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First Impressions: Mekakucity Actors

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Mekakumonogatari

"Oh hey, a Shaft show! I didn't end up watching Nisekoi, so I'll be sure to watch this."

This was the only reason I decided to pick up Mekakucity Actors. I had no idea that I was diving into what seems like a reasonably well-established fandom, involving a bunch of Vocaloid songs and the stories that they may or may not be telling. 

I still haven't listened to any of these songs, or attempted to figure out what the deal is with this fandom, as I figured it'd be better to just go in blind. Or at least, as blind as the people I follow on Twitter would allow me to be. 

The hype reached a fever pitch when it aired on Saturday, and while screenshots of Vocaloid-y looking characters began to trickle onto my timeline, I was busy wondering whether this was going to be another Black Rock Shooter

Nah, I think we're okay. Shaft is handling it, after all!

The world that Mekakucity Actors paints is an interesting one. For the most part, it looks like present day Japan, with a little bit of Shaft's creative license to spruce some of the locales up a bit. A major difference between Mekakuland and the real world is the existence of Ene, a very Hatsune Miku-looking computer program who likes to joke around with her 'master', much to his annoyance. Her master is a NEET shut-in, who is devastated to discover that he has to leave the house in order to buy a new keyboard, after spilling a drink on his current one. Besides that mini-explosion, he seems like a pretty laid back kinda guy. 

Unfortunately, as far as the first episode is concerned, that's about all there is to say about these two. You could say that this episode is setting the scene, but I'd counter by saying that I'm still none the wiser as to what this scene actually looks like.

This is a Shaft show through and through. The art is as stunning as always, with plenty of their iconic architecture livening up what I presume to be Mekaku City. In fact, this episode seems awfully familiar, as it seems to follow the same basic structure as the first episode of Bakemonogatari. We've had strange, nonsensical scenes, dull dialogue and a very light introduction to a few of the characters. However, as much as I wasn't a fan of the first episode of Bakemonogatari, the show soon became one of my all-time favorites. Perhaps we'll have a better sense of how this is all going to play out by the end of the second episode. 

To be clear, I didn't hate this episode. It's a visual treat at the very least, but it also showed that it plans to go somewhere. However, it ultimately fails as a first episode, as it doesn't make any attempt to rope viewers into the story. Ene's existence is a mystery, and while I'm sure that'll be explored later on in the show, we don't even know the name of her 'master' yet [Edit: As was pointed out in the comments, his name is mentioned by Ene at one point in the episode, albeit indirectly. It's Shintaro, in case you were wondering!]. This very same guy, who may or may not be the main character in this show, was kidnapped and perhaps shot at the end of the episode. It's incredibly strange to have to refer to him by description after Golden Time's Tourettes-like screaming of the name Tada Banri. 

So why didn't Mekakucity Actors rope people in with its story? Well, perhaps because so far there's no story to speak of. I know the general gist of what's going to happen in this show, thanks in part to seeing the conversations of a few KagePro fans, but what does this episode offer for those that have no prior knowledge? It's all very disappointing, especially as I have to toss my love for Shaft to one side while I say all of this. Shaft is staffed by very competent animators and I'd put money on this show coming together by the end, so it's just puzzling why we were served so much fluff in the introduction. I just hope that Shaft's decision to favor uninspiring dialogue over any meaningful exploration of the plot doesn't drive away a good portion of its audience. 

Ene seems like a fun character, and the dynamic between her and 'master' could become really interesting. The setting seems fun, and the two guys that 'master' meets at the end may also be pretty interesting. Unfortunately, this is a good example of why I found it so frustrating, as I have to use words like 'seems', 'could' and 'may' to describe what this show 'might' be like. The first episode of a show is meant to tease the world and give you an idea about what it's all about; Mekakucity Actors 1 is a conversation between a NEET and a computer, which isn't much to work with.

But as I mentioned previously, this isn't the first time a Shaft show has had awkward pacing, so I'll be sticking around for a few more episodes. I don't doubt that it'll all kick off next Saturday. 

[Act quickly and catch this show on Crunchyroll]

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Chris Walden
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