Anime Spotlight: Tokyo ESP

Tokyo ESP is an anime based on a manga series by Hajime Segawa. The anime is produced by Xebec, and is directed by Shigehito Takayanagi. The series aired on Japanese television from July 11-September 26, 2014.

As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American streaming license for Tokyo ESP.

One day, a girl named Rinka sees a flying penguin and has an encounter with glowing fish that are swimming in the air, she discovers that she has become an esper. When her ability activates, her hair turns white, and she is able to pass through objects. She meets a young man named Kyotaro Azuma, who also had an encounter with the glowing fish; he has become an esper with the ability to teleport.

Rinka discovers that her father, who had been out drinking the night before, has also acquired an esper ability; he becomes highly magnetized and attracts things to him. Unfortunately he doesn’t realize that he has this ability, so it causes utter chaos when he tries to find Rinka and attracts everything in sight to him. It’s up to Rinka to save him.

When Rinka goes to work the next day, she finds Azuma there. As she’s talking with him, her esper ability kicks in; but before her boss notices, the police come in and ask the owner about a suspect in a rash of cases of stolen jewelry. The thief is able to disappear like a wisp of fog; after Rinka hears this, she suspects Azuma. He teleports away before she can say anything.

Since there’s a museum right next to where Rinka works, she uses her ability to enter the museum without being noticed. She finds that someone has already struck, and she learns that the culprit is a girl named Kobushi who is an esper with the power of invisibility.

As the series progresses, Rinka meets Murasaki Edoyama (an esper with the ability of psychometry) and Ayumu Oozora (an esper with the power of precognition). They work together to take on a man known as The Professor and his daughter, Minami, who both possess esper powers, as well as the espers they have gathered together to fight for their cause. During the series, we learn that Kyotaro has a connection with the Professor and Minami, and that this connection causes issues for Kyotaro.

After watching the first episode of Tokyo ESP, I thought that the animation was rather well-done. I also thought that there seemed to be an interesting idea being presented, the pacing felt a little on the sluggish side. I also found myself feeling rather confused, because the episode was done in such a way that it felt like it was being assumed that the audience already knew and understood what was taking place.

With Episode Two, it became clear that the trick of starting at one point in the story and then backtracking to fill in the gaps to get back to where the story started was being utilized. After watching Episode Two, I did have a better impression of Tokyo ESP. But as the series continued, I found myself thinking that it probably would have made the series stronger if the second episode had been the first episode and had just gone in chronological order. By eliminating that first episode, the writers would have gained one episode that could have potentially allowed them to develop the characters or the story a little more.

When the final episode concluded, it didn’t feel like the story had come to an end; in fact, it felt as if the stage was being set for a second season. However, there was nothing at the end of the episode to announce that another season would be coming in the future.

Now that I’ve finished Tokyo ESP, I found that I never was able to enjoy it as much as I’d hoped I would. The way the series started didn’t really help anything, since it left me so confused as to what was going on. When the actual story got going in Episode Two, the pacing of the story tended to feel slow, although not quite as slow as the first episode; but the pacing never really improved much after Episode Two. I also found that I just couldn’t get into the characters, not even into the characters who had some clearly defined development, such as Rinka and Kyotaro. Looking back, I realize I had this underlying sense of detachment from the characters.

In the end, Tokyo ESP had an interesting concept behind it, but the execution just wasn’t as strong as it could have been. At this point, if there’s ever another season of the series, I probably wouldn’t be in a rush to watch it.

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