Miyu IrinoRie KugimiyaJapanese
Yurei Deco
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2022
Director: Tomohisa Shimoyama
Writer: Dai Sato
Actor: Anna Nagase, Mira Kawakatsu, Miyu Irino, Rie Kugimiya, Sayuri Sadaoka, Setsuji Satoh
Keywords: anime, SF
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=25369
Website category: Anime 2022
Review date: 7 March 2024
yuurei deco
It's a Science SARU show, which was enough in itself to get me excited. Devilman Crybaby, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, etc. The show's visuals are mental (as you'd expect from them) and its ideas are interesting... but the show doesn't work.
It's set in a jolly, brightly coloured and totalitarian society where being offline is illegal and going offline makes you a non-person, unrecognised by the state and even by security cameras. Try to tell the authorities about a danger to public health (a malfunctioning purification plant) and they'll delete this inconveniently true information, refusing to say or do anything until you give them your login ID. They care about unauthorised logins, not health. Our heroine's parents work for the "Customer Centre", i.e. George Orwell's Big Brother, censoring the internet and deleting anything they don't want people to see.
Does this have a real-life counterpart? Answer: China, with its Great Firewall and its ruthless policing of online discussion (and more). However, this show is themed around The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (I love that book, but it's never struck me as a n internet metaphor.) Its heroes live on Mark Twain island and the most important three of them are called Hack, Berry and Finn. ("Hack" and "Huck" in a Japanese accent are homonyms.) What? I don't get it. I suppose the story's partly about cutting yourself off from the wired-up world and going back to nature, which would fit Twain's character and what he does. Embarrassingly, it took me ages to spot the Twain connection in the name "Finn".
The show's problem is uninteresting characters. We have:
HACK is a genderless feral brat who lives to make trouble and steal. Other people's data, wahay! Huck's data getting stolen is outrageous and a crime! Huck's the closest in personality to Huckleberry Finn himself, but unlikeable.
BERRY is the main character. She's a nice girl, although also a troublemaker in her own right and highly adventurous. (Tom Sawyer, perhaps?) Her I liked... but she gets declared officially dead and doesn't really consider her parents' grief until ep.11.
FINN is an androgynous man who never smiles or shows warmth. His bad childhood explains that, but we're not show that until just after seeing a cliffhanger reason to dislike him.
HANK, SMILEY, MADAM 44 and MR. WATSON are the other members of the Ghost Detectives Club. Hank's cool and a good guy (and you could hide children in his afro). Smiley is money-grubbing, but she has an outrageous face under that gas mask. Mr Watson never speaks and is also permanently masked (a giant cat's head), so I never felt he never quite crossed the line and became an actual character. Madam 44 is a little old lady. These characters are okay and their character designs are brilliant, but I don't think I ever really cared about them.
The show addresses the fluidity of online evidence and how easily it can be censored, deleted or lost. Social media threatens our heroes' lives. There's also one absolutely amazing but wasted idea. Love is this society's currency! (This isn't sleazy, but more akin to "likes" on Twitter.) I'm mesmerised by the notion of a love-powered economy... but the show does nothing this concept. I think they just chose "love" as a synonym for "like" and thought about it no more deeply than that.
The finale is so limp that it's tempting to look for meaning in that. Surely it was deliberate for the story to end in such a load of bollocks?
The visuals are a joy. Character designs explode off the screen, unafraid to go to extremes, e.g. Smiley. This is more Brave New World than 1984, so it makes sense for its world to look colourful and almost Disney-like. It's tackling interesting subjects and you probably won't find another show that's both a chilling-but-jolly analogy for totalitarian China and a 19th century work of American literature (which was itself set over 20 years before the book's publication). I'd have probably loved this series had its characters grabbed me... but they didn't. Hank's cool, Berry's okay and that's it. Hack I disliked. It's a shame.