A Street fighter named Akira is accused of murder, and his only way out of life imprisonment is self-exile to a ruined Toshima ward, which is essentially a gang war zone and the venue for a battle royale where dog tags are collected from those one defeats. In going there, Akira leaves behind a cushier neighborhood, his friend Kisuke who acts a lot like Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, and Rei Ayanami’s apartment. He has no job and no family.
There’s definitely a shounen ai undertone to this series – a genre that isn’t my cup-o-tea, but it does have two things going for it from where I’m standing: a really dark, dreary, and beautifully depicted semi-apocalyptic setting, and a soundtrack that’s more or less kick-ass from the episode’s start to finish.
Akira doesn’t have much of a character yet, and there’s been only one female character so far (I like balance), but this felt like a brisk and well-paced first episode. Combine that with the setting, the music, and a couple competent fight scenes, this is a series with great potential, as long as it stays focused on the action. Rating: 3
Manglobe’s new fall series The World God Only Knows turns in a solid first episode that tells a fresh story. Keima, a high schooler, is obsessed with playing dating sims on his PSP, and unwittingly ends up in a pact with a demon from hell that forces him to make a concerted effort at real romance. The demon herself (Elsee) manages not to come off too shrill or annoying, but is surprisingly straightforward when it comes to what has to be done: both of them will die if he doesn’t win the heart of a girl on the track team.
At first, he panics, naturally; but then realizes that while his success with women has only been virtual, he’s amassed a wealth of courting expertise and experience. This is the strength of the episode: Keima relatively quickly draws upon that knowledge to successfully woo the girl and his virtual confidence becomes real as well. I’m not sure where he gets all the money for those huge signs, but by persevering, he wears down a girl who initially considered him nothing but a useless ‘dweeb’.
The girl loses her memory after falling in love with Keima, releasing a “loose soul” that was Elsee’s goal. Elsee also enlists as a transfer student at Keima’s school, meaning we can expect more episodic ‘missions’ in which he must win a girls heart. But as he points out, it’ll be hard working without a save function. I’m interested in seeing how they differentiate these missions, but so far, I’m intrigued. Rating: 3