Babylon – Anime Preview
Synopsis: Everyone knows that life is good. But what if that belief was shown to be wrong one day? Don’t miss the long-awaited animated version of Mado Nozaki’s sensational novel, which critics have described as a poison that enters your body when you read it! This story follows Zen Seizaki from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office as he investigates a scandal involving a pharmaceutical company. (Official Amazon Synopsis)
Episodes 1-3 Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: While Fall isn’t exactly lacking in investigation/law enforcement anime, what helps Babylon stand out is its grounded start. We open with an investigation into a pharmaceutical company for bribing research labs into providing false evidence to get their medicine approved. It’s a start that’s relevant to the current news cycle and thanks to Babylon taking a, more or less, realistic approach to the matter, gives it an atmosphere of authenticity. If that sounds a little dull, know it isn’t long before the plot expands, involve much darker themes and conspiracies surrounding suspicious deaths and political manipulations. I don’t want to hail Babylon for its grounded start too much either, as refreshing as it is, given that the show offers a disclaimer about not just the characters and events being fictitious but even the laws, indicating that the initial realism will gradually fall away as Babylon is poised to take increasingly extreme liberties with its depiction of Japanese politics and experimental drugs.
Tom: Amazon, much as it did with Vinland Saga, uploaded the series’ first three episodes, giving viewers a more meaty introduction that helps to try and signify the direction Babylon will go. It’s thanks to that that viewers can already see Babylon’s grounded start giving way in Episode 3, as events unfold that stretch the limits of believability a tad too far. It doesn’t make Babylon bad, but it does perhaps leave the first two episodes feeling a hair misleading, and these sudden changes to the story make it hard to understand exactly where the series is interested in going. On the one hand that’s exciting, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats, wondering what might happen next. On the other it’s perplexing, and perhaps speaks to a number of illogical leaps taken to drive the series in a direction that feels counter to realism. It really does mean that that grounded start might have been more a misnomer, sucking in the wrong type of viewers for the direction Babylon will ultimately end up taking.
Linny: Babylon doesn’t have the smoothest execution thus far either. For as intriguing as the political/societal thriller atmosphere is, there’s a few missteps involving clunky, unnatural dialogue for the sake of exposition, such as pictured above, that really stand out and hamper the viewer’s immersion. It also promotes and includes some rather larger than life ideas in its plot such as a woman’s supreme power of seduction or the rise of an ‘experimental city’ yet doesn’t really delve into exactly what that implies or how it would realistically work, making both nebulous ideas that don’t feel real so much as contrived. Maybe we will get more answers but given that we’re already 3 episodes in, and moving at a rather brisk pace, some of these concepts are likely to remain vague, more so than would be ideal. There’s also some strange directorial decisions, such as in episode 2 when a woman, describing her sexual relationship to prominent suspects, starts mimicking fondling male genitalia. Finally, there’s the matter of how the show employs sudden abrupt cuts or spins and zooms to produce dramatic visuals which don’t always look as impressive or polished as they could be, especially since these moments are so infrequent in an otherwise static, though serviceable production.
Tom: The show’s rapid space, sending us from mere pharmaceutical conspiracy to murder investigation to threats of social upheaval is both a boon and a detriment. That rapid progression keeps the show interesting, but also feels a tad unnatural. It doesn’t leave time for characterization, especially when certain dramatic developments take an increasing tole on on our lead investigator, Zen Seizaki. Zen’s mental state feels like a compelling avenue to explore, especially as this case hits increasingly close to home, but by Episode 3 he still feels distant as a lead and more a vehicle for whatever message the original author (Babylon is based off a novel) was hoping to instill.
Linny: Babylon definitely has a very unusual hook at the heart of it all as one can probably derive from the first few lines of its synopsis. When it is finally revealed fully in episode 3, it could prove to be a turn off or at least controversial for some as it changes Babylon from a medical malpractice to electoral rigging to something completely different (we won’t spoil just what though, but it is a doozy of a development.) These are some big shifts and they happen so rapidly which makes for a good fast paced watch but could also leave people disappointed as the show keeps changing its nature. Thanks to the fast pace, as long as you’re not turned off by the switch from realistic to wildly fictional, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself wanting to keep watching just for the sake of getting answers. However, if you prefer your show to remain realistic and consistent, Babylon might best be a skip.
Tom: I’ve been harsh in this review, but the truth is Babylon still has me hooked. For all its flaws Episode 1 ends with one hell of a surprise and Episode 3’s twist, while out there, leaves me wanting to at least see where the hell this goes. It’s an exciting ride, one that could end as an absolute wreck, and likely will seeing as Babylon’s author, Mado Nozaki, was also the author of Kado: The Right Answer, which famously went from ‘grounded sci-fi’ to something else entirely. Babylon right now feels worth recommending as these first three episodes, for all their flaws, are very engaging, just be ready for everything to end in a Mado-style trainwreck of genre-bending, jump the shark absurdity.
Babylon is available for streaming via Amazon.