As I’ve quipped in previous posts, Tokyo ESP, in a nutshell, is the superhero experience we never got from NBC’s Heroes, and the ESP we never got from Railgun. But compared to the manga, the first season is rough around the edges. It delivers the first arc of the story well, but wiggles out on some details I believe should have been there while putting in things that should not.

But hey, this is what compare and contrast is for.

A long time ago in a... land just over an ocean...
A long time ago in a… land just over an ocean…

The manga pretty much runs exactly the same path as the anime does, though the notable difference you see in the first episode is they go straight in to the events of the final chapters, the attack on the Diet Building. I know it was done to kind of build up the suspense for the final episode, but even if you didn’t read the manga, it was wasted effort. The end is so much less powerful than you thought it might have been when getting a preview of it from the first episode.

But moving on, I’ll let a previous post sum this up:

Watching the last two episodes of Tokyo ESP earlier, I started to think about all of the similarities this show shares with known comic book and television properties focusing on humans with superpowers. While it isn’t a new concept to anime, having done probably hundreds of shows over the past three decades or more, superpowered humans tends to stick within the confines of comic books and video games in the US. Marvel and DC have almost everything you want locked up in print, television, movies, and games. They all almost work along similar storylines. Humans gain powers, humans realize they have to co-exist with normal humans, and normal humans fear what they do not understand and attack them. Racial undertones permeate the subject matter so much so that one could imply that it is a vehicle for pushing a social agenda to the viewer.

You really have to kind of put yourself in that frame of mind, because the show’s central theme, or rather, the theme that keeps cropping up before being ruined in some way by Minami’s flapping mouth, is that the people who oppose others of their own kind, ESP on ESP, are somehow terrible people. All throughout the show, Minami and Co. would be squaking YUO CAEN’T BE A HREOOO!!! to Rinka and Kyoutarou and then they would get creamed in their corn.


There was a real reason for all of her flappy birds, but it was so subtle you had to drive through it with a truck in the end. That, sadly, was the fault of the anime, and where we come up to the first real problem of the adaptation. Rinka. It only lasts a couple chapters, but the part where she spends time in the ESP Detainment Facility is crucial to her character. Here, she completes more of Roshi Yoda’s training by boxing with other espers in there to help her combat the fact she is no longer an esper herself. This is what helps her defeat her previous attackers who storm the facility, and ultimately Minami in the final confrontation. I personally feel it added the depth to her character this show needed, because if everyone relied on their powers, it would be a complete Mary Stu event of I AM TEH HREO NAO, I CANNE DO NO WRONGE~ The show tried to make her feel like Neo many times, but it’s almost as if in a fourth-wall sort of way, she always declined the offer to be the very best, like no one ever was, and show some humility.


Then there is Kyoutarou. One route the anime took was allowing him to be dragged away after the tanker event by Minami to be held in some room. He in fact stayed with Rinka and went on to help train the others with Yoda under the bridge. He still made his way to the beach after Rinka was nearly killed, but I’m not quite sure what the meaning of pulling him out halfway meant. My guess is they were trying to force some depth in to Minami, but frankly, she is just an emotionless bitch, blindly following the half-blind Professor. So there’s that.

Everyone else pretty much remains the same throughout both iterations. I’m not sure if you’d consider this good or bad. I suppose, though, you could turn to MAL for your advice on how to make characters for a show:

This has to be the biggest thing wrong with this show and the reason why i began to resent it.
Rinka and Azuma are meant to be the protagonists , and to see them suffer so much and remain so helpless in unbearable. I mean they are unable to fend for themselves for the majority of the show and constantly get the crap beaten out of them.
All of the other characters seem very flat and one dimensional. The Professor was the only antagonist who explained their motives, and seemed justified.

I don’t like any of the characters, because they aren’t winning. Is that what I am getting out of this?

It's like you can't even allow yourself to taste revenge.
It’s like you can’t even allow yourself to taste revenge.

“The Professor” had about as much of a justified motive as Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr (or Max Eisenhardt if you’re super-canon) in X-Men. In fact, it’s pretty much the same motive, only in a different place. The same end goal applies, The Professor wanted espers to control humans as a means of showing everyone they are the evolved, dominant species, and that this was the only way to protect themselves. But the fundamental flaw in both cases is that, in the end, you’re still human, and unless you can shed that moral coil, you’re harming other humans. That is precisely why Charles Xavier went the peaceful route and tried to pitch co-existence between mutants and humans, and it is precisely why Rinka and Co. fight against The Professor and Minami. You seem to want your winners to be winners, and your losers to be losers, but the losers always do their best, while the winners get to go home and fuck the prom queen?

I can see in the past... you were dropped on the head a lot as a kid...
I can see in the past… you were dropped on the head a lot as a kid…

When you are comparing superhero shows to something like X-Men, and setting that as the gold standard, you probably should realize that even characters in X-Men were pretty fucked up. I mean, just how emo can Scott Summers get? Or HEY GUYS WOLVERINE RAN AWAY HE’S SUCH A REBEL. That’s letting your rose-colored nostalgia glasses get in the way of a different approach. As I quipped in previous posts, while ESP does skirt the line with X-Men’s story, it draws a lot of its character work from a show like Heroes. Each character you meet comes from a normal life, gains powers, and has to spend time learning them, before deciding how to use them. Murasaki was one of my favorite characters in the show, because she figured out how to use her power to provide offensive support for her friends, rather than just sitting back and letting them defend her. Kobushi was an example of a character that could have been an antagonist, but changed sides because of how her personal feelings affected her decision on how to use her powers. It’s a very human-like response to superpowers, because if you woke up with the ability to pass through objects, you’d probably be more scared than thinking you can be a caped crusader. Not every character in this show got a lot of development, but that’s not really the fault of the show, the source material was not very long. The first arc only lasts 26 chapters before moving in to a new arc after a time-skip.

As an overall package, ESP delivers a fairly straightforward experience, without sidestepping or going on tangents a la Railgun. The action is there, and there aren’t any skips in the visuals or sounds. For the lackluster season we’ve been given, this has proven to be an effective adaptation alongside Akame ga Kill. The next arc of the manga deals with different characters going to an ESP school, now that the world is 40% espers. If they do a season season, the main concern is falling for the Railgun route. I’ve read what is out there, and it either goes that route, or it goes all romcom with the introduction of the new Cool Hand Luke. I am okay with ending it here on the anime side though. It did what it needed to do. Like the first season of Heroes. It just goes down from there.

Title: Tokyo ESP
Sub Group I Watched: FFF
Episodes: 12
Rating (1-10): 8

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