“This day sucks! Just my luck, on the one day I happen to go outside for the first time in two years, I end up a terrorist hostage!”
Shintaro Kisaragi, age 18, hasn’t left the house in two years. He is one of many hikikomori in Japan, a young unemployed man under self-imposed house arrest. However, when the AI living in his computer accidentally causes him to break his keyboard during the Obon festival, he is forced to go outside to buy one. Unfortunately for him, this is the one day that a terrorist group takes the entire shopping centre hostage, including two strangers who change his life forever. They invite him to join the Mekakushi-Dan, or ‘Blindfold Gang’, a group of people with superhuman abilities.
MekakuCity Actors is the anime adaptation of Vocaloid’s Kagerou Project, a series of songs that tell the story of the Mekakushi-Dan. Released in 2014, this is the most recent adaptation, having already spawned a light-novel series and manga.
While the non-linear nature of this series means that you don’t know what is going on until much later, sometimes it seem a little bit too confusing and convoluted. Whether this is different for existing fans of the Kagerou Project is unknown, as I began this series completely blind having only little knowledge of the original Vocaloid franchise. Perhaps the light-novel format may be clearer, or maybe a Haruhi-esque rewatch in chronological order. However, it does become easier to follow after the first few episodes, without giving too much away and becoming predictable.
One thing the format does lend itself to is the development of its characters.
We are able to look into the characters’ history, for example, the second episode focuses mainly on Shintaro’s sister, Momo Kisaragi and explains why she became an idol. From the first episode, it seems like the series would only focus on Shintaro, which can become boring. Ensemble casts, like the Mekakushi-Dan, can avoid repetition and make the overall plot much more interesting.
One of the main tropes covered in this series is ‘Be Careful What you Wish For‘, as the powers granted to the Blindfold
Gang are related to what they wanted before they nearly died. For example, Momo Kisaragi wanted to become noticed due to being overshadowed by her brother, and as a result she gained the “Drawing Eyes” ability, which focuses all attention on her. This becomes a curse, like everyone else’s powers. This parallels series such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, in which the wishes they make to seal their contract as a Magical Girl have an effect on which powers they gain after transformation.
Another parallel with Madoka Magica is the Heat Haze or ‘Kagerou’; the world which the Mekakushi-Dan were sucked into after their near death experiences. This is reminiscent of the Labyrinths created by witches in PMMM, both ‘pocket universes’ created by a magical being. But instead of fighting witches, the Blindfold Gang became possessed by the snakes of the gorgon who created the Kagerou world and took on their abilities.
The story of the gorgon is told in a series of post-credit scenes, so if you’re one of the people that skips ending themes, it’s highly recommended that you watch through to the end. These scenes explain the mythology of the show much better than what they were able to achieve in the main body of the episodes, but this is understandable given that it was only a 12-episode run. It would have possibly worked better as a set of twenty, allowing for extra time to intertwine the back-stories more.
My favourite relationship in this series is the one between Tsubomi Kido and Momo Kisaragi. Both have been granted powers to alter people’s attention, but while Momo attracts it, Kido is able to slip under the radar and can seem to become invisible. Because of this, they have to work together in order for their plans to be a success, and I’m a sucker for good old-fashioned teamwork.
Overall, this concept had a lot of potential and I don’t believe that 12 episodes could have done it justice. However, prior knowledge of the source material may have helped, and reading the light novels may clear up any points that the anime missed. The characters are well-formed, with the possible exception of Seto, who is somewhat overshadowed by his siblings. Obviously, as this is an offshoot of the Vocaloid franchise, the use of music is crucial and the lyrics explain what is happening, even if the non-linear plot can be confusing sometimes.
For fans of:
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya