What’s it about? Inui Juuzo is a relic from another age, modified during the Great War to be a literal weapon. Since the war, society has restructured itself under the Berühren Corporation. Those who take its offers of body modification are known as “Extended.” Juuzo’s aimless days are changed forever when he meets the runaway subject of Berühren’s more sinister, secret experiments.
It says a lot about this premiere that it took a protagonist who I’ve been persistently calling MANGUNHEAD since seeing the show’s promo art and got me to take him at least a little bit seriously by the time the credits rolled. While the writing could stand to take itself a little less seriously, this is a surprisingly good throwback to 2000s-era mashups of noir and cyberpunk.
Like Juuzo himself, most of the story beats here feel out of their time. The city is lit in oppressive greys and blacks with garish neon signs and cherry-glow cigarette ash. The populace is divided into hapless victims chewed up by the rough streets, violent criminals, and the one gruff-but-dependable guy who won’t stop narrating to the camera.
Standard stuff, but the novelty of it after a long absence blends well with solid execution. It helps that this is a Madhouse production, so the brief snippets of action have plenty of flair.
It helps that Juuzo is actually likable. He’s not particularly a creep, though we get some blushing reaction shots whenever boobs are in frame, and the writers haven’t interpreted “gruff” to mean “snide and condescending asshole to everyone around him because he’s the toughest guy in the room,” a pitfall faced by many an overpowered isekai protagonist.
He’s Aloof and Damaged and the thrust of the story will clearly be about developing a found family. The episode shines strongest in the moments when Juuzo begins to bond with the runaway he’s ended up protecting, and it’s an oddball friendship I’d like to watch develop. There’s also the fact that Juuzo’s young charge has had his tendons and vocal cords cut and feels trapped in his own body, though it’s unclear whether those are temporary injuries or whether the show is looking to explore a disability narrative.
The show’s handling of women seems on the shakier side. Only two appear in this episode: a bartender with a crush on Juuzo and a hired mercenary with a case of severe underboob (that has to be dangerous for her line of work). The opening credits promise at least three other prominent female cast members, but also a bucket more fanservice to go with them.
We also briefly see Juuzo’s landlady, a trans woman who has a “buff with stubble”-type design. She seems to be a heroic or at least neutral character, but it’s an irritating stereotype anime can’t seem to let go of even when it thinks it’s being sympathetic.
Still, there are just enough hints of levity on display here that it might come through with a heart underneath its tough Manly Man bluster. If you’re looking for dark action that isn’t completely misanthropic, this might be one to keep an eye on.
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