Obtaining new found powers and following a protagonist through their learning experiences in nothing new really, it’s actually quite a common theme in anime and western style fiction. Tokyo ESP is tackling that theme in a different way, and is looking at the society in a whole and how it is effected by a large group of people suddenly obtaining strange and varied powers. I love this concept because there aren’t many that touch on this issue, or they are already embedded in the community with laws for such individuals and authorities have means to deal with rogues.
Tokyo ESP Complete Series is the animated counterpart to the manga of the same name by Hajime Segawa, and covers up to Volume 5 with some small changes.
The beginning of the first episode is actually a snippet of things to come and it looks like the worst situation for the heroes of the story, and immediately I was wanting to know who they were and how it turned out like a warzone. Rinka Urushiba enters the scene, and we are taken back to the beginning of everything where she and her father Rindo (a retired police officer) are living a modest life in a small apartment. Rinka wakes up one morning and falls through the floor into the room below crashing onto a table, butt naked and a bit confused. With help from Kyotaro Azuma she discovers how they obtained their new powers to become Espers, and Kyotaro believes they should use it for protecting people and keeping rogue Espers in check. Rinka can move through solid inanimate objects and Kyotaro can teleport himself and others to new locations within a certain distance. It becomes clear that not all Espers want to use their power for good, and their first encounter with the thief Kobushi is a sobering reminder that things may not be able to return to the way they were before.
Along with the mysterious flying, glowing fish that are the source of Esper powers there is Peggy, a flying Penguin who is known as The Collector. Peggy has the ability to strip people of their Esper powers returning them to a normal human once again, and she is being looked after by Murasaki Edoyama, a single child of a Yakuza boss. Murasaki obtains the power of psycometry allowing her to see visions and past encounters related to objects and even imitate skills like martial arts and throwing a ball like a baseball pro. She becomes close with Ayumu Oozora, a middle school student who can see a few seconds into the immediate future and is able to see different outcomes based on his actions. Along with Kobushi Kuroi, a thief and pro-boxer who can turn invisible, they help each other try to keep the peace as more Espers come out into the open. Tokyo ESP isn’t shy about violence, and although it’s not gratuitous they don’t hide the fact that people are getting killed frequently.
Azuma Hokusai (aka. The Professor) who is Kyotaro’s adoptive father and one of the only people who is aware of the origin of the glowing fish is distributing them throughout Tokyo and his small army grows. They are preparing for an all out attack on the Japanese Government, and Kyotaro’s adoptive sister Minami is helping him achieve his goal. She has a similar teleport power to Kyotaro, and although he doesn’t want to take part in their plans she still loves him dearly and sees Rinko as her rival. The Professor has an illusion power which he uses to conceal scars on his face among other things, and his past is slowly revealed and we learn about how he and Kyotaro are intertwined through the events that released the fish. His first terrorist attack on the city is a warning, and the authorities step up and hunt down Espers to contain them and prevent further destruction and death.
In order to get stronger, Rinka goes through some intense training sessions with the token old-man-martial-arts-master Pandaemon Youdani who also taught her father. And surprise surprise, he’s the pedophile kind that likes to grope underage schoolgirls and it looks like they’ve put him in a panda suit to somehow make that OK. Sorry for the rant, but boobie touching old men just aren’t funny anymore, they haven’t been since Dragonball. He has the power of Clairvoyance and although he can’t see terribly much he is helpful to the group in other ways. Rinka comes across some difficult situations and even questions her progress so far and what she could possibly do to help the people of the city. Her headstrong personality sees her jump into confrontations without thinking too much, and almost always ends in get getting beaten up, and there’s a lot of her getting punched in the face. Eventually she has a very traumatic encounter which crushes her pride and she hides away to protect herself and other people around her.
The final confrontation sees some Espers gravitate towards the police and help them try to get the situation under control, as the city falls into chaos and we are bought full circle to what we saw in the beginning of the series. The rogue Espers are pretty much doing whatever they want, and it’s clear they are just out to cause trouble and are not truly on board with the Professors plan, they are just pawns used as a distraction. There is a frantic chase to save government officials taken as hostages and Rinka faces off against Minami in order to save Kyotaro and stop the massacre happening. With her new found courage she fights as best as she can, and although they don’t completely save the day, the series wraps up nicely leaving an opening for a continuation of the series if it ever goes ahead.
As Tokyo ESP is based off the manga, there are a few things that are a little bit odd, like Rinka’s father not having any pupils, they are just white… Some of the other characters have totally black eyes which just start looking a bit derpy as everyone else is drawn normally. Some of the action sequences are animated wonderfully, but that seems to be where all of the budget has gone into, and it leaves lesser fights and everyday scenes lacking with awkward slow movements and crooked faces. When Rinka rescues Murasaki the mob boss is suddenly large enough to grab a whole person in one hand, so there’s some weird scale issues going on here. The English is standard fare for a Funimation dub, I could only watch about half an episode before putting it back on the original Japanese. The DVD’s set comes with a few nice little extras like episode commentaries, TV spots, trailers and textless open/close themes. Overall for a 12 episode series this is not terrible, but it’s not great either, and I found myself flicking to the next episode continually and before I knew it i was through the first DVD. The pace moves along nicely so you don’t get bored, and it’s nice to see other characters solving problems on their own when Rinka isn’t around. I would recommend the Tokyo Esp Complete Series to anyone who’s read the manga, or enjoys action series with a heroin at the front wheel.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.