An anime about economics, philosophical discourse and intellectual adolescence, accompanied by a diverse and interesting cast, demonic familiars, cool fights, cute demon girls and even a bishounen character; it’s a dream come true for me. But, Tatsunoko Productions, if you’re going to use mind reading to get ideas for your anime, read a smarter mind next time. Or maybe just read some Sartre. Today on The Anime Harvest, I’ll be reviewing [C]: Control – The Money of Soul and Possibility.
Kimimaro Yoga, our protagonist, is an economics student in a Japanese university. Living alone and covering all his own expenses, he takes a lot of pride in being self sufficient, even if it means he has to work two part-time jobs and still be dirt poor. And while he pretends to just take pride in an honest days work, when an opportunity knocks at his door, he starts to fall for
Benjamin Franklin’s Fukuzawa Yukichi’s charms.
Between worrying about work and school, Kimimaro finds that he’s not as self-sufficient as he likes to believe, as he forgets about a test and his classmate, Hanabi, has to lend him her notes. Later that night, a Joker-impersonator shows up at his door, and introduces himself as Masakaki, a representative of The Bank of Midas, from the Financial District. He makes Kimimaro an offer; an enticing loan of what’s called “Midas Money” and the opportunity to invest it, in exchange for his future as collateral.
Kimimaro soon finds himself wrapped up in the deals in the Financial District, a place where ‘Entrepreneurs’, aided by their ‘Assets’, fight and ‘Invest’ for profit. Each Entre gets an Asset, a demonic familiar who represents their future, and to win fights they must effectively invest their money on different types of attacks. When an Entre goes bankrupt, the Bank of Midas takes their future as collateral, though it’s never clear just what the bank will take.
Assisted by his own Asset, Mshyu, Kimimaro tries to understand how the Financial District and Midas Money affects the real world, what his future is, and whether it’s worth sacrificing for the payoff now. Meanwhile, other powerful economic and human forces are at work, changing both worlds.
Simply put, this setup is cool. There’s a lot of different ways the show could go with it, and they chose the best one, focusing on three main things; Kimimaro’s personal development of his views and relationships; the philosophical dilemma of choosing between protecting the future and preserving the present; and the economic reality that is, everything thing’s a confusing mess and we have no idea when it will fall apart.
Kimimaro himself is of the most relatable and likeable characters I’ve seen in a while. With the market for main characters polarized to either cool but two-dimensional shounen heroes, or whiny Shinji Ikari repeats, Kimimaro manages to be a bit of both. He’s self-conscious and unsure enough to be sympathetic and human (especially being 19 years old, and in the process of building an adult’s perspective on the world), yet active and foolish enough to be interesting to watch. His trying to get involved in a world he’s still trying to understand gives the best perspective on this show, which revolves heavily around opposing view points with no clear right or wrong, and his relationships with the other characters contribute to this.
There are two types of characters in C, those who affect Kimimaro’s views and values emotionally, and those who do so intellectually or philosophically. Those who affect him emotionally tend to get less attention, because they themselves are not important to the story, just how Kimimaro feels about them. Among these characters are the aforementioned Hanabi, whom Kimimaro has a crush on but she’s not available to him, Daisuke Ebara, one of Kimimaro’s professors and a fellow Entre who built his life on Midas Money, Shimada, Kimimaro’s aging co-worker who could never afford to build himself any life at all, and Myshu.
Myshu, being the literal manifestation of Kimimaro’s future in the form of a young girl with demonic horns, has a lot of pull, and she’s the only one of these characters that’s not important purely because of Kimimaro feelings towards her. Though she is technically his property as an Asset, and is only really interested in serving as such at first, over the course of the show she becomes independently interested in things other than winning fights, and even argues with Kimimaro. She’s no Vash the Stampede, but she gets enough characterization.
The more interesting cast is on the philosophic side; three Entres that are more involved in the story, and between them the real conflict exists yet none of them are really villains. They’re all trying to do what’s best for Japan (and in true Japanese spirit, none of them care about the rest of the world), but have very different views on what that is.
First, Rou Sennoza is one of the most successful Entres in the Financial District, but prefers to avoid it as much as possible, using his Midas Money for charity in the real world, particularly for children. He thinks deals in the financial district are bad for the world, as they inevitably cost the future, and tells Kimimaro that today means nothing if there’s no tomorrow. Despite his sympathies, he’s very laid back, and takes the consequences of deals stoically. Also, he looks like L from Deathnote, so I’m not sure if it’s possible for my to not love him.
In opposition to Rou is Souichirou Mikuni, another successful Entre who dislikes the reality of the Financial District, but thinks it can be tamed. He works within it to minimize any harm, and possessing three Assets, plenty of Midas Money, and great skill in deals, he’s managed to make that mostly true. He’s much more concerned with the present, often saying that we can’t worry about the future when the present’s at risk.
Finally there’s Jennifer Sato, who works for the International Monetary Fund. World leaders have become aware of the Financial District and it’s affect on the real world, but Sato is one of few actual Entres they have who can visit it. Her job is to simply observe and report the goings on inside the Financial District, but she’s frustrated by the IMF’s lack of action regarding it, especially as its real world affects are obvious to her.
Kimimaro is in the position to choose which side he agrees with, and this particular subject matter compliments that perfectly. Most people have figured out whether they’re liberal or conservative, but not many have any idea whether they’re Keynesian or Monetarist. Most people have chosen between Ayn Rand and Robin Hood, but not between Yuki Nagato and Haruhi Suzumiya (Kyon’s choice in tDoHS). Because of this less polarizing dichotomy, the viewer isn’t distracted by their strong opinions, and can empathise with Kimimaro.
Clearly, [C] gives itself a lot to work with, and though it does a lot with it, I wish it could have done more. With only eleven episodes, a lot of deeper topics, especially the economic ones, were only briefly covered then left behind. Personally, I wish the show had a longer runtime of around fifteen episodes, and used the extra time for educational dialogue, similar to Spice and Wolf. Though this is a shounen, and I’m probably in the minority on this point.
On the technical side, C is rather refreshing. There are two main animation styles, one for the normal world and one for the Financial District. These aren’t completely distinct like in Black Rock Shooter; they just have different pallets and different amounts of CG. The outside world’s pallet it very plain and realistic, with a lot of very gentle lighting that makes certain scenes look very nice. Whereas the Financial District is primarily blood red and bone white, which would get old, but the variety of settings and camera angles keep it fresh. Neither style is very original but they look good, and because the show switches often they never feel dull. As for the character designs, they’re varied, but mostly realist, which I like.
There is, however, one small but grating problem with the animation. While most of the computer generated animation used in the show looks fine and doesn’t intrude where it should, why is Masakaki is animated like a RWBY character? And it’s not just him, Mshyu is animated like that occasionally too, which is a bit more annoying, considering that most of the time she looks fine (quite fine indeed J). This is a studio with over half a century -52 years come October- behind it, contributing to Akira, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Martin Mystery (yeah, who else remembers that?) and Karas. Karas! It just baffles me that this was an issue, but it really is minor.
As for sound, it’s pretty good. Some voices take the first couple episodes to settle into their characters but otherwise are very good; also, Michael Tatum has a big role, and he sounds like a sexier Crispin Freeman. The OST does its job well, having an impressive variety of very ambient tracks, though lacks anything that really stands out. It carries you through the show smoothly, but is also the first thing you’ll forget, with the exception of the opening theme, which is pretty cool.
[C]-Control does a lot very right, and only a few things wrong. It’s substantive while exciting, and is a pleasure to watch the whole way through. People looking for a popcorn show will enjoy the action and shounen elements, though will get a little bored from time to time; and those looking for an anime to think about will be engrossed in the story and themes, through feel a little let down by the ending. It’s an imperfect but interesting aeries, and is worth checking out, at least the first few episodes, which, at the time of this review, it is available for free, legal streaming, dubbed or subbed, on Funimation.com.