Entry updated 26 September 2022. Tagged: TV.
Japanese animated tv series (2022). Science SARU. Directed by Tomohisa Shimoyama. Written by Dai Satō. Voice cast includes Miyu Irino, Mira Kawakatsu, Anna Nagase and Tomoko Shiota. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.
On Tom Sawyer Island, 97% of the citizens have Decoration Customizers (called "Decos") implanted in both eyes by the age of 4, allowing them to "curate comfortable and pleasant surroundings without infringing on others": in other words, everything has a Virtual Reality overlay shaped by the whims of individual Deco wearers (it seems to affect other senses as well as vision). The population focuses on accumulating the most Love – a combination of currency and status (see Money) that is similar to online "Likes" but transferable. The island's Customer Center oversees this "Hyperverse" (see Cyberspace), with content moderators, who delete images from the Hyperverse that might discomfort the population, and a police force: the latter are trying to find Phantom Zero, who is causing chaos by reducing Love scores to zero. There is also a small but not insignificant part of the population who do not have Decos, forming an underclass called the Yurei.
When the Deco in her right eye becomes defective Berry (Kawakatsu) notices someone who is invisible to other Deco wearers. This is Hack (Nagase) – casually revealed as female in the final episode, but whose gender is ambiguous until then – who has Technology that manipulates people's Decos, using these abilities to scam others of their Love totals. When she is grounded by her parents, Berry runs away from home joining Hack as a member of the Yurei Detective Club. The Club, led by the Transgender Finn (Irino), ostensibly exists to identify Phantom Zero (though Finn's real intention is to repair a defective waste management system in the Yurei district where he was raised). It funds itself by taking cases from the public – such as finding missing Avatars, an amnesiac drone's owner and a mysterious ramen cart. One case takes them into the Customer Centre's index, the Decopedia, which looks like an immense Library; another leads them to Analytica, the AI who created the infrastructure of Tom Sawyer Island, who mentions "Mark Twain" just before being killed by Phantom Zero.
They discover Mark Twain is a structure floating high above Tom Sawyer Island: built by Analytica, it stores all the data from the island. The Club is now persecuted, accused of being Phantom Zero: believing he resides in Mark Twain, Berry, Hack and Finn go there to find Phantom Zero and clear their name. Instead they learn he was created by Injunction Jo (Shiota), an old woman who oversees the Deco system, to provide the necessary humanity. Jo is tired and wants to find a successor, someone naive and pure-hearted: she chooses Hack, who stops the censoring of information and brings the Yurei into the overall system. Everyone is happy in the end.
This Anime is a lively, cheery adventure with some darker elements; but these tend to be quickly resolved and the viewer never really feels the protagonists are under any real threat. Though many questions regarding society, free will and so forth are voiced (see Metaphysics; Sociology), it does not deeply engage with these topics. For most of its length this is not a problem, but the ending – which essentially accepts the status quo, just making a few tweaks – jars in its complacency, when an at least partial Dystopia is suddenly a Utopia. Similar themes were covered in another anime, the classic Dennō Coil (2007), but far more rigorously. Nonetheless Yurei Deco, whose target audience is probably younger, has its own virtues, including an art style that is bright and arresting. Aside from the names and puns (Hack/Berry/Finn), the series' thematic links to Mark Twain and his works seem fairly loose. [SP]
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