrusted terrorists. Like an 80’s cartoon, this kind of world would be horrendously dysfunctional. Whereas your standard issue Fairy Tail or Sword Art Online would never address problems like this, Neo Yokio actually… well… they try to ignore it but the world itself is aware of the problems. During a high-speed car race through the slums, Kaz makes the statement that maybe Neo Yokio isn’t the greatest place in the world. Which is a much more interesting to me than another deus ex machina series where actions/world building has no consequences.
The series, in my opinion, is tackling the issue of how disconnected the elites of a society can be. Rather than call out New York socialites or Hollywood aristocrats directly (or be shackled to their real-life confines), Neo Yokio is built to be every metropolis’ ideal. A perfect city with everything you could ever want (as long as you are well-to-do). The rich play games and mourn minor inconveniences. Kaz has no idea how relationships operate beyond being in the right color of suit or in the right position on the bachelor leaderboard.
Neo Yokio is a microcosm of all the world, well-hidden warts and all. The elite of the city has no idea that there are problems beyond anticipating the next season’s color scheme. The concept of needing to work is all but lost on the core characters. Meanwhile, otherworldly threats, nihilistic terrorists, and government officials are bearing down on the people of the city. They tear at it from the inside. They claw at it from the outside.
In the end… I didn’t actually know who the “good guys” were.
There are layers of good and evil, right and wrong, greedy and altruistic. Is Kaz a hero? Is he just blindly doing as he is told? By the end of the series I really didn’t know.
What I did get to thinking about, however, was how we can all relate to thinking what we are doing is important. Life happens in between what we want to do and what we have to do. At times we find that what we thought was important was just a waste of time. Finding meaning in life is not black and white (or even midnight blue). It’s something we have to search out ourselves and in one another.
Alright, well, I know I won’t convince most of you. There is so much hate for this show (which is completely unearned). After watching it I can’t understand what people didn’t like about it. Then again, I think Dragon Ball Z: Season 1 [Blu-ray]“>Dragon Ball Z is lame, so what do I know?