Content Warning: suicidal ideation
What’s it about? In a dystopian future Tokyo divided into isolated “Clusters,” citizens live their entire lives never crossing these artificial barriers. Those who risk doing so can call upon the work of Extractors: specialized agents who transport their clients over the border to a new life.
Oh. Oh, readers. This is a mess.
This premiere is such a slurry of concepts that they had to drop the first three all in one go. To wit: there’s a cold open funeral followed by a car chase with a horn track grasping vaguely in the direction of Lupin the Third’s famous theme; one of the requisite cute teenage girls gets shot in the head only to turn into slime and reform; the team muscle is a wolfman who speaks only in growls, and the helpful robot is voiced by Nicholas D. Wolfwood.
Then we veer hard into Pwecious High School Shenanigans—the main three Extractors are high school girls, because of course they are—that manages to put one foot in Such Good Friends Class-S nonsense and also explicitly reference a different character having a crush on the lead without feeling like it decided on either. Then we reach minute six. All of this is rendered in that particularly stiff brand of CG animation that looks like it runs on a hand-me-down of a hand-me-down of an idol rig.
It’s hard to call something so stiff and overstuffed “good,” but I found myself warming to the show as it went on. The girls are broadly characterized but likable enough—or, well, two of them are. Leader Equa is smiley and agreeable while blithely rushing into danger and Feles is a gun-shy tsundere who keeps getting dragged in because she allegedly has a crush on Equa… and Martes is our second insufferably cutesy, handsy and pint-sized pink-haired girl this season. Even then, it’s got a leg up in that it’s not especially fanservicey, even if that’s probably because the CG is too stiff to really allow for it.
Their client is one of their teachers, who apparently comes from a cluster where everyone is assigned teacher at birth (shhh, don’t think about it, they won’t survive). And while the cynical streak I’ve honed over decades of putting up with anime’s bullshit made a thoroughly unimpressed face when the middle-aged man started getting gently patted and comforted by the teen anime girl helping him escape to Akihabara, the show’s rejection of suicide as a means of escape from an intolerable situation won me over. Is it especially deep? No, not really. But I have a weakness for high-concept shows that are this blithely earnest and excited about what they’re making (while also being at least a little gay).
The flip side of that ramshackle appeal is that there’s at least 50/50 odds it’ll fall apart before the halfway point, particularly if it leans into the trappings of otaku culture specifically as an all-purpose “escape” from the ills of modern life. It’s also one of those “multimedia project” anime, with a mobile game and movie apparently also in the works, so I can only hope each version gets to stand on its own rather than this series serving as a glorified advert for the mobile game. Fortunately, the first three episodes have dropped all at once, so if you share my same affection for trainwrecks there’s already a full sample ready to go.