I started this anime on a whim the other day and found myself baffled within the first three minutes. Then I realized this show is taking the whole “conform-or-be-crazy” trope to a whole new level: everyone who is not a protagonist is a violent, depraved serial killer. For variety’s sake, everyone who is a protagonist is also a violent, depraved serial killer. I guess everything is a matter of degree, right? So this whole series revolves around “Night Raid,” a series of assassins who are part of a revolutionary movement who want to bring about the end of a corrupt government by assassinating everyone they think is involved in said corruption, including people who have nothing to do with the government, because reasons. This revolutionary movement has yet to be explained; its goals, manifesto, ideals, etc., are left undescribed and unsaid. Instead, the writers beat it into the viewer’s head that the government is evil by whipping out every comical stereotype of evil they can think of, including literal mustache twirling, to avoid nuance and the concept of grey in this ridiculous black-and-white world. In the first episode, some young tween rich girl does a hilariously unbelievable personality switch on the turn of a dime, going from kind, compassionate, slightly-ditzy-and-shopping-obsessed-rich-girl to Murderess Level 10, going on some maniacal rant about how she tortured a girl to death because her hair was straight without any obvious effort. I thought maybe the series was saying these people were possessed by demons, but that was only metaphorical, it turns out. These people are actually all insane for no discernible reason.
So I’ve kept watching past the first episode and I’m not sure if I want to keep going. Unless the series really goes beyond Tropesville and decides to realize that a simplistic story like this has no sustainable pull beyond violence porn, I don’t think I’ll be entertained for very long. There are only so many brutal eviscerations and physics-defying decapitations one can depict before it gets redundant. I think the author honestly didn’t care about what kind of story they were penning, only coming up with some vague literary scaffolding to hang the delicious violence porn over. The Imperial Capital is depicted as this bustling modernesque city with a consumption-based economy that is simultaneously mostly filled with slumdwellers and violent rapists and bullies. I’m not sure if that’s just lazy background design or shitty writing on the part of everyone. It’s frankly so unrealistic that it’s impossible to suspend one’s disbelief. I haven’t seen a series with as simplistic a geopolitical setup since Speed Grapher, which turned into a 24-episode-nightmare of what-the-ever-living-fuck-is-happening-she’s-fifteen-you-can’t-have-a-relationship-with-her-holyshit-we-get-it-capitalism-is-evil.
Human corruption is not so overt. When dictatorships and other such things arise, it’s usually done either with popular support or popular apathy, in which the majority of the populace is either prospering from the policies of the corrupt government and are so willing to tolerate its sins, as is typical in the modern world, or the majority of the populace is so removed from the government that its policies don’t really affect their lives much. In a situation such as depicted here, civil order would have collapsed a long time ago. Meanwhile, the revolutionaries either have no coherent goal they’re working toward or are playing their cards close to the vest, which makes me just as suspicious of them. In our democracy-loving, revolution-praising world, we don’t like to admit that revolutions have a disastrous track record, with nearly all of them ending up imposing governments that prove as bad or worse as that they replaced. If their whole idea is to just kill the corrupt people in power without destroying the system and replacing it with something more just and equitable, then I’m sorry to say that I think Tatsumi’s best bet is to get the fuck out of this empire and never look back. Except he won’t, because he’s a violent serial killer too, just not as depraved as everyone who surrounds him.
Someone also explain to me the logic of how people who revel in the moral simplicity of their situation, giving them the mental freedom to enjoy the thrills of butchering nameless henchman after nameless target, are somehow supposed to be respectable. These characters are all monsters to the ninth degree, and I don’t like watching monsters behaving monstrously unless there’s something beyond that, hence why the adoration surrounding Dexter and South Park continues to perplex me. Dexter I still don’t get, and I guess everyone now hates it because the ending sucked instead of how its protagonist killed people for fun; South Park was decent when it was trying to be satire back when it first began, but it quickly realized cheap laughs off of being assholes made way more money way faster, so they took that train and ran with it. This series lies sort of in the same vein: it’s way easier to make lots of money with mindless violence porn and a simplistic moral message that makes no sense than trying to do anything ambitious, like tell a more challenging, intelligent tale of human drama. Those have never succeeded.
(Cowboy Bebop; Planetes; Mushi-shi, Now and Then, Here and There; Fullmetal Alchemist; Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex; Neon Genesis Evangelion; FLCL; Welcome to the NHK; Wolf’s Rain)
Yep. Fuck trying. Trying is too hard.