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Annotated Anime: Mekakucity Actors Episode 2 & 3

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Actors, assemble!

I volunteered to pick Mekakucity Actors up because Chris is currently handling many fulfilling challenges in the real world, and found it difficult to follow the show on a regular schedule. I will try to capture the madness in his stead, so jump in for the screenshot-laden Shaft-isms after the break!

Where do I start? Studio Shaft's visual sensibilities run rampant throughout Mekakucity Actors: head tilts, abstract representations, lavish patterns, inhumanly pristine environments, extreme angles and superb animation. Specifically, it shares much of its stylistic makeup with Shaft's Monogatari series. There's a deep current of unbridled visual creativity at work that runs beneath the clinically immaculate presentation.

The way that only essential players are given the full animation treatment (background characters often represented by stand-in objects), mixing flat and static backgrounds with colorful and lively characters give it a distinct atmosphere captured in Monogatari, capturing the feeling of complete isolation from the rest of the bustling world. It's a theme that runs in both Mekakucity Actors and the Monogatari series: the feeling that you are different from the rest of the world, as if what is happening is only doing so in a bubble that no one else sees or understands.

Episode two takes an abrupt narrative switch from the first episode, throwing you into hectic life of Momo: a beloved idol whose popularity is alienating her further from society and sees her gift as a curse. Cutting between her current dilemmas and events from her past, episode two provides a comprehensive character study. Momo is shown to have a very optimistic personality, but her armor seems to be chipping away as she finds herself at a breaking point, yearning for a normal life.

Ironically, it's revealed that she is the younger sister of Shintaro, the complete shut-in from the first episode, and it seems that they share a few things in common, despite their opposing personal motives -- Momo has no friends, trapped in her own figurative room with no way out. She also seems to consume quite a bit of otaku material and risks her own well-being for nonsensical, limited edition trinkets (paralleled by her brother risking his mental well-being for a keyboard, prior).

Episode three is where all the pieces are put in place. A distraught Momo finds herself sought after by a group of misfits calling themselves the Mekakushi-Dan (translating to "Blindfold Gang/Organization"), an eclectic group who each have very specific powers, ranging from invisibility to mind-reading. Momo finds out that her ability to draw attention is a result of her being a "mutant" like them. The eyes seem to be tell-tale signs, as they begin glowing red whenever their power is being used.

With the promise to teach Momo how to control her power and buy her a new phone (which was accidentally dropped into a pitcher of tea), Momo sticks with the gang and heads to a popular department store -- the same department store that Shintaro walks into in search of a keyboard (which was also destroyed by a drink... coincidence?).

So here we see the events from the first episode come around full circle. We are given context and an alternate view of the same terrorist event that occurred in the beginning, now with the knowledge we just learned about the characters and their abilities. It was a satisfying wrap-up to this introductory subplot, and I eagerly await what happens from this point on.

Shaft's visuals are something I've taken a real liking to, employing their own unique arsenal of animation-saving techniques like nobody's business, utilizing quick cuts and interesting compositions to effectively mask animations while still giving you a stylish presentation with controlled explosions of great animation. It's obviously not going to stand toe-to-toe with Shaft's bread-and-butter series, but it shows how effective their methods are.

Shaft seems to have taken the source material and run away with it, making something uniquely their own -- something I like seeing studios do, but I also understand that it's been a source of ire from fans of the music videos and manga it's adapting from. But as someone who isn't familiar with the source material, I found myself thoroughly engaged with what they've shown so far.

The cast is lively and deliciously dysfunctional, creating a ragtag group of misfits you can't help but like. If the source is as superior as everyone says it is, I'm very excited to check it out -- but for where the series is right now, I would say this is still a impressive show by itself.

Also, be sure to check out the post-credits scenes for each episode. Presented in a stop-motion storybook fashion, they seem to be weaving a back story for something significant coming up in the series.

It's a whirlwind of a show so far, and I'm happy to discover that Shaft is bringing their distinct brand of quirk into this season (as well as creating a polarizing audience, as it seems to be Shaft's special superpower).

[Get your dose of Mekaku extreme close-ups on Crunchyroll]

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Dae Lee
Dae LeeContributor   gamer profile

I can't stop watching anime, listening to idol music, and playing video games. It's a wonder I'm still alive. Do the twitter thing @NewSchoolDae more + disclosures


 


 


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