Noboru IguchiJapanese
That is the Bottleneck
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2020: T
Also known as: Sore dake ga Neck
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2020
Director: Noboru Iguchi
Writer: Saki Kuniyoshi
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 three-minute episodes
Website category: Anime 2020
Review date: 6 October 2022
Sore Dake Ga Neck
That was sort of amazing. One expects a show of three-minute episodes to be a comedy, or at least fluff. This isn't. It's a mundane magical realist show that's taking an absurdist theme and turning that into a thematic exploration of a regrettable aspect of modern life.
Mutou has no head. He's been decapitated, but he's still wandering around and is even capable of holding down a job (although he can't talk or eat). He starts working at a local convenience store... and no one realises that he's headless. People don't talk to each other these days, you see, or when they do, they tend to be looking at their phones. Looking at someone's face when you're talking to them is a lost art, or at least that's what Mutou discovers. He finds the modern world strange. Every so often, someone will notice what Mutou's got from the neck up, at which point they'll scream.
What's more, this show goes through phases. At first, you're wondering if it's horror and the viewer doesn't actually know what's strange about Mutou's head. The camera won't show us. There's always a cat on his shoulders, or a shelf in the way.
(It might also have been funny, incidentally, if everyone hadn't been mentioning Mutou's headlessness because they're being terribly polite and Japanese. How would you bring up something like that in conversation? Might it sound as if you're being personal? That's not it, though. People genuinely haven't noticed.)
Then, suddenly, all is revealed and we're even hearing Mutou's inner narration. Then, later, we even learn his backstory and discover that the show has a plot and character development.
The supporting cast are to some extent alternative explorations of the show's theme, but I liked them. My favourite is Ueno, who at first appears to be wallowing in moronic self-pity. "I don't talk either, but no one listens to me." I laughed aloud at that... but then we discover that he's got depths and character growth too. The store's well-meaning manager would like to start dating. There's a girl who's failing to communicate with her co-workers because she's frustrated at failing to communicate with her boyfriend. There's a bloke at the shop who keeps everyone at arm's length, thinking to himself, "I've realised no one listens to anything I say. No one really listens to anyone."
And then, wonderfully, the store takes on a new employee in ep.10 with none of those issues and just says everything straight out. After being trapped in these people's heads for nine episodes, suddenly you realise, "Hang on, it's as simple as just opening your mouth and talking, isn't it?"
I love the ideas behind this show. It's drab, cheap-looking and less fun than you'd think, but also intriguingly strange and doing a surprisingly good job of exploring its themes. I'd have liked to see this as a full-length show, not just mini-episodes. The material could have easily supported it, since it has more twists and changes of direction than an average full length show. It also has some amazing dialogue.
"Would I be better off with or without a head?"