Coming from the same author AS Ga-Rei: Zero, Tokyo ESP felt like a must-watch for me; even having not read the manga, I was excited. The adaptation had a good studio and director behind it and I thought I was in for a serious treat but how does this adaptation compare to Hajime Segawa’s previous works?
Tokyo ESP is a series that I was initially excited for, given its connection to Ga-Rei: Zero, a series I rather enjoyed but the connection only comes in the form of the same author and a tiny segment in the opening of the first episode, and it’s a rather meaningless one at that. Tokyo ESP is one of those series that really kicks off with a bang. Introducing the audience to a large number of characters and a world you have no hope of grasping within those 20-odd minutes. This leaves you unsure of whether the series is good enough to actually continue with. This is how I felt after the first episode. I had no emotional investment in any of the characters and the only thing it had going for it was some great animation and good action scenes.
The story follows Rinka (or doesn’t for the most part), a high school student in Tokyo who works part-time to help support herself and her father when her life suddenly takes a turn for the extraordinary. Witnessing a flying penguin and a school of fish flying through the air, Rinka was sure she was hallucinating until she catches up to one of the fish. She wakes up sometime later only to find she has supernatural powers. Unfortunately due to her new powers to move through solid objects she finds herself naked on the downstairs neighbour’s table. She then meets fellow high school student Kyotaro Azuma, who has the ability to teleport, and they set out to help the people and fight against other espers who would use their abilities for evil.
Throughout the series, we probably spend less time with the main character than any other, which doesn’t lend itself well to getting the audience to empathise with her. The main villain actually gets more screen time and back story and with it a wealth of sympathy from the audience, in my case at least. The story touches on things like esper detainment and tagging similar to what you’ll see in X-Men with the mutant registration. However, the series never really capitalises on it all that much, instead, it’s a quick plot device to set up the finale.
Overall the series never really gets the ball rolling after such an action-packed first episode. It uses some interesting ideas but never really follows through on them enough to make it a compelling watch. It’s odd to think that the series’ first episode while likely to put off viewers actually ends up being one of the better episodes within the series. Aside from the plot structure, the series isn’t all that bad it just suffers due to the way in which plot elements are utilised. You could attribute this to the director Shigehito Takayanagi, but I feel his previous body of work would disagree. I can only assume this is how the manga is structured but without having read the source material I cannot confirm this.
While the story may be a little lacklustre in execution, the animation is not, it’s far from it. Xebec has really outdone themselves with this series, the opening and ending episodes in particular feature some fantastic animation. The series as a whole features some very strong animation and sadly that is probably one of the only highlights of the series for me. Voice acting, soundtrack and opening and ending themes are all rather bland, they’re passable but nothing more than that.
The Collector’s Edition of Tokyo ESP features a lot less on-disc extras than I would have liked. It does come with a 20-page art book and collector’s packaging though and given the retail price it’s not a bad deal. On-disc extras include two commentary episodes, DVD and Blu-ray spots, commercials, textless opening and closing animations, the U.S trailer and a selection of trailers from Funimation.
The packshot for this collector’s edition release can be seen below.
I have to say that given my initial excitement for the series I can’t help but feel disappointed. Whether the plot structure issues are down to the source, scriptwriter or director doesn’t matter at this point, the series as a whole is a bit of a mess. The series features some good looking animation but aside from that everything else is just lacklustre and bland. It’s a real shame as the synopsis is interesting and being adapted from a Hajime Segawa manga I really thought it would be better than it was. Overall it’s a pretty average series with some above-average animation.