Thursday, 19 April 2007 21:44

Tokko (TV, 2006)

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Overview

As I mentioned in my review of Claymore, my watch list of anime has been getting rather short over the last couple weeks, as a lot of series that I have been following have been wrapping up. So, I've spent the last week looking for new series to look into, and one of the ones that caught my interest when I saw it flash up in my RSS feeder was a little show called simply Tokko. As with a lot of shows this spring season, Tokko is an occult/horror based series, set in modern day Japan. Since I do like a good occult/horror story, I opened up the torrent and waited for it to download. The series opens on a group of hooded monks all gathered around a box that looked suspiciously like The Box from Hellraiser - and certainly, had similar effects when something went very wrong...

Review

Some five years prior to the events in Tokko, a massive earthquake rocks the city, and at the same time in a particular apartment building... something... appears. Almost every single resident, 372 people total, in the building are slaughtered in ways that would make just about anybody cringe. There are a few survivors - including the main character Ranmaru and his sister, Saya. The series opens to this particular young man reliving the events in a dream, one that he apparently has been having quite consistently since the butchery. This dream ends at the meeting of a blood-drenched, half-nude girl with a sword on top of the roof - when his younger (and very, very shapely) sister wakes him up in nothing but a bra and panties to remind him that he's going to be late for graduation from police academy if he doesn't get up soon. For the record, Ranmaru has to be just about the most hen-pecked older brother I've ever seen.

With the basics out of the way, let me just point out that there's not much in the way of subtlety in Tokko, or at least, there isn't yet. There's also not a whole lot of time for it thus far, as once the shit starts hitting the fan, the series kicks it right into top gear. And the top gear is pretty damn bloody. Seems that the earthquake of five years before was a harbinger, resulting in seemingly bottomless holes opening up without apparent reason throughout the city. Out of these holes come demonic beings out for a little midnight snack... yeah, that kinda snack.

Tokko's strength has, thus far, been its story telling ability. Rather than focusing too much on one aspect or another, say mainly on the monsters, or primarily on the background, the writers have kept a fairly balanced, layered approach that never stops advancing the story, but keeps things from adding up too quickly. I've been impressed with both the overall continuity of the storyline, and the little touches that have added a refreshingly light side to a plot that is decidedly dark overall. Saya's mothering of Ranmaru, and the friendly banter of the other members of Ranmaru's squad have a place in this story, and it's a place that is often overlooked in similar series.

The character development thus far has been a little limited, focusing primarily on Ranmaru and Sakura, who shows up toward the end of episode one. They are, of course, linked - turns out that Sakura, like him, is a survivor of the apartment building massacre. She's a member of a special police force, codename SpecSec, that are specially equipped to deal with these demons - and deal with them so thoroughly that not even the vast majority of the police department, much less the public at large, realize that the things going bump in the night aren't just in their imagination. There are a few other characters of note, including the main character's sister, and the commanding officer that he gets assigned to... Kunikida is a man that looks to be vying for Charles Brenton of Dominion Tank Police's position of most hard-ass trigger-happy, nut job police CO. There's also the Commander of the SpecSec squad, and her assistant, the source of what little subtlety has been seen thus far in the series. I suspect that once the main plot line gets going, both the character advancement and subtle bits will too.

Visually, the world of Tokko is at times disturbingly vivid. In terms of blood and gore, I'd have to rate the series with a high 8, maybe 9. It's not the worst I've ever seen - and I hope never to see something approaching M.D. Geist again - but its certainly not for the queasy. You see, the only way to kill those demons is to cut them into little, itty, bitty, tiny pieces... And the members of SpecSec are very good at doing so. Add to that Ranmaru's CO, and his willingness to use lethal force - for all the good it does - and you have a lot of bodily fluids splashing around. I haven't even touched on the demon's propensity for nasty deaths. The cityscape seen suits any modern day booming city, from shining sky scrapers to decrepit back alleys.

Character design thus far has been impressively varied, if not exactly breaking new ground. Animation is consistent and I can't complain about the somewhataverage designs. It's worth noting that despite the mildly generic designs, the animators did take the time to focus on little details relating to a character's personality. Sakura, whose design is one of the more original ones, shows the hints of being a bit of a berserker when she's in slayer mode, for instance. It remains to be seen if she is, mind you - at the time of this review I've only seen the first five episodes - but I wouldn't be surprised. Like I said, little things... they're important when character designs are average.

As I've been watching the dub for once, I have to say that I'm not in the least bit impressed with the translation. While overall conversations have been about the same, the characters come off with somewhat different personalities. Spoken lines simply don't match up with the visual reaction of the characters at places, and some subtle points were dropped in favor of vernacular. Oh, yeah, and translators... never, like, turn a character into, like, valley girls, like, for sure, because, like, the speech pattern is, like, a total bummer. For sure. The translators felt a need to stuff a fair bit of vulgar language into the dialog too, and honestly, it's not needed in the quantity that I've been hearing it. I'd strongly recommend switching to Japanese voice over and just reading the subtitles to get the honest characters, and that's saying something, as generally I don't mind dub vs sub. Still, aside from Saya's transformation into valley rat, the VA's over all suited their roles. I don't have much to complain about there - I blame the translation on whatever idiot did it, not the actors that got tapped for the role.

I'd like to mention that the opening and closing theme both are continuing the string of really awesome songs that have been pouring out of recent anime. Beyond that I don't really have any comments on the series music, as I haven't really registered any - at all. More mental filtering at work, there, so I'll rate the general background themes as alright.

Overall

As of episode five, we're starting to see a little more of the overall connections between the various bits and pieces of the storyline that have been sprinkled here and there. As I mentioned above, I'm impressed with the consistency that I've seen, so high marks there. The animation is solid, well planned, but at times very visceral, so I can't recommend Tokko for younger viewers, or squeamish ones. There's already been a bit of nudity too. I foresee a great deal more violence as the main storyline heats up, and given the level of gore visible even at the outset of the series, things are going to rather rapidly get bad. Low marks on the dub performance, avoid it if you don't mind reading subtitles. Still, all and all a good series, worth a look if you're into the occult, or just plain like hot chicks with pointy weaponry.

Additional Info

  • Title: Tokko, 特公
  • Genre: Action, Horror, Police Procedural
  • Director: Masashi Abe
  • Studio: AIC Spirits, Group Tac
  • Licensed: Manga Entertainment
  • Network: WOWOW
  • Format: Television
  • Episodes: 13
  • Animation: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Writing: Very Good (+3)
  • Pacing: Good (+2)
  • Voice Acting: Average (0)
  • Soundtrack: Average (0)

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