REVIEW: ‘Tokyo Revengers,’ Part 1 Has Grit, Gangsters and a Fair Amount of Heart

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Tokyo Revengers Season 1

One of the many anticipated shonen anime adaptations to come about recently, Tokyo Revengers is a drama with a time travel twist. LINDEN FILMS (Cells at Work! Code Black, Blade of the Immortal – the 2019 anime) brings to life the manga series by Ken Wakui. The manga is available in English from Kodansha USA, currently as a digital-only release. The story follows Takemichi Hanagaki, who is 26 and feels like a failure due to his lack of achievements in life. He has a dead-end job, a tiny apartment, and only ever dated one person way back in middle school. That girlfriend, Hinata Tachibana, died in an accident as a result of a feud within the villainous Tokyo Manji Gang. At the lowest point in his life, Takemichi abruptly leaps back in time to his middle school years and resolves to change the past and save Hinata.

Tokyo Revengers is a series that many may need to give a three-episode try. While the time-travel twist is interesting, Takemichi might not win viewers over right away. That is definitely the point, as he truly embodies a “good-for-nothing” who is hanging on desperately to his glory days in MIDDLE SCHOOL. The show itself does have a sense of humor about it, with even Takemichi commenting on how ridiculous he looks when he sees his middle school self in the mirror after all this time. It can feel a little odd that this 26 year-old man is so hung up on a middle school girl, but it never feels inappropriately sexual, more of a desperate reach for something good in his life.

What quickly becomes apparent in Tokyo Revengers is that, amidst the fist fights and desperate attempts to appear tough amongst teenage boys, the show is truly about the friendships they all form. A large portion is devoted to the boys learning when it is okay to be vulnerable, and that there is an equal amount of power in that as there is in their fists. It is far from perfect, but I will fully admit that my early judgements that I’d be watching a fair amount of toxic masculinity on screen were quickly washed away. Takemichi himself is the furthest thing from a physical fighter. Heck, even the opening credit theme is called “Cry Baby.” The only supernatural element in this show is the time-leap, so there is no magical power-up or talent unlock here. It is Takemichi’s heart that becomes his greatest strength.

That said, Tokyo Revengers will pull at heartstrings in other ways, too. There are darker elements at play. While characters Mikey and Drakon have a code of honor and ethics while leading the Tokyo Meji Gang of the past, that isn’t the case for rival gangs. It isn’t shown, but rape is mentioned. Additionally, characters are murdered, and (without spoiling) there is a suicide. Overall, the subject matter is handled fairly well. Nothing is shown for shock value, and it all does contribute to the greater plot in some form besides just: “this is a dark and gritty show.”

This is a show about juvenile delinquents. There are fist fights, knife fights, the crunch of broken noses and more. Shout out to the fight sequence animation; every character has a different martial arts fighting style, and it is detailed well in the animation. There are no awkward cuts to avoid showing movement here. Tokyo Revengers isn’t overly gory, but it definitely doesn’t shy away from the sound effects and blood detail that comes with teen boys nearly beating each other to death.

It really is the characters that sell Tokyo Revengers. Once again, while Takemichi may not be an initial favorite, his journey to save others also becomes one of learning to value himself. Sometimes this regrettably manifests itself in a repetitive monologue that occurs during multiple climactic moments, but the show could be far more cliche with its motivational speeches. It is the supporting cast that sell the show; Mikey, Draken, Akkun, Naoto, and Hinata. We meet all the characters as kids with dreams, but we also know the painful fates that await them as adults. The tension created through this is what helps Tokyo Revengers thrive and generate momentum, even in its slower moments. The largest negative that could be found is that, while Hinata is lovely, a lot of her character and story so far are purely in service of Takemichi and his development. Her death being the primary driver of the plot also doesn’t help with this. Hopefully the second cour will develop her more beyond being just a token “sweet but tough” girlfriend.

Tokyo Revengers is an anime about teen boys and the bonds they form. The suspense through trying to change the future, as well as the brutality of the fights between different gangs, keeps viewers invested, even when the main character Takemichi becomes a bit grating. Fantastic fight animation, as well as thoughtful vulnerability and depth to the relationships, makes this anime a solid pick to watch. Here’s hoping Hina gets a bit better treatment in the second cour.

Tokyo Revengers is streaming now on Crunchyroll, with new episodes premiering Saturdays.


Tokyo Revengers Part 1
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Tokyo Revengers is an anime about teen boys and the bonds they form. The suspense through trying to change the future, as well as the brutality of the fights between different gangs, keeps viewers invested, even when the main character Takemichi becomes a bit grating. Fantastic fight animation, as well as thoughtful vulnerability and depth to the relationships, makes this anime a solid pick to watch. Here’s hoping Hina gets a bit better treatment in the second cour.