Concrete Revolutio Episode 1: Nope, Not Kansas Anymore!

The first episode of Concrete Revolutio, “The Witch Girl of Tokyo,” recently aired — and I think I understood what happened!

What Happened

The show seems to have two distinct timelines distinguished by Jirou Hitoyoshi’s attitude and attire. The opening seems to be in the present, when the polite and scarfed Jirou first meets Kikko Hoshino. She’s waitressing as a cover for her real identity, which we find out is the Witch Girl of Tokyo. Before we get a chance to get our bearings, the scene shifts a little less than 5 years in the future, where Jirou, now callous with a red kerchief, appears to be Kikko’s enemy. She confronts him and tells him that she’s twenty as he bails out of the train.

This was before the opening credits! This kind of frenetic pace characterizes Concrete Revolutio.

We return to the first timeline to meet three more characters. Members of the Superhuman Bureau Daishi Akita and Hyouma Yoshimura are listening to Emi Kino lecture about a rare star, which a Japanese Professor Onda had just discovered. Apparently, there are factions that wanted to derail his efforts,

The Witch of Tokyo is not amused that villains are trying to steal humanity's future. Notice the stippling in the background. Capture from the Funimation stream.
The Witch of Tokyo is alarmed that villains are trying to steal humanity’s future. Notice the stippling in the background. Capture from the Funimation stream.

because the scene switches back to the restaurant, where Jirou and Kikko watch a man in a pin-striped suit approach Onda. We learn pin-stripe man is an alien whose race wants to slow Earth’s scientific progress. Jirou enlists Kikko’s help, and together, they interrupt the transaction. Unfortunately, Kikko has to defend herself by switching to her witch mode (which looks to me just like a magical girl, complete with mode change animation). For her it’s unfortunate because she was trying to keep her identity secret. The pursuing alien turns into a super-sized robot. Then Grosse Augen, a giant fighting for humanity, showed up.

Yeah. That. And the episode’s not half over.

Grosse Augen’s favorite attack is to move itself with its enemy into an adjacent space/time. It can then fight without endangering humans. Daishi calls Jirou with instructions to track the aliens. Jirou forcibly enlists Kikko’s help. She leads him to the fighting aliens, since as a human he can’t see them but she as a witch can, and he transforms his car into a robot named Equus. Yep. Another robot. Even with Equus, Jirou needs Kikko’s magical help.

Not sure the basis for the Witch Girl's power, but I wonder if it involves some kind of illicit medicines. Capture from the Funimation stream.
Not sure the basis for the Witch Girl’s power, but I wonder if it involves some kind of illicit medication. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Good thing Mr. Cloud was available!

In the end, Equus was able to keep the giant evil alien robot distracted until Grosse Augen could attack. The strike turned the alien into a tiny remnant of its big bad self.

That’s when, dare I say it, things got odd. Well, even more odd. Grosse Augen tried to give Equus a congratulatory handshake as a smiling Kikko looked on. Equus instead slashed Grosse Augen’s finger, sprayed it with a tracking fluid, and went to collect the tiny alien robot (in a matchbook, no less). Upset and confused, Kikko confronts him. Why did he attack Grosse Augen?

The scene shifts to the future, where Jirou is standing at Kikko’s gunpoint. She’s surprised to see a future Grosse Augen in human form walk up behind Jirou. Why was she surprised?

Because, as we see when the scene shifts back to the present, Grosse Augen had been inhabiting a human’s body with the human’s consent. The tracking fluid allowed the Superhuman Bureau to find human/alien pair. Why did Jirou inject the fluid? Because he and his team were under the impression that the possession was involuntary. Jirou and Kikko found Grosse Augen just in time to see him abandon the body because it was at its limit. He returned to his home planet, leaving the ashen outlines of a human body. Jirou wouldn’t let Kikko watch, apparently she would not get upset. The scene in the present ends with Kikko joining the Superhuman Bureau.

So how was Grosse Augen’s human form in the future? The scene shifts forward in time to show Kikko asking that very question. When Grosse Augen abandoned this human host and left the planet, Jirou allowed Grosse Augen’s human half to merge with the robot alien that Jirou had captured in the matchbox. In other words, Jirou disobeyed orders in order to save the human side of Grosse Augen. At the end, Jirou declares that he will never return to the Superhuman Bureau. He and the new alien fly off and leave Kikko in tears.

What I Liked

The background art is beautiful. It reminds me a lot of comics in the United States from the 1940s to the 1950s. Both the color and the stippling give it that feel.

The background art reminds me of old-style United States comics from the mid 1900s. Capture from the Funimation stream.
The background art reminds me of old-style United States comics from the mid 1900s. Capture from the Funimation stream.

The show has a lot of fast-paced humor. The first time we meet Ullr, Kikko’s little helper, he popped up in Kikko’s cleavage. As she tried to push him back down, her coworkers gave her the strangest looks. Later, when she helped fight against the giant alien, she needed water, so she asked “Mr. Cloud” for help.

Humans are so used to giant robots and the like that as soon as Grosse Augen pulled the giant alien into the other space/time, they all shrugged and went about their business. I thought that was an interesting detail that shed light onto how common these occurrences are.

Who knew Witch Girls could be such useful navigation aids? Capture from the Funimation stream.
Who knew Witch Girls could be such useful navigation aids? Capture from the Funimation stream.

The technology often has a faux-retro feel. While he’s pursuing Gross Augen, the computer in Jirou’s car outputs ticker tape. He admits to Kikko that he can’t read it, and instead of ridiculing him, she gently laughs. I thought this was a pleasant way to show their relationship progressing. It was also a good opportunity for him to explain to her that the Superhuman Bureau’s job was to protect superhumans so they could protect humanity.

The closing credits are delightfully bizarre. There are running hands, a giant grasshopper, black and white minimalistic shots of the cast members, and a caterpillar with a human face. Each of the cast members showcases their own dance moves as a dominating guitar plays.

What I Liked Less

I’m torn on the plotting. Is it clever and interesting? Or is it confusing? I wish I could make up my mind. The downside for me is that I had to watch the show three or four times before I think everything made sense. Isn’t that too much effort? I understand seeing details I missed after watching something more than once. But does the remain true for major plot points?

Thoughts

There was a lot that I liked about this show from the opening scene. The animation looked vibrant; the characters were interesting; the world seemed deep, wide, and filled with potential for drama. I see real character potential here. Why did Jirou leave the Superhuman Bureau? What compelled him to disobey orders? Is Kikko in love with him? Why did Kikko join the Bureau? Ordinarily, I get just one or two questions like that in a series. Here, there are multiple!

Maybe it’s because I was expecting a more linear plot, but I found the story challenging to follow the first time through. I wondered if I was the only one struggling until I read the Fall Preview reviews from Anime News Network. Nope. I am not alone!

I have a background in literature since half of my degree was in English. I’ve read a lot of works from across the centuries. Generally speaking, I can dissect complex plots in material  ranging from the classical like Poe to the modern like David Brin. Watching this episode made me feel almost like I was reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. Stream of consciousness can be interesting, but is that what the writers are trying here? Or are they trying to use plot in addition to beautiful animation to differentiate themselves? Making the audience like me work so hard is a gamble if that’s the case.

The question comes down to this: is the show worth the effort? Before episodes 2, 3, and 4 were available, I wasn’t sure. It was hard to understand where the plot was going — or even where it was! Despite that, I have a mantra: I would rather see a show try to do something amazing and fail than watch a dozen shows that are simply good. At the very least, I think Concrete Revolutio is making the attempt. As I’ll show in reviews for the next episodes, I have reason to hope it will succeed!

Reviews of Other Season 1 Episodes

 

Post Author: tcrow