Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - Tokyo Underground - Cliché Abound

Ah, the pressure. Nothing like staring at a blank screen for an hour while banging your head against the keyboard struggling for the simple words to build the introduction to a column that will be going up the next day. It's not like I don't have anything to talk about. As a matter of fact, I have quite a few series lined up. The problem is which do I go with?

This all got me thinking about quite a few things, but number one was, "What exactly draws people to particular series?" Some people feel that it's character design. After all, in good stories, it's the characters that drive the plot. Some people like genre stuff: horror, sci-fi, romantic comedy or interesting mixes of all of them. Others pick up titles based on favorite voice actors, directors or studios.

There are also the ever-popular fan recommendations: If you liked X, you'll love Y! (Ok, follow this lame segue!) Which leads me back to the idea that most new series are simply an old idea made new. In fact, most stories tend to take different aspects of other series and place them in a new setting.

One such series is Tokyo Underground. This one has been a tough one to get into because it seems full of the standard clichés. Aside from that, it's taken the series quite a while to get to what can amount to an actual plotline. Cliché number 1: Meet Asagi Rumina, your standard high school kid that just happens to live at an old shrine with his grandfather who has taught him quite a bit about martial arts. Throughout his junior high school days he was unbeaten in any fight. Of course, this being his first day of high school, he wants to put his past behind him and meet a wonderful high school girl. As is expected though, things just don't work out as he gets in a fight the first day of school. Cliché number 2: Being the toughest guy in school, Rumina has the weakest guy in school as his best friend. Gousuke, called Megane at one point (Megane means glasses, so you can guess his prominent feature), seems to be the brains in this outfit: or comic relief. Cliché number 3: The Girls. Rounding out the main cast of the good guys are actually two girls, Chelsea Roric and Lady Ruri. Chelsea is the standard, tougher than nails, "I'll fight anyone" type of girl while Ruri is the standard quiet type. Of course, instantly Ruri and Rumina seem to fall for each other driving Chelsea nuts.

Cliché number 4 hits the whole plotline and back-story. Chelsea and Ruri are on the run from the Company. It's taken nearly 6 episodes just to get to that point, leading to the overall slow developing plot. Something evil and mysterious is going on under the city of Tokyo and it involves a mysterious entity called Company.

The Company brings in the last cliché as it shows up as a variety of villains each stronger than the previous. They are the typical arrogant all-powerful type characters that push the heroes to the limit. The heroes must find some new strength in themselves to defeat the villain, so enter standard one-sided battles that aren't resolved until nearly the end of the episode or quickly in the next.

Right, so plenty of cliché to keep the critics busy, but what about overall design? This is a Studio Pierrot product and actually shows a lot of polish. Animation is smooth, the soundtrack is good and the actors all perform well. In terms of cut away scenes and close ups, Pierrot is actually doing some unique things by fading out the background a bit and doing a nice headshot of the particular character speaking. There's a certain amount of comic/video game feel with this interesting setup. One strange part though is each character announces their attack and in true video game style in large Kanji lettering the name of the attack appears.

So how do I really feel about this one? I honestly don't know. It's taken me a while to get into this one, and I can't say whether I like it or not. Despite the serious undertones of the back-story, the whole series takes on kind of a campy 1960s Batman feel. Lot's of plays for humor, the strange video game fighting moves and the involvement of super-human powers places this show in a strange place. Overall, it's not bad, but it's just not good yet.

Well, I'm going to keep things short this week as I'm still playing catch-up from finals. I know, many of you are probably saying, "after an hour, that's all he could come up with?" Well, as I said, Tokyo Underground is something of an Enigma. This one can either be a classic or simply a bad one, its hard to tell at this point, but much like a car crash, you can't seem to look away.

Until next time!


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