The Fable – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser April 7, 20240 Comments
Akira poking his forehead with his eyes crossed while Yuko looks done with his shit

Content Warning: gun violence

What’s it about? The freelance hitman feared throughout the underworld as “The Fable” is a genius at killing, and ready to kill for whoever will pay. But that philosophy has made him plenty of enemies, and so he and his assistant have orders to lie low in Osaka for a year as the Sato siblings, Akira and Yoko. Their boss sends them off with 50 million yen and a warning: if “Akira” kills anyone in the next year, his own neck will be on the chopping block.

This season is proving to be a strange one as far as licensing drama. Crunchyroll’s all-consuming monopoly still has a tight grip on the market, which meant last season it could do things like take so long to finalize the agreement on Brave Bang Bravern! that international markets didn’t get it until the second episode was out. HiDive is still hanging in there, and Amazon has shown its godforsaken face for the first time since the implosion of Anime Strike. At least one show per season has gone totally ignored for the past several rounds of premieres (this time around it unfortunately seems to be the intriguing looking GIRLS BAND CRY), and then… there’s the Disney Hole.

Spare a moment of silence for The Fable, readers at home. It’s not the worst show I’ve ever seen, but it has about zero chance of clawing its way out of obscurity with Disney’s absolute refusal to market any of the seasonal titles it picks up. Unless the casual young anime viewer has been secretly champing at the bit for tongue-in-cheek deadpan homage to the aesthetics of 70s hitman manga.

Akira pulling a mask over his face

For those unmoved by the resurgence of pretty-boy punks with 24 karat cores, The Fable offers a different sort of nostalgia: for the days of dangerous men with ugly mugs and emotions so constipated that no dose of therapeutic Ex-Lax could relieve them. But it does so with a bit of a wink, putting its murderous little fish in the dry land of civilian life.

What does that look like? Well…brown, mostly. The manga this is based on came out during what seems to have been a wave of yakuza comedies in the 2010s, but it takes a much more dialed-back approach than Hinamatsuri or The Way of the House Husband. Those titles both revel in absurd sight gags and bright colors, zipping along energetically but backed by an endearing cast.

I can respect, in theory, that The Fable seems to want to go for a drier sense of humor. It tries to draw heavily on the contrast of Akira’s rough sensibility and his tendency toward doing unexpectedly stupid shit, like screwing up his face to trigger his impeccably learnt Kansai dialect or laughing at a late night comedian right after finishing a hit.

All of which would be fine—not every series needs Majima Everywhere—if it weren’t so soul-crushingly dull to look at. A huge chunk of this episode takes place at night and most of the scenes involve sitting around and talking, which requires inspired direction to make into something engaging.  What The Fable has is talking heads and barely animated fight scenes; the show barely moves at all. It has a few decent moments of face game that really lean into putty-like distortion, and the best scenes all center around Akira’s banter with his beleaguered assistant turned “sister” (and only female character on the apparent horizon), Yuko.

Akira handing Yuko his gun and telling her to put it in the microwave
Don’t worry, they completely squander the potential of this joke

I find myself a little torn on Yuko. She’s got a neat backstory as an orphan who was adopted into the yakuza at a young age and taught a variety of unnamed skills by the boss himself, and as mentioned she’s the source of what levity the script manages to scare up. But her role is also set up to be the nagging responsible woman who cleans up after the male protagonist’s mess, and she has to spend a lot of time quietly doing what the dudes in the room tell her to before we get to hear any of that good banter. It could be she’ll turn out to be just as much of a very-specifically-competent idiot as Akira, which could be a lot of fun. But even that wouldn’t tempt me back, because I am in no way pining for the days of Golgo 13, and this just isn’t fun.

Takahashi Ryousuke’s shown himself capable of getting laughs with limited resources before, as the chief director of the fantastic-until-the-finish-line Muteking the Dancing Hero. But it absolutely doesn’t translate here. First time series composer Takashima Yuya also seems ill-equipped, even with the more experienced Morita Mayumi helping on scripts. It’s just leaden from look to sound, save for an ending with pretty solid flow—at least enough to wash Re:Monster’s auditory nightmare from my ears. I don’t not recommend it, but it’s hard to suggest going out of your way for, and unfortunately that’s probably all it’ll take to bury it.

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