- Titles: Tokyo Twenty Fourth Ward
- Genre: Drama, science fiction, crime, mystery
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: CloverWorks
Has it already been a year since Asumi died? A whole year since Shuuta, Ran, and Kouki drifted apart? The whole world changed that day and yet things seem the same in the 24th Ward. The little shops and restaurants in the market district are still working hard to offer the best food they can to the people of the ward. Festivals and celebrations take place as if nothing happened. The people of slums are still struggling to keep themselves fed. And the powerful Hazard Cast system tries to keep them all safe by monitoring everything from crimes, to accidents to weather reports and making sure the proper authorities are there when needed. But even though things seem the same, it doesn’t mean that they are. Something’s bubbling under the surface. Crimes and drugs are spreading faster than ever. And three friends that haven’t seen each other in a year are about to get a call from someone who should be dead. A call that asks them to make an impossible choice.
Everything about Tokyo 24th Ward screams classic dystopian science fiction. Disaffected youth that no longer believes a bright future is possible, possibly well-meaning but clearly authoritarian government with considerable surveillance overreach. And of course, it happens in Japan. Everyone knows that’s the land of the future!
I’m a little divided on what to say about the production. It is good, there’s no doubt about it. The art style is fun and although it’s not the most consistent, I think they did a pretty good job at keeping it recognizable. There are some really good action scenes, especially in the early episodes, and these are great to look at. The characters zoom across the screen but you can see everything clearly and environments are affected as they should. It’s just good animation.
Oh and the three main characters sing the ED. You know how much I enjoy it when the ED is somehow incorporated directly into the show. I got a real kick when I noticed that they were trading off the vocals between the three and luckily they all have pretty good voices.
But… Tokyo 24th Ward looks like stock science fiction dystopia. If you are familiar with the genre Tokyo 24th Ward will seem like something you’ve seen before, visually at least. And I can’t help but feel that there were some missed opportunities to get a bit more creative with the visuals here. I guess they might have been purposefully trying for a classic and instantly recognizable look but still. At least Kunai’s little hair loop was a bit different. It seemed highly impractical. I would constantly be bruising myself with that thing.
Looking over the screencaps again, I will say again that it looks good.
Story & Characters
There is a lot going on in Tokyo 24th Ward. It’s got some lofty storytelling ambitions so I’m not sure where to start. At its core, it really is a classic sci-fi dystopia. A bunch of generally well-meaning people honestly want to make the world a better place for all through technology and in the process people’s souls getting sacrificed in the name of progress. We’ve seen it before. It’s the age-old question, how much sacrifice is acceptable?
Oh if you like stories that deal with this exact question and you haven’t read The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas, you should try it. It’s very short and I love Ursala Le Guin.
Sorry I got distracted. So the core of the story is trying to unravel this question. When do the compromises we make to exist as a society stop becoming justifiable?
There’s quite a bit of action and science babble over it. And I don’t think that’s a bad core. It might be far from original but it’s the type of question that’s worth asking over and over again.
But they also double down on it. I’m not sure if the author didn’t trust the audience to figure it out or if they really thought this was the best way to go. The story is also presented as a series of tangentially related shorter adventures that are all a form of trolley dilemma for the main characters. And as they go through these dilemmas trying to bear the weight of the decisions they make, they slowly get closer to discovering why they have been put in these situations in the first place and why so many unexplainable events are starting to happen.
And now that I write it down, that actually sounds pretty great as well. But Tokyo 24th Ward just doesn’t quite work. I don’t think it fails entirely but it ends up less than the sum of its parts.
The classic sci-fi premise and plot devices are great. But it’s also a rather unwieldy premise that requires a lot of attention to be given to the plot. You have to engage the audience with the morality of the events to get the most out of it. However, Tokyo 24th Ward also wants to be a personal character-driven drama that explores the relationships of the three main characters and provides a character study for each.
And it just can’t do all of that in 12 episodes. I’m not even sure if it’s a matter of time (although that certainly has to do with it). The narrative is constructed in such a way that the plot-driven deep science fiction aspect clash with the personal drama stories. They seem to work against each other rather than to enhance one another.
The action is well incorporated on both sides of the narrative though which makes me think that the show might have succeeded best if it pared down the lofty goals, simplified the characters and really just concentrated on being an action-adventure with science fiction elements. Because when it was fun, it could be quite fun. It just really wanted to be serious!
Like with all reviews, this is my opinion. Take it with a grain of salt.
At the end of the day, the execution of Tokyo 24th Ward is shaky. It’s too inconsistent as a show for me to really recommend it to anyone and I think most people will find the show average to be slightly disappointing. It starts out very strong and I would say the first few episodes, even the first half, is quite good but it gets bogged down from all sides. That doesn’t mean some won’t love it. It’s not devoid of elements to enjoy.
You might like this anime if:
Hummm, I will say that if you love the character designs or you have a thing for moody science fiction anime you could enjoy this one.
My favourite character:
Of the three main ones, it’s Ran, overall it’s Kinako. She was the one character that was consistently a good time.
RGB (this looks cool)
- Every time Ran drinks an energy drink – don’t imitate him, those things are bad for you…
- Every time anyone says RGB – take an appropriate sip
- Every time there’s a Marie special – get a snack
- Every time Asumi calls – worry
- Every time we see Kouki’s dad – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions Hazard Cast – relax!
- Every time we see any of the main characters as kids – awwww
- Every time Tarki’s ominous – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions Drug D – put the drink down
- Every time Ran wears a suit – weird
- Every time anyone is graffitiing – take a sip
- Every time Shuuta bakes something – much on your snack
- Every time we hear “Creation always starts out as an act of destruction” – nod knowingly
- Every time we see the bathhouse – take a sip
- Every time Zeroth shows up – 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.
4 thoughts on “Tokyo 24th Ward – Running Out of Breath”
This is one of the many, many anime that I have started and dropped over the course of the last 12 months especially. There just didn’t seem to be anything about it that made me want to continue watching. Also, Ursula Le Guin was an absolute genius and her (original) Earthsea trilogy has remained one of my absolute favourites across the long decades of my existence.
I dropped this. It annoyed me first by bringing up the trolley problem and then solving it in a way that just ignores the dilemma, rendering it meaningless to bring it up in the first place. I think I got as far as a certain death… It’s a pity. It was quite good when it was good, but it just didn’t hold together and ended up being quite frustrating instead.
Also, I always though of LeGuin’s story as “Those who walk away from Omelettes” (because you can’t make them without breaking an egg or two…). I like my puns. It’s fairly obvious that this show was not written by LeGuin…
It is fairly obvious. And sadly it wasn’t written by you either, it could have used a few puns.
This show was illequipped to answer its own questions