One old man gets lucky, another not much.
I remember back when I used to watch anime on Adult Swim or Toonami as a kid, I would often just watch whatever was on with no heed towards chronological order. This resulted in me watching a lot of shows in a pretty jumbled order; seeing the characters go about their adventures without much context of what they’d gone through before. It was actually pretty fun to watch anime like this, though I rarely do it anymore for obvious reasons.
That’s how I felt watching the first couple episodes of Tokyo ESP. Not just because it employs in medias res, but because it felt like the unnatural sense of in medias res you get from watching a series out of chronological order. See, the director of this show, Shigehito Takayanagi, for whatever reason decided to start the anime by taking a scene from later in the manga, instead of starting off with where the actual manga starts. With the first episode we follow a group of supervillains taking over the Japanese parliament building and ravaging Tokyo, with a bunch of action scenes and a lot of character appearing on screen. The second episode follows the actual start of the story, with a more typical introduction of Urushiba as she awakens to her powers.
The bad thing about this particular use of in medias res is that the first episode is just a bunch of action happening on screen without much context or explanation as to who any of these characters are. The character really do just “appear on screen” instead of really being introduced. I’m not given much reason to care about these people, or anything going on in the show. Tokyo is getting destroyed by some superpowered people, and there’s some good guys or something…and that’s it. The action wasn’t even that impressive either, and dare I say even dumb at times, though it may just seem like that due to the lack of context.
The in medias res technique wasn’t entirely pointless though, as I do think it actually made the second episode a bit more interesting. Although we’re given an episode with no context, it provides the next episode with more context. Others might just call it spoilers, but it does give us a different lens to look at the material. Since at least for a newcomer for me, it adds an extra layer of text when we see Urushiba and Azuma confront Black Fist, knowing that Black Fist is later going to join their side and become one of the good guys. It makes me more interested in her character when otherwise I might have just written her off as a cartoony villain. Also the fact that we see Urushiba awaken to her powers knowing that she’s going to become a total badass later on, though that’s a bit more obvious.
Not that this justifies the first episode though, as that’s still a whole episode that was confusing and bad. I would agree that it might be better to for people to just skip to episode 2 as it’s a much better introduction to the story. But like I said, the directorial choice here isn’t entirely pointless.
As for what I thought of the actual story, eh, episode 2 was decent enough. Urushiba is a fun protagonist, the setting has potential for a fun supernatural action series, the visuals are okay… It’s “fun” and has the potential to be good, and I don’t have much else to say about it for now. I do like how the superpowers here aren’t exactly fighting powers, and how the characters end up utilizing their powers for combat. Like instead of something like super strength or turning your hand into a sword, we’ve got powers like be able to go through objects, teleportation, invisibility, and being a walking magnet.
Two scenes that stand out as particularly funny are when Urushiba kicks her old man in the face, and earlier when she ends up giving an old man some fanservice. I’m a bit confused on what Azuma was doing in Urushiba’s house early in the episode, though otherwise he seems like a cool guy too. Women boxers are always a nice sight in anime, too.
I’m not looking forward to the themes it’ll have on racism towards the Espers, since anime shows tend to deal with social prejudice in a way that’s too one-sided to make anything compelling out of it. I swear I heard “Not all Espers are bad people!” five times in the first episode. But who knows, maybe they will end up doing something interesting with it. All in all Tokyo ESP is just okay so far, but I can see it getting better from here.