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Entry updated 28 June 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2020). Based on the Manga by Q Hayashida. MAPPA. Directed by Yuichiro Hayashi. Written by Hiroshi Seko. Voice cast includes Kenyuu Horiuchi, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Mitsuhiro Ichiki, Yuu Kobayashi, Reina Kondo, Wataru Takagi, Kengo Takanashi and Miyu Tomita. Twelve 24-minute episodes plus six OVA shorts.

The run-down industrial City called The Hole (seemingly a Pocket Universe) is beset with sorcerers from another Dimension who use the human inhabitants as guinea-pigs to practice their transformation skills. One victim is the reptile-headed Kaiman (Takagi), now Amnesiac but immune to Magic. With his friend, athletic cafe owner Nikaido (Kondo), he seeks to restore his memory and original head – and to kill sorcerers, particularly the one responsible for his plight (there's a human head residing in his mouth which he hopes can identify the guilty sorcerer). Kaiman's activities irritate En (Horiuchi), a gangster-like sorcerer, who sends hammer-wielding vivisectionist Shin (Hosoya) and cheerful musclebound healer Noi (Kobayashi) to kill him: Kaiman is decapitated, but his head regenerates. Shin and Noi are often accompanied by vengeful Fujita (Takanashi), whose best friend was killed by Kaiman, and Ebisu (Tomita) a traumatized sorcerer – seemingly just comic relief until episode 7, when Fujita discovers her magic transforms people into reptiles ...

Kaiman and Nikaido meet Dr Kasukabe (Ichiki), a Scientist studying sorcerers who's made a portal from their skins, enabling Kaiman to journey to the other world. En kidnaps Nikaido, who unbeknownst to Kaiman is a sorcerer: her magic involves controlling Time, so he plans to use her to answer a mystery in his past. However, a devil sympathetic to Nickaido helps her escape: at the end of the first season she and Kaiman are in hiding and most questions are still unanswered.

The sorcerers' world is even more disturbing than The Hole, though the architecture is of a better quality: it might also be a literally post-Apocalypse Earth. Winged devils pass by, shouting the time of day; toilets are flushed by the fires of hell, the cries of the tormented are audible. In both locales everyone wears masks. Magic is performed using "smoke", a bodily product that is also the power source for Steampunk-like Technology. We see two decapitated heads belonging to Kaiman: one is Cloned, the other given an Android body.

The story shuttles between the pairings of Kaiman/Nikaido and Shin/Noi, the latter as they undertake work for En: both groups go about their daily violence affably as if the considerable gore and Horror are unremarkable. Most of the main and secondary characters – which include a giant cockroach – are likeable: even, to some extent, En, who treats his employees as family. His magic transforms objects (including, once, a whole town) and people into mushrooms, and in a spirit of waste-not-want-not he uses the latter as ingredients at his restaurant. There is also romantic tension within the two main pairings, as the members refuse to declare their feelings.

So far the plot is fairly routine – though it might be understood to deal with class conflict – and exists largely to have the characters interact and allow the viewer to experience the two worlds: these elements are the show's strength, along with the fascinating artwork. With its nightmarish Alice in Wonderland/Heironymous Bosch (see Lewis Carroll) tone, this is a memorably amusing and bloody Anime. [SP]


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