It’s the most magical time, that happens 4 times a year… It’s a new season of anime. I had already chosen to review Spy x Family as it airs because I loved the manga so much but I didn’t know what my second pick should be.

Honestly, I decided on Tomodachi Game for a number of really mundane reasons. It was one of the more anticipated shows on my to-watch list (although we saw how that turned out with Platinum End…), it’s a genre I like and, most importantly, it airs on Tuesdays! That means I get 3 full days to write up a post for the weekend. Don’t underestimate how important that is!

I said that Tomodachi Game is a genre that I like, namely psychological thriller. But that’s not exactly true. It’s a genre I want to like but in practice, most of the anime I have watched that fit the bill were not my cup of tea. Darwin’s Game was o.k. but not great. Shin Sekai Yori was wonderful but I think I may be stretching the genre a bit. Basically, I was sort of thinking that there’s a pretty big chance that Tomodachi Game goes down the drain and I figured it would be easier to take with some company. Hence the post!

I will say, the first episode has left me cautiously optimistic. I looked up the manga and it’s at 78% on AniList which is actually pretty good (8.15 on MAL). For comparison, the aforementioned Platinum End manga is at 64% so that gives me some hope.

Moreover, there were a lot of things in this first episode that subverted my expectations in a good way. I was hoping for something like Cube (if you remember that movie) or maybe Squid Game (I haven’t watched it but I somehow know what it’s about) but realistically expecting like King’s Game. But now, I’m cautiously optimistic.

I really liked that they didn’t just throw gore and blood around to force tension. In fact, so far the stakes seem to only be money (at least on the surface. And that’s great. It really sets Tomodachi Game apart from all the shows and movies it resembles. Of course, the implied stakes are that the game (win or lose) could cost you your friends or even the ability to trust anyone and make friends in the future.

I know that on the screen that’s just not as impressive as the risk of getting decapitated with one wrong move. But I find the idea of it both frighteningly cruel and so very interesting. I mean the only hint they were given was, always trust your friends…

I also thought that Kokkuri-san was a really great choice for a first game. No big impressive technological wonder. No complicated rules that you have to keep straight. An extremely simple game that you can infuse with so much meaning. And it perfectly illustrated how easy t is to sow doubt.

That is not to say that there aren’t any red flags. The production is a little unimpressive. It’s only the first episode and I already noticed that the animation can get choppy and the character models are inconsistent. This is bound to get worse if there are more action-filled scenes.

Also, the two observers were basically just flat audience inserts that served as exposition dump devices for obvious information. I hope they find a proper use for the characters caus I liked their designs.

The dialogue in general is a little flat and shallow so far. I mean none of them seemed that surprised by the supernatural aspect of all of this. In fact, right from the very start main character Yuuichi was way more concerned about getting in debt than about being kidnaped and taken to a magical dimension or something. This could be an adaptational flaw. I figure seeing them all trying in vain to figure out what’s happening is something that is likely to get cut if you have limited time. However, for me, it made it feel a lot more generic and not quite thought out.

However, like I said, I am mostly pleasantly surprised by this episode. Possibly because my expectations were pretty low. So I will be watching more and I hope you enjoyed it as well.

8 thoughts

  1. This sounded intriguing. I haven’t watched a current anime in a while, and I thought it might be interesting to follow along and be able to participate in the discussion.

    And then the ending gobsmacked me. Blink. Okay. Didn’t see that coming. Not sure what to make of it.

    It’s funny that I happen to be reading The Rabbit Effect, the chapter on bias, and subconscious bias and how simple it is to manipulate it. So I started out wondering if there was a subtext to the questions “read” from the beginning, from the first ‘no’.

    Still, it is all very intriguing. If it WERE the Japanese SAW I have to tell you I’d be out of here because that kind of psychological “thriller” to me is just an excuse for much blood and guts with a topping of mental abuse. Not anything I need in my personal life. Already done my time. Same for Squid Game. Watched one episode. Went UGH. End of that LOL

    But so far, I’m still quite intrigued as to where this is going.

    In the schism in even a small, close group of high school (when everything is SO SO important) friends – anyone else think of the “Friends” episode where Phoebe and Joey were discussing how their other friends seemed to be unaware that they had less money. Like every celebrations was “lets go out. somewhere nice.” and Joey and Phoebe interally groan and count their pennies and… but if they say anything, sure, their friends will say “we’ll pay for you, of course” but that’s not really what Joey and Phoebe want. I guess it’s because I do know how that feels. But money can really be a divisive force, no matter how much you don’t want it to be. Look how all suspicion immediately fell on Yuichi when money was stolen. Look how Shibe is characterized as tactless because he has money and just assumes everyone has this blissful life, or that he can just get his dad to hand it to them. He has no concept of how money has to be earned, especially if you are lower class and can only use your own labor. In addiiton, I don’t know how much this is true in Japan, but in the U.S. one NEVER reveals their actual income or income level – it’s how the companies get away with paying women 75% of what men get, make it taboo to discuss how much you are being paid, and you’ll never know you are not being paid equally. Teenagers are probably less inhibited, since they are really discussing their parents income, but it is still there. So this is a sensitive subject, and a difficult one to discuss, perhaps especially among friends. The natural inclination is to always help your friend, even if you don’t actually have much yourself. Yet that also leads to some comments I now recognize as microagressions of their own like, “you and debt, you’re always in over your head” or “of course, I know, you can’t afford it. We’ll work it out.” or “seems like you always have money troubles” with a look that says “I wonder if you have an addiction or something”. Well, anyhow, just saying that money vs friends really is a source of hard conflict. Much as we all no doubt want to say, well, friendship first, of course, Friendship is magic! Yes, but income gap can make friendship actually quite uncomfortable at times.

    Awaiting the next serving…

    1. So far there’s no violence and no indication there will be any… Although I should also say, there are better premiers this season

  2. I can’t say I liked the premiere, and I can’t say I disliked the premiere. Anime with that sort of premise usually don’t work very well for me, and so far at least it’s not too bad, considering. It’s certainly no King’s Game. My problem is that the money-or-friends line they throw out is… cheesy. Do you trust your friends? Do you value your friends? Do you trust that your friends value their friends? And so on. It feels all a little… on the nose. And it doesn’t help that all the girls seem to especially like our protag-kun. I don’t really have a good grasp of their friendship at all. I don’t know what anyone expects from friendship as concept. I don’t know what they are to each other, or what they expect from each other. The upshot is that the money-or-friendship line ends up feeling like an empty cliché, and I don’t really get the characters, either.

    For example: that ending. I sort of understand it intellectually, but I can’t really tell how the character came to it; the thought processes we were shown seemed to not address the “I value my friends” question at all; only the “I trust my friends” question. “Let yourself be taken advantage of, and ask questions later,” might always be an option. I’m not sure I fully understood the ending of the episode.

    To summerise this as briefly as I could: they’re idealising frienship too much for my taste, and I’m worried that this’ll ruin the show for me, but they haven’t done anything egregarious yet. Wait and see.

    1. I think we’re pretty much on the same page here. I might be a bit more optimistic mainly because I expected it to be very bad so the fact that it wasn’t was a pleasant surprise and I’m a bit of a reckless optimist when it comes to friendship pron. As unrealistic as it is, I enjoy overhyped friendship way more than the equivalent for romance which we see all the time.

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