KOKKOKU – Mid Season 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)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Kokkoku is Winter’s sleeper hit, offering tons of mystery, unique characters, and a fun, bizarre setting. You wouldn’t know how strong the show is from looking at it however. Kokkoku is presented with rough animation. It’s serviceable, rarely awful, but keeps the series from being a true looker. Thankfully what’s beneath the surface is very much stronger than the visual offerings.
Linny: One of the things that makes Kokkoku stand out is how its cast feels real. Everyone is ‘flawed’ in their own ways, like an unemployed and alcoholic father, a NEET brother, a single mother, etc, making them feel human or convincing without coming off as complete jerks. Even our central character Juri is shown to be bitter and frustrated towards her family, which is interesting compared to how a lot of anime protagonists tend to be nothing but pure of heart and selfless. As the show continues, most of the main cast, aka Juri and her immediate family redeem themselves by showing true courage, effort and concern in rescuing each other from the ongoing crisis they are facing. All except one, Juri’s father, Takafumi who the show seems focused on singling out to be an eventual traitor or problem character.
Tom: Kokkoku’s cast is perhaps its greatest boon, offering up fresh characters compared to the plethora of young, teenage leads peppered over the Winter anime landscape. Characters like Juri, a down on her luck hard working young woman, or Jiisan, her grandfather and central support for the family, feel interesting and dynamic. That said, Kokkoku doesn’t do too much to explore these characters, and becomes largely focused upon its plot and the greater mysteries revolving around the mythos of the stasis world, where the story largely takes place.
Linny: Kokkoku does a great job of having a setting with lots of mysterious elements, twists and developments in a manner and pace that doesn’t overwhelm the audience. There’s a gradual lead up to each new plot development making the story feel well planned and thought out. However, there is also the risk of an unsatisfying ending considering just how many new mysteries have popped up and how shows like Kokkoku can often fail to tie them all together and resolve things in a competent manner. While Kokkoku itself has been doing a good job of keeping its story tight, there are a few things that if left unexplained by the end could leave viewers hanging.
Tom: I am a Hero is a manga that comes to mind. It’s a story revolving around a down on his luck young mangaka and a zombie outbreak. There’s several developments, twists, turns and greater mysteries that never get a proper wrap up. The series concluded with a ho-hum, messy ending that never manages to provide proper answers. While Kokkoku isn’t guaranteed to go in that direction, it’s likely we won’t learn too much before the anime runs out of episodes, unable to adapt all of the manga’s content in just one season, even though the story has concluded at just 8 volumes (Of note, the series has only Western kindle releases through Volume 5.) It’s almost assured things will end on a cliffhanger. All this said, for now Kokkoku remains so engaging and enthralling thanks to these unique mysteries and world building elements.
Linny: For any reader averse to violence, the good news is that Kokkoku never gets extremely graphic with its violence BUT does contain characters getting their heads squashed by mysterious beings. If just the insinuation of such an action makes you uneasy, you may want to brace for it. There’s a fair amount of showdowns and fights as the goons in the story set out to murder some of the main cast. Considering the supernatural elements, these fights are all actually rather physical with most of them limited to hand to hand combat. And even though some of the characters have supernatural abilities, the show makes it interesting by limiting the extent of their powers, forcing the power wielders to get creative.
Tom: Another aspect to the production that deserves praise, is Kokkoku’s soundtrack. It is filled with instrumental pieces and an Opening song that really sell the unnerving nature of the Stasis world and capture the tone of this psychological mystery.
Linny: In more recent episodes, Kokkoku seems to mystifyingly make use of humorous reaction faces in random spots, something which was completely absent before episode 5. Up until episode 5, Kokkoku had little to no exaggerated comedy, save for an early, in poor taste, gag on Juri’s part where she lets the school staff think her brother is a stranger trying to kidnap their nephew. Even that incident plays out rather down to earth than with any extreme comedic tone or goofy facial expressions. It’s a bit jarring to have had these really comedic reaction faces occur once each in episode 5 and 6, and acts as a potential mood killer for those who enjoyed the more serious tone.
Tom: Overall I’m still very much enamored with the series. There’s always a chance that its greater mysteries will disappointment, with last minute answers or lack there of. For now the series wallows in a wonderfully unnerving, psychological atmosphere that has me hooked each week. While it never looks incredible, it’s made up for with an interesting cast, a unique world, and riveting mystery elements. Assuming the show manages to cough up a few answers here or there, I might even say it’s one of Winter’s strongest and most overlooked offerings.
Linny: If you’re going to pick up Kokkoku, do so for the psychological thrills and twists, not for its animation. Also, as we keep stressing, there’s a solid chance we will be left hanging without a convincing wrap up to all the mysteries introduced so far. But for now, Kokkoku manages to weave an engaging tale of supernatural beings, powers and the thrill of the struggle to survive as Juri and her family are hunted down by a villainous group.
Kokkoku is available for streaming via Amazon Video.