After two episodes, it’s pretty obvious that “C” has the cool factor going for it. Kenji Nakamura has crafted a visually striking world around a really interesting premise. What remains to be seen is whether there’s going to be enough emotional drive in the story and characters to make my enjoyment of the show something more than intellectual.
Haruka Tomatsu makes her appearance this week as Mashu (or however it’s spelled). She represents Kimimaro’s “Asset” – a kind of familiar/dingo for the Financial District. It’s the job of the familiar to help their human partner through duels, which they’re required to compete in at least one of per week as part of their toll (in addition to their future) to take part in the F.D. Since Kimimaro has no clue what he’s doing that’s a good thing – for though Mashu says she’s a rookie too, she’s obviously a lot more prepared to “deal” than he is. There’s all sorts of premise-dropping going on throughout the episode – the player can effectively wager some of their money on an attack in the game, and if hit hits they profit. We find out from killer clown Masakaki that a player can effectively abdicate from the F.D. and go bankrupt, but it would have “serious consequences” in the real world. We also find out that the money issued by Midas Bank can cross between worlds – and if a human has been to the F.D. they see that money as black, though it can apparently be spent indiscriminately.
The wild card here is Soichiro Mikuni, who reminisces about how he was a kind-hearted rookie like Kimimaro once. He’s apparently a badass among badasses now, though, and appears to take it upon himself to put Kimimaro under his wing. That is, if the kid will consent to be mentored. He professes a desire to be normal – earning money the normal way and living a normal life. One suspects there’s going to be some rhetorical blood spilled on the question of normality before this series is over.
If all that sounds interesting, it is. My initial feeling on this premise was Philip K. Dick, and that still seems to fit. But int he execution, Nakamura is reminding me a lot of the late Satoshi Kon here. There’s a sense of paranoia running through the material, with slightly psychedelic imagery and the characters facing ethical and moral dilemmas. That’s a compliment – Dick and Kon are two artists I certainly admire.
But what I see developing here is a dynamic that’s interestingly similar to the NoitaminA block from last summer, when we had House of Five Leaves and Tatami Galaxy airing. C, like Tatami Galaxy, is a series whose technical brilliance and inventiveness can’t be questioned. I never quite bought into TG emotionally – it was too consumed with being clever to really make me feel any connection to what was happening on screen. The other NoitaminA series – HoFL then and AnoHana now – had me emotionally invested right from the first episode. Where C is clinical AnoHana appears to be unashamedly sentimental, and while HoFL was a very different series and not obviously sentimental, I think it was actually one of the most subtly sentimental series of the year. I’m perfectly fine with that kind of lineup for NoitaminA, as it makes for an interesting contrast. Of course I’ll be happier if C does wind up crossing that threshold and investing me the way Tatami Galaxy never did, but even if it doesn’t I’ll certainly be fascinated to see how it develops for the next two months.