Neo Yokio is a show that brings up a lot of questions. How did this come out? Is this a joke? Who is this for? Is this even anime? Are my eyes even real? Is anything even real anymore? These are just a few of the mind-boggling thoughts that popped into my head as I watched the show’s six episodes in one sitting. Now that I’ve survived that journey with my soul intact, it is now my duty to try and convince you to do the same too.
To start, Neo Yokio is a show about the titular city, a mix of New York and Tokyo, and its denizens. In this city, society is driven by hyper-consumerism and elitism, which is explicitly shown throughout the show. Our protagonist, Kaz Kaan, starts out as a prominent figure and an oblivious member of this avant-garde culture, with him being the “#1 most eligible bachelor and demon hunter”(pay no attention to the latter for now) in Neo Yokio. As the show progresses, the city’s problems are slowly revealed to Kaz as he tries to keep the issue out of his periphery and focus on his own personal teen problems.
If you’ve heard of Neo Yokio before, you probably know about uhm… the weird circumstances surrounding it. If not, then let me shed some light into the topic. First of all, the biggest thing surrounding Neo Yokio is that the main character is voiced by Jaden Smith. Yes, that Jaden Smith. He’s joined by the likes of Jude Law, Steve Buscemi(God bless him), and Stephen Fry among other people in the voice acting cast. The second biggest thing about this show is that it was produced by studio I.G. and Deen. Third, the show was created by Ezra Koenig of Vampire weekend, and the episodes were directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi(Gundam Unicorn) and Junji Nishimura(Ranma ½).
With the whole cast and crew, the weirdest thing is that the choices made in all aspects of the show are bafflingly bad at times. Jaden’s voice acting isn’t just subpar, which I guess fits Kaz’s equally bad character.
The rest of the cast’s performances are either dismal or great, with the two characters Lexy and Gottlieb being strong contenders for the best performers in the show. The art and animation are surprisingly awkward to look at. The direction for the show is bizarre.
That said, the show has an air of heart and sincerity in it. Somehow, you feel that everyone is aware of what they’re doing and what the output is, because there’s no way they don’t know.
The jokes themselves are either quippy and smart, or a horrible faceplant begging to be laughed at. For the love of god, there’s a joke about Gregorian house music and that now-famous giant toblerone running gag, there’s no way that’s not deliberately funny. I can’t say that the show is one of those “so bad it’s good” things because it’s not really disastrously bad. Sure there are parts that would be categorized as that, but not the whole show, no. Either way, I would say that it has its own, unique, mentally and spiritually challenging charm.
Go watch Neo Yokio if you liked Portlandia or The Boondocks, or if you’re looking for a thing to watch on trash night with your friends, or if you’re just wondering what the heck this whole thing is about and you want to be in a confused fugue for two hours. As a bonus, you can go lurk forums after watching it for extra entertainment value since there are some nifty details put in and nice discussions to be had. With such such a ridiculous, Jaden-esque show, boredom will be the last thing that will happen to you as you watch this.
P.S: Is this anime? This writer would like to argue “yes” due to the inspiration that the show is drawing from, and the studio that’s producing it, and the nuances that are in the show. However, in Koenig’s tweet, he says that he’d rather call it its own thing, a collaboration between U.S., Japan, and Korea. https://twitter.com/arzE/status/908009346541404160