Snapshots: Monochrome Factor
Finally some proper boy loving to watch, as Monochrome Factor (モノクローム・ファクター) enters the tableaus of TV Tokyo, Mondays at 26:00 JST.
Based on Sorano Kairi’s action comedy manga in a paranormal setting, director Kou Yuu of Loveless fame takes up another pretty boy project. With the 5th volume of the original work just out, screenwriter Kawahara Yuuji (also from Loveless) will have his work cut out for him if he’s going to fill the supposed 24-26 episodes the show is rumoured to be planned for. These two also worked together on the second season of Zero no Tsukaima, and they totally raped the plot in that, so I’m not very hopeful here.
The story’s hero is second year high schooler and semi-bad boy Nikaidou Akira, who likes to skip class and get chased by a cute disciplinary patrol student girl called Suzuno Aya. On his way home from another lazy day on the school rooftop, he encounters an eccentric platinum blonde in a black coat and hat. With an enticing voice, the stranger asks to have a little talk with Akira, and after addressing him with his full name, the long-haired beauty has Akira’s full attention. An introduction is made, and Akira is made aware that the person speaking to him is known as Shirogane, and soon it’s apparent that Shirogane is not human, but a Shade. When Akira refuses Shirogane’s request to come along someplace where they can be alone, Shirogane makes a puzzling remark that they’ll meet again soon, as they are fated to be together, then vanishes.
Later that evening, Akira lies in bed pondering the strange meeting, when the doorbell is rung by his classmate Asamura Kengo. The cheerful Kengo drags Akira out to an arcade, where they rescue an 11-year-old university graduate researcher genius (a character original to the anime, apparently) from some brutes. Out of the blue, Aya appears with a shinai and chases them out of the establishment, but the three eventually end up back at school to pick up an item the lass forgot in her desk. Passing through the dark hallways, they’re suddenly attacked by a huge lizard-like monster. Akira manages to drive away the black bug, but several more emerge from the darkness. Luckily this is where Shirogane makes a second appearance, to save the day with a magic barrier.
Shirogane explains the fiends are Kokuchi from the world of Shade, and that Akira’s help is needed to fight them. After a bit of love quarrel, Akira rushes out of the barrier despite warning, but the ground swallows him. Again, Shirogane saves him, by dragging his body out. In the process, Akira has lost his shadow, and is now a Shade as well. Shirogane explains the way to counter it is to establish a covenant between the two, transforming him into a Shin. This turns out to be done through a long, deep kiss, and after a light effects display, Akira’s hair has turned black from the original brown, and he’s wielding dual knives. With his newfound powers he then deals with the rest of the monsters easily.
Come morning, the two stand alone in the schoolyard. Shirogane tells Akira that his new life as a Shade has made him invisible to others, and that they should take this opportunity to elope. Yet Akira is not convinced, and asks if there’s no way to reverse the effect. Shirogane replies that it just might be possible if they exchange another kiss, but a blushing Akira expresses his disbelief, pointing out that there was chanting involved last time, and wonders if the kiss was really necessary. With a wide smile, Shirogane says that it was, because of love. A moment later, Shirogane is gone once more, but as Akira looks around, a bright light glows from within him, and he finds himself turning back to normal – shadow and all. Presently Kengo and Aya come running from the school building, and in confusion, Akira asks them if they can actually see him. When they can’t seem to understand what he’s getting at, he acts a bit nutty, and his two friends watch his hair-pulling antics bemusedly.
The animation’s done by a company called ACGT, who’ve worked on Kino no Tabi to name one title, but in this case it looks very plain and generic, where the monster design is especially flat. The comedy bits are in chibi mode and do seem to have more frames, though. The music is some sort of collaboration between Abo Takeshi and Murakami Jun, but it still sounds like cheap game music to me. Protagonist Akira is played by Ono Daisuke, fresh off Jin in Dragonaut, so you’re bound to love him. In contrast, Suwabe Junichi (Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist) makes Shirogane sound very seductive. Asano Masumi (Mai in Popotan) is great as Aya, and pretty much makes the show worth watching all on her own.
If the summary seems long today, it’s because I couldn’t figure out how to say “Boy meets cross-dressing weirdo and turns into monster hunting superhero” in any less words. While I can’t actually list any titles off the top of my head, I’m sure I’ve seen this exact same show a dozen times before, albeit not necessarily quite so gay. The comedy bits are somewhat amusing, but the monster battles are so dreary that I hope there’ll be a really unique and original boss type waiting behind the curtains, or only the most bored viewers will bother to watch it to the end. Of course, even Kaze no Stigma had some fans, so who knows.