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by Kevin Cormack,


Season 1 Anime Review

T・P BON Season 1 Anime Series Review

Upon accidentally causing the death of his friend Tetsuo, terminally average Japanese junior high student Bon Namihara witnesses Time Patrol Agent Ream Stream reverse time and resurrect Tetsuo. Owing to his forbidden knowledge, Bon is initially threatened with erasure from history, but Ream discovers that Bon will become an individual essential to the future of humanity. She invites him to join her as a Time Patrol Agent, traveling through history to save the lives of people who would otherwise have died.

T・P BON is based on the manga by Fujiko F. Fujio and streams on Netflix.


I adore classic sci-fi, especially when it involves time travel and grand adventure. T・P BON embodies the spirit of classic sci-fi adventure like almost no other recent anime. Based on a 1978-1986 manga by Doraemon co-creator Fujiko F. Fujio, this ultra-shiny modern adaptation from studio BONES and director Masahiro Andō (Hana-Saku Iroha, Sword of the Stranger, O Maidens in Your Savage Season) keeps the round-eyed character designs simple yet distinctive like the originals while depicting a huge range of historical eras with a fresh coat of glossy new digital paint. This is a beautiful, beguiling blast from (and to) the past.

While the brightly colored aesthetics, child characters, and episodic structure all suggest this could be a throwaway kids' show, nothing could be further from the truth. There's a reason Netflix has rated this for an audience of 15 years and over, and that's none more evident than in the first episode's sudden, brutal, and bloody death of Bon's friend Tetsuo, as he falls several floors from his balcony to the streets below. While Doraemon was most certainly more kiddie-friendly, with characters rarely coming to lasting harm, Bon and his new Time Patrol Agent partner Ream each suffer violent deaths on more than one occasion. Even the regular use of convenient time-reversal powers doesn't quite erase the shock value of seeing these cutesy characters meet horrific ends.

In each episode, Ream and Bon's task is to travel to some pre-determined place in the distant past to save the lives of unfortunate people whose deaths were unimportant to history. Their unseen bosses (presumably based somewhere in the future) monitor the entirety of history and provide a scanner device that determines whether an individual human or animal will significantly affect the future should their fates be changed. While the Time Patrol Agency's mission is humanitarian, it can't brazenly save anyone, as that would risk a Sound of Thunder-esque butterfly effect on human history.

This means that the duo's missions must be kept secret via the use of a Men in Black-style "forgetter device" that erases witnesses' memories, plus their rescue targets are almost always "little people" with negligible historical significance. Saving JFK in 1963 isn't an option. These strict rules evoke frequent emotional tension, most markedly during a huge battle when Ream agonizes that she can't possibly save everyone who dies. Being a Time Agent is an emotionally devastating job, and I'm not entirely sure why the Time Agency employs two fourteen-year-olds to do such taxing work…

The Time Agency's employment practices aren't the only thing that requires such suspensions of disbelief from the viewer. T・P BON is very obviously a product of its time, and as such, the stories themselves can seem overly simplistic, with plots resolved in often contrived ways. The Time Patrol Agency's technology might as well be magic, and the internal logic regarding its use seems incredibly fluid. It's used as a get-out-of-jail-free card just a few too many times.

Bon, as a character, seems purposefully designed to be an audience self-insert. Even several of the Japanese characters that make up his full name mean "mediocre," "ordinary," or "average." He can be dumb – but not too dumb, sometimes smart – but not too smart. Often making poor snap decisions or acting carelessly, half of the trouble he finds himself in is his fault. Ream, by comparison, is generally more capable. While the first animated adaptation of this story (a 1989 film) had at least a little romantic spark between them, that's kept mostly to a minimum in this version. There are even scenes where they change into their underwear in each other's presence without any of the rote embarrassment or prolonged blushes so prevalent in other anime. Ream is a capable, caring, professional girl, and I'm pretty sure that had this been made decades earlier, 14-year-old me would likely have worshipped her.

In structure, T・P BON is a lot like Quantum Leap (one of my favorite 90's shows), with Bon and Ream traveling to the past to put right what once went wrong, often disguising themselves as period natives – even changing hair, eye, and skin color, while sometimes using minimal information to determine how to save their target. The central male-female duo and their relationship evoke similar vibes to Japanese/French animated co-production Time Jam: Valerian and Laureline (has anyone else ever watched this except me?) Every episode features our heroes exploring a new and interesting period, from prehistory when dinosaurs walked the Earth to building the first pyramid in ancient Egypt, surviving Salem-era witch hunts, gunslinging during the Wild West, and battling the Minotaur in Crete. One episode even occurs in a disturbing post-apocalyptic far future Earth.

While the aforementioned bloody violence is fairly frequent (after all, history was often a bloody and violent place), the series has a lot to offer younger history buffs with stronger stomachs. Every period is contextualized with concentrated info-dumps, usually from Ream, that aren't too intrusive and can be pretty interesting and relevant to the plot. It's not quite as didactic as dedicated edutainment shows, but for those of us who like to learn alongside our explosions and beheadings, it's a good time.

T・P BON's deliberately retro styling and structure may put off many modern anime viewers, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. BONES has done a great job making it so shiny and attractive, with a great soundtrack. While the opener is upbeat with its funky guitars and soaring strings, the melancholy closer marries heartbreakingly sad, pining lyrics with warm piano and soothing bass. They're both songs that will stay with me for a long time.

This tranche of twelve episodes covers only the first half of Bon's adventures, with a further dozen due in July 2024. July can't come soon enough, as I need to know what happens after the quietly devastating cliffhanger.

Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : A-
Music : A

+ Stunningly beautiful retro aesthetic, super smooth animation, good use of simple and unobtrusive cel-shaded CG, interesting and varied historical settings, the delightful Ream Stream is a fun co-protagonist.
Overuse of deus ex machina sci-fi gobledegook, episodic almost to a fault, odd mix of tones between light-hearted juvenilia and gritty violence.

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Production Info:
Director: Masahiro Andō
Series Composition: Yūko Kakihara
Yūko Kakihara
Keigo Koyanagi
Dai Satō
Masahiro Andō
Tensai Okamura
Junichi Sakata
Toshiya Shinohara
Fumihiko Suganuma
Nobutaka Yoda
Episode Director:
Masahiro Andō
Yukihiko Asaki
Nao Miyoshi
Sayaka Morikawa
Ken'ichi Nishida
Noriyuki Nomata
Miki Sakaihara
Fumihiko Suganuma
Music: Michiru Ōshima
Original creator: Fujiko F. Fujio
Character Design: Masahiro Satō
Art Director: Tatsurō Ōnishi
Chief Animation Director:
Naoyuki Konno
Kenichi Ōnuki
Masahiro Satō
Animation Director:
Eiichi Akiyama
Koichi Horikawa
Kazuaki Imoto
Ikkō Inaguma
In Sun Jung
Satomi Kani
Yuka Kitamura
Kenji Mizuhata
Tomoyo Nakayama
Yūta Ohara
Nayumi Okashiwa
Kenichi Ōnuki
Masahiro Satō
Kazuya Shimizu
Shinya Yamada
Mechanical design: Junichirō Tamamori
Art design: Eiko Tsunadō
3D Director: Takuma Miyake
Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi
Director of Photography: Yingying Zhang
Executive producer: Masahiko Minami
Producer: Naoki Amano

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