Tokyo ESP Review

This is review number three hundred and seventy nine. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Tokyo ESP. It’s a twelve episode anime about something that just irritates me. F*ck it, let’s just read on.

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Story

The show follows a girl named Rinka Urushiba, who recently discovered she had powers one day. It seems she gained this power, and she must now use it for good. She’ll become a super hero, but other people gained powers as well. When there are heroes, there are also villains. The city of Tokyo is about to be taken for a giant roller coaster ride now.

Sight and Sound

1

Oh boy, where do I start? Ok, first of all, anime is a very technical thing. Animation, in general, is very technical. You can’t just draw something, make it move then call it a day. No, animation looks horrible if you don’t fine tune it. It’s easily taken for granted but a good animation has nuance, grace and it can create atmosphere without the audience noticing it. People watching it will just be instantly drawn to a good animation. This is where Kyoto Animation excels the best in. Hair strands, body movement, eyes blinking, posture, facial expression, highlights and shadows, camera angle, mood of the scene, and subtle details make animation fun to watch. KyoAni does this with ease. You may not realize it, but you’re drawn to their work because of the smooth animation. Now, I do admit that not everyone can be good at animation like KyoAni. But good animation is very important in a show, because everything else rests on the way you visually narrate. So if the animation is bad, then you can bet that everything else will suffer. Again, I don’t really expect much. Effort is an honest trait, and a good reviewer can spot it in even the most mediocre things. I’ve seen flash animations with no movement, picture book style anime and even actual manga pages colored with little animation (non-progressive animation), and I give it a pass. Animation is just half of the experience, and there’s a lot more to discover in a show. Still, you have to know how to properly animate. Nothing irks me more than a show with bad animation and absolutely no effort is given in the show. Why spend so much time creating a show if you’re not going to take care of it? Laziness always angers me. It hurts to watch a show that is just really bad. I hate shows that display no effort, and I personally can’t stomach watching them.

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I wanted to drop Tokyo ESP right after I watched the first episode. It was bad. It was horribly bad. Seeing the rest of the show is just pure torture on my part now. I did not want to continue. Why? Because the anime is a technical mess. It’s not just the awful animation. The series composition, the script and the cinematography sucks. Basically, the most barebones quality of an acceptable anime is just done horribly wrong by this show. You can tell that it’s bad just from its first episode.

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The thing that really angered me the most is that it tried to pull off Ga Rei Zero’s first episode. Ei Aoki gave us sensory overload with Gai Rei Zero’s first episode. A lot of stuff blows up, a lot of people dies and a rampaging girl is at the center of it all. It was amazing, and arguably one of the best first episodes, in terms of intrigue, rivaled only by Elfen Lied’s first episode. The genius thing about Gai Rei Zero is that the entire first episode is a lie. The anime is more slowly paced as it focuses on the power of friendship between two girls. Ei’s intention is to capture the insanity of the manga though. Gai Rei Zero is a prequel to the manga, but it wanted to keep the spirit of the original in one episode. It was brilliant work.

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Shigehito Takayanagi tried to pay homage to Ei’s amazing first episode. Shigehito attempted to recreate Gai Rei Zero’s insane episode in Tokyo ESP’s first episode. There is one problem though. The entire thing sucks. The pacing, the fight scenes, the explosions, the deaths, and the rampaging girl at the center of it all just didn’t register that properly. It didn’t have the same impact as Ei’s work. Tokyo ESP’s first episode is an awkward mess with lazy animation and narrative-flow that just feels dull. I feel really annoyed that Shigehito had the gall to try Ei’s thing despite knowing that the animation is horrible. Shigehito’s arrogance oozes over the scenes, but you can tell the entire thing is just mediocre sh*t. What is he trying to prove?

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You could argue that he wanted to really pay tribute to Ei Aoki with the first episode. It could just be an honest and innocent thing, but there’s a problem here. Comparing Tokyo ESP with Gai Rei Zero is now unavoidable. You already made the connection, and the audience is now expecting something grand. You even put the characters of Gai Rei Zero in the first episode, and that just sets Tokyo ESP up to fail. With the bad animation, it’s like the show intentionally committed suicide with the first episode. Maybe Shigehito envisioned a more polished anime, but the end result is really just an awkward mess. I feel bad for him, the writer and the studio that put forth this sh*t. What the hell happened here? It’s 2014. We shouldn’t be making embarrassing crap like this anymore.

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Now you might think that I’m being a bit unfair with how I describe the show. I haven’t even gone into the specifics of the actual show yet, and I’m already crying like a b*tch. That’s fair, but let’s just start off with this.

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Look at the GIF. Look at how wrong it is. In fact, let’s break it down.

First of all, the guy moved to a different location by having the camera close up to his face. He instantly teleports to a different scene without actually moving. The show still kept the same frames though before the guy with the crow mask hits him.

Secondly, the impact of the bat is never seen. If you want people to be convinced that he’s been hurt severely by the bat, then you have to animate the bat actually hitting him. Instead, they zoom out then the masked guy just swings, and then the dude awkwardly flips towards the car.

Lastly, notice the way he crashed into the car. It’s simple gravity. If a guy falls on a car then, at the very least, the car would’ve been dented. In animation, you would actually have the windshield break to imply how badly the guy got hit by the car. In the anime, he just goes “thump” meeting the car and then he just falls to the ground. Seriously, add a thump sound effect to the GIF. It is hilarious, and that’s the main problem of the anime. It’s not just lazy animation, but even subtle things are done wrong. Pacing is bad, and the show has a dull mood.

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Constant little errors in the animation happen all the time in this show, so it’s very hard to really finish it. In fact, I couldn’t even focus on the story because of the lazy animation. I couldn’t be convinced to watch, even if I suspend my disbelief. I gave it a chance, really, I did. But, it’s just so hard to do it.

In fact, I’m too bothered to care about the story. The anime has so many errors in its technical aspect that it’s hard to ignore. Let’s talk about “adaptation”. This anime is adapted from a manga, and the author actually created the Gai Rei manga. That’s why the ham fisted first episode happened. There is connection. Now, adaptation is about capturing the intentions of the manga and then translating it into a moving visual form. Literally, the manga comes to life. With that being said, let’s take a look at the manga.

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I am no manga expert, and I really couldn’t be bothered to read one chapter. I’m really just lazy like that, but look at the way the manga is constructed. It’s heavily inked, a lot of action lines to accompany reactions because they’re implied to be overly expressed reactions, and character design isn’t actually that clean. In fact, the manga is messy. It has a dark tone, but it’s broken up by light comedy delivered by the characters. This is a SHOUNEN manga, and it’s actually along the lines of Boku no Hero Academia or Nobunagun. It’s meant to be a little gritty, but the action is so prevalent that you’re consumed by it. The anime version of both Boku no Hero and Nobunagun stuck to the intentions of the original source. It converted the heavy inking style with a heavy tone for the show, and it captured the light comedy with the characters moving in the heavy environment. Granted, adaptation is a hard thing to do. The author’s idea is often too much for an anime to handle, so the show has liberties to adjust what it can adjust. But for Tokyo ESP, the animation is just dull. The heavy inking is washed out, and the grittiness of the manga is just gone. Even brutal scenes like a guy getting hit with an arrow through the throat looks dull, and it really shouldn’t be. How? How do you f*ck up an adaptation this badly? Even Bokurano, where the director admitted to hating the actual story, had the decency to keep the grittiness intact. Tokyo ESP didn’t do anything special to bring the manga to life. All it did is use some of the panels as key frames for certain animations, but even they are done awkwardly.

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You might think the images above looks the same, but they’re not. Look at the lack of background for the anime. Look at how it didn’t convey impact with the kick. Notice that the guy in the manga actually got pummeled to the floor by the debris that is drawn all over him. The anime lacks that, and this is a big problem for the show. Simple sh*t like copying the manga can’t even be done properly. So where the f*ck do we go from here?

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How about series composition? What is that? Well, series composition is about arranging the anime. Episode one could contain chapter 1 to five of the manga. Episode two could be a beach episode, or it could be a flashback episode. Series composition deals with how the episode will look. It’s easily taken for granted, but part of what makes K-On tolerable is because of the series composition. Since the show is adapted from literally four panels of the original source, the series compositor will arrange the episode so it can have cohesion. The episode could be about the club talking about writing music while getting sidetracked, or it can be about the fall season and the food you can eat during this time. Series composition is important, because it’s the outline of how the show will look. For Tokyo ESP, the series composition sucks. Mari Okada’s series composition in Mayoiga flow more competently than the one in this anime. At least Okada can focus one thing in an episode. In fact, a lot of original anime excels in series composition more than writing a coherent script. For this anime, despite having a manga to adapt, the series composition is all over the place.

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A lot of the episodes in this anime don’t have a central theme to them. I think I only counted one, and that’s the episode where the bad guy reveals his reason for being bad. The rest is a mishmash of different character plot points. One episode could be about the concern of a person suddenly having super powers, but then it’ll shift to two characters growing closer to each other. You can transition to these scenes with no problem, but the anime doesn’t try. It presents one thing, and then it doesn’t build it up. It just suddenly switches to the other thing. So imagine watching this girl be so consumed with controlling her powers, and then suddenly talking about love and trusting this male character. How does it connect? There’s also an episode about the characters training, and then it shifts to this boy hiding his powers from his overly political mother. I mean, really, no build up. It opens with scenes of characters training, and then dialogue exchanges between how the mother hates super powered freaks pops up next. Can you imagine if K-On opens with the band having tea, and then it shifts to one of them having an existential crisis? It doesn’t work, and a series compositor should know that. He would’ve separated those two things, and then use the script to connect them. Oh my gawd, this is just too much.

I have realized at this point that I really didn’t talk about the content of the anime. It just tells you how fundamentally broken the show is. I won’t even try. Let’s just talks about cinematography next.

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Cinematography is basically the animation and story being combined into one. This is the job of the director. He establishes the mood, sets the pace of the story and visualizes how a script will turn out. A script is really just words like “two characters are talking in a room”, and the director will now bring that to life. Does he simply present two characters standing in the room? Is one against the wall as the character lays out exposition? Is the camera angle simply a wide shot of the room or is it a view from the window? Is the room fully lit or is there one solitary light source that gives vision to the room? Depending on the director’s vision, the anime comes to life thanks to his cinematography. It’s easy to just put pen into motion, but it’s really a competent director that makes the entire experience interesting and gripping. Some viewers take this for granted, but there’s a reason I didn’t blame Mayoiga’s director for the show’s awfulness. He simply gave life to it. In Tokyo ESP though, the cinematography is simply shut. It’s dead, like a lifeless body floating down a river. You simply just watch it float by, and then you wonder “what in the flying f*ck did I just witness?”

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There is no pacing, the scenes aren’t that properly established, and certain climaxes aren’t punctuated. Again, someone was shot with an arrow to the throat and it didn’t feel special. The big scene of the parliament building floating to the sky should’ve been an awe inspiring feat of animation. If Ei Aoki directed this, then imagine Saber unleashing Excalibur for the first time. It would’ve been that f*cking awesome. In this anime, the entire scene just happens really with no real punctuation on how important it is. Cinematography also killed some of the characters and their motivations here. I remember a shot of the bad guy’s wife when he first attacked our main characters. It was just one small scene with a line uttered, “it’s her anniversary today” and it tells you a lot about the character. The scene is given no importance though, because it was set in an illusion created by the bad guy. He sets a piano in a forest, and the scene wasn’t properly established by the anime. So you’re wondering “why is he in a forest?”, and you soon fail to notice the importance of that one solitary scene with one uttered line in it. It’s actually a subtle introduction to the character, but you would’ve never guessed it. Of course, cinematography would’ve also benefitted the fight scenes here. Unfortunately, they just look awkward. The framing is weird, the scenes lack impact and it just basically suck. Accompanied by the horrible animation, then you have just gone full circle. From bad animation to bad composition to bad cinematography, I just cannot comprehend how this happened.

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This anime is presented by Xebec, and it’s surprising how under budget this anime is. They do have horrible animation from time to time, like Rio Rainbow Gate, but never to the level of Tokyo ESP. This show has CG in it, so I just don’t understand why it came out so badly. Is it intentional? I hope not. Xebec isn’t that great of a studio, but they do deliver decent hits. This anime is like the Togainu no Chi to A-1 Pictures, and I can’t believe they get their worst one in 2014. They’ve been around since 1995, damn it. They’re not a rookie studio trying to make a quick sell here. Geez. Shigehito Takayanagi gave us the adaptation of The World God Only Knows, so he does know how to do a faithful adaptation. TWGOK’s anime is so close to the manga, and only a truly talented director can do that. So why? Why does this anime exist? Hideyuki Kurata series composed and wrote the script. Again, he worked on TWGOK with Shigehito. This anime is like the dark cloud in their list of works. Hideyuki’s career as a writer even goes as far back as 1995, so it’s really amazing how much this anime sucks. I don’t get it. Competent people worked on this anime, but it turned out so bad. Why? What happened?

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The anime’s OP is “Tokyo Zero Hearts” by Faylan. This is a pretty cheesy song, but it fits well with the Shounen theme of the anime. It’s about how the bonds of friendship can triumph over anything. It’s pretty stupid, but it does have a nice hook to it. Faylan also sings pretty decently here. It’s nothing special, but definitely better than the entire anime. It’s a lot more impressive with the OP sequence. Did they blow their budget on the OP sequence? It features the main characters in some impressive animation that you actually never see in the actual show. It has pans and zooms, beautiful framing, a f*cking tracking shot, correct hand placements and proportions and even an impressive running animation. All of the things I listed are not in the show itself. So it’s actually heartbreaking seeing good animation in the first few minutes only to turn sh*t afterwards. It’s like a metaphor for life. It’s depressing.

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The anime’s ED is “Kyuusei Argyros” by Yousei Teikoku. I love this song. It’s like a Goth rock song, and it’s so emo. I just really love listening to it. Yousei has a cute voice, and then she blurts out lyrics about dying for the person I worship. Holy hell, it is intense. It’s also accompanied by an impressive ED sequence. This has a better flow and atmosphere than the actual show. I bet the director didn’t make this. It’s about one of the bad guys and her backstory. It’s really cool, because it captures the characters unstable devotion. I really wished the anime could’ve tried to convey this in the actual show, but this is by far my most favorite part of it all.

Taking the Pants Off

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Oh yeah…..

…..I have to discuss the story…..

Um….a lot of stuff certainly happened. Is that enough? No?

Gawd damn it. Ok fine. The show is about a bunch of super powered humans trying to control their powers, fighting other mutants and they’re soon embroiled in a fight against bad mutants that want to destroy the world. So, basically, it’s like X-men.

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I do think the comparison to X-men is intentional. The manga has this wacky trope of creating characters out of obvious western icons like Steven Seagal, Wolverine and even Yoda. The purpose of these characters is to actually create some more light hearted comedy while the show is on a heavy mood. This is like Nobunagun having Florence Nightingale in the story while the characters brutally kill monsters. It’s cute like that, and it’s a really playful Shounen trope. Even One Piece does it. Anyways, the light hearted nature of the show is offset by a lot of jarring scenes though. There are some whacky gruesome scenes here like people getting their arms chopped off, kids being run over by trains and some people being cut in half. The manga is playfully psychotic like this, but I haven’t really gone far in the original source. I just got the psychotic impression from the content of the anime. Speaking of, it’s obviously rushed. No scene settles, and the status quo constantly changes.

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But do you know the even more annoying thing about this anime? It had the gall. THE GALL. THE BALLS. THE IRON BALLS. THE GALLING IRON BALLS!!!! to tease a second season. Oh yeah, because the awful experience is so good that we want more of it. Yeah, that makes sense. After sitting through what equates to slashing your wrist with a rusty lbade, having no real conclusion to the story is the best choice here. Good job anime. Die in a fire now.

Overall Score

2/10 “This is a good example of a fundamentally awful anime. Total garbage.”

In terms of technical aspects, the anime sucks. It’s broken and it’s infuriating. In terms of story, it is still tolerable. I wouldn’t have finished it if I wasn’t able to sit through the plot. It is still pretty painful though. If a moving picture fails at moving, then it’s just a crappy picture. You can’t tell a proper story with just a picture. As an impartial reviewer though, the animation does become decent during close up shots. They’re easy to animate, I guess. If you want an exercise in torture though, I suggest you try this. If you’re a student of animation, then I do believe there is value here. Watch this, and learn. Learn all the things this show did wrong, and make it a practice to think of how it can be better. Apply all your skills in making this anime better in your mind, and for gawd sakes promise that you’ll never create something this bad.

 

Thoughts~

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