Episode 10 – Tokyo 24th Ward

I’m not sure how impromptu last week’s recap episode was, but I hope the crew enjoyed their additional time, regardless. Tokyo 24th Ward is absolutely not a show anybody should be pushing themselves hard to put together, a fact that’s become apparent with every passing week of its exhausting attempts at profundity. It gets to where it almost feels as circular as the show’s conversations which continuously fail to take its story anywhere. At this point you don’t need me to keep coming in and telling you that Tokyo 24th Ward‘s sociopolitical analyzes are as fundamentally broken as the corpse-powered computer at the center of its narrative. But alas, we’re stuck with the thing for at least a couple more weeks, so the most I can do is comb through what new morsels of ideas the show shakes onto my plate in an effort to discern what the hell it even thinks it’s talking about.

The most clear-cut positive progression of this episode is that Shu and Ran finally get brought up to speed on the more intimate details of the plot, IE: Asumi’s integration into the KANAE system and how pointedly bugged the whole thing is alongside that. It takes multiple months of in-series noted time passage, but the remaining two out of the three main characters at last have the same context for analysis of the show’s ideas that the audience has been operating on for weeks. One problem with this particular approach is repetition, that is a sequence of Tsuzuragawa explaining the plot yet again for Shu’s benefit means time spent on that can’t actually be utilized to push said plot forward. Ran’s side of getting the details dished out does come with some information on how he’ll be operating moving forward alongside the people who give him said information, but then that, as with Shu’s side of the plot, ends up coming with its own quantity of this show’s idiotic baggage.

Seriously, strap in, because this is where Tokyo 24th Ward‘s brand of conspiracy-addicted conceptual complications ramps up to be its most woefully out of touch. Spinning out of the writing’s ongoing clear desire to try to present Ran’s radical side of political philosophy as being as tenuous an end of the horseshoe as that computer-creeping authoritarianism, 0th takes him to meet with Taki (that’d be the scummy businessman whose villainous plots previously included ‘buy up a bunch of cabbage’). Basically the idea is that if you didn’t already think the graffiti war that previously promoted DoRed was morally dubious on account of it actually being astroturfed by 0th, then finding out that it also allowed Taki to manipulate the stock market somehow to make money definitely ought to make you reconsider the real ramifications of carrying out any kind of organized resistance! It doubles down on that insulting association with the revelation that 0th has brought these people together to facilitate his plan to ‘hack democracy’ and swing the public vote against employing the KANAE system’s sweeping surveillance.

It’s insulting because the writing of Tokyo 24th Ward carries on by arguing the fact that people’s opinions can be swayed by organized outside information is inherent to the ‘merciless system’ that is democracy. Frustratingly, it actually gets close, acknowledging that online disinformation campaigns has already “happened overseas”, and showing representatives of the government coming together to panickedly remark that this uptick in public engagement is driving more people to vote and they have no choice but to Inflate crime prosecutions, artificial to scale back voting rights! Like congratulations, you managed to make an anime that’s an accurate representation of the 2020’s US voting landscape. Unfortunately, the show’s actual contentions with such issues come off as singularly embarrassing.

Because to see this show demonstrate it, the people of Shantytown only rally against their systemic based oppressors because of the manipulations of 0th and Taki that Ran is on-board with. It’s an embarrassingly tacit argument that an impoverished demographic, already shown to take issue with their oppressive overclass, would apparently lay back and simply allow themselves to get gentrified if the algorithm hadn’t shown them some incendiary social media posts. The series tries to indicate that the protests breaking out are too escalated, slinging out comments that “Everyone’s on the edge lately” or teasing a tense scene where a confrontation with a couple of SARG cops nearly escalates to a direct attack and potential firefight. Except it asks us to ignore that the uptick in policing here is specifically being used as a method to suppress the votes of these people protesting what’s being done to them. It’s absurd because the idea is that the surveillance of the KANAE system would be unilaterally bad for the individuals, lower-class members of Shantytown or otherwise, regardless, so an informed uprising against that instigation would totally make sense. But no, the writing has to cast everything at the feet of elite manipulators, even when those people, like 0th, are seemingly setting it all up for the eventual good of said lower class anyway.

It’s all designed to be instrumental to what’s emerging as the driving point of Tokyo 24th Ward‘s philosophy: What you believe isn’t as important as how you arrived at believing it. At the intersection of Shu taking some hits for a couple of cops, because of course, he admonishes Kozue for joining the protest and simply ‘echoing what DoRed says’. As if acknowledging the issues that are blatantly apparent in a systemic structure is less valid if you got there by agreeing after others told you about them. The writing has admitted several times throughout its run that Shu’s stupid as a sack of cement, but he’s still positioned as the sensible center of its philosophical illustrations because at least what mealy-mouthed opinions he does have are ones he arrived at ‘organically’. Even if the DoRed-organized protests for the rights of the lower class are fundamentally correct, while the KANAE system is admitted as a bugged-to-shit mess of a program that basically no one wants to use anymore, it’s Shu’s singular, charge- ahead devotion to ‘heroism’ that restores the likes of Tsuzuragawa’s faith in humanity. Never mind that this ricochets off the show’s own depiction of said efforts from Shu, where his unsupported impulsiveness at least indirectly resulted in the likes of Kaba being killed. At least his unswayed individualism wasn’t tainted by agenda-driven information from othersam I right?

Maybe it’s the fault of having to ruminate on this show’s bullshit for an extra week just to come back to thisbut if you can’t tell from my tone, this was the point where Tokyo 24th Ward‘s philosophies jumped the tracks from frustratingly naive to outright insulting. It’s a story structured on presenting this community as a microcosm for demonstrating social issues, which has now turned around and finger-wagged anybody who would react to those issues as a community. I was previously morbidly curious as to what this show’s final philosophical say was going to be, but after this, I’m actually dreading what kind of hackneyed halfway-meeting between its idiotically-portrayed authoritarian and anarchic branches is going to look like once it’s all over.

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Tokyo 24th Ward is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.

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