Mekakucity Actors (2015)

Ever since I had seen the image of Mekakucity Actors (also called Mekaku City Actors) on the seasonal anime release chart last year, I have had my eyes on it. Immediately made a mental note to binge it when it ends. But, a couple of stuff happened and I never got to watch it until tonight.

The very first thing to catch my eye was the Mekakucity Actor’s animation. I opened up the first episode and after closely watching the first few seconds of it, I quite quickly realized and told myself, “Oh-ho! SHAFT animation. Welp, I’m in for a treat.” At the time of writing this review, I have only watched a single SHAFT show called Bakemonogatari and I really liked it so you see where I am coming. There’s no bias here: I’m just saying that when SHAFT is involved, the product turns out great. Well, usually…

I wouldn’t call Mekakucity Actors ‘great’. It has quite a number of flaws. But, you know what, as long as you’re not an idiot (I recall a couple of other reviews I’ve read), you’ll pretty much enjoy the show.

Synopsis from MyAnimeList: The story starts out on a particularly hot day with Shintarou Kisaragi sitting around with no plans of going out into the scorching heat. In fact, he has not been outside for a very long time. His life revolves around his computer and, as such, everything is at peace. That is, until he downloads an artificial intelligence, Ene.

Ene is a playful girl who lives in Shintarou’s computer. She often blackmails him and tries to get him to do things he does not want to do. While both of them are arguing, he accidentally pours soda on his keyboard. Ene tries to find something to replace it online; however, every store is closed as it is the Obon festival. Although the thought of going outside makes Shintarou extremely nervous, the thought of living without his computer for 5 days is even worse. Thus, his “adventure” begins!

Shintarou, as well as his lovely virus, venture into the dangerous realm that we all call the department store. For someone who is not accustomed to being surrounded by people, just that is enough to cause hives. Unfortunately, people are not all that Shintarou must deal with. It turns out that the store is under the hands of criminals. To Shintarou’s displeasure, he becomes entangled in a terrifying hostage situation.

Thankfully, a group of young people who call themselves the “Mekakushi Dan” are there to help… or are they? The leader recognizes Shintarou and convinces him to join the fight. As the story progresses, the lives of the different members of the gang come to light like pieces of a puzzle. What secret lies beneath the surface of this complex crime scene?

Shintarou the NEET messes up his keyboard one day thanks to an AI virus, Ene, and so has to go out into the dredged world to get a replacement. At the store, a robbery takes place and Shintarou laments his bad luck. He meets Shuuya, a fellow hostage, who creeps him out because apparently Shuuya looks like he’s enjoying this life-and-death situation. Shintarou devises an escape plan and with the help of Shuuya (and others) saves the day. That it the first episode of Mekakucity Actors.

After that, the story of this anime takes a non-linear approach. Turns out there’s this bunch of 18 or so year-olds who have these special red eyes which grant them powers. Shuuya is a part of them. They recruit Shintarou and his little sister, Momo, and then this show kicks off in the third episode.

Now, I have to say this. Mekakucity Actors is an anime with a plot that centers on time-loops. This is kind of a spoiler as this doesn’t get revealed until the last 2 or 3 episodes. What I mean this announcement is that, Mekakucity Actors is very confusing for your average viewer. Most people I’ve discussed the show with had no idea what was going.

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I guess this is most people who got no clue as to what is going on.

This doesn’t mean that it’s a smart show for smart people (glares at arrogance and NGE). Actually, the reason why it’s so confusing is that the show’s execution is horrendously poor. The pace keeps rising and falling. There are time-skips in a damn show in which the events take place during 2 days and numerous flashbacks which span half the episodes count. In an earlier episode, someone dies. In a later episode, he/she is suddenly alive and well. There is literally no explanation for this. And because of this and other plot points which occur in a similar vein, many people frown on Mekakucity Actors.

To be honest, the show was pretty easy for me to follow but even then it was quite a rugged experience. You don’t introduce and resolve conflicts in a story dealing with time and its feisty-ness through mainly SUBTLE visual exposition – especially when you’re taking a non-linear approach to the story. Seriously, the story is good but the horrid execution really tanks it.

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My face when the execution is bad.

I’m not really going to talk about the story as I believe a show like Mekakucity Actors deserve a watch without you knowing what you’re getting into. What I will say is that it’s a somewhat fresh take on supernatural elements in a time-travel focus. You may have seen it somewhere else before but the Mekakucity Actors experience still deserves a try.

The directing of the show is quite superb. How emotions and actions are expressed through the usual abstract and minimalist SHAFT style combined with the background is just incredible. Just check out the dream scenes in episode 3. I literally wowed at the end of the episode.

Another thing to note about Mekakucity Actors is the picture-book-ish short story (that’s connected to the plot) that shows at the end of each episode after the credits. It is mostly comprised of still images and a single narration voice. The art of the short is just simply put, beautiful. The piano that plays in the background is lovely. The short, by itself, is a 10/10 for me.

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Beautiful.
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Just, beautiful.

The characters in Mekakucity Actors are, uh… What do I say about them? Well, except for Ene the virus, there is no character development for any other character. Everyone can be easily described with two or three words. Hell, at one point in the flashbacks a person has a cold and passive personality and then in the current day, Shuuya tells that person, “Wow! You’ve changed so much.” And there’s only one thing you can think of when he says that – the person still has a cold and passive personality. “Huh???” I say while pausing the anime.

There’s no reason to talk about the animation. SHAFT always goes for the same style with slight changes here and there as experiments. If you’ve seen a SHAFT show before then just stop reading this and go watch one just for the visual orgasm. Or cry about how it’s not generic like the others. It’s a love or hate situation.

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Two fan illustrations are also featured at the end of each episode serving as backdrops for the preview. This one was my favorite from the lot of them.

The OST is basically the best element of this anime. Ranging from hard rock to soothing piano and even dubstep at one point, it has it all and it is pleasing to the ears. Considering that Mekakucity Actors is based on a bunch of music videos called Kagerou Project, if the OST was bad, this anime would not exist.

Mekakucity Actors is a 7 out of 10 in my book. You’ll either like it or think it’s stupid. Either way, it’s a must watch anime.

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