It is festival time in the city of Shanghai, and unbeknownst to everyone, a man gets shot in a back alley. Nearby, three men wearing costume heads are walking through the city, and when one of the heads gets removed, that man goes crazy and jumps into the river. No one notices because they think it’s part of the celebration, and the other two men hurry off. At around the same time, freelance writer Minorikawa Minoru and camerawoman Oosawa Maria arrive in the city, and Minoru ends up going after an old man in the crowd who looks very similar to someone who was in the news earlier concerning an anti-terrorism conference. That leaves Maria by herself, and she spends her time taking in the festivities and snapping photos. At one point, she sees a man with a costume head get the head blown off by a water cannon, and that man goes crazy, throws up blood, and collapses. No one notices other than Maria who takes a picture of the body and its bloodied eyes, and she’s soon approached by some masked men with guns.
Fortunately for Maria, she’s grabbed by her old acquaintance Canaan who she’s been wanting to see again, and the two run away from the armed men. Along the way, they pick up a certain stuffed animal, and they end up hiding in a dark alleyway until their pursuers pass. Canaan wants Maria to stay put while she goes back out, but Maria doesn’t want to, so Canaan ties Maria’s thumbs together behind her back. Canaan then runs off and engages in a rooftop firefight with the masked gunmen. By this point, Minoru has come back and almost gets caught in the crossfire. He initially assumes that the crowd thinks that this is part of the festival entertainment, but he then realizes that they have to be intentionally turning their eyes away. Canaan meanwhile uses a special ability to pinpoint exactly where the opposing gunmen are, and she takes them all out, one after another, in quick succession. Maria can only watch from below as Canaan then disappears over the rooftops. Meanwhile, a military convoy carrying a woman named Alphard who’s the head of the Hebi organization suddenly gets attacked.
After listening to the OP and ED a few times, I find myself not drawn to either of the songs. I like the way the OP starts, and the ED is a nice slow song to decompress to after an exciting episode, but neither of them really stuck with me.
Like Bakemonogatari, this episode was visually very impressive. It’s not flashy with it until the end with Canaan’s firefight, but everything looked great, and there was a surprising amount of detail spread across a large number of crowd scenes. P.A. Works did a very nice job, and if you’re familiar with true tears, you can probably tell that this is their handiwork even though the original character designs were by TYPE-MOON’s Takeuchi Takashi. The most disturbing part of the episode, by the way, was seeing that they animated something like little kids playing in blood.
I also liked how they actually had Shanghai dialect in some of the background noise and for portraying there to be at least somewhat of a language barrier. More times than not in anime – with Eden of the East’s use of English being a recent exception – everyone just happens to speak Japanese. Of course that was still mostly the case with all of the characters here, including the military convoy at the end, but they get credit for at least trying part of the way. While we’re on the topic, I should mention that I’d enjoyed the voice acting this episode and am looking forward to Sakamoto Maaya voicing Alphard.
The plot, on the other hand, is rather complicated. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the background with a number of organizations including the Hebi (lit. snake) one that Alphard is the head of and naked girl Liang Qi is part of, and I’m still not really sure what’s up with the guys who go crazy when their head’s not covered up. That left me confused toward some of what was going on, but you could say that that makes the plot intriguing. I do like though how they’re exploring the theme of seeing/closed eyes, and given what Maria says about it and Canaan’s apparent synesthesia ability, I assume it’ll be a central part of the series.
In short, I enjoyed the first episode and am looking forward to more. The series is only 13 episodes long too, so I don’t think I’ll have a problem sticking with it for a season.
Edit: Apparently this anime is more connected to the original 428 game than I realized. You can read a summary of the game/primer for this series here.