First Impressions – Tokyo ESP

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I guess this series is anime’s revenge for Inception

With the notable difference, of course, that most of the people watching Tokyo ESP (basically all of them) actually know what X-Men is, while less than 1% of the people who watched Inception in theaters had ever hear of Satoshi Kon.  It’s been said that there’s no such thing as an original idea anymore and every piece of fiction is a rehash of something(s) that came before, but rarely will you see it proved out so explicitly as you do with this series.

Still – derivative or not there’s no reason a recycled show can’t be entertaining, and Tokyo ESP is modestly entertaining for the most part.  Animated by Xebec with a retro look and fairly low-budget animation, the show has a fair amount of panache, though with it’s constantly posing characters and J-rock soundtrack it’s a bit too self-consciously cool for my taste.  X-Men reimagined through a Cool Japan lens might just strike the right note with a broad audience, though only time will tell on that score.

Not a whole lot new to talk about as far as plot if you have any experience with that sort of thing.  A group of Espers has hijacked the Diet Building and is flying it over Tokyo with what seems to be most of Japan’s politicians held hostage (Itadakimasu, I say), fed up with inferior normals and their foolish ways.  The white knight who always comes to the rescue of humanity in such situations is a real white knight, the one they call the “White Girl” Urushiba Rinka (Kido Ibuki).  And this entire attack seems to be an attempt to draw her out so the Magneto faction can take her out once and for all.

I won’t rule out that the plot could contain some surprises down the line, but the setup is very standard – humanity is bigoted and hateful towards the Espers, and the Espers have broken down into the two obvious factions as a result.  Even when White Girl and her team are saving their asses the normals can’t help but despise them, etc..  The premiere is pretty decent because the execution is solid – I liked the spot-on depictions of Tokyo under siege and the fight scenes, though there was enough of a body count to where death was pretty much rendered meaningless by the end of the episode.  There’s some style here, but the emotional appeal is very broad stuff – everything is as subtle as a kick in the teeth.  I don’t see enough that’s really distinctive in Tokyo ESP to give it legs, but I’ll watch at least one more episode before I make up my mind.

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  1. S

    lol you've never seen Gai-Rei zero have you…

  2. Is this set in the same universe? From what I remember I would never have guessed that based on the premiere. Same author I know, but I didn't see anything familiar. Of course it's been several years.

  3. M

    No, it is not supposed to be but half of the show was all Gai-Rei Zero inserts. Yomi and Kagura are the first 2 characters you see and the 2 normals who live through their fight with teleporter girl are from the first episode.

    Which hurts the show I think since Gai-Rei Zero's first episode was better.

  4. z

    This confused me so much! I thought I was accidentally watching a Gai-Rei Zero remaster when Yomi and Kagura appeared in the opening scene. And then Natsuki and what's-his-name..

  5. R

    "…J-rock soundtrack it's a bit too self-consciously cool for my taste."

    Thank you, Enzo…the first thing that came to my head after watching the premier was wow, the BGM was loud.

  6. A

    Wow, that was a horrific adaptation job, just so many things changed for the worse and for no reason. Also skipping a ton of the manga for no real reason. Just awful.

  7. S

    They're not skipping the manga chapters, they are just starting the story from near the climax of the arc and then will be telling the story of how they got there. It was probably done as a homage to Gai-Rei Zero.

  8. w

    I was disappointed that they chose to follow the same style as the first ep of Ga Rei:Zero with this ep. While starting in medias res worked with Ga Rei: Zero, in here it doesn't. Oh, they showed every ESPer's coolness and all (although they made sure to keep non-manga readers guessing Rinka's power).

    I think I'm too slow when I read the manga last last year. I 'd never really thought of it as similar to X-men. I guess the recently shown movie makes people think so with the Diet building flying and all those bombings.
    One of the reasons why I'd never thought of it was that the first chapter of the manga explained something necessary and made Tokyo ESP different in a way beforehand than any other esper-included shows.

    I don't want to spoil anything, but I just want to say that the next ep will hopefully clear things up, because they'll be starting with the backstory (obviously with the title , which is similar to the manga ) next ep.

    Anyway, it's just so weird that they showed Yomi and Kagura. They might just want to tease us, but really, it wasn't necessary. Including Yomi and Kagura here will just give the impression that they will help against the villain like those two in orange suits. It's just weird since it doesn't seem to be the case. =.=

    Sigh. I wished they'd started from the start. Unless, they're making it so that every manga of Segawa adapted to anime will start in medias res…=.=

  9. f

    Low-budget indeed. The closeup fighting was decent, but that CGI parliament… smh.

  10. w

    I feel so silly. I was expecting a quirky sci-fi comedy… Looking forward to a quirky sci-fi comedy. The disparity… I did think it was a pretty damn entertaining episode though, though the lighting was a bit too dark at times. Colour me intrigued..

    Apparently this is starting at a point way down the manga's storyline? Maybe we can expect that sort of Baccano-style puzzle-piece plot then.

  11. n

    Total ripoff of the movie X-men LOL. Shameless ! The teleporter girl was especially identical to Nightcrawler complete with the smokey vanishing effect, only she's a she and unnecessarily moe in a hard-ass kind of way (I really find this kind of characterization intolerable). And they mentioned some Professor. As in Professor X? Seriously…

    BTW, is this studio somehow involved in the making of Mirai-Nikki? I noticed a close resemblance during some sequence (Even the ED song felt kinda similar).

  12. Xebec had no involvement in Mirai Nikki at all. It's possible one of the secondary companies on ESP did some kind of secondary work there but I doubt you'd notice anything specific at that level.

  13. s

    The only association to mirai nikki is Takayama Katsuhiko, who did the screenplay for that series. He's doing the script in this series

  14. That would hardly explain the kind of production similarities nc mentioned, though.

    Asread (the MN production studio) did do some in-between work on GaiRei Zero, but I don't see them listed anywhere for ESP.

  15. s

    Maybe they are non-credited. I personally dont see Asread's animation style in any of the keys or in-betweens in this premiere…perhaps they could have been involved in the random CG civilians but i think that would be a stretch to assume they had some involvement when they are not listed in the credits. Again, the only MN relation is Katsuhiko-san but that hardly plays into the aesthetic of the series

  16. n

    I guess I was imagining about the actual animation then. But I was right about the ED song. The same band made the first OP of MiraiNikki.ōsei_Teikoku

  17. s

    I have to disagree on the assessment regarding the animation. The animation is actually quite decent and a surprising effort considering its Xebec (the character designs are from the gai rei zero anime); I wouldnt consider the animation low budget at all, especially considering the animation effects Xebec was able to pour into this premiere (barring the clunky CG of course). As for the premiere itself, it was fairly entertaining. As a manga reader, im surprised they were actually able to make the tone of these events seem grim; It gives me slight hope that the production team is serious about making tokyo ESP a good anime. This premiere started from events near the end of the first arc of the manga. Again, i dont get why manga readers are in an uproar about it, especially since the episode was done fairly well barring some dialogue and scene cohesion; it's baccano/divergence eve( man, if only that anime had a good budget and stuck solely on its sci-fi horror)/gungrave all over again. I cant really assess how i feel about the adaptation quite yet until next week. The next two eps will give me a much clearer picture where this adaptation plans to go and if it ends up going south i will be severely let down.

  18. R

    Those raging manga readers obviously never watched Ga-Rei Zero :p

    And yeah, I don't get what's so low budget about it? The action scene is pretty well done even if it's not that fluid and the soundtrack is pretty cool and really match the tone of the episode.

  19. m

    Didn't they make a X-men anime? Or was that American animators trying to jack Japanese animation styles and failing miserably? Whoever made it it was trash, and completely messed up the characters. Even worse was the Wolverine anime. Talk about not understanding the basic elements of a character before making a show. It made me think that no one involved had ever red a wolverine comic in their whole life.

    I thought Tokyo ESP was entertaining to a degree, and I don't mind the x-men rip off. Heroes was a blatant rip off of X-men as well, and I enjoyed that show a bit. I like x-men enough that any rip off is fine as long as the story is good. I'm not sure where they're going with this show, but it feels like it has room to turn up and be good or turn south and be really bad. My interest is piqued enough to watch at least a few more eps.

  20. s

    It was madhouse that worked on the x-men/marvel anime's so yea that was all japanese right there. Tokyo ESP is not a rip off of X-men (once you see Rinka's dad, you'll understand) as it is an homage to it and other american films. That will become more apparent as the series continues

  21. m

    Thanks, I thought it was an anime but wasn't sure. It was awful though. They made Storm worthless and just a weak woman which was sort of offensive and missed the essence of what is arguably one of Marvel's best characters ever. It's probably bc of the difference between American comic heroes and Japanese manga heroes that just doesn't fit doing a version that follows Japanese style characters. Haha or more likely I'm being overly picky about a version of X-men bc it didn't fit the one I grew up on. When you make your own adaptation you should take the basics and then make it your own, so in that sense it wasn't wrong or anything., but I prefer the original characters.

    Yeah I guess I shouldn't have used the words rip off. I just meant there's nothing wrong with using a concept that has already been done. Like Enzo said (and more famously South Park) everything has been done before, and there's nothing wrong with using a previous idea, making an alternate telling of an old idea, paying homage, or whatever you want to call it. The x-men story is so great bc of how it takes something like superpowered heroes and villains and blurs the lines between them and really tells a story about racial discrimination (I've also heard it as mutants=homosexuals which fits better in some ways) in such an interesting way. You have heroes who are killers and sometimes not so great people, villains who are not evil at all but mistreated and misguided, the concept of idealism vs. reality, racism out of a reasonably understandable fear of mutant powers, and even stock stuff like goody two shoes heroes and pure evil villains all told in a very unique and interesting way. If this show is anything like x-men in it's dark story and themes then I'm sure it'll be great. It's a very fascinating look at what defines a human, what is racism, and what really is good and bad. Aside from not loving the premiere, the fact that it has all these things it can work with makes me think it could easily turn out to be an amazing show. Even if the animation isn't of the highest quality, the themes they can work with can easily make a show great.

  22. s

    Ian Mckellen was the one who attributed the mutant discrimination in X-men to homosexuality, which i can see parallels with that. There is a sort of commentary hidden within Tokyo ESP that is realized in the manga through extremely well done execution. It all really comes down to whether the anime adaptation can realize that. Funny enough, the idea of Tokyo ESP started off being something rather silly. At one point, Segawa wanted his next manga to be about a dude who was similar to Neo from the matrix, but his ability in addition to flying was to ignite his farts and use that to defeat his enemies. When that idea was knocked down, he wanted to have a female protagonist whose body would turn large when she got mad like the hulk but that was knocked down as well until his ideas finally melded into Tokyo ESP. But as you can see, his original idea was to do a supernatural series with characters who wield superpowers an have them be similar to characters from western stories.

  23. w

    I laughed at Segawa's author's-note-like manga panels too! That thing about farts was epic lol!

    Anyway, I can only say that Rinka is a very lovable character. The premiere just didn't give justice to her. I mean, what was with that black frame during her psy-kick??? =.=

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