• remind me tomorrow
  • remind me next week
  • never remind me
Subscribe to the ANN Newsletter • Wake up every Sunday to a curated list of ANN's most interesting posts of the week. read more

The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
The Marginal Service

How would you rate episode 1 of
The Marginal Service ?
Community score: 2.7

What is this?


These public safety workers are here to save planet Earth from aliens, one job at a time!

The Marginal Service is an original anime by Cygames and streams on Crunchyroll on Tuesdays.

How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis

I like to imagine that this anime was created late at night in a poorly lit board room. Everyone is disheveled—ties loosened, jackets removed. Frustrated smoke fills the air despite it being a non-smoking workplace but, at this point, no one seems to care. The room is silent, not from fear but from exasperation. They have nothing left to say. At first they were arguing, trying to find the perfect idea. However, at this point, any idea would do—anything to release them from this prison. But only silence remains. Then, from one side of the table—from a figure whose head is buried in their arms—comes a muffled voice. These words are their salvation: “What about crossing Men in Black with Power Rangers?”

For those who think that's an oversimplification, it's not. We have our cop who runs into something paranormal and is then scouted by the Marginal Service to help protect the world from the supernatural beings who live among us. Sure, most of them are law-abiding citizens, but just like with every society, there are criminals as well. Thus, it is the Marginal Service's job to bring them to justice—which means unleashing such a destructive arsenal upon the criminal that they are completely vaporized so that no evidence of the supernatural remains. ...And our heroes wear color coated outfits when doing this for some reason.

But if completely ripping off one well-known story wasn't enough, we have the fact that the backstory of our main character, is just a cliché '80s cop movie plot. Brian Nightraider (which may be the most '80s action movie name ever written) is a cop who doesn't play by the rules. He's the best damn cop on the force, but when his partner is killed in an arrest gone wrong, he is booted off the force by his perpetually angry, overweight lieutenant. Of course, his lieutenant is actually the secret bad guy—firing Brian just to hide his own involvement in an underground drug ring.

The whole episode is just so boring—which it shouldn't be. It has monsters, gunfights, chase scenes, and a supernatural mystery. Yet, rather than taking inspiration and then going their own way with it, this feels like retreading an already well-worn path for the thousandth time. I'm sure part of this was done for the Power Rangers reveal at the end of the episode, to make it extra shocking, but, honestly, that angle doesn't give me much hope either. It's too bad. I think this concept could have been a lot of fun in the right hands.

James Beckett

You know, I was honestly a little taken aback by the first few minutes of The Marginal Service's premiere, because for a show with a bunch of goofballs in Emergency Responder outfits on the poster, it sure did seem like it was trying to be a riff on gritty '80s cop dramas. Sure, the main character's name is freaking Brian Nightraider, so maybe we're talking an especially schlocky direct-to-VHS film produced by Cannon Films, but still. Between the shockingly dark suicide of the drug dealer that Brian tries to bust to the formulaic scenes of Brian losing his shit to his chief and getting canned from the force, I was momentarily concerned that I had somehow managed to watch the wrong anime for this write-up.

Then, thankfully, the show proceeded to lose its goddamn mind, and I could rest easy knowing that, no, The Marginal Service is just one of those anime. You know, the kind that will earnestly juxtapose the aforementioned cop drama clichés with a sudden, hard left turn into the territory of campy science fiction noir, as if it were the most normal transition in the world? The kind starring a thinly disguised mashup of Riggs from Lethal Weapon and Agent Jay from Men in Black, whose name is, need I remind you, Brian Nightraider, born in the famous state of East Dakota. The kind that will take another swerve into revealing its (potentially???) final form as a Super Sentai sendup about a team of super-secret construction-worker-themed government agents who hunt yokai.

If nothing else, this chaotic mishmash of disparate tones and genres is at least consistent about borrowing one other mainstay of cheap 1980s videotrash: the confused and borderline racist immigration allegories that have been slapped on top of the science fiction nonsense for no discernible reason!

It breaks my heart to turn up my nose at anything playing in the same wheelhouse as my favorite tokusatsu classics, but I have to be honest and tell you that I have no earthly idea who this anime is even for. It isn't particularly funny, its action scenes are not especially exciting, the plot and characters cannot decide if they are meant to be taken as spoofs or completely seriously, and no matter which way you slice it, none of its parts come close to fitting together into anything remotely coherent. It's…interesting, I guess, that such an anime even exists, I'll give it that much. Morbid curiosity is not enough to convince me to stick around and find out more, though.

Nicholas Dupree

I would really love for this show to work. There's a wonderful world of wacky, offbeat, original anime out there. From Samurai Flamenco to Akiba Maid War, when they work, they're great. However, one of the caveats of making a show like those is that you have to 100% commit to the bit. There's no room for half-measures or self-doubt because if you want to stick the landing, you must put every ounce of yourself into it. So far, The Marginal Service can't do that.

The big problem is that the illustriously named Brian Nightraider is an annoying prick of a protagonist. He spends the entire episode being belligerent, hungover, and complaining about his daddy issues to anyone who will listen. He picks a fight with anyone and everyone at the drop of a hat, demanding explanations for anything supernatural before promptly ignoring them so he can play the hero. In a show that should be a campy good time – as evidenced by the tongue-in-cheek Sentai roster Brian ends up joining – he's such a grumpy albatross that it's not even fun to see him get owned.

The other problem is tone; even when The Marginal Service goes full camp, it feels rather halfhearted. Our heroic team showing up in color-coded construction outfits and wielding suped-up power tools to fight the giant alien should be when things start escalating, building to a comedic/action crescendo that puts a nice bow on the whole thing. Instead, it's the peak of the episode's energy. The following action scene is just the cast standing still, firing guns at the static monster, hoping that the peppy music will trick viewers into thinking this is fun. There are no clever twists or humorous subversion; they just put the ragtag bunch of monster cops in goofy costumes and called it a day.

The script is also just strikingly amateur. It's the kind of writing where to establish that two of our characters are British and American, they call each other “Yankee” and “Limey” – and then have the sole female character make a joke about wanting to get laid so we know she's going to be the “Sexy” kind of token woman. The moment Brian is alone with a male authority figure, he's telling the guy how he's exactly like Brian's crummy dad before spilling his entire tragic backstory to an indifferent audience. There are so many moments that just awkwardly dump details in our lap without any rhyme or reason, making everything feel extra hollow.

As I said, for shows like this to work, they have to go hard or go home, and this premiere is a series of half-measures delivered between clunky dialogue and questionable action scenes. It could pick up from here and develop into a more entertaining ensemble action/comedy. I'm just not inclined to find out because this opener was their chance to set the stage, and instead, they tripped on their own feet before stumbling out the door.

Rebecca Silverman

Maybe it's because I'm tired, but the names in this show crack me up. They range from the mildly possible (Brian Nightraider) to the halfway silly (Robin Timbert) to the totally ludicrous (Lyra Candyheart), and if they say anything about the level of seriousness this series intends to embody, The Marginal Service may turn out to be better than its introduction. That vibe gets stronger as the episode progresses, starting out fairly standard for a cop-adjacent show with the murder-disguised-as-suicide of Brian's partner Danny Grab and Brian's subsequent firing and descent into depression before moving on to something perhaps best described as “Men in Black meets the Power Rangers.”

It's a risk keeping that shift until the end, and one I'm not sure truly pays off. By the time Brian's former boss starts transforming into a lizard-like “borderlander” (a word that seems to substitute for “yokai” given the proof Theodore shows Brian), the show has largely stagnated, with Brian having met his new team, rejected his team, and then decided that maybe he'll tag along anyway. It feels very pat, and that's not exactly what you want when trying to hook an audience. There are hints that things aren't going to be quite as bland as they appear, such as the large rodent (Peck Desmont) whose sign keeps changing without Brian's notice and the consistent references to the indigenous cultures of Latin America, both the Aztecs and the Incas get a mention, something I don't think I've seen since Nazca. There's also an interesting culture forming the background to the story, with what appears to be widespread xenophobia and a much more culturally diverse Japan than we typically see. It really could be that this is just biding its time.

I'm not sure that's quite enough, though. The payoff – the reveal of the Marginal Service's true capabilities, complete with ridiculous fighting game intros – feels like too little, too late. Unlike other first episodes that play their cards close to the vest for most of the runtime, this one fails to capitalize on the more interesting bits and pieces scattered throughout. It's probably worth a second episode to see if the storytelling evens out, but I can't say I enjoyed this very much.

discuss this in the forum (256 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history

back to The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
Season Preview Guide homepage / archives