Japanese animated tv series (2021). CloverWorks. Created and written by Shinji Nojima. Directed by Shin Wakabayashi. Voice cast includes Kanata Aikawa, Tomori Kusunoki, Shuka Saitō, Azusa Tadokoro, Hiroki Takahashi, Yūya Uchida, Megumi Yamaguchi and Hinaki Yano. Twelve 23-minute episodes and a forthcoming special. Colour.
Isolated and picked on at school because of her heterochromia, Ai Ohto (Aikawa) is befriended by a new pupil, Koito Nagase (Tadokoro), but she is also bullied and later commits suicide. Afterwards, whilst dreaming, Ai seemingly wakes to discover a gashapon egg beside her, then finds herself in a school corridor, the tannoy asking, "What should you do if someone in your class is being bullied? ... the right answer is: pretend not to see!" The egg expands and breaks open to reveal a schoolgirl, who is then pursued by Seeno Evils – bouncing childlike creatures with knives.
The mannequin-like Robots Acca (Uchida) and Ura-Acca (Takahashi) explain they will provide eggs that contain girls who committed suicide – and will bring back Koito if Ai defeats their Wonder Killers, the brightly coloured Monsters who personify their victim's trauma: usually sexual, emotional or physical abuse by adults.
Ai befriends three other girls similarly caught up in Acca and Ura-Acca's plans: introverted Neiru Aonuma (Kusunoki), whose sister stabbed her then committed suicide; self-harming Rika Kawai (Saitō), an ex-idol who discovered an overweight fan was stealing to buy her gifts, so attempted to dissuade her by saying she did not want to be seen with a fatty, resulting in her starving herself to death; and Momoe Sawaki, who dresses in masculine clothes and is still unsure of her gender identity (see Transgender SF) – a girl whose advances she nervously rejected went on to commit suicide. All four begin to face their own demons, supporting each other.
Despite her youth, Neiru is the President of a company researching dream recording: she is the result of an experiment in Eugenics, using egg and sperm from geniuses – at one point she quotes Charles Baudelaire (see Decadence): "It is the hour to be drunken! to escape being the martyred slaves of time ...". In her room is a life-support capsule containing Kotobuki, a young albino Scientist who is in a vegetative state after investigating near-death experiences (see Eschatology). One of the eggs Neiru protects opens to reveal Kotobuki, who deduces she is from a Parallel World – as are all the girls released from the eggs. Neiru's company was founded by Acca and Ura-Acca – scientists who have Uploaded their minds into dummies and plan to "confront Thanatos" using "warriors of Eros, his polar opposite" (ie. Love vs Death): the warriors are the four girls, and Thanatos is Frill (Yamaguchi), the artificial unaging daughter created by Acca and Ura-Acca whilst human. When Acca married, jealous Frill killed his wife and daughter – and is dedicating herself to driving girls to suicide.
The show has had production problems: episode 8 was an unplanned recap episode to allow the crew to catch up. As only 12 television slots were booked, the season finale was the intended penultimate episode: the true finale is to be a Special in June 2021.
Save for the pointless recap, up until episode 10 this is an excellent, thoughtful Anime, but 11's introduction of Frill– an artificial human in the form of a teenage girl who drives teenage girls to suicide – undermines what has gone before: culpability is apparently shifted from adults and society to the actions of an anomalous individual. It is to be hoped that the Special will at least partially resolve the issues arising from this. [SP]