Ever since it first came out, Mekaku City Actors has been compared to a lot of things. It’s been compared to Durarara for the way it shifts between different characters to tell a story. It’s been compared to Monogatari because it’s trying really really hard to be Monogatari what with the rambling and the visual style. It’s even been compared to X-Men because all these different people are being discriminated against for their unique powers and are banding together as a result.
Personally, after seeing four episodes, I think the best comparison is to the Avengers film saga. I mean think about it. It encompasses all three of the examples I listed above – sans Shaft visual style. The focus on different characters. The superpowers. The character bantering. And most of all, that the individual stories building up to the final climax (and that’s assuming Mekaku has one) aren’t really about anything.
I personally see each episode of Mekaku as one of the films from the Avengers saga. Each installment has been some sort of self-contained character story, which makes sense considering each episode is one of the songs from Kagerou Project stretched out to a 23-minute length. The way the show does each episode is similar to how each Avenger film from Iron Man to Thor takes a popular comic book superhero and builds a movie around establishing said hero and giving him a place in the grand scheme of things. Tony Stark grows from millionaire playboy to possible SHIELD candidate. Thor introduces the villain for the actual Avengers film. There’s a lot of differences between those stories and Mekaku’s fourth episode focusing on a kid (I forgot if he in particular had a superpower) trying to stop a girl from dying over and over again, of course – differences in budget, the fact that each Mekaku episode is released weekly whilst an Avengers film only comes out once/twice every year, etc. – but at the core, they’re not that much different. And unfortunately, one of their similarities is how “nothing” their buildup is.
The best part – and mostly, the only good part – about the Avengers films were the actors having great chemistry with each other and nailing their parts. Unfortunately, this works just as much for each movie as it does against it. As much fun as the banter in Thor 2 is when Loki transforms into Captain America for a joke, it doesn’t really have much to do with what’s going on other than to be there when you stop and think about it. Even worse, it takes up a lot of the movie at the expense of any actual substance until the very end, where it’s just shoehorned without any real tension or purpose. When you think about, isn’t that situation similar to what Mekaku is doing right now, only on a smaller scale? Sixteen or so minutes of banter. Six or so minutes of actual things happening, except without the interesting details to make the “happening” exciting. Good for an advertisement I guess, but fails as its own individual thing, especially since what it’s advertising may not deliver in the end.
On a side note, I noticed whilst writing this article that when you get down to it, this sort of rambling for no other reason than to ramble is practically no different from the “cute girl phenomenon” where girls act cute for no other reason than to be cute. Replacing one shitty trend for another, huh? But that’s a subject for another time.
So in that sense, I “get” Mekaku, at least so far. Unfortunately, I’m having enough trouble with the Avengers stuff as is, so you can bet I have no time for an anime version of it that isn’t even as good. Maybe there’ll be a Winter Soldier or even the actual Avengers film condensed into twenty-three minutes or longer down the line, but unlike movies, episodes that share a series are too linked together and thus can’t really stand on their own very well compared to each individual Marvel film. At least Iron Man 3 had a different director from the first two movies. Mekaku is just the one guy/style all the way.
PS: Yes, I’m aware that a lot of anime adaptations in the past and present, particularly LN ones as of late, have been nothing more than extended advertisements for the actual source material and Mekaku is no different. Doesn’t excuse the fact that if it – and the rest of said “advertisements” – can’t stand as their own thing, they fail.