Concrete Revolutio Review — Eat Your Heart Out Ryogho Narita!

Why anyone thinks your stuff is better executed than this – let alone good – I will never understand. Does your stuff have an “I am Zero” moment? Didn’t think so.

I’m not going to deny that there was once a time when I liked Baccano and Durarara. After all, I watched them during a time in my life when the only anime I was familiar with were harem romance shit and I still thought Guy Ritchie and the first Iron Man movie was cool. Over time though, I’ve fallen out with them harder than people who once thought Clannad was a masterpiece of making you cry now see the show. There’s only so long you can enjoy anime and other visual mediums for its quirkiness and being “better than the pack” before you start craving something that’s actually good on its own terms, and Narita (along with the rest of the light novel author pack) lack that entirely what with his inability to write anything but energy that isn’t being applied to anything useful. It’s like watching Pulp Fiction if it only came prepared with one pistol rather than the truck-worthy supply Tarantino uses to elevate himself above his friends.

In that regard, I’d like to thank Bones for creating an anime that actually does the whole time-jumping/multiple character/energetic presentation well, because it actually applies that presentation to something with some actual fucking substance rather than try to make said presentation “the” substance. And since we’re at it, why don’t I thank Bones for a lot of other things too? Like making a superhero anime that actually utilizes the concept of being a superhero. Making an anime that doesn’t rely on nostalgia as its only draw. And most of all, making an anime that doesn’t suck, something the studio hasn’t done in years.

Not even going to be shy about it: Concrete Revolutio is not only my favorite anime of 2015, but one of the best anime I’ve seen in a long time. It has its lame moments, but the overall package was strong enough to turn the show into an Undertale-style hit that grabbed the attention of quite a few big names. Gen Urobuchi and that guy who handled the writing for Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill are both attached to its upcoming sequel, with the latter acting as a third main writer because apparently two people and a few guest writers aren’t enough to tell the story Bones wants. Whether or not this will benefit the show’s writing or turn it into a “too many cooks” situation, I don’t know. But those names will get more people watching the thing than this dinky review can even hope to match, and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

Whilst it starts off weak due to a premiere that felt like an hour-long episode crammed into 22 minutes, Concrete Revolutio quickly rises above the rest of the superpower pack by assuring us that it’s going to take its premise seriously and not use it a vehicle for throwaway gags and beautifully animated yet incredibly empty fight scenes that will always prove Zack Snyder right about Marvel’s movies. Similar to how Haibane Renmei stood out from the rest of the “slice-of-life centered on cute girls” pack due to its religious bent, Concrete Revolutio is jam-packed with all manners of political metaphors surrounding Japan’s history to accompany the adventures of an organization of super humans centered on a young man named Jiro, the only dude I know who can make pink hair cool. Whilst seemingly just another cool boy who leads his team to victory, it’s revealed very early on that five years into the future, Jiro would betray his organization in order to help out super humans on their own terms and much of the show’s momentum is carried by learning why he did so, whilst exploring its world through various episodic plots centered on other super powered people who have their own vision of justice in regards to the happenings caused by the time period.

Admittedly, I’m not too familiar with the history portrayed in this show and I’m not gonna bother looking them up since so many other people have written about the connections better than I ever will, but I do know that the story’s melding of politics and superhero is not dissimilar to Watchmen – which the creators have admitted to wanting to make a Japanese version of. And Watchmen was a great book that Concrete Revolutio borrows from correctly. It has the same time-jumping mechanics and conflicts caused by ultimately good intentioned superheroes as a result of the atrocities committed by our government along with foreign ones (particularly America in CR’s case because that’s whom anime always goes after when they need a country to oppose. You know, at least Geass went after the UK in its story) that you’re nevertheless not supposed to root for because they’re fucking psychos whose plans aren’t even guaranteed to succeed. The final bad guy in particular is basically Zero from Code Geass – right down to the costume and his way of thinking – if the show portrayed his morality as a reasonable alternative that we nevertheless want no part of rather than the ultimately right choice that R2 ended up doing. Nevertheless, Concrete Revolutio not only gets what makes its predecessor work, it knows it shouldn’t outright copy it and does its own thing where, without spoiling anything in particular, Ozymandias doesn’t win. Obviously there are more differences to Watchmen than just that, but if I listed all of them, this review would be over 5000 words long.

But let’s focus on the characters since the story itself is best experienced by going into it with as little information as possible even if you can still enjoy it greatly despite that. Most of the interesting aspects are given to Jiro and episodic characters like Earth-chan, whilst the more recurring characters are generally there to serve the plot as needed with the occasional moment in the sun as long as it adds to the story. We don’t even learn anything about Kikko – the character we’re supposedly meant to project ourselves onto given how she’s the naive newcomer – until the final arc, and when we do, it doesn’t really have much bearing on what’s going on besides giving her an unexpected darker side in order to make sure she isn’t left behind by the other more complex characters. They’re not boring given how they all clearly have their own baggage which the show exploits from time to time, as well as the existence of that one really boring sixth episode that took the focus away from them and suffered massively for it. Nevertheless, I can’t really picture watching an OVA of them slacking off the same way I can for Noragami.

And for the record, thank fucking christ that there are no slack-off scenes or character relaxation moments in this show, unless you count that scene where Kikko whines to Fuurouta about her crush on Jiro being spoiled by him living with a fox lady. There’s nothing wrong with them in-between big moments, but too many anime – particularly the new Digimon films – overdo the breaks to the point that they’re pretty much the animated series equivalent of an employee who’s paid on the hour but never does any actual work. Concrete Revolutio never separates the characters from the story, keeping everything nice and tight even when it leads to some spotty plotting, and trusts the audience to figure out for themselves what timeline we’re supposed to be looking at. It never bothers to hold their hand, but it’s not inaccessible. You just have to pay attention and accept that you’re not going to get the bigger picture on your first go.

Concrete Revolutio is a heavy show that demands a lot from its audience whilst juggling many different viewpoints in a narrative that’s all about how there’s no winning side when it comes to crimes committed by our government. It refuses to make things simple, because it can’t afford to be simple in regards to issues that professionals haven’t been able to figure out for years. It’ll take the time to show the consequences no matter what side you’re on, but it doesn’t have answers. Nobody has answers, and if they do, they’re not going to express it through a cartoon on public television. All anime like Concrete Revolutio can do is keep raising awareness until someone someday figures out the best way forward. And when you express that agenda through usage of a world where every kind of super powered being imaginable exists, even better.

Minor Quips

  • It can be argued that Jiro’s hair is purple, but I think Kikko’s existence sort of contradicts that.
  • Yes, I know the Lagann guy’s name is Kazuki Nakashima. But I doubt most people do off the top of their head.
  • So who else is rewatching this show before the next season airs? C’mon guys. Fess up.

5 responses to “Concrete Revolutio Review — Eat Your Heart Out Ryogho Narita!

  1. I’m hoping to rewatch it, yes. Whether that happens or not, I can’t say. I just hope that the addition of Urobutcher doesn’t make the show fall apart completely. It’s been years since any anime he was involved with was any good.

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