Manga Adaptation by LIDENFILMS
Streaming on Crunchyroll
Takemichi Hanagaki is barely scraping by in life when he learns that his middle-school girlfriend has been killed by the rampaging Tokyo Manji Gang. After a near death experience throws him back in time to 2005, he resolves to change the timeline and prevent her death.
The biggest problem with this first episode is that it lurches alarmingly in tone between crappy comedy and super earnest drama, and as a result it’s kind of hard to know how to approach it. When we kicked off with garbage protagonist lying in his own filth and moaning about how he’s going to die a virgin, I was convinced we were in for the kind of spectacular pity party that’s loathed around these parts. But once we’re thrown back in time the show instead becomes a much goofier, more fun comedy about how our hero and his middle school friends were actually dumb knuckleheads.
And then it shifts again into heartfelt time-travel murder mystery mode, which is admirable, but could do with a little work on the execution. I’m always wary of Japanese media’s tendency to declare your life peaked before you were out of short trousers, and that combined with the wince-inducing amount of ‘a girl was nice to me once’ energy has me sceptical about how well the show will handle its themes. I’d also be remiss in not pointing out this exact idea was already executed superbly by GLORIO 2016 Anime of the Year ERASED. Nevertheless, there’s still huge potential in the premise, especially if we’re constantly jumping back and forward between timeframes, and if the show can file off some of its rough edges there might be something worthwhile here.
I was ready to hate this show after the first couple of minutes, but it honestly handled itself pretty well through the rest of the episode. Specifically, I much prefer “time travel back to save other people” plots than “time travel back to be less of a loser schlub” plots; once it became clear that this was all a chance to make sure things turn out better for the protagonists group of dirtbag friends, I was a little more on board. Still, while I have some affection for the delinquent genre, I’m not sure I have so much as to keep watching Tokyo Revengers. There just isn’t enough here for me to be fully invested in the characters, I think.
Honestly, I had a hard time at first telling whether this show was meant to be a comedy, or at least whether it aimed to be taken at all seriously. I came to the conclusion that it did, but only because its overly dramatic execution of a concept that’s been done plenty of times before by other shows, and with plenty more flair, isn’t quite dramatic enough to tip over into parody territory. Admittedly though, my biggest problem with the series is actually the character designs, which had me instinctively backing away as soon as I realized that present-day, working adult Takemichi, whose face is drawn like an elementary or middle school student, is supposed to be 26. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast, both past and present, look more like caricatures of their respective stereotypes than actual fully-fleshed characters. Maybe that’s an intentional stylistic choice here, but in any case, it lends the series the look of a Cromartie High School while nonetheless being played out with all the seriousness of Erased (albeit with far more in the way of action than mystery or suspense). In short, this one’s just not for me, although I can see how it might work better for people with a bit more patience (and/or more of a liking for shounen action pieces in general).