Episode 8 – Tokyo 24th Ward

Admittedly, Shu’s meandering misfire of an episode in last week’s Tokyo 24th Ward did have the decency to end on a structurally-sound post-credits cliffhanger for the story. Thus we’re able to open up in this one and just get straight into the more involved parts of the plot after we spent all of that previous one on Shu fondling his own boobs. Famous artist 0th is back in town, he’s been running his own subset of behind-the-scenes string-pulling on the story (including being the one behind that mysterious Carneades graffiti), and he’s the one to point Shu and Ran in the direction of the next story bread-crumbs they’ll need to pick up to advance this thing. Don’t worry about Koki being left out though, as he ends up having his own Carneades-adjacency to move things along, all wrapped up by the end via Tokyo 24th Ward‘s signature structure of running a glue stick over a couple bricks and slamming them together hoping they stick in a meaningful way.

Before I even get into the actual ‘plot’ that unravels over the course of this episode, I do need to address how those close structural setups (inadvertently?) Tokyo 24th Ward‘s seeming aspirations. The Asumi-initiated phone calls to the RGB boys at first worked incidentally enough at getting them to jump into these challenges and choose The Future, but as we’ve gone on, particularly with this instance, more and more background conspirators have been added to the manipulations of the system. At this point it really feels less like these kids have any agency in making these supposed societal decisions, and more like they’re simply spending time being yanked around by compounding authority figures. Yes, there could and likely will be something To say about that sort of relationship by the end here, but it also means the characters are simply spending as much time waiting for the story to time out and explain things to them as we in the audience are.

It also undercuts a lot of the moral ambiguity in the ‘sides’ of the political spectrum Tokyo 24th Ward is seemingly trying to illustrate. Yes, the KANAE System’s city-wide surveillance is clearly confirmed as a source of long-term problematic complications here, with a hard acknowledgment that it’s actually-factually bugged, and will need a string of corrections and overhauls to be useful for anything besides optics in the coming referendum. But that revelatory confirmation is accompanied by Koki taking on the internal saboteur role of Carneades by the end, so he’s not even on the authoritarian side to play devil’s advocate anymore. Meanwhile, Ran’s interactions with 0th clarify that Shady Banksy’s perpetuating of the graffiti war with DoRed was mostly just to facilitate publicity and funding for the renegade group, which Ran didn’t really clock in his pursuits. One gets the impression this is supposed to be the ‘both sides’ criticism of DoRed opposite SARG, that is, the idea that a nominally-altruistic group is still beholden to the whims of social manipulation and self-serving capitalism in the name of existing . But you’ll excuse me if I don’t necessarily equate amassing Patreon donations via less-scrupulous means with shoving your daughter’s corpse into a tube so you can run the world’s stupidest version of the Patriot Act.

Not that Tokyo 24th Ward‘s commentary has ever been air-tight, so a lot of this is actually just to provide a setting for the show’s next trolley problem to go soundly off the rails. Putting aside some of the now-expected structural stupidity (it’s only mildly funny for a show at least partially predicated on infrastructure examples to have a mass-casualty disaster arising as a result of putting some cranes too close together), the story still doesn’ t seem as interested in the ‘choices’ being made by the boys here so much as contriving the situation for more plot-upheavals while the accident unfolds. Ran doesn’t even involve himself in the actual problem, simply taking advantage of his incidentally-boosted hacking powers at 0th’s behest in the background at the time. I do appreciate what the plotting does with Koki, however: His initial wordless interaction with Shu at the scene does a strong job of mining the point that his ability in these situations is dialogue, meaning he did know exactly what he should have said to Shu in that situation, but chose to abstain from doing so. It sets up some strong atmosphere for the eventual reveal that Carneades was in fact Tsuzuragawa, and Koki had to knowingly let her go to her death for the pragmatic saving of more people. Though this also makes for a frankly-hilarious rebalancing of Koki’s previous killing of Kunai, where now someone he cares about has wound up as collateral damage in the name of Protecting The Many. …Except this was still entirely based on Koki’s actions, and Ran is so disconnected from the events this go-around that he isn’t even aware of Koki’s difficult choice to sacrifice his secretary. It means the implicit connections between the feelings of the two is currently ignored in favor of coming off like it needed the most blunt possible way to hammer home to Koki that Letting People Die Is Sad.

In the midst of this near-comical deployment of what it thinks commentary is, I’ll give Tokyo 24th Ward this: You can tell that this is probably the episode they actually took that extra week off to work on. After spending the previous episode just wandering around, Shu steps up on the action front for his climactic attempted rescue of Tsuzuragawa. Yes it’s absurd that this whole problem was caused by some non-OSHA-compliant cranes (as well as another natural disaster in an area that particularly plot-prone to them), but it leads to some spectacular destruction and unique hazards in the mix for Shu to react to while Ran and Koki spend their time hacking and sulking, respectively. Though Ran’s hacking also has its moments, netting their own nifty visuals culminating in the revelation of Asumi’s persisting consciousness in the computer system. The result is still a bunch of reshuffled revelations that muddle the motivations of the manipulators, but it still keeps me just-barely invested in what’s going to come next. Granted, that’s almost purely thanks to the compounding cliffhangers and their popcorn-entertainment value, because I think it’s obvious that any hope for salient writing from Tokyo 24th Ward is a train that’s long since run away.

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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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