Tokyo Underground anime review

Tokyo Underground anime review
Under the capital city of Tokyo, Japan, there exists a large, vast, and unknown world known as Underground. There, people known as Elemental Users exist; people who have the ability to control the elements: Fire, Water, Lightning, Magnetism, Freeze, etc. Meet Rumina Asagi and his best friend Ginnosuke Isuzu, two average high school freshmen who reside in Tokyo. When they meets Gravity User, Chelsea Rorec, and the Miko of Life, Ruri Sarasa, their whole life changes into one big adventure.

Original in concept, beautiful in design, but lacking in technical execution, Tokyo Underground is a show that, while entertaining, could have been so much better.

The entire underground city theme has been done before (i.e. Evangelion), but it is given a fresh face in this show that makes it seem more real, rather than fantasy. Long dark tunnels with prefab walls, artificial lighting on rails, and a dark sky of metal replace the fanciful geofronts of other anime. The Underground is exactly that. The character designs are well done and very faithful to the original manga, and all the inking seems to have been done with computers, like many of the newer shows, lending Tokyo Underground a smooth and stylish look.

But then Studio Pierrot, in typical mass-market fashion, drops the ball a bit. The single major flaw in the execution of this otherwise interesting anime is, well ... its almost total lack of animation. Not since Star Ocean EX (yet another Pierrot release) have I seen the "still shots and pans" style of anime taken to such an extreme. It’s a shame really, since the otherwise wonderful character concepts would really be something if they actually moved more than five frames an episode.

All right, so perhaps that’s a bit exaggerated, but honestly, close-ups with fuzzy digital filters are no replacement for well-animated facial expressions, and black screens with flashes of light do not constitute good sword fighting scenes. For a show based on such an action-packed manga, it is distinctly lacking in motion. It also suffers in a minor way from what I call Kenshin Syndrome, where the heroes and villains feel compelled to offer up lengthy explanations on life, the universe and this week’s special attacks while in the middle of a big fight scene. Sometimes I found myself shouting at the screen: "Just punch him already!" Sheesh.

Still, it’s not entirely bad, and some of the scenes are genuinely funny or exciting, but so much of it drags, that what could have been fast-paced and interesting, becomes tedious in some episodes. I lay the fault for this at the feet of Studio Pierrot, who has a long history of anime releases of varying quality (including the exceptional Kimagure Orange Road and Hikaru no Go), but is primarily focused on merchandising and commercial sales.

Tokyo Underground will never be a classic, but it’s a fun ride for what it’s worth. The premise alone wins points for originality, and the characters are fun if slightly dumbed down for a younger target audience. The opening and ending music is also excellent. I would recommend this as a good starter action series for newer fans, or younger viewers, but more well-versed fans may be slightly disappointed, especially if they have read the manga.

Better than review, is a Trailer video of: Tokyo Underground. Watch it now:
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