The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
Tokyo 24th Ward
How would you rate episode 1 of
Tokyo 24th Ward ?
Community score: 3.6
What is this?
The Far Eastern Special Administrative Region, also known as the 24th Ward, is a man-made island that sits in Tokyo Bay. Shuta, Ran, and Koki were born and raised on the island. Their family backgrounds, preferences, and personalities are completely different, but they are childhood friends who have always stuck together. However, one incident changed their relationship forever. A year afterward, the three friends are reunited by chance at a memorial service held for the incident. All three of their phones suddenly ring simultaneously. Their friend, who is supposed to be dead, is calling and demands that they make a decision about the future. The three friends do what they believe is best to protect the 24th Ward and its inhabitants.
How was the first episode?
When it comes down to it, what we're getting here is a decent superhero origin story in a rather interesting setting. On one hand, we have technology that can predict future crime (like in Minority Report, only with computers instead of precogs). On the other, we have the complex sociopolitical situation that comes with a part of Japan being returned to the country after decades of foreign occupation. Either of these would be a solid concept to build your world around but combining them makes for something as chaotic as it is interesting. Or, to put it another way, it's the perfect setting for superheroes to appear in.
Despite the episode's double-length runtime, the actual plot basically boils down to “three guys get superpowers and throw the trolley problem out the window by simply saving everyone.” And for a first episode, that's honestly fine. Rather than the plot, most of the episode is focused on developing the characters and their personal conflict. Everything went to crap for the three friends when their old school caught fire with Kouki's sister Asumi inside. Both Kouki and Ran rightly blame Shuuta for a big part of Asumi's death. Giving into his panic and deciding to go in half-cocked, he knocked out the only people who could support him in his rescue attempt—robbing them of any chance to help save her. The climax of the episode gives them a second chance of sorts. And this time, by working together they are able to change fate and save the day.
However, just because it worked out this time doesn't mean that the past has been forgotten—especially as, without Shuuta in the mix, Kouki and Ran have gone rather extreme in their own ideals for what the 24th Ward needs—i.e., peace through control or peace through independence. It's a solid character dynamic rife with drama, and one I look forward to exploring in depth as the trio continue their superhero career.
This is one of those really frustrating premieres. Not because it's bad, or offensive, or interminable. Rather, it's because Tokyo 24th Ward feels like it's just always on the cusp of being really good, but repeatedly steps back from the brink for one reason or another. It's especially frustrating because this double-length premiere allows it to peak and dip several times in quick succession, continually getting my hopes up just in time to trip itself up.
Though actually, maybe that double-length is part of the problem. While having an extra 20 minutes allows this premiere to flesh out the cast and setting with plenty of wiggle room, it also makes for a slow and meandering start that feels like it uses twice as many words and minutes as necessary. It's nearly 30 minutes in that we finally get the premise of the whole show – our trio of estranged high school buddies getting predictive super powers and stopping dangerous accidents before they happen – and that means a lot of sitting around, waiting to find out what exactly this whole story is supposed to be. It also doesn't help that after the premise is established, the ensuing race against time takes entirely too long to play out. We see every single event and facet play out in real time, complete with awkward pauses and unimportant conversations, and it drains all tension from what should be a thrilling climax.
And that's a shame, because there's a lot of good ideas in here, if only the show can start utilizing them better. The premise of a government using predictive AI to prevent crimes and accidents is some good sci-fi fodder. Our triad of protagonists are a bit simple, but still endearing and have diverse enough personalities to carry a solid rapport. While the animation quality is inconsistent, there's a ton of neat visual ideas throughout this premiere that make it engaging to watch even when little is actually happening on screen, and the overall art design is really sharp. There's absolutely the material for a good, entertaining sci-fi series in here, so long as it can get its presentation and scripting together.
Between its cool ideas and questionable execution, this whole jumbled episode evens out to just OK. It's partially hampered by a script (or translation) that's too stiff and awkwardly worded for my taste, and I'm not wild about how the major female characters have either been helpless danger targets or dead. But for what it is, the actual story of this premiere is solid enough. There's some very intriguing concepts and character arcs that hold a lot of potential, so I'm really hoping the show can find its footing now that this overlong introduction is finished.
I'm not one hundred percent sure what's going on in Tokyo 24th Ward, but I'm certainly intrigued. In some ways it reminds me of ID: INVADED, mostly in terms of how this first double-length episode spins its mystery. When our three main male leads all receive a phone call at the same time from their deceased friend (or sister, in Koki's case) Asumi, they're suddenly able to see a terrible future and given a version of the famous trolley problem: divert a train and kill 150 people but save their one friend and her dog, or let the train hit her, ensuring that only two die. (Yes, I'm counting the dog. Daisy's death would have been a major dealbreaker for me.) What's unspoken is the third option – find a way to save all 152. I'm of the opinion that Asumi left that unsaid not just so that the show could draw a clearer line to a well- known philosophical problem, but because she knew that Koki, Ran, and Shuta would all understand what she was actually asking them to do: save everyone.
Because we need to know that too is why this functions decently as a double-length episode. While parts of the first half aren't particularly thrilling – gosh, I just love watching anime characters make okonomiyaki, don't you? – it is important to establish who the boys are and how Asumi's death in the opening moments of the show has shaped them. Shuta in particular has been aversely affected, because he's the one who watched her actually die. One year prior to the start of the main story, an elementary school burned down, and Shuta tried to rescue Asumi and one other girl. He was too late to save Asumi, who died in his arms, and honestly, it makes a lot of sense that he'd have a hard time getting past that. Asumi's death stalled him in time; unable to face being the “hero” he'd always dreamed of becoming since he failed her so badly, he's just sort of existing. He's even lost contact with his friends from the time, Ran and Koki, both of whom are also trying to process what happened in their own ways – Ran's a graffiti artist rebelling against The Man, while Koki's trying to understand the increased surveillance and automation that his dad, the mayor, is implementing. It's Asumi who brings them all back together exactly a year after her death, using their skills and ambitions to force them out of hibernation.
The question seems to be whether or not Asumi is, in fact, dead. That's where I get the ID: INVADED or perhaps Psycho-Pass vibes, because based on the final scenes of the episode, my guess is that while Asumi's body is no more, her mind just might be living in some sort of supercomputer, and I wouldn't discount the possibility that her father's Hazard Cast surveillance system isn't using her somehow. I'm certainly willing to watch another episode to find out, because while this is basically fifty minutes of set up, it has one of the most exciting races across a city I've seen in a long time with Shuta basically turning into Parkour Man with Asumi's help, and I'm also very curious about how she managed to help him do that. It's got its warts, but the dog lives and there's enough mystery that this could turn out to be worth keeping an eye on.vmkll8u
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