「東京ESP少女」 (Tokyo Esupu Shoujo)
“Tokyo ESP Girls”
I have no idea what just happened. Little of that made sense.
This entire episode was plagued by an old Tokyo ESP problem: unexplained powers. I don’t know how Roshi knew that shirtless samurai was the one holding up the building, and I don’t know how he shrugged off the bullets. Roshi mentioned Qigong, but I don’t think martial arts works like that guys! Same with Kobushi-chan’s green punch – was that a power evolution, or a qi attack? While pretty much everything the Professor did seemed like bullshit. About the only thing they gave flimsy justification to was how Pelico could nullify the Professor’s powers, but since there was no foreshadowing on this, it still amounts to an ass pull. And I’m not even getting into how Imouto-chan apparently has hammerspace that works on people. That’s horrifying.
In stories like Tokyo ESP, you need to explain how the magic works or it feels like plot points are being pulled out of the writer’s ass. I hear that was done better in the manga—at least for the main characters—but there’s been none of that here. This episode just had the worst of it.
The Villains Had a Shitty Plan
I still don’t really understand what the villains were after. If they just wanted to spread the fish, and they needed the Tokyo Sky Tree to do it, it seems like they could have teleported up there any day of the week and released them. Bada bing, bada boom, new esper society. But if the Professor was trying to lure in these strange esper(?) gods(?), then … okay? They told us nothing about them, not what they’re after or why the Professor wanted to draw them there and fight them, so I’m just left feeling frustrated. Explain yourself dammit! None of this makes any damn sense! About the best I can say is that the angel(?) esper(?) god(?) was forwshadowed, but that’s it.
The Good Outnumber The Evil
There’s a long list of things that don’t make sense about this anime, but the one that struck me at the end of this episode was the crimes the rising number of espers were committing. They’re so unimaginative! All fire and explosions, no forethought.
There are two facets to this that bug me. 1) It’s stupid. In a medieval society I can see people thinking force would work, even up to 70-80 years ago, when bank robberies were still a done thing. Even in a modern society, I can see people with fancy new powers thinking it would work early on, but after Rinka and her crew go around stomping every single one of them? Those characters are no better than NPC slimes in an RPG. When it comes to showing how criminals would really act if suddenly given amazing powers, other stories have done it better. Strong Female Protagonist does it better. X-Men does it better. Tokyo ESP does it poorly.
Two, the good outnumber the evil. Always. I refuse to believe that so many espers would be wreaking havoc so indiscriminately, because that doesn’t happen in real life and if you don’t think a gun or a car can do lots of damage, you’re wrong. It reminded me of a quote from comedian Patton Oswalt who, like most great comedians, is a wickedly insightful man. You can read the full article here, but the important part is reproduced below.
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out … This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in a while, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evildoers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
A charismatic terrorist like the Professor makes sense. The gangster made sense. A thief like Kobushi-chan makes sense. But people blowing things up out of frustration is a rare occurrence, and magical powers wouldn’t change that. Most people just want to live their lives in peace, so unless they’re hiding a ton of espers who are doing just that off-screen, that struck me as bullshit. And even if they are, there would be more superheroes than just Rinka and her gang. I’ve met enough soldiers and police officers to know that.
Looking Ahead – Final Impressions
Not much to say on this episode that I haven’t said a hundred times before, other than to say something I didn’t get to last week since Cherrie was covering for me (thanks Cherr!): Pelico is ridiculous. Just utterly ridiculous. Final impressions below.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – This anime ended as it began – badly. A flawed adaptation of a good manga to the bitter end #東京ESP 12 END
- C’mon Minami, just teleport Rinka way up in the air and drop her! You’re going to jail for a long time if they ever catch you anyway, might as well rub out the competition.
- Wolverine/Magneto papa is the best! His clothes ripped off because he’s just THAT DAMN GAR.
- I like how Pompadour ended up coming along because he had a useful power. I feel like they should have added a main character with that power instead of conveniently introducing some nobody when needed.
- Just shoot the Professor already Kyoutarou gods just shoot him DO I HAVE TO COME IN THERE AND DO IT MYSELF!?
- Professor: “I sensed a miracle in you.” What.
- I can’t tell if they were trying to make the Professor out into a pseudo-good guy there at the end, fighting the esper(?) gods(?), but it didn’t work. He’s still a damn murderer, and him “training” Kyoutarou (and warping his daughter in the process) is just fucked up.
- All they do is hold hands? No kiss after all of that, or even a hug? What is this shit! (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻
- Take off the mask Kyoutarou, you look ridiculous. Sigh.
Rarely does an anime adaptation shoot itself in the foot so thoroughly, so quickly. I’ve been saying this for the entire season, but the full-episode cold opening in episode one poisoned everything that came after it. Absolutely everything. Not even simple pleasures like whether Kobushi-chan would join the good guys or whether Rinka would actually die—turns that were easy to anticipate—could be enjoyed because we already knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what would happen. Not even the stunning event of the capital floating in the sky was properly shocking because they blew all the good stuff in the first episode!
And to a certain degree, it worked. For the anime’s viewership, not the story. The first episode was interesting enough to get a lot of people watching, but the poison set in shortly thereafter. The only thing that was truly left to wonder about was why Kyoutarou didn’t appear in the first episode, but the frustration that came from watching such a badly bungled adaptation tried my patience, until I was left wishing I had just dropped it and spoiled myself on that detail, or better yet, read the manga instead.
The irony is that the anime didn’t need the cold opening—because the chronological first episode worth of content (episode two) was strong enough to stand on its own—but it did need an extra episode worth of time to properly flesh out the characters and the world. The kind of magic seen in Tokyo ESP doesn’t work unless it’s explained enough for the audience to anticipate the character’s actions to a degree, but everything was cut down to the bone, and much felt like it was pulled out of the writer’s ass as a result. The characters suffered too, with no one escaping the hacksaw’s cruel effect on their development.
Which is a shame, because the story’s bones are good. I pride myself on being able to sense a good story even if the adaptation is shite, which is why I was willing to blog Touno Mamare’s Log Horizon even though Touno Mamare’s Maoyuu almost singlehandedly burned me out with its ham-fisted adaptation. Though this adaptation forces me to question the plot, for Rinka alone I want to read the adaptation, because she’s an excellent character, even as twisted as she was by XEBEC. In that sense, you could say this was a successful adaptation; I do want to read the manga now.
But in all other ways, this was a flop. There’s some enjoyment to be had if you can turn off your brain or laugh at its follies, but everything I see and everything I’ve heard tells me the manga is better. So I’ll add that to my prodigious manga backlog, and take this another in a long line of lessons that have taught me to approach XEBEC adaptations with care. Though they also did Nyaruko-san, so I don’t know what to think. Other than I also now apparently need to watch Ga-Rei: Zero too. Son of a bitch—my free time!