REVIEW: ‘Tokyo 24th Ward’ Season 1 Feels Both Familiar and New

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1 Review

Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1 is an action/drama anime produced by CloverWorks. Shuta, Ran, and Koki were friends once until the tragic death of Asumi. Afterward, the three once inseparable companions drifted apart. But when all three receive a phone call from the dead Asumi, it begins a journey for them that will not only shape their fates but the fates of everyone who lives in the 24th Ward.

When the three former friends first receive their mystery phone call two things occur. The first is that each receives a temporary boost to some aspect of themselves. One has their physical attributes enhanced, allowing for feats of strength and dexterity not normally possible for humans for example. The second is a glimpse of two possible futures. In each possible future, people will die. Either a close mutual friend of theirs or an entire train full of people. They are tasked by the mysterious person on the line to make the future they wish to see. It is a literal Trolley Car problem.

A Trolley Car Problem is a hypothetical moral conundrum where no matter which option a person chooses, a bad thing will occur. It is therefore up to the individual to weigh morality to make the most “moral” choice. Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1 Is built around a series of this style of problem as the three friends must choose whether to accept that someone must be harmed or fight against fate in a bid to save all. It is not a smooth journey. While the trio set out to save everyone, they quickly learn reality is not always so accomodating. This leads to painful lessons that soon add additional layers of struggle for the would-be heroes.

While the opening episodes of Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1 focus almost exclusively on the trio’s newfound quandaries, there is another major plot element that quickly works its way into the limelight. The area that the show takes place in is a manmade island in Tokyo harbor that is preparing to become officially brought into Tokyo as its 24th Ward. In preparation for this momentous occasion, the mayor is preparing to establish a new security system for the island that will all but eliminate crime and end the loss of life due to natural disasters. The only catch is that the people must give up every last shred of privacy they have for the system to work.

The social clashes that arise from this controversial plan quickly become entangled with the trio’s Trolley Car problem. By the end of the season, the two halves of the story find themselves linked due to deep narrative connections, as well as the actions of the characters bringing them into direct conflict with the growing social crisis.

Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1’s greatest strength is its excellent sense of balance. It manages to bounce between the larger and smaller-scale events in a way that never allows any single aspect of the series to drown out the others. The personal stories of its protagonists always manage to feel deeply important, even as the situation rapidly spirals out of control as the series approaches its conclusion.

The only thing that truly holds this series back from greatness is its indecisiveness in the middle stretch of episodes. While the opening delivers some surprising dangers and interesting reveals, and the end builds the tension of the narrative’s wrap-up wonderfully, the middle feels like it meanders a bit too much. While things do happen in these episodes, they feel largely muted as the various characters struggle with the choices that lay before them and how they will choose to proceed. These episodes never lose focus enough to be bad per se, but they do dull the shine that is present in the rest of the season.

The visual design of Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1 delivers a look that manages to feel simultaneously familiar and new. It is hard to nail down exactly what CloverWorks does here that makes the art feel distinct from other series out there, but I feel like its slight tweaks to anime design come together to create something new, without attempting to reinvent the anime wheel visually.

When all is said and done, Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1 delivers an overall strong story of friendship, morality, and social problems. Its different approach to these topics makes it stand out easily among much of the medium that remains tightly attached to the tried and true storytelling archetypes the medium has always leaned on.

Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1 is streaming now on Crunchyroll.


Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1
8/10

TL;DR

When all is said and done, Tokyo 24th Ward Season 1 delivers an overall strong story of friendship, morality, and social problems. Its different approach to these topics makes it stand out easily among much of the medium that remains tightly attached to the tried and true storytelling archetypes the medium has always leaned on.