After an unfortunate accident involving a soft drink and a computer keyboard, Shintaro Kisaragi leaves his room for the first time in two years to buy a replacement. Along with Ene, a computer program living in his electronic devices, Shintaro makes his way to the nearest department store. But his day goes from bad to worse when he finds himself the victim of a hostage situation. Fortunately for Shintaro and Ene, they run into a group calling themselves the Blindfold Organization (or ‘Mekakushi Dan’), each member possessing strange powers involving their eyes. With their help, the hostage situation is resolved and Shintaro and Ene find themselves part of the gang. But the members of the Blindfold Organization have complicated pasts, and they seem to intersect in more ways than one. Is it coincidence? Or is there a much more complex situation at hand?
Mekakucity Actors had an interesting conception. What started as a Vocoloid song series on the video sharing website Niconico, became a series of light novels and a manga. These were of course followed by an anime, produced by Shaft and directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, the same people who were involved in the creation of Madoka Magica. With the premise of the show being based on a handful of songs and videos, it’s easy to imagine what Mekakucity Actors could have been – a baseless product cobbled together without substance. Thankfully, that isn’t the case.
The first half of the twelve-episode series is masterfully tied together. After the first episode with Shintaro and Ene, the other members of the Blindfold Organization are gradually introduced. Their individual stories are often tied to other characters, which helps introduce the massive cast efficiently given the number of episodes in the show. Despite the fact that some characters get more focus than others, there’s enough content that none of them are forgettable. Their interactions with each other also feel natural and conversational, allowing us to learn about their personalities and powers in entertaining ways. In usual anime super power fashion, the characters have interesting powers. For example, the calm but also short-tempered Kido has the ability to make herself and those close to her ‘invisible’ by diverting other people’s gaze. How the Blindfold Organization uses these powers, especially as a team, is interesting and a lot of fun.
The initial episodes are simple, in all the best ways. Unfortunately, shortly after I started to play the second disk, I began to feel like I was missing some crucial information. Perhaps that is only to be expected, given the conception of Mekakucity Actors as a series. Due to the variety of source material, things are bound to get lost in the transition. It’s also at this point that the series gets weighed down by the ‘lore’ o the universe. It begins to focus on the particulars of why these characters have their powers and where those powers came from, introducing a fantasy premise that never feels natural or well fleshed out.
This kind of story, about a bunch of kids with shared abilities who find a family in each other, doesn’t always lend itself to the ‘climactic showdown with an antagonist’ kind of ending. So it’s unfortunate that Mekakucity Actors needed a stereotypical climax, or even an explanation of their powers and existence in general. It’s a problem that many super power anime series have, the need to insert a primary antagonist and a complicated backstory, where none is required because the premise itself is enough. In the end I was just left with a lore that left me apathetic and felt tacked on and unnecessary.
Setting all that aside, I was surprised at how thoroughly entertaining Mekakucity Actors was. There are many dialogue heavy scenes, but aside from the help of neat visuals, they aren’t boring because of pace and genuinely funny dialogue and interactions between the main characters.
Speaking of neat visuals, the animation style in Mekakucity Actors is great. Fans of Madoka Magica will appreciate particular segments immediately, where certain colours and visuals take precedence over others. The backgrounds were equally impressive, especially the way they tended to capture the mood. The series takes place in summer, and many of the scenes that took place outside made use of harsh whites that evoked the smell of burnt blacktop and the weight of summer heat.
Given the history of Mekakucity Actors, it would be unfortunate if the songs weren’t up to scratch. Fortunately, I enjoyed them a lot and never skipped the openings. One reason is because the main opening is awesome and has a bunch of neat visuals. Another reason is that the openings change every now and then, adding additional information to the story with new songs and visuals. Some songs are also peppered throughout the show, and I was always excited whenever a new one popped up. Each one is also available for watching without text in the DVD extra features, which was an added bonus.
I wish the focus had stayed on the characters and their journey rather than the convoluted way the scenario itself came to exist. But I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t really like this series. I fell in love with each character, and the music video segments and visual style were some of the more entertaining bits of animation I’ve seen in a while. It may stumble a bit towards the finish line, but if you’re looking for characters to love and a neat premise to enjoy, Mekakucity Actors has a lot to give.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.