I had trouble getting hold of this one and now I see why. It's not fun. It's a dark psychological series made for late night broadcasting, which I've seen called horror although I don't know if I'd go that far. It's certainly off-putting and oppressive, though.
The story is set in a sinister America. The main character, Harry, is a rat-faced loser with no spine and the demeanour of a whipped dog. He'll grow a bit over the course of the series, but we're talking here about a whining ugly placeholder who might as well have "kick me" tattooed on his forehead.
He might also be one of the most powerful beings on the planet, although as yet he's unaware of this. Harry's psychic. Unfortunately in this series, the usual effect of using psychic powers seems to be twisting people's heads around until their necks snap, even if you had no such intention and were instead merely upset, scared or trying to bend a spoon. Naturally this would drive any normal person insane, but there are powerful people and conspiracies who've invested a lot of time and money in trying to do things with this phenomenon.
The early episodes are almost hard to watch. Harry is such a human wreck that it's almost painful to spend time with him, especially when a girl called Catherine starts paying him attention. Episode two introduces a sensationalist TV show that wants to make him their new presenter, which is a terrible idea and you're cringing pre-emptively as soon as they show up. This cannot end well. It doesn't.
In addition there's a neck-snapping serial killer. The world of this show is so ghastly that it's a relief when an evil conspiracy eventually shows up.
The setting is very obviously the USA. As a Westerner, I often find it hard to realise when anime characters are supposed to be non-Japanese, but here it's screaming from the screen. English is written everywhere, the cities and policemen are clearly American and even the character designs don't look like manga. I was actually reminded of Sam Kieth (The Maxx, Zero Girl), with those slightly doll-like, pouting faces. I like Kieth, by the way. Anyway, the one thing these people can't be is Japanese. In addition being so overtly American makes the last few episodes more topical today than they were then, with staggering military overkill being deployed to eliminate inconvenient evidence and people under the pretence of fighting terrorists. (The 9/11 Twin Towers attacks took place less than six months after the original broadcast of this show's final episode.)
Oh, and there's a disturbing bit where some of Catherine's acquaintances try to gang-rape her in episode one and then in episode two no one seems to think anything of it.
Personally I think that under the conspiracies and assassinations, it's about human relationships. Catherine doesn't know how to handle her little brother, Elliott, and so is a failure both as a big sister and as a substitute for their dead mother. She takes Harry under her wing too, which upsets her boyfriend John. There's a man called Mother with an un-daughter, Chidori. Children are born unnaturally and raised by scientists. Some of the most thematically important scenes in the series, for me, weren't the X-Files ones of conspiracy investigation, but instead ones in which people were crying at each other and unburdening themselves of things they'd never said. "She broke her promise." "You never tell me anything important."
The beginning is the most powerful part and the finale the weakest, unfortunately. It's a gradual decline. As on The X-Files, conspiracies get less impressive the more we see of them. They lost me with the scene of a power struggle between two women who are working for the bad guys and indistinguishable, for instance.
In fairness though the last episode contains interesting stuff. I liked the reunion of two characters, while Fatman's revelation is so mad that it's practically a deconstruction of the conspiracy genre. I admire that. I don't think it makes any sense literally, although I think that's how we're meant to take it.
Did I like this? Um... not really, but I'm not sure that you're meant to. It's bleak, giving its audience precious little warmth to engage with and almost no perceptible humour. I laughed at the premature ejaculation in episode 15, though. What humanity they do have endangered and damaged. There's occasional nudity, but it's never sexy. This show is making every choice you shouldn't if you want a big popular hit and it's probably a bit too successful at repelling its audience to keep many of them watching to the end, but I think it basically succeeds at its objectives. Can be unsettling.