Watching Zetman one really does get the sense that they’re seeing the tip of the iceberg. Kouga is a perfect example. In the anime, he’s coming off as a slightly pathetic (maybe more than slightly) character, a bit of a buffoon. I get the idea that in the manga he’s something closer to a co-lead, but we don’t see enough of him in the TV to really get a picture of who he is. He’s a dilettante, basically, someone for whom justice is a concept he learned from a cartoon when he was ten years old. I know there’s more to the guy than that and he has the right seiyuu to bring it to life, but I fear that this Kouga is being pigeonholed as something between comic relief and a figure of ridicule.
This sense that we’re only seeing a small part of Zetman’s color spectrum means that a lot of what’s happening is a bit confusing to the new viewer. Characters and terminology are flying fast and furious and I’m not sure just how they all fit together. The unnamed character who appears as Kouga’s tormentor must surely be Jirou, the skipping of whose manga arc the readers are bemoaning, What’s his deal? I’ve no idea, except that he seems to be man of considerable wealth who’s decided to play with Kouga for a while, and that he knows Haitani. To what end does he “test” Kouga – and then kill three schoolgirls after Kouga fails the test by choosing to rescue his sister, who Jirou convinced Kouga was in danger when she wasn’t? I don’t know – surely given the creative lineage of this genre it’s revenge, but for what and against whom I don’t know. Typically, it would be seeking revenge against the father (or grandfather) by going after the son.
Of course, Konoha is in some actual danger now, thanks to the surviving members of the Sand Monster killers we met last week. What’s interesting to me here is that Haitani first tells them not to kill Zet, because he might be the “Charisma” they’re looking for – and then tells them to kill him after all, which I assume is the ultimate purpose for their kidnapping Konoha. Perhaps Haitani just wants to see Jin at full power and sees this as the best way to make it happen. Haitani is about the only one giving us any exposition lately, here telling us that the surviving Players prefer to be called “Evols”, and that The Sweeper goes after only the ones who break the rules by regressing and killing humans.
It seems clear that there’s a pronounced split in the Evol community between those who just want to get along with humans, and those who see themselves as naturally superior to humans and want to rule them. That classic device, the bar for outcasts and freaks (please note that “Evol” is “Love” spelled backwards), a staple of dark superhero comics to Time of Eve to “Buffy”, is an obvious place for this to play out. Haitani and Jirou definitely appear to be on the side that wants to rule, which doesn’t go over to well with the barkeep. And Jin is obviously going to be in the middle of a tug of war between the two sides, with Kouga more or less consigned to be a tool to use against him.
There’s one more tug of war forming over Jin, as Hanako (who, as commenter Jay pointed out, is an extreme rarity – an anime girl with braces) has become very possessive of her rescuer. Konoha is completely in love with him of course, but every time the poor girl tries to return his prized possession something always happens. Konoha doesn’t understand that Jin has very good reasons for pushing her away, and in fact by doing so is showing that he values her more than the girl she sees him spending time with – not that he doesn’t try and push her away too, but she’s too persistent. And just what’s up with Hanako and those “terrible headaches”? Headaches in anime are exactly the same as a gun in a story, according to Chekov – once they’ve been introduced, they have to be used…
The funny thing is, for all the frustration and confusion, I still like this series and I still care about the characters. I think that’s a testament to how effectively Katsura-san captures the archetypal characters, and to the fact that the director and writing staff are actually good – they’re just being forced to make the best of a very difficult task. With a lesser source material and a less talented team adapting it, Zetman could be a disaster – but it’s not. It’s a solidly entertaining and distinctive show that provides a teasing glimpse of just what the world of Zetman really contains.