Sunday, January 5, 2014

Six Edgy or Action Anime Set in a Normal Tokyo

Tokyo is as important to anime as New York is important to movies.  Everything tends to get set there and iconic landmarks are shown again and again.  It is also interesting how school based anime set in parts of rural Japan / other Japanese locations always have students go "Oooh.  The new transfer student is from Tokyo," even though a quarter of the Japanese population lives in the greater Tokyo area.
Shinjuku at Night
Anyhow, I'd like to talk about a few action anime that are set in Tokyo, but not an unusual Tokyo where mechs rule or magic is common.  These are shows that happen in a Tokyo you could visit and add to the mystique of the everyday.  Of course there are also shows such as Patlabor too where giant police mechs are grafted onto an otherwise normal city, and time travel with Stein's Gate / Girl Who Leapt Through Time, but I'm just aiming at shows that might have a bit of the X Files to them or way out plots.  Sorry, no zombies like High School of the Dead, but that is an interesting show too!  If I missed your favourite show, be kind, there is never any slur intended.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
This is an interesting little series about a sister and her younger brother who go out for a day trip in Odaiba on their own.  Of course, the big one hits while they are there and they must try to find their way home to their parents.  Cellular phone service is out and they are traveling across a wrecked central Tokyo in the direction of Shibuya.  I thought the realism in this show was pretty good and I'm sure it is something that has struck a chord in many anime fans since the big earthquake that rocked Fukushima and Tokyo a few years back.  It has to be hard to make your way across any city that is blocked with rubble, impassible roads and collapsed buildings.  This anime has a bit of a surrealistic / supernatural end, but it was gripping and well done.

Penguindrum / Bakemonogatari
These two anime are very visually striking and have some great color usage.  Both involve supernatural elements that seem to take place in an otherwise normal environment you could be walking around in yourself.  Penguindrum definitely happens in Tokyo as the metro and Ikebukuro locations are used quite a bit, while Bakemonogatari is more generic.  Penguindrum is about two brothers,Kanba and Shoma, and their younger sister Himari who is terminally ill.  The sister collapses after a trip to the aquarium at Sunshine City but is revived by a strange spirit in the form of Penguin hat.  The show was interesting, but only really brings all of the meandering plot elements together in the last quarter of the show.  There are plenty of plot twists about the family backgrounds and what exactly is the Penguindrum and what makes it so powerful?  Bakemonogatari has a boy named Koyomi who was saved from a vampire attack.  He now helps others who have been afflicted with various supernatural problems.  Lots of talking in this show, but the funky animation sure helps this show along.  I liked it mainly for the visuals, but there is plenty of other interesting things happening.

An anime based on the American comic book that adapted well into a Japanese context.  Not exactly set in a contemporary Tokyo as it is somewhat futuristic, it is included anyways.  Masane Amaha is a mother who lost her memories during the "great quake" and is afflicted with the Witchblade artifact.  The Witchblade draws her into a power struggle between an powerful corporation and the government when all she wants to do is live a good life and raise her daughter.  Great battle scenes between various Witchblades and Cloneblades along with many supporting characters that you really come to like.  There is the very cute little girl, a bar / house that everyone hangs out in, and of course an investigative reporter.  There is a nice ending to this series, but I'm not going to reveal if it is happy or tragic.  By the way, another series set in Tokyo with an investigative report is Speedgrapher, but it is way more violent, more supernatural, with way more adult content and disturbing scenes.

Birdy the Mighty Decode
Roppongi just gets blasted into bits in this show.  An Federation law enforcement agent, Birdy Cephon Altera, comes to Earth to apprehend an alien criminal ring.  A poor boy named Tsutomu Senkawa is accidentally killed by her in a battle and she saves him by sharing his body.  All kinds of embarrassing situations ensue, but the show has a good story at its core, with plenty of action and is decent science fiction.  Alien refugees, criminals from the stars performing experiments on hapless civilians, and super-powered galactic law enforcers characterize this show.

People who have recently died are revived to fight against aliens on demand.  It is as if someone scanned them at a point just before they died and they get rebuilt like something out of a 3D printer.  Kind of cool and creepy at the same time.   Very violent with some sexual themes, this show gives the heroes advanced energy weapons and super-powered Gantz suits to use in their struggles.  After they successfully defeat the aliens they were summoned to fight they earn points that play a big role later on and return to their regular life until they are summoned again.  This very nasty game seems to be pointless, but does accumulate into a bigger story that explains why they are doing this.  This is a popular show and manga.

Eden of the East
This show is a great story that builds on a number of modern societal elements like the decline of Japan, NEETS, conspiracies, crazy powerful computers, shadow organizations. The story starts with a naked hero with a cellphone and a gun who has lost his memory in front of the White House.  He assumes the name of  Akira Takizawa and involves a Japanese girl named Saki in his flight from law enforcement.  Both end up back in Tokyo where the story deepens.  The special cellphone gives him access to a concierge names Juiz who can seem to grant miraculous wishes for a price.  The hero finds out he is in a high-stakes game with 11 other Selecao to somehow save Japan in an unspecified manner on a 10 billion yen budget.  The show was enjoyable along with the two movies that brought it to an ultimate conclusion.

Anyhow, that is the six I picked for now, but there are probably many others out there that are just as much fun to watch.  So the next time you're in Tokyo, let the imagination run wild in the city of anime.

Followup...  I meant to also add Durarara!! or DRRR!! to the list as it meets all of the same requirements for edgy, x-files, alternate culture too.

This is an awesome show that features an Internet gang called the Dollars (a crowd sourced gang?), a real gang, some tough otaku, two pretty cool high-school protagonists, an almost supernatural info broker / fixer, a unlicensed doctor, a pharmaceutical company up to no good, and a headless Celtic spirit on a motorbike.  That is one long sentence.  Anyhow, this show has some good scripting and was way more entertaining than I ever expected.  It is one of my favourites now and it showcases the neighbourhood of Ikebukuro - the alternate Akiba of Tokyo.  I like the district and I like the show - two wins!

More Anime and Scifi posts...


  1. Thank you for the list. The Tokyo setting with a bit of "X files" as you put it, like Durarara!, has got to be my favorite setting!

    1. Durarara season 2 is coming! Drrr and Stein's Gate are big favorites. They are both setup as massive story arcs so you need to watch all episodes, but they're so good!