KOKKOKU – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser January 7, 20182 Comments
A photo of Juri's family posing in the yard around a snowman

What’s it about? 22-year-old Juri Yukawa comes from a family of hardworking women and deadbeat men, and she wants nothing more than to get a job and live on her own. But when her brother and nephew are kidnapped, the only way to save them is for Juri’s grandfather to lead her through a world of stopped time called “Stasis.” But they’re not the only ones who can move around in there…

Well, this is a premiere that hits the ground running. By the end of the episode there’s been a kidnapping, a ransom demand, and not one but two pretty brutal fight scenes. Also monsters or spirits are somehow involved, but apparently that’s a kettle of fish for a whole ‘nother episode.

Juri standing back to back with another woman at a crosswalk, their shadows extending down the street

There’s a lot going on here, is what I’m saying. And while the show is gutsy, particularly for something that was also its author’s debut series, I’m left wondering if there might not be too much going on. The thematic undercurrent of the episode is simple, centering on a dysfunctional family that comes through for one another when circumstances are dire, but the actual plot mechanics had three different conflict escalations all in one go (kidnappers, mysterious men after Juri’s grandpa, and spirits).

No show can keep up that kind of pace without burning either itself or the audience out, and KOKKOKU‘s future will probably be determined by the limits it sets for itself in the next episode or two. It would also help if the sound design becomes less relentlessly pitchy and off-putting (seriously, this is one of the worst opening themes I’ve heard in years), though props are in order for the smart concentration of the obvious CGI on creatures that are supposed to look uncanny and otherworldly. And bees. Floating, time-stopped, CGI bees. There’s the feel of a stretched budget here, which could wind up being bad news for the show’s murky-leaning color palette.

Juri lying on the ground and holding her nephew to her chest

But Juri is, at least, a good choice for a protagonist. She’s grounded, ambitious, and her resentment of her father and brother feels earned rather than petulant (though part of me, having seen enough of this dynamic, is waiting for the revelation that she simply doesn’t understand some unseen sacrifice they’re making). She’s set up to be the heir to these special powers as well as the one who’ll save her family, which has the potential for a solid thriller plot.

On the other hand, there were a few background issues that left me feeling a bit uneasy during the episode. While Juri admires her mother and sister (a pleasantly positive portrayal of a single mom), the latter appears only for a brief scene and the former not at all. The bulk of the action centers instead around Juri’s relationships with her male family members: her father, grandfather, brother, and nephew. It feels like a waste to mention these other interesting women and then hurry into Stasis, which basically locks Juri out of interacting with them for the foreseeable future.

An enormous shadowy creature with branches sticking out of its back reaching its arm across the lot behind a building

The ending credits do hint at another important female character we’ll be meeting in the next episode… unfortunately, that same ending sequence makes sure that we get to see lots of images of both the unknown woman and Juri in varying states of undress. It’s a sour final note after the premiere itself was pleasantly free of fanservice. It’s still too early to know whether that leering eye will pervade later episodes or if this is just the production house trying to meet a fanservice quota outside of the actual content, but combined with the small number of female characters it definitely put me on guard. Here’s hoping the show’s story befits the interesting women it’s introduced.

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