Borrowed straight from AnimeLab because I watched it and I still don’t know what happened:
The incidents which occurred on August 14th and 15th bring a group of young boys and girls together They are members of a group they call themselves the Mekakushi Dan (Blindfold Organization) and each member possesses a strange power involving their eyes. Will the members of this peculiar organization be able to solve the mysteries behind these incidents and see the truth?
When you are bored and randomly scrolling through the titles in a streaming services collection for something you haven’t seen or heard of before, you don’t really expect all that much from what you find. Occasionally you will come across that rare gem of a show that you wonder how you managed to miss it for all those years.
Mekakucity Actors is not that show. It’s the one you find and read the synopsis and realise this is probably going to be a disorganised mess and then you start the show and those suspicions are confirmed. So why watch it through to the end? Because it has a mystery and it kind of gives you enough hope early on that somehow this will all actually be worth all the confusion and frustration and then you get to the end and the reaction I posted on Twitter is still exactly how I feel thinking about this.
But that’s jumping to the punchline rather than fully explaining the experience of watching this anime. First up, it’s from Shaft. And while it may not be fair of me to say, visually it comes off like a poorer version of Monogatari. The thing is, I wasn’t a big fan of those visuals. The odd character designs and colour schemes. The backgrounds that are at times minimalistic and at others cluttered to the point of distraction. The weird transitions between scenes and moments. So having a show that looks like a poor knock-off of a show I didn’t like the look of in the first place kind of gave it a rough start before I even started looking at the characters and plot. That said, if that were my only issue with the show I probably would have watched it and enjoyed it anyway. While I’m not a big fan of the Monogatari series I did have a lot of fun watching it through once.
It’s difficult to talk about plot or characters without the two blurring together. And it’s difficult to say much about either without revealing information that the audience doesn’t get told until later in the series. There’s a reasonably large cast considering how many details we need to remember and each character has a unique design. Also, we always know which characters are going to mean anything to the story given all the background characters are literally just grey shadows moving about. However, other than being visually distinct, the characters themselves aren’t that distinct and that is possibly deliberate but boring.
The first characters we really spend any time with are Ene and Shintarou. Most of the first episode is focussed on these two (though Ene is technically either an AI or a virus depending on your viewpoint) and exists entirely inside Shintarou’s computer and phone. While Ene is working very hard to be demanding but cute, Shintarou’s entire personality kind of consists of staring blankly before freaking out and then going back to staring blankly. Given he is fairly significant to the central mystery (in a way that is still yet to make any sense other than some blanket declarations at the end of the series) it would have been nice to have seen a bit more from him in these early episodes. Particularly, as after we meet him, the second episode shifts focus to Momo who is an idol with some problems, and while we do get back to Shintarou and his path crosses into most of the other characters’ stories at some points, he himself does not ever get a chance to develop due to very limited screen time as anything other than a support background character or an oddity in another storyline.
By the time Shuuya and Hiyori are introduced in any meaningful capacity (Shuuya does appear in episode 2 but mostly just as background) the question I had to ask was ‘did we really need more characters?’ given at that point other than the names and power of the characters (those who had powers) I pretty much knew nothing about any of them. Which makes it very difficult to care about their actions, which seem largely based around chance and coincidence, or the consequences, which are impossible to understand until we get several exposition dumps toward the end.
That isn’t to say there isn’t some clever work going on in this story. Each of the characters does have a very interesting story to tell and these are hinted at. The problem is we have twelve episodes of run time and far too many characters plus an incredibly complex conspiracy unfolding and so none of the characters or plot points ever get enough time or focus. The use of the children’s story to help all of the elements converge worked well, though again, we probably needed this concept expanded on for it to really work.
Finally, we have the ‘villain’ of the piece. Still not sure what he was hoping to accomplish. He did keep going on about granting a wish but mostly he seemed to come off as a simple sadist who seemed to enjoy watching people break. His actions are questionable, what he hoped from the ending even if it had gone his way is really unknown, and how he was defeated is still unclear. Why he even needed to be defeated and couldn’t just be ignored is also unknown. This is where everything in the story kind of falls apart. We could put up with the shallow characterisation, the central character we know nothing about, the bad exposition dumps in the final episodes to rationalise that this character is important, if only the villain had seemed like an actual threat and we understood what that threat was and why it was so vital he be stopped. Mostly he just seemed like a jerk. And I still don’t know what he was trying to accomplish so I don’t really care that he failed. This actually would have been a mediocre anime if they had just succeeded at a basic ‘here’s the bad guy, this is why he’s bad, let everyone else stop him’ ending. There still would have been loose ends and plot threads but we could have walked away reasonably satisfied.
And so what we have instead is an anime I will quickly forget about even with its attention grabbing, look at me colour scheme and fast paced opening song as well as all the sing-a-long moments and dream sequences throughout. Because the characters are already blurring into one another in my memory other than the fact that they wore different colours and the plot was a mess of nothingness with no clear point or reason. Unless we were supposed to learn to be nice to monsters, not to make wishes, or just ensure we don’t die on the 15th.
If you’ve watched it, what were your thoughts on Mekakucity Actors?