KOKKOKU – Anime Review
Synopsis: It’s 6:59 forever…The members of the Yukawa family inherit Statis spell, the power to stop time.The members of the Yukawa family are able to enter the Stasis, a world where everything has stopped, when they use their power.One day, Juri’s nephew and brother get kidnapped. In order to rescue them, Grandpa uses Statis spell, but they get suddenly attacked by other people who are still able to move. (Official Amazon Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Kokkoku is the first major title by Geno Studio, an up and coming anime studio whose next title, Golden Kamuy, carries many expectations with it from the well received manga it’ll be adapting. Geno Studio proves themselves here, crafting a largely decent looking adaptation. It rarely wows, but it also keeps itself fairly stable, marking a solid first step for the new studio who otherwise are only known for helping with the anime film Genocidal Organ.
Linny: If you’re particularly averse towards CGI, Kokkoku will not be a fun visual experience. For everyone else, the animation holds up… for the most part. It’s never downright abysmal but it’s also rarely amazing. A more hawk-eyed viewer will be able to notice sequences with more basic animation that veers into disappointing but ultimately, the animation rarely ever detracts or distracts from the story being told.
Tom: Beneath the surface Kokkoku boasts a less than usual cast of characters, such as the young heroine, Juri Yukawa, a 22 year-old woman thrust into the heart of these strange ongoings. Alongside her are her grandfather, Jiisan, her manipulative and incompetent father, Takafumi, her useless brother Tsubasa and her young nephew, Makoto. Boosted by a host of villains, budding allies and the like, Kokkoku focuses on a cast of character types rare to a medium overflowing with teenage protagonists. It’s refreshing, and I said similar in the Mid Season Review. While the series initially works to explore and play with each of its unique cast members, Kokkoku gradually stumbles. As we venture closer and closer to the series conclusion Kokkoku burns away what good will it generated early on, particular through its largely likable cast, until we’re left with plot development after development that abandons internal logic and set up in favor of a more theme-oriented conclusion.
Linny: Kokkoku’s biggest draw is an interesting narrative that features a unique world/mystery that keeps introducing new twists and abilities in a manner that adds intrigue without making the story feel too convoluted or slapdash….that is, until around episode 10. Like most mysterious stories with supernatural elements, Kokkoku starts to unravel as it pulls into its final stretch. All the interesting questions and mysteries early on start to become its curse as it fails to wrap them up in a satisfying or logical manner. The final few episodes have some developments that occur haphazardly or have paper thin/no explanations and some that add little to nothing to the main plot, making the show seem outright sloppy.
Tom: Kokkoku is ultimately frustrating. Focused on characters and mystery early on, Kokkoku gradually shifts to explore the mythos of its unique, stasis world where time remains stagnant and beings known as Heralds defend it. In fact, that’s when the series is at its best, with questions and oddities building and begging for answers. Answers that never come. Once answers are required, particularly as the series rushes to its end, Kokkoku falls apart, incapable of answering or defining much of its more unique elements, turning the series into more of a collection of experimental, unique ideas and concepts, rather than anything truly coherent and captivating. Perhaps aware that there’s no actual meat behind the stasis world and the Heralds to actually explore, Kokkoku tries to get subversive. Events build towards a super-type villain finale, only for the series to actively subvert that. But the way in which Kokkoku does so largely removes much of the conflict between its characters, sending the series out on a whimper that tries to instill greater meaning through thematic developments, but never achieves the highs the series had prior.
Linny: Most fans of supernatural mysteries are used to such stories often having little to no logical resolution to the many questions they posed initially. What can make that okay is that the show does a good job building up other parts of itself like maybe giving its cast a fulfilling character journey or providing additional non-supernatural drama and conflict that gets a proper resolution. And this is what, in my opinion, turns into Kokkoku’s ultimate transgression. It fails to not only provide answers for its mysteries, it also fails to provide satisfying/redeeming/transformative character arcs for anyone. And it resorts to what some consider the worst possible solution for supernatural mysteries and thrillers; a deus ex machina like solution/wrap up that seems to appear out of nowhere all for the sake of giving the ‘good guys’ a happy ending. It’s an approach that can end up making the ending feel lazy and uninspired, producing one out of thin air and without proper set up.
Tom: Kokkoku’s conveniently happy conclusion feels unearned, utilizing the ass-pull Linny mentioned that truly comes out of nowhere, save the anime taking late manga events and dropping them in the first episode in order to try and alleviate this dull and unearned development. While I believed Mid Season that the manga was too long to be adapted inside twelve episodes, it turns out that assessment was in error. Kokkoku’s 8 volumes generally fit within these twelve episodes, with the anime having adapted the manga’s content more thoroughly than I had initially come to understand. The ending’s failings fall entirely in the lap of the mangaka. There’s no excuse of an anime only ending, or a rushed conclusion from my understanding, which also means there isn’t a more cohesive and satisfying version of this story’s end. It’s a shame. Kokkoku wielded such promise and surprise early on, crafting a unique world and narrative brimming with possibilities. Unfortunately it was all largely for show, like I am a Hero or Lost, with little thought put into the depth of its grander ideas.
Linny: With everything said and done, Kokkoku can be summarized as a show that weaves an interesting world, filled with people who develop equally interesting abilities but then provides little to nothing beyond that, especially in regards to answers and resolutions. There’s little to no character development or redemption for anyone and even the villain gets an ending that feels undeserved and illogical, with zero remorse for his actions. The feel good ending fails to address a lot of the bigger mysteries and Kokkoku ends up losing all the impact and mystique it had at the start.
Kokkoku is available for streaming via Amazon Video.