Anime Spotlight: Tokyo Ravens

Tokyo Ravens is a 24-episode anime series based on a light novel written by Kohei Azano and illustrated by Sumihei. The anime is produced by 8-bit, and is directed by Takaomi Kansaki. The series aired on Japanese television from October 8, 2013-March 25, 2014.

As of this writing, FUNimation holds the North American streaming rights for Tokyo Ravens.

The main character of Tokyo Ravens is Harutora Tsuchimikado, a young man born into an onmyo family, but has no power whatsoever. He is a member of the Tsuchimikado branch family, and the branch family is expected to serve the members of the main family. When Haruota was younger, he promised to become the familiar of Natsume, his cousin in the main branch of the family.

Harutora is pretty much a slacker, and he prefers to spend time with his friends, Touji and Hokuto. Hokuto keeps trying to convince Harutora to become an onmyo mage, but he keeps telling her that he can’t be a spirit seer because he can’t sense spiritual presence. He also points out that Natsume has already been declared the next head of the family, and that it feels nice that no one has any expectations of him. Throughout this scene, it’s very obvious that Hokuto is in love with Harutora, but he’s too dense to figure it out.

Harutora has a chance meeting with Natsume, who has come home on break from her school in Tokyo. After some small talk, they get into an argument. Touji later tells Harutora that he thinks Natsume was trying to tell him that she’s lonely.

During the last bit of the first episode, Harutora, Hokuto, and Touji go to a nearby summer festival. While at a shrine, Hokuto makes a wish for Harutora to become an onmyo mage. Harutora gets upset with her, and Hokuto runs off, crying. After she leaves, a young blond-haired woman named Suzuka Dairenii approaches them; she’s one of the Twelve Divine Generals. For some reason, she thinks that Harutora is Natsume, and she is wanting Natsume to participate in an experiment. After she learns Harutora isn’t Natsume, Suzuka tells Harutora to let Natsume know or else. She also kisses him, which catches him by surprise and angers Hokuto.

Harutora has tried contacting both Hokuto and Natsume, but neither one is responding back. Touji tells Harutora he’s done some research and believes Suzuka is wanting to perform the Taizan Fukun Ritual, which some believe that Yakou Tsuchimikado had tried to do it in order to “reincarnate” himself. Just then, Harutora gets a text from Natsume.

Natsume and Harutora meet face-to-face and we learn that the altar for the Taizan Fukun Riutal is at the main house, so she came back from Tokyo to protect it since her father left to go to Tokyo. Natsume and Harutora get into an argument over protecting the altar, and Harutora suddenly heaves something out of his stomach. It turns out to be a familiar that turns itself into a hornet and stings Natsume, sucking out her spiritual power. Harutora tries to get Natsume home, because she has tools at the main house that can help her restore her power; however, their way is blocked by Suzuka being detained by the Magical Investigation Bureau. During a confrontation with Suzuka, Hokuto is killed. After this happens, Harutora becomes Natsume’s familiar.

In episode four, Harutora and Touji elocate to Tokyo to attend the Onmyo Preparatory School in order to be near Natsume. At school, Natsume has to pose as a boy, and she ends up getting a bit of unwanted attention due to the belief that she is the reincarnation of Yakou. During their time at Omnyo Prep, Harutora meets several new people: classmates Kyoko and Tenma, as well as instructor Jin Ohtomo. Harutora also gets his own familiar named Kon.

As the series progresses, Touji discovers he’s able to become an ogre, Suzuka tranfers into Onmyo Prep, Harutora meets Suzuka and Takiko, and quite a few secrets are revealed both about things in the onmyo world as well as about Harutora himself.

At the end of the first episode, I felt that the series had a little bit of a slow start. However, by the end of the episode, enough elements were established to make me interested in coming back to see more. With the second episode, I felt it was a little heavy on the “info dumping” side, but I was still willing to come back because the story that was developing showed a lot of promise. By the time I hit episode five, I found myself genuinely interested in Tokyo Ravens and decided that I’d see it through until the end.

As the series progressed over the course of its 24 episodes, it became quite an expansive story. While the main focus was on Harutora and his friends, there were still interesting backstories and stories for many of the adults they knew or interacted with. There was so much going on, both at Onmyo Prep and at the Onmyo Agency, that the adults needed to be as integral to the story as the students were.

Overall, I was rather satisfied with the series until I hit the final two episodes. In my writeup for Episode 23, I complained that Kyoko’s sudden awakening of an ability that helps to convince Harutora to take a particular action felt too much like a “deus ex machine”; it really made me think that writers couldn’t figure out how to progress the story without this new power awakening at just the right time so Harutora could be given the final push he needed to go through with his plan.

I also have to say that I felt rather let down and disappointed with how the final episode ended. The ending is rather vague, and there doesn’t truly seem to be any closure for any of the characters. In fact, the audience doesn’t know what happens to any of the characters at the end. When I think about how I invested my time to following this series for 24 episodes and feeling invested in the characters, the ending just felt rather unsatisfying.

In the end, I’d have to say that Tokyo Ravens has a slow start, but by the fifth episode it starts picking up the pace and develops a truly interesting story. The quality of the series was maintained from Episode five through Episode 22. By the end of Episode 23, though, the quality of the story goes down rapidly.

At the end of the first season, I thought that Tokyo Ravens would be a series that I’d be willing to buy on home video if FUNimation acquired the home video rights for the series. However, after seeing the rest of the series, I’m not sure that I’d be quite as willing to add Tokyo Ravens to my home video collection. I’m glad I was able to see it as a stream, but now I’m not so sure if I’d really be in a hurry to ever watch it again now that I know how the series ends on what I feel is a rather unsatisfactory note.

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