• Titles: Tokyo Revengers
  • Genre: Time travel, delinquents, crime, action, drama
  • Studio: LIDENFILMS

Most of us have been there or maybe will get there someday. You wake up and you realize your life has gotten away from you. You use to have dreams, friends, a whole wide future in front of you but now, it’s all foggy and difficult to make out. Don’t worry, it gets better. For Takemichi, a youth spent as a petty gang member has led him to a dead-end job without anyone he can call a friend in sight. And now, it seems his high school sweetheart was just killed in a gang-related accident. She was the only person Takemichi really ever fell in love with and now… But he hasn’t seen her in years. This isn’t any of his business really. Besides, Takemichi is too beaten down to even really feel it. When you’re depressed all the time, what’s one more sadness. That is until he wakes up 12 years in the past and realizes he has one more chance to fix everything. See! Things can always get better…or worse!

Man, I was eagerly awaiting for Tokyo Revengers season 1 to be wrapped up so I could binge it. I had self-hyped this show up in my mind so much and I wanted to be able to watch it at my own pace. Turns out, I didn’t have to suffer that much. Turns out Tokyo Revengers proved unbingeable for me. And I mean that as a compliment.

Draken’s character design always fascinated me

Production

I like the way Tokyo Revengers looks. The designs are taken from the manga but if you ask me, everyone is prettied up a bit. These are unusually attractive hoodlums but I’m not complaining. The colours are bright and restrained. Not a huge palette and I think that may play into the material. There’s an idea of gang colours and although it’s not that obvious in the anime,. Tokyo Revengers is very selective and distinct in its palette and that may set it apart visual more than the designs.

The voice acting, sound design and music are all solid. I quite liked the choice of music for the OP. I think it suited the mood of the show particularly well and I found myself not wanting to skip it most of the time, which is saying something.

If I had one complaint about the production, it might be the fighting animations. Now Tokyo Revengers has science fiction elements in the time-travelling aspect and some of the boys do seem unnaturally strong and resilient, but in general, it’s supposed to be representing more or less realistic events. As such, it makes sense that the fighting choreographies are down-to-earth and fairly repetitive. People tend to use the same moves when they are fighting over and over again after all.

However, the animation itself could have been just a little more fluid and the camera work more adventurous to make these scenes pop. As it is, the fighting scenes aren’t bad, don’t get me wrong. And I bet a lot of viewers wouldn’t have any complaints at all. I just feel like there was a missed opportunity for some real eye candy there and the production just didn’t pack enough punch! Let me be clear, this is a very minor complaint.

did I mention the fanservice?

Story & Characters

If you haven’t seen Tokyo Revengers, I hope my synopsis was enough to give you an idea but let me detail it a bit more. Of course, there will be spoilers, at least for the first few episodes. The main character is an ex-thug who fled that life and is now in a dead-end minimum wage job. Just sort of generally fed up with everything. After finding out his ex-girlfriend was killed, he lapses into deeper depression and somehow wakes up exactly 12 years in the past. Soon he realizes that Naoto, his ex-girlfriend’s little brother, is the key to travelling between his present and past. Naoto who is a policeman in the present, teams up with Takemichi to try to change the past in a way that will make his sister (Takemichi’s ex) survive. And that way seems to be trying to manipulate the fate of one of Tokyo’s most notorious street gangs.

I absolutely love time travel stories. It’s one of my favourite genres if you can call it that. Devices might be more appropriate. I have watched a whole lot of them. And that’s how I know that most of them are trash. It’s very easy to completely destroy the integrity of a time travel story with endless plot whole and paradoxes. Either that or the narrative succumbs under the weight of its own pretense. One of the biggest challenges tends to be creating stakes that actually matter. After all, if you can just go back and change everything again, why should the audience care?

There are a few ways around this but Tokyo Revengers took a straightforward no-nonsense approach to fixing the problem. The time travel in the story is linear. Let me try to make that make more sense. Takemichi travels 12 years into the past exactly, and that’s it. If he jumps back today then he will be 12 years in the past on the day. If he stays in the past for 2 weeks and comes back, he will come back 2 weeks after he first went back. If he stays in the present for a week and goes back, he will go back a week after… Is this making any sense? It’s very clear in the show but I am having trouble explaining it.

this said, Takemichi sure didn’t age much in 12 years

I mean Takemichi does have a chance to change the past but he only gets one. And if he does anything that makes things worse, as butterfly effects tend to do, he can’t just go back and fix it again. Once he’s lived through it in the past, it’s gone.

And the thing is, Takemich (and by extension we the audience) now has knowledge of an absolutely horrible future which makes every moment in the past tense and ridiculously high stakes. If anything it amps up every move and every decision to 11.

Another way to get around the problem of time travel stories not being able to rope the audience in through outcome is to make the characters so compelling that the story is no longer plot-driven. Like Groundhog Day! And you know what, just to be safe, Tokyo Revengers did that as well. The plot of Tokyo Revengers is important and takes up a lot of space but before I realized it, it became secondary to the people in it.

weren’t they so cute?

The characters in Tokyo Revengers are meticulously and lovingly fleshed out. I found myself caring very deeply about almost a dozen different people in this story. To the point where I wasn’t sure if I could go on watching the show if anything bad happened to them. And this is a problem because a lot of bad things happen in Tokyo Revengers.

Remember when I said I found this series impossible to binge. The show took me by surprise. I really wasn’t expecting it to be a detailed character study and I definitely didn’t think it would get this… heavy…

At several points, during the first season, I had to stop and take a little break from the show. Catch my breath, get my bearings. There were episodes that were so impactful that I had to switch to another show and really take in what I had seen before I could move on with the story. There were points that were so tense that I put off continuing the show for a day or two. It wasn’t as bad as when I watched Pinguindrum (which is a masterpiece) but the effect was similar. It was a show that demanded my time and I was happy to give it.

I don’t think it will have the same effect on all. There is enough action in the series that it could be watched a bit more mindlessly if that’s what you’re in the mood for. In any case, I think it was a fantastic show. The only warning I will give is that the first season ends on a cliffhanger. The story is clearly not over and now I’m going to have to wait a year to see what happens next. I guess I’ll have plenty of time to take it all in!

You might like this anime if:

Time travel stories and deep character studies populated with delinquents

My favourite character:

Oh…I forgot I had to choose a favourite. This is actually very difficult. Like everyone I love Draken, he is the beating heart of the series, but I’m also very fond of Naoto and I wish we had seen a lot more of him. Baji grew on me, and Chifuyu as well. At this point, take your pick, I sort of liked everyone. Heck, I even have to give it to Kisaki, he’s really a very good antagonist.

Suggested drink:

Pepino’s Revenge

  • Every time Takemichi gets beaten up – take a sip
  • Every time Takemichi cries – switch to water
  • Every time Hinata gives a cheerful bye bye – oh my…
  • Every time anyone says “Tokyo Manji Gang” – take a sip
  • Every time Hina’s a hero – cheer!
  • Every time Naoto and Tekemichi shake hands – take a sip
  • Every time Draken doesn’t get Emma – awwwww
  • Every time anyone says “TakemiTchy” – switch to vodka!
  • Every time Mickey gets mad – duck
  • Every time we see adult Naoto – take a sip
  • Every time the 4 leaf clover pendant comes up – take a sip
  • Every time it’s raining – put the glass down
  • Every time Takemichi has someone new to save – wish him luck
  • Every time anyone mentions Mickey’s brother – take a sip
  • Every time we see a headless angel – take a sip

I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.

7 thoughts

  1. i love tokyo revengers so much and the manga is so character heavy. just like you, i thought it was going to be all fighting and i certainly did not expect the backstories and the whole plot twists, dramas etc etc. one of my faves for sure !!

  2. I dropped this show after one episode. I went into biased against the character designs, which I mildly dislike. Then I also mildly disliked the protagonist. And and when he talked to his crush and said nothing, but then spilled everything to the little brother… that’s when I pretty much decided to drop this. I’ve seen the entire first episode and didn’t enjoy a single moment in it. At the same time, I didn’t hate a single moment in it, but the cumulative effect was one of mental exhaustion. Not for me.

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