Mekakucity Actors – 03

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After shifting, seemingly randomly, from Shintaro’s story to Momo’s, the show reveals that the events of the past two episodes preceded, then ran concurrently, with those of the first, only from fresh viewpoints. Therefore, the first three episodes comprise thee cohesive story of how the Kisaragi siblings met the Mekakushi-dan.

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I thought this was very clever, and literally and figuratively filled-in the blanks on a first episode that seemed to be a bit too intentionally abstruse at times, while the second episode felt like the first of a series of episodic character portraits. This third episode ties everything together into a satisfying whole that also does a good job formally introducing seven of the nine members in the credits.

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For their parts, the characters we saw hints of in the first episode make a far more lasting impression, and all of them own their roles well: Kido’s quiet angst; Kano’s incorrigible tricksterism; Seto’s affable calmness, and Marry’s clumsy vulnerability. They also all contribute their unique powers (all involving their eyes, which turn red when the powers are active) to the mission to save Momo’s bro.

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Between invisible and super-visible girls, a girl who can stop people with her gaze, a guy who can read minds, and a guy who can make people see illusions, there’s plenty of power to go around. It’s not surprising that once they found each other they decided to form a group dedicated to watching each other’s backs; more family than gang, with a lot of nice interpersonal dynamics.

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Mekakucity Actors – 02

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Mekakucity fields a large, color-coded cast of characters, and through two episodes has chosen to focus on one character at a time: Shintaro last week, his little sister Momo this week. But while the Shintaro episode didn’t delve too deeply into what made Shintaro tick, I got a far more intimate portrait of Momo’s psyche as the episode flitted between her past and present; her memory and imagination.

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In a couple of comedic scenes that I felt hung around a little too long, we learn that Momo isn’t good at taking tests and really fears being held back. But part of her difficulties could be attributed to her ability to gather huge groups of people who center their attention on her, which is why she was recruited from a young age to become an idol. The particulars of her peculiar “curse” aren’t explained in depth, but the practical and psychological drawbacks are.

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Put simply, Momo suffers from the same issues she did in school: an overabundance attention to her style. Because no one has any interest in the substance of her personality—only style—there are those who question its very existence; a doubt that seeps into her own thoughts. But just as Shintaro utilized his “curse” (Ene) to his advantage, Momo’s happiness, or at least sanity, may lie her ability to accept and embrace hers.

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On the periphery of this episode other characters observe her from afar, suggesting her recruitment by the same organization that snagged her brother. Curses are often blessings as well; Shintaro and Momo are both blessed with potentially very useful skills to an organization aiming to do…er…whatever it is it’s aiming to do. Perhaps we’ll be filled in about that if and when the two siblings are…

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Mekakucity Actors – 01

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Kisaragi Shintaro is a hikikomori haunted by two girls. One is a mysterious dark-haired girl in a sailor fuku who talks to him in strange, melancholy dreamscapes. The other is the puckish Ene, a boisterous computer program he downloaded out of curiosity, but has since become a constant (and often quite irritating) presence in his life. When Ene causes him to spill Coke all over his keyboard, he must brave the outside world and a crowded department store to procure a new one.

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That store is taken over by terrorists who hacked the computer-controlled security, and he suddenly finds himself a hostage the first time he’s left his apartment in a year, which seems to confirm many hikikomoris’ worst fears. Despite their apparent proficiency with technology, the crims don’t bother taking away Shintaro’s smartphone, which also contains Ene. When two game fellow hostages arrange a diversion, Shintaro springs into action, hooking Ene into the store’s computers and canceling the lockdown.

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Leaving aside the fact those looked like display units in an electronic store (and hence normally wouldn’t be connected in any way to the store’s security system), this was a low-key yet engrossing introduction to this world, which looks like a city just a few towns over from Naoetsu, the setting for most of the Monogatari Series. Like that and other SHAFT shows, we’re shown a plethora of bumper cards, wide shots, detailed expressive close-ups. I’m a fan of this precise, schematic aesthetic.

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Unlike other first episodes this season that lay out fairly clearly what they’re about through various kinds of exposition, Mekakucity prefers to present most of its first episode without excessive comment or explanation. I know how Shintaro and Ene “met”, that there’s something to that girl in Shintaro’s mind, and that he’ll surely cross paths with the hooded people he meets in the store; but why he’s a hikikomori, who he was before, and where all of this is going are things the show decided not to reveal from the get-go.

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As if to underline its deliberateness, we get what will likely be the show’s OP presented as the ED (a fairly common first episode thing to do), and a rainbow cornucopia of cool-looking characters flash across the screen, most of whom only appeared in this episode for a moment, if that. It’s a little overwhelming, but also enticing and invigorating, like getting used to the interface of a new video game you just cracked open. My questions are many, but answers are sure to come…along with more questions.

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