Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, May 23rd 2009
Night Head Genesis
Sub. DVD 4
After barely surviving their first encounter with its assassins, Naoya and Naoto begin their investigation of Ark in earnest. Their big break comes when they are contacted, via an intermediary, by an Ark-employed psychic. By way of his girlfriend, Yoshiki Futami leads the two to a recording in which he describes the ruthless mind-control tactics utilized by Ark's CEO. Naoya and Naoto are then invited to a meeting with one of Ark's evil high muckety-mucks. After ascertaining that he is indeed evil, the two refuse his evil offer of evil cooperation, but are ambushed on their way out by Ark's evil psychic corps. Later, at the electronic behest of Futami, the two stick their big psychic noses into the life of Sakie, a schoolgirl psychic that Ark is secretly trying to recruit. The brothers figure that no good can come of that, and they're right.
Night Head Genesis moves with the alacrity of particularly lazy molasses. It takes patience to enjoy the show...or at least it did. By the time this volume drags its leaden rear to the end, even the most tolerant viewers will find their patience sorely tested—and poorly rewarded. Previous volumes had gotten by on George Iida's generally solid writing. No matter how ponderous the series got, it always seemed to be heading somewhere. But by the penultimate volume shouldn't it have gotten at least partway there?
At first this volume does appear to be forging ahead. The Kirihara brothers finally meet their parents—a reunion that is every bit as bittersweet as one would expect, and considerably weirder—and deal definitively with despicable, and increasingly irritating, psychic villain Sonezaki. The Ark material hints at a larger picture, and the death-match with Ark's three psychic assassins not only gives an indication of Naoto's destructive potential, but also kicks as much butt as the awful animation will allow. But before the series can start firing on all cylinders it downshifts abruptly, returning to the episodic “help the psychic!' structure of the show's first half. While slow-winding stand-alone tales worked in the show's favor during its rather hypnotic initial stages, here in the final stretch—when it should be steeling itself for a climactic sprint—they're an infuriating liability. Three episodes of watching the series tread water in agonizing slow motion, and it's toss-the-TV-through-the-window time.
Giving the brain all that free time isn't good for the series. Freed from speculations about sinister corporations and musings on how we'd like to see certain villains fed through wood chippers, our brains pursue other, less flattering, lines of thought. Such as how it was that Naoto and Naoya came to be such incurable chumps. Was it their sheltered upbringing? Their nature? Or perhaps the fact that getting flimflammed by every boob with a psychic mind-beam makes it easy for Iida to maneuver them into tight spots? And then there's that garbage about ancient civilizations fueled by psychic energy. The archaeologist in me snarls and spits at the very suggestion. Why is it so hard for screenwriters to believe that determined folks with a few tools and a surplus of spare time could make things like moai?
A better series would beat thoughts like that to death with big slabs of entertainment. But not Night Head. It meanders about, piling on the pseudo-psychological mystic mumbo-jumbo and anti-climactic psychic confrontations, all the while allowing viewers plenty of time to stew in impatience and darkening negativity.
Speaking of negativity, the series' visuals haven't improved, and probably never will. Crappy is a nice, concise way of describing them: From the stiflingly inflexible animation to the inconsistent art, the series' imagery is pretty much always at toilet level. The best that can be said about it is that the characters (badly simplified from You Higuri's bishonen designs) aren't ugly. And at least watching the characters shift their body proportions and change their faces with each new angle gives you something to do during the volume's second half. Not that being reduced to playing “spot the animation mistake” is a good sign.
A bit of trivia: Shigeru Umebayashi, who was responsible for the series' creepy, insinuating score, has worked with some of the greatest living practitioners of the cinematic art—Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar-wai in particular. Man is he slumming it here.
If Media Blasters' record of importing interesting, little-known titles is to be preserved, then the Night Head had better shape up. As the solid, if rather dreary, first half of this volume proves, there's no reason why that can't be. The soporific lead-up to the next volume isn't promising though.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : D-
Art : C
Music : B
+ Resolves long-standing issues with Naoto and Naoya's parents; does bad (but enjoyable) things to Sonezaki.
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