On September 22nd, Netflix debuted Neo Yokio, a new anime that was supposed to break barriers. But instead it left viewers feeling like they were coming up short.
The show in theory sounds amazing. A rockstar (Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend) and a well know existential celebrity (Jaden Smith) decided to create an anime. And it is anime that would cross borders; “It’s a Japanese-American coproduction. British and European producers are a growing presence in American TV; Asian, not so much.” And it has some recognizable voices, like Susan Sarandon and Jude Law. On top of this the premise seemed like a solid premise. Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith) is a famous demon hunter, and magistocrat. Meaning he is of the wealthy class but looked down upon for his powers. He also has robot butler. The setting is a futuristic New York where half of the city is underwater and it seems to be a poor vs the rich scenario.
But show fails to highlight a lot of pieces.
First let’s talk about the obvious flaws. Jaden Smith’s voice acting could have been a little more enthusiastic. His dialogue almost comes across like his tweets. “The dialogue is stilted, and Jaden Smith sounds dead inside. If Kaz isn’t whining, he’s going on in a monotone voice about how it sucks that he’s rich. He stands out in the star-studded cast of characters, most of whom are more expressive” The show focuses on Kaz’s lost love and his need to be number one in society instead of any demon hunting. There could have been a good mixture of Kaz’s personality and action, or Koenig could have ran with the satire point of view; but none of these happen.
When the dialogue isn’t falling flat, Kaz and friends are throwing pretentious references around, attempting to make the characters seem like they have personality. But most of the time the characters are more concerned with appearances and shopping sprees; even the demons will only possess high end clothing.
“its insistence on attempting to apply the language and theories of progressive thought in a careless and slapdash manner. It wants to make audiences really think, man, but instead wallows in a sea of superficiality, shallowness, and aesthetics that the creators can’t quite bring themselves to let go of, despite their moves towards interrogation.”
So here is what Neo Yokio should have addressed.
Kaz Kaan is a person of color. He exists in a society of wealthy people and yet no one seems to comment that for a person of color there is no tension. Koenig could have definitely played into events of today. Instead of having Kaan worry about being most eligible bachelor, he could have been worrying about to fit in as a person of color and outsider. Or even reproduced events of today; like people of color being mistreated or the recent riots, and had an actual story line.
“Neither of us are really qualified to get too deep into the series’ approach to race, but the show does definitely choose to have an oppressed fantasy underclass rather than dealing with issues even tangentially related to real-world racism.”
Another problem is the depthless female characters; like the Taylor Swift-esque Sailor Pellegrino, who is just a country bumpkin. Or Kaz’s ex, Cathy, who is just viewed as this object instead of a person. Or Helena, who could have had a lot more commentary on the divide in Neo Yokio and given an actual chance.
If given a second season; even though ratings are bleak, hopefully the show can get a little more realistic.
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