Friday, August 04, 2006

Night Head Genesis

New anime shows regularly appear in Japan with the frequency of regular TV series here in the West.
Shows can cover a broad range of subjects for a number of different audiences, but predominantly shows are produced for the young.
Night Head Genesis is one such show, aimed at the Shonen or male teen audience.

A sci-fi show, NHG sets up with an introduction about our brains. We don't use 70% of it, you see, and this is where human beings keep all their special powers. And these special powers are called Night Head Genesis, apparently, as if the name was put up in a competition and won by a 15 year old.
Stupid name aside, NHG takes itself seriously, rigidly sticking to its bleak outlook without recourse to comic relief or the fantasy of tight lycra.

Naoto and Naoya are brothers who seem to have developed psychic powers. Naoto manipulates objects (though destructively, with little control) when agitated with telekinesis, whilst his younger sibling Naoya reads minds via touch. Through brief flashbacks we see how these powers have caused trouble, and how their parents resort to sending them away (at ages 10 and 8?) to what I assume is a government facility 'out in the woods' to look after and study them.
The bleakness of the show manifests in the method of their move from home - the parents drug their children's' melon juice, but Naoto wakes in the car before leaving and terrifies his tearful mother by blowing out the street lamp when he realises what's happening, then being gassed before he can do more damage.

Waking up in their new home, Naoto is angry, taking it out on the canteen of scientists and then the director of the facility, before running off with Naoya into the forest. Before long they reach trees bound with rope, and find themselves trapped by a mysterious forcefield. After a scientist brings them food and asks them to return 'home', the fear she can't help show makes the brothers realise they aren't meant for the outside world.

Flash forward 15 years and we meet Shouko, a strange schoolgirl who we gather predicts the future thanks to her life-saving advice to a friend about canceling a trip that would have involved a road accident. Shouko entrusts a notebook of strange writing to her friend, saying that Elder Misaki (who we glimpse as an animal perch in a Snow White manner) has gone, so now the brothers are free. We then see the brothers, now young men, in the woods once more only this time there is no barrier. They drive away, but after a flat tyre Naoya persuades Naoto to visit a diner, thus ending episode 1. The episode 2 preview, called "Contact", points to things going a bit badly when the brothers are back in public.

NHG seems far too formulaic to go anywhere, the main characters-the brothers-are woefully underdeveloped, sticking with the stock stereotypes of the elder brother trying to be strong whilst the younger is more timid, traits that also fit in with their respective powers.
Strange powers developing in the young and treated as dangerous is such an old idea that it's odd they haven't given an inkling of invention in this episode, but I suppose the target audience of pre-teen boys is less demanding.
There are a number of confusing moments, such as why are the boys left free to walk about the facility if they're dangerous enough to be there in the first place and where did the car come from let alone the question of how they know how to drive it.

On top of these little niggles is the opening scene, where we see the boys in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, including a sequence of a nuclear-like explosion, which when added to the mention that the boys have been told that they will unleash "minus energy" if they go into the world and that Shouko seems gravely worried about the situation, seems at odds with the fact that Shouko tells her friend that she will live a long and happy life married with kids. A scenario in stark contrast with the possible destruction of a city of 60 million people, but there you go.

At the end of the day Night Head Genesis doesn't seem to offer anything out of the ordinary or more interesting than the many other psychic-power themed anime films and shows, with Akira doing the confusion, isolation and frustration better decades ago, and Elfen Lied handling it with more OTT panache as recently as a couple of years back.
Of course in later episodes NHG may offer hidden depths and there are obviously the hints at a wider plot, but with this first episode there is little incentive to see it through.

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