Tokyo Majin Vol. 1

What should you make of a series that has good graphics, decent fight scenes, and unique villains...and heroes with virtually no personality whatsoever? That's what I ran into with Tokyo Majin Vol. 1. It appears that Tokyo Majin has some money behind it from the way it looks, and I admit that I enjoyed it well enough on my initial viewing. However, a mere seven days later, I cannot remember a single one of the protagonists. Not a good sign for a show that has five of them (if not more, depending on how you count them).

So what is Tokyo Majin about?  In these first five episodes, we follow a crew of five teenagers who are destined to fight nasty creatures in the streets of Tokyo. One's a quiet but impressive transfer student; another's a deliquent with a self-important streak. There are two girls, one an archer, who don't stand out until they finally start standing up for themselves in the later episodes. And the a blank.  But you see, they really don't matter, because the show isn't really about them at all. It's really about the villains and what they do. For example, a couple of episodes concern a wacko guitarist whose music draws not only the undead to himself but also ravens that attack people. If you've ever seen Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, it's quite hysterical; otherwise I suppose it might be frightening, especially if you happen to be frightened of birds or heavy metal musicians. Watching from behind the scenes is some weird guy with candles floating around him who might just be the source of all these evil shenanigans in Tokyo Town, though you won't find out from watching this first volume alone.  But if our heroes stop bickering amongst themselves and get some monster mashing done, I'm sure we could learn soon enough. That is, if we can understand the plot...

I have to admit that I was quite taken with Tokyo Majin Vol. 1 when I first saw it. Granted, it was the first anime I've gotten to watch on an HD screen. No, sadly enough I don't own one, but my mother recently purchased one, and I had the opportunity to watch the DVD there. Man if this thing didn't sparkle. The artistic team does deserve props for its work, as I was razzled and dazzled through most of the visuals. Now I have to admit that I may have just been enjoying the qualities of HD; however, the battle sequences would have been decent even on a standard issue TV, as they moved a notch above the typical "lines in the background" fights so common in this sort of show. Also, I enjoyed the rock music that graced the program and the OP/ED pieces, though it is a bit harsh and won't be for all tastes. This was also one of the few titles where I found the dub to be of great value. Indeed, after sampling both I decided on the English language version and was quite pleased. The package itself is quite nice. Frankly, if I had reviewed it earlier in the week, I probably would have given it a better rating.

However, I didn't, and you the faithful reader will be the wiser for it. Because while I will still give a basic recommendation to Tokyo Majin Vol. 1, the sheen is wearing off quickly, and that's because there is so little here that is truly unique or different, and a few things that really glare. For one, the writing is incredibly haphazard. Though I'm no idiot, if I do say so myself, these five episodes were at times difficult to follow. Key elements and various transitions I was expecting just weren't there. The plot was inarticulate and borderline incoherent at times. Does this show have a context? And while most of the tone was sufficiently creepy, the addition of a nosy reporter girl from the school added an element of humor that really wasn't necessary. But perhaps most damning is that the group of heroes never got past their stereotypes. It was as if each character came off a checklist to complete the team properly. But as I seem to be harping on lately, a show that has no character focus has no focus at all. If in five episodes you can't establish who these kids really are, you're probably not going to.

I'm being quite harsh on Tokyo Majin Vol. 1, especially since I'm giving it a borderline recommendation. I think that a second viewing might work in its favor, "might" being the telltale word. I did enjoy it while I watched it. I'm just realizing that it is highly unoriginal and follows in the patterns of countless programming before it. Darn it, though, it's pretty, and unlike the last show I watched (Venus vs. Virus), the supernatural elements are reasonably creepy. I wish I could fully convey my tension and ambivalence...but I guess I just did. I'd recommend it for action horror buffs and those who aren't dismayed by a few too many prototypical anime conventions.

Tokyo Majin Vol. 1 -- violence, profanity, occult elements and disturbing imagery -- B-