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Is Netflix’s Anime-Inspired ‘Neo Yokio’ Good, Bad, or Just Plain Ugly?

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On September 22, 2017 Netflix premiered its newest original, Japanese anime-inspired mini-series, Neo Yokio. When the trailer was released mid-summer, buzz initially began to stir around the series due to its all-star voice cast which includes actor and rapper Jaden Smith. However, now that it’s out and available to millions of subscribers the questions must be asked: Is Netflix’s new anime-inspired Neo Yokio good, bad, or ugly? And should teens bother watching it?

Set in Neo Yokio, an alternative universe highly parallel to New York City, the show follows young Kaz Kaan as he begins to question his surroundings and the situations he finds himself in. In the pilot episode viewers quickly learn of purple-haired Kaz Kaan’s very fortunate socioeconomic status, as well as his rare ability to catch demons and dark spirits that are able to possess those around him. Additionally, he struggles to remain present, if not first, on the city’s “Most Eligible Bachelor” board, a representation of character and wealth projected to the entire city and its citizens. Having to constantly fulfill the tiring duties of a demon-catcher, “Most Eligible Bachelor,” family member, and friend, Kaz Kaan often finds himself in awkward, unforeseen circumstances.

This all sounds nice and entertaining. Right?  Well, the six-episode mini-series will not knock your socks off or have you begging for more.

The plot is flat, lacking a backstory for this alternate universe where viewers are expected to comprehend why we can see a teen with the ability to perform exorcisms on demonic spirits. Several times the show hints at a past lover in Kaz Kaan’s life, Helena St. Tessero. But when the two interact the conversation is always awkward and Kaz is often left jealous or envious of his ex and we never find out why. Additionally, development of such relationships and the plot itself takes far too long. In one of the latter episodes, a Soviet Union race-car driver visits Neo Yokio to compete in an annual grand prix. Excited to be visiting a “free nation,” which in fact is called the “U.S.” in the series, she goes missing. Kaz dresses up as her to compete in the race, losses, and the episode concludes. Is the Soviet Union driver ever found? Well, you’ll just have to find out yourself.

Unnecessary, unanswered cliffhangers and questions like these are never needed in any show, anime or not. For avid anime watchers who have grown accustomed to cliffhangers, expect to be disappointed. Yet, to deem the series as an insult to anime would not give its due credit.

Neo Yokio is not complete garbage and you may not even find it to be a total waste of your time. Demon spirits with strong southern accents, rants about gender identity, and witty humor on just about every topic may just interest you. After all, the show managed to keep my attention until its conclusion. Because I was waiting for more? Because I fascinated? Perhaps a bit of both.

The show’s voice cast also features notable names like actor Jude Law (HBO’s The Young Pope, Sherlock Holmes) as well as YouTube and television personalities Desus and The Kid Mero. Not to mention the series is created by the lead singer of the band Vampire Weekend, Ezra Koenig.

But it will require much more than celebrity voices, references to real-world fashion designers, handsome anime teens catching demons, and the star of the 2009 hit blockbuster rendition of The Karate Kid voicing the main character to set apart a new anime. The show simply lacks execution. If you find yourself three hours of free-time, watch Neo Yokio at your own risk and do not expect extraordinary.

Austin Miles Anderson is a senior at DeKalb School of the Arts who thoroughly enjoys exploring all-things anime.

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