Anyone who knows me knows that time travel is my favorite sci-fi genre so it’s only natural that when a show uses that as its premise, I’m going to check it out. Tokyo Revengers took that time travel premise and added a bit of urban gang warfare to it but it wasn’t as dark and gritty as one would expect it to be. When I say that, I mean in the art style. Did this clash of genres create a memorable experience?
Takemichi is a loser… plain and simple. He gets yelled at by his landlord for having his television too loud, he gets pushed around by children on the streets, he seems to not be good at doing his job, etc. On top of that, he had to hear a news report of his ex-girlfriend of middle school getting killed by a gang! This is everyday life for him and after enduring it all, he stands on the platform waiting for the train when someone runs up and shoves him from behind, pushing him onto the tracks.
The train draws closer and closer and right before he gets isekai’d to another world to save the kingdom from a demon lord, he gets sent 12 years into the past where he’s back in middle school and in a gang of wannabe delinquents. They head to another school in order to beat up some second years; however, a group of third years show up instead, and… well… the result wasn’t pretty.
After getting roughed up, Takemichi realizes that his girlfriend, Hinata, is still alive. He pays her a visit and has a serious moment where he realizes that he has a chance to change everything. While walking home, he enters the park where a child is getting bullied. Not in the best of moods, Takemichi goes off on them and ends up saving the kid. Turns out, the kid is Naoto… brother to his girlfriend Hinata. Something comes over Takemichi and he tells him that he leaped through time. He even tells him the very day where he and his sister will die and that he should do everything in his power to protect her.
Suddenly, Takemichi is brought back to the present. Once he awakens, he’s surprised that the train didn’t injure him. Apparently, someone caught him just in time and saved his life. That person was Naoto! Thanks to Takemichi’s warning, Naoto was spared and he became a police officer. Sadly, Hinata still died but he asks for Takemichi’s help to save his sister!
From here, the show goes through several story arcs which can best be described as trial and error. By that, I mean when Takemichi thinks he’s made a change, he finds Naoto and shakes his hand. This handshake is what triggers Takemichi’s ability to leap backward and forward through time. The rules of this universe are a bit unique. The distance that Takemichi can travel in either direction is 10 years; however, he can only travel back and forth on that same exact date. So, for example, if he shook Naoto’s hand in the present and it’s August 10, 2010, he would go back to August 10, 2000. Once back in 2000, if he spent a week there and made it to August 17, 2000, then shook young Naoto’s hand, he would go to August 17, 2010.
Takemichi does this to check in with present-day Naoto to see if there are any progress updates on their quest to save Hinata. Each time this happens, Takemichi notices more and more changes; however, as these changes become apparent, new problems arise… namely with the Tokyo Manji Gang and their leaders Mikey and Drakken. Soon, it spirals out to their rival gang, Valhalla, and the show’s main antagonist Kisaki Tetta.
The worst part about the story… it ends on a cliffhanger!
Our main protagonist. Takemichi was in some middle school delinquent gang with his friends Atsushi, Kazushi, and Takuya. Despite being delinquents, they’re pretty weak with Takemichi being the weakest of them off. In fact, all he does is get scared and cries; however, he also has this latent ability to stand up for what he believes in… even if he’s powerless to do anything about it. By doing so, he earns the respect and friendship of Manjirou Sano… aka Mikey… the head of the Tokyo Manji Gang (Toman). The two hang out despite Takemichi not being an official part of the gang; however, this proves to be advantageous for Takemichi as it allows him to get close to the people responsible for Hinata’s death in the future and allows him to piece together the clues on how to change that future.
The only problem with this is that Takemichi seems to just luck into everything. He’s a spineless protagonist with an annoying personality that I, personally, could not stand. I really hate it when they portray powerless people in roles where they are supposed to have the power to change things on their own. The only real solutions are that the main character lucks into situations as Takemichi does, or the main character develops a spine and becomes the tough lead that they need to be so that they can be more convincing with their actions… which Takemichi doesn’t do… ever. I think that Takemichi is the biggest flaw in this entire series as you just facepalm at every situation he lucks himself into. He really reminds me of Subaru from ReZERO where he can’t really do anything worthwhile but still finds ways to influence and change major events. I just don’t care for that kind of character role and, sadly, this show flaunts that to the max.
Mike is the leader of the Tokyo Manji Gang and is often misunderstood. While he has unbelievable strength… especially for someone with his kind of body frame, he’s actually quite gentle and caring. He wishes nothing more than to create a group where delinquents can come, feel respected, and have a unique experience outside of a typical gang; however, it doesn’t mean that he’s not willing to get his hands dirty. Toman has one concrete rule and is that if anyone does something to any member of Toman, they will rise up and crush them for causing harm to one of their own. They are more like a protective family that only fights when they are provoked.
That was the kind of vision Mikey had for Toman and when he sees that same burning passion within Takemichi, he couldn’t help but feel attached to him. There are more layers to Mikey that I won’t get into due to spoilers but a certain scenario happens between his friends/co-founders of Toman and a certain family member. That situation, you would think, would lead to hatred and an everlasting bitter resentment; however, despite it, Mikey was willing to forgive and forget. When you understand the magnitude of that situation and how Mikey is willing to move it, it speaks to his character in ways that nothing else ever could.
Also known as Drakken, he is second-in-command of Toman and Mikey’s closest friend. Along with Mikey, the two of them accept Takemichi into Toman. Drakken was known for always getting into fights and easily winning them. He even went so far as to get a dragon tattooed on the side of his head back in middle school just to give off an extremely tough appearance. Despite his tough appearance, like Mikey, Drakken would go to any lengths for his friends to either protect or avenge them. He would also do the same for the sake of Toman as well.
Drakken is often quiet and level-headed but all of that changes if he and Mikey ever get into an argument. At that point, maturity is thrown out the window and the two of them argue and fight like a couple of school children. Sometimes they take their squabbles well beyond the boundaries of where it should typically go, causing any who know them to deeply worry about the potential fallout; however, in the end, they always seem to just make up and carry on with their lives as if nothing ever happened! The two seem more like brothers than friends!
Naoto and his sister Hinata were killed in the original timeline. When Takemichi goes back in time for the first time, he meets a young Naoto and, for whatever reason, he decides to tell Naoto that he came from the future and he warns him about the incident that kills both him and his sister. After shaking his hand, Takemichi goes back and discovers that Naoto is alive and well. In fact, he became a police officer and tells Takemichi that while he lived, Hinata still died. Now, the two of them are working together to try and figure out just how that happened and what needs to happen in order to prevent it.
In this regard, Naoto mainly serves as a plot device. In fact, it is believed that since Takemichi told Naoto about his time leap and changes the future that Naoto himself becomes an anomaly of time that’s not supposed to exist. Therefore, whenever Takemichi shakes his hand… aka… physically interacts with an anomaly of time… it triggers his power to time leap. The only flaw to this theory is that Naoto wasn’t the one who caused Takemichi’s initial time leap and there is no explanation as to why that ever happened.
Outside of being Takemichi’s trigger, Naoto simply becomes the information source for the next step in their plan to save Hinata.
For being a central and pivotal character of the series… there’s really nothing much to her. She’s simply Takemichi’s girlfriend ten years in the past; however, in the present before their time leap, they had broken up. Despite their break-up, he still feels remorse when he hears the news that she died. After going back in time and reuniting with her, you get a sense that Takemichi, somehow, made a mistake and wants to find a way to where the two of them can still be together in the future.
In fact, the series does touch upon this aspect a few times as it tries to unravel the mystery of who dumped who and for what reason. While some of those questions are answered, it’s never truly solved completely. It makes you wonder why he’s going through so much trouble based on some of the scenarios that played out. While it leaves a lot open to personal interpretation, the show doesn’t really do a good job of laying it all out. On the surface, it just looks like Takemichi is doing A LOT for someone he’s no longer with in the present.
The main antagonist of the series. There is a lot of mystery surrounding Kisaki; however more and more of that mystery is unraveled as the series goes on. All I can say is that he is cold, quiet, calculated, and extremely dangerous. Most of the time, he doesn’t really say or do much but it is through the other characters and their pure fear of him that adds to the danger levels of this character. In my opinion, he makes for the perfect antagonist for a series such as this. When you have the notion of gang warfare, you want someone at the top that just has an aura of fear and respect due to that fear about them. You want to make them completely ruthless and you’ll want to show that side of them in very small doses.
It makes you question if he actually gets his hands dirty or if he just uses the power of control over others to have his dirty work carried out. At the end of the series, we do get to see another side of Kisaki and, in fact, without spoiling too much… he is the direct cause for the cliffhanger that ended the first season. Of all of the characters, I think he was the best-written one of the bunch. You loathed him whenever he was on screen, he had that intangible aura surrounding him that you just knew he was up to something and you waited with bated breath for him to make his move. The fact that one character could draw out so many emotions makes him perfect for his role. Dare I say, he’s one of the best villains of any anime in 2021!
Art, Animation, and Sound
One thing I will say is that LIDENFILMS took quite the unique approach to the art style. The characters are not drawn in your typical way as it has a nice mix of a shonen and seinen style to it. This meshes together in order to form a hybrid style that stands out like a sore thumb but in a good way. Because of this style, most of the characters are instantly recognizable with each being drawn in a way that reflects the type of personality they have.
The animation is quite smooth, too, as there wasn’t any real indication that the budget was cut anywhere. Nothing took you out of your suspension of disbelief. The only area I felt the show lacked in was its fights. Granted, a lot of them were large-scale battles so you can’t really do much unless you have a lot of time and money and even then… you have to ask yourself is it really worth it given the amount of air time it’s going to have. Even still, the battles were passable and you still got fully absorbed into each and every one. In that aspect, the animation was good enough to do its job.
As for the soundtrack, there were only a handful of tracks that stood out to me as they were used often; however, what was used was good enough to make me want to hunt down the OST when it becomes available (if it’s not already). The opening song, “Cry Baby”, is quite catchy but I feel it’s only good in its TV Size version. The full version seems to drone on and on and on until you just become a bit numb to the longer-than-average verses.
Tokyo Revengers does have a few flaws but they are ones that can easily be overlooked. The story is incredibly gripping and the characters, along with their individual stories, create an intense atmosphere that makes 20 minutes seem like 20 seconds. Far too often was I in disbelief when the ending hit because I was so engrossed in the episode, I had no idea that it was time for it to end. That is the hallmark for an excellent show; however, I simply cannot give this a full five stars.
Sure, it has my favorite sci-fi genre in time travel. Yes, the time travel is handled in a realistic what with a unique ruleset and the suggestion of world lines, but it’s not enough to carry this to a perfect score. As good as the story is, as good as the bulk of the characters are, Takemichi is the one thing holding this back. I simply just hate spineless characters but the thing is… Takemichi isn’t completely spineless. He can’t fight… he’ll get destroyed no matter what he does… but he does have heart and while that carries him through the story, it’s really REALLY hard to believe in a character and their own beliefs when they, themselves, can’t act upon them. If it wasn’t for the rest of this cast propping him up and forcing the story forward, Takemichi would be dead in a gutter by the end of the first episode.
In fact, this series had no choice but to build an amazing cast of characters and give them equally amazing stories in order to mask and overshadow the main character’s own weaknesses. The fact is that Tokyo Revengers pulled it off and did so in a way where the main character’s weaknesses were a non-factor. That’s not an easy feat to pull off but this show managed to do it and that’s why it really shines and gets a 4.5/5.
Had Takemichi been a character that could evolve in a way where he could handle things on his own, this would have gotten a perfect score from me in a heartbeat.
If you enjoyed this review, please consider following me on Twitter @JJPiedraOELN
Tokyo Revengers does an exceptional job of mixing time travel with gang warfare. The story, along with its characters, are deep and interesting. This is the type of show that will make 20 minutes seem like 20 seconds.
Unique art style
Decent enough animation
High suspense and drama
Takemichi is too weak to be believable
I really don’t have anything else for this side of the column