Daisuke NamikawaKenichi SuzumuraKaito IshikawaConcrete Revolutio
Concrete Revolutio: Superhuman Phantasmagoria
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2015: C
Also known as: Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2015
Director: Seiji Mizushima
Writer: Shou Aikawa
Actor: Aki Toyosaki, Kaito Ishikawa, Sumire Uesaka, Daisuke Namikawa, Eriko Nakamura, Kenichi Suzumura, Mai Yamane, Shinichiro Miki, Tetsuo Kanao, Tokuyoshi Kawashima, Tomokazu Seki, Toru Ohkawa
Keywords: Concrete Revolutio, anime, SF, superhero, yokai
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Season One: 13 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=17260
Website category: Anime 2015
Review date: 16 March 2016
It's okay, but it's a little less engaging than I'd expected. The storyline's not straightforward to follow and I didn't really care about the characters. That said, though, it's still basically a good show and I imagine I'll watch Season 2.
It's a superhero show, but a Japanese superhero show. No one looks like Batman or Superman. That wouldn't be weird enough. Instead we have a magical girl with a talking doll sidekick (a daruma), a time manipulator, a cartoonish shapeshifting ghost, disembodied aliens, an indestructible robot cop who hates people with superpowers, a short-tempered guy with pink hair and a Transformer car, giant robot mecha like Mazinger Z and a yokai with magical powers from scary folklore.
Meanwhile the antagonists include kaijuu (think Godzilla), giant robot spiders and a sentient mechanical satellite that's determined to help everyone. Sounds wacky, right? So far you'd expect it to have bright popping colours, fun animation and a Saturday morning broadcast slot.
Actually, that's half right. It does have those colours. Studio Bones have made it look fun and pretty. However underneath it's a show about murky grey morality, whose heroes work for a government agency (the Superhuman Bureau) that manages superheroes. Does that mean "protect"? Some of our heroes would like to think so, but for all we know it might equally mean "exterminate", "manipulate for publicity reasons", "kidnap and send for vivisection" and/or "hand over to the Americans as part of a weapons development program". Let's talk about supervillains! Who funds them? Who's to say that they're not also being managed, to bolster public support for the heroes?
The storyline underneath all this is dark. Several of the antagonists are motivated by a desire to do good and fight evil (each in different ways), but that's explicitly not in the Superhuman Bureau's job description. Telling good from evil can be complicated.
Obviously the government's horrible. Goes without saying. That's true of both Japan and America. However an interesting touch is that they're also weirdly controlling, so for instance it's illegal to mention the existence of superhumans in the press or on TV, even though their existence is so well known to the public at large that people won't necessarily react that much to a superbattle that smashes up buildings.
That's good. More problematic are the following features:
(a) The non-linear storyline, which will confuse Western audiences. What would you think if you saw the following subtitle? "October, the 14th of Shinka Era, Indian Ocean." No, that's not October the 14th. In fact, that's the 14th YEAR of the Shinka era (clearer in the Japanese on-screen text, if you can read it), which is this show's alt-universe equivalent of the Shouwa era (1926-1989) in the traditional Japanese calendar. (It's fairly pointless these days, but still officially in use.) Apparently all this is obvious if you're Japanese, partly due to cultural clues, but it took me an episode or two to work out what was going on.
Every single episode of this show jumps around repeatedly in time. It's common enough to make it hard to talk meaningfully about "the present day" within it. Broadly speaking, though:
Year 19 = 1944, World War Two
Year 41 = 1966, Kikko and Fuurota join the Bureau, the Beatles play in Japan
Year 42 = 1967, student protests (about kaijuu)
Year 43 = 1968, season finale
Year 46+ = 1971+, stuff that breaks our ideas of who's who, only ever glimpsed in flashforwards without enough context for us to work out what's happening. No explanations. Presumably we'll get the full picture in Season 2.
In short, if you see big Japanese lettering flash up on screen with a two-digit number, this will mean that the show's just jumped to that year. Pay attention to this. You'll be completely lost if you don't.
(b) It's not easy to feel close to the characters. They're doing a job. Sometimes it might be a fairly dirty job, but do they care? Well, some of them do. However they're just fulfilling their functions day to day, not usually displaying much in the way of motivations, character growth or personal stories we can follow. Even when that's technically untrue (e.g. Jiro), it's being presented to us in bits and pieces.
The only two main characters I'd call nice are Kikko and Fuurota, but they're also liable to get sidelined when things get serious. Well, except for SPOILERS.
All that said, though, there is a good story here. Sometimes it's shocking. I fancy rewatching Season 1 after seeing Season 2 later this year, just to piece together the story fragments. There are also some interesting episodes, even if I didn't feel my emotional connection to them was as strong as it could have been. I'm fond of Earth-chan (and don't forget ep.7 if you've just seen ep.13), the family in ep.9 are powerful and I laughed at the superhero comedy stage act in ep.6. "That's not funny." I'm tempted to suggest that he's the show's emotional heart.
There's a theme of childhood vs. being an adult. So many of the tropes and images here are from childish shows and genres. We have childish superheroes with childish black-and-white morality. The show's dissecting that, sometimes bloodily, but it also admires those simple people who believe in good and it'll stand up in their defence.
I'll also admire any show that's questioning the morality of killing giant city-crushing monsters.
Note the title, by the way. Not "revolution", but "revolutio". Don't ask me why.
I don't know if I'd go so far as to say I liked this show. I think it contains many clever, admirable things and I'm sure it'll feel completely different when I've seen Season 2, but these thirteen episodes left me slightly cold. I don't mind none of the flashforwards having been explained yet, but I wasn't really grabbed by the cast. Kikko I like. Jiro, Emi, Fuurota, Magotake, Hyouma, Akita, Shiba and the others... well, they're okay and I don't have a problem with them, but I wouldn't be too bothered if they died.
That might all change on a rewatch, though. I'm quite interested in seeing Season 2.