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Entry updated 19 February 2024. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2023). Eight Bit. Based on the Manga by Bukimi Miki. Directed by Masaomi Andō. Written by Yasuhiro Nakanishi, Voice cast includes Kikuko Inoue, Rina Hidaka, Shin-ichiro Miki, Mamiko Noto, Miyuki Sawashiro, Shino Shimoji and Mutsumi Tamura. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.

War disappeared from Earth in the mid-twenty-first century (see Near Future), when Superpowered humans appeared who "wished for peace and fought very hard". The questions "where did they come from, and how?" are dismissed by the narrator – "we can talk about that later" – who goes on to remark that, as "they all dressed in a rather unique and embarrassing manner", they were called heroes by the public.

Each country has its own Superhero: Japan's is currently 14-year-old Teru Momijiyama (Shimoji), known as Shy, which describes her personality. Suffering severe self-doubt, she is taken under the wing of Russia's superhero, Spirit (Noto), who is fond of a drink and admits that in her early days she wanted to make everyone in the world drunkards so that "then war, crimes and discrimination would all seem stupid", until she realized it was impractical. Spirit takes Shy to an orbiting Space Station to meet the Heavenly Empress, Unilord (Inoue), who is charged with supervising the heroes of Earth: she warns that the heroes exist because of an imminent threat. This is the boy Stigma (Tamura), who places rings "made from malice" on people's fingers, releasing the darkness buried in their hearts, transforming them into Monsters. Shy's empathy saves one victim, Iko Koishikawa, and they become friends.

Shy is also helped by Stardust (Miki), Britain's hero – a rock star (modelled on David Bowie) who lacks empathy – he goads her into discovering she has flame powers. Later, Shy and Spirit visit the orphanage where the latter was raised after her mother's death: whilst there, they are attacked by the ice-powered Sveta (Sawashiro) – who is then revealed to be Spirit's resurrected mother. She had been distant to her child, focused on enabling them to survive the dire poverty they were in – only being friendly when drunk, thus Spirit's enthusiasm for alcohol. Initially they fight, but eventually talk and are able to speak of their love for each other: Sveta then fades away. She had been sent by Stigma, who wants to create a world without adults: he says the rings free the wearer's heart – though they only seem to release the dark side of people's souls, whilst forming a link with his. He has a team of ring-wearers called Amarariruku, who – aside from Sveta – all seem to be children (see Children in SF); the only other one we meet for any length of time is the insistently happy Kfufu (Hidaka). The first season ends with Stigma observing that "If everybody was able to dream the same dream, that would be such a happy thing," and planning to bring this about.

Shy has a small Robot assistant, "Shrimpy" – the nickname reflecting their appearance. Much is still unanswered, such as who the masked Unilord represents, and why all the main human characters – good or bad – seem to carrying emotional baggage: for example, Teru has a dead sister; Iko has survivor's guilt after her parents died in a fire, and Kfufu's desperate cheerfulness clearly hides something tragic. The Amarariruku seem to live on an island in another Dimension: its look and Stigma's powers are interestingly animated and contrast with the more mundane appearance of the normal world. Though ostensibly a superhero show, Shy often leans more towards the Magical Girl genre, particularly the stress on the importance of empathy: there is also some self-deprecating Humour. This is a good, promising series; a second season has been commissioned. [SP]


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