First Impressions: C

Well, this had “heavy hitter” written all over it coming in – Kenji Nakamura as director, NoitaminA time slot (though ratings-wise, that’s meant more of a slap-hitter lately), Tatsunoko producing. They’re one of the pioneers of the business, having directly given birth to Pierrot, Production I.G. and Bee Train among others, though they haven’t been hugely active as lead studio in TV productions of late. So what’s the verdict?

Well – I don’t know if I can say it’ll be emotionally involving yet, but it sure was pretty. Nakamura has an eye for creepy, unsettling imagery and he doesn’t disappoint here. I also like the character designs and animation. This was largely a setup episode and it was certainly needed – this looks like a a big premise full of big ideas. I fear it will (as usual with NoitaminA lately) be a major challenge to fit all the intellectual content and character development into 11 eps.

The lead is Kimimaro Yoga, played by Shiki‘s Natsuno, Kouki Uchiyama. Imagine that, a 19 year-old playing a 19 year-old – and he’s once again very good here, a fine choice. The rest of the cast is full of heavy hitters like Takahiro Sakurai and Haruka Tomatsu (our favorite Cross Game almost-couple together again). It’s a sci-fi reminiscent of Philip K. Dick – a future when those desperate for money can more or less sell their souls (though the word they use here is “future”) for a kind of all-access bottomless ATM card and the right to enter “The Financial District” – some sort of alternate dimension where it appears they have to play the most dangerous game in exchange for their withdrawals.

This is far, far too opaque to guess at where the plot is going – but it’s an intriguing setup. At first glance, it seems like a pretty straightforward story of an innocent caught by temptation and lured to his doom. Yoga is a mild-mannered kid, seemingly trying to intentionally get by without the financial help of his parents and living a pauper’s lifestyle in college. His only ambition is to get a low-level public service job and live a boring life. The way he was lured in certainly felt like entrapment – but trapped he appears to be, and I suspect his attempts to remain himself in the face of the craven world he now inhabits is going to be interesting to watch.

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