Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Kokkoku

Original Run: January 7, 2018 - March 25, 2018
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Based on the Series Created By: Seita Horio

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Kokkoku. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Juri Yukawa (voiced by Chika Anzai) is from your typical family. Although the Yukawas have seen better days, they at least have each other. That is why it is all the more frightening when two members of the Yukawa family are kidnapped.

The culprits demand the Yukawa’s deliver an unreasonable amount of money in an even more absurd amount of time. Juri, not knowing what else to do, decides to go after the kidnappers herself. But before she can do anything rash, Juri’s grandfather (voiced by Kazuhiro Yamaji) tells Juri there is a way they can save their family.

Unbeknownst to most of the Yukawa’s, Juri included, their family has held the secret of stopping time in its tracks. In this most desperate of circumstances, Juri and her family choose to enter the mysterious world of the Stasis.

Unfortunately, the Yukawas have just fallen into an elaborate trap.

A fringe religious cult known as the Genuine Love Society knows about the Stasis and that the Yukawa’s are the key to its secrets.

Juri and her family are now in a fight for their lives in a place where time no longer exists.

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Series Positives

I enjoyed Kokkoku. I enjoyed it a lot. However, I wish I hadn’t. How does that make sense?

Despite the vast amount of stumbles in this series, while I was watching Kokkoku, I found it difficult to focus on the majority of its problems. There was a quality to this show that allowed me to lose myself in its world, and I was able to enjoy what I was seeing – mistakes and all.

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That leads me to ask, if a story manages to suck you into its narrative, isn’t that the point? If you don’t notice or are okay with ignoring any problems and you become engaged with what is going on, do those problems really exist?

The answer to that question: of course, they do.

Most of this show’s issues only revealed themselves to be issues once everything was done. That said, I want to put extra special emphasis on the word “most.”

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The moment Kokkoku ended, I knew this wasn’t going to be a fun series to review. I have a lot of stuff I can say about this show – both positively and negatively. If this review had come out only a few months prior during my long-winded phase, this would have been one of the longest reviews in the Anime Hajime catalog.

There were many things I liked about Kokkoku. This series played with a ton of fascinating ideas, and it managed to effectively execute on a good number of those ideas.

Although I’m hesitant to place Kokkoku within the horror genre, it managed to be a solid mystery story at times, and an even better thriller at others. In fact, this show was so skilled at crafting a thick layer of intrigue and suspense, it created a shield that brushed off the kind of hiccups that would have left lesser series gasping for breath.

But as any guy will tell you, it doesn’t matter how healthy you are, one shot square to the nuts is more than enough to knock the wind out of your system.

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Kokkoku needed to be as good as it was, otherwise it would not have come out of this fight standing. As it is, though, this series left the ring shaking at the knees and was one small finger flick away from going down.

But that is a discussion for later because when Kokkoku got it right, my god did it get it right.

The setting of this series was one I’m shocked more shows haven’t done. We’ve all seen our fair share of time travel stories. However, and maybe it’s just me, the ability to stop time is a lot more thought-provoking. On the surface, being able to explore the frozen world of the Stasis seems pretty cut and dry when compared to fiddling with the past.

But if you want to go down a rabbit hole, really think about what’s going on when time does not exist.

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Picture two people: you and a time stopper. The instant, and I mean the very instant the time stopper stops time, you snap your fingers. In the blink-of-an-eye it took you to perform the act of snapping your fingers, how many moments went by?

For the sake of argument, let’s assume time works like a film reel, and in our film reel, one millisecond equals one still frame. With the crudest set up ever, the fastest I was able to snap my fingers was about 25 milliseconds. Using that as our number, in the span between the time stopper stopping time and you snapping your fingers, you created twenty-five infinite worlds of the Stasis.

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The time stopper could spend a few seconds, a day, a week, a year, a decade, or even an entire eternity in that first Stasis, and not only would you be utterly oblivious to it, but enough time would have passed to do it all again twenty-four more times.

This is only scratching the surface of how messed up the idea of time stoppage is. Kokkoku, despite it not being a full-blown horror story, used this concept in a way that was terrifying. And it was brilliant.

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Another aspect that worked in Kokkoku’s favor was its art style. Along with this series being substantially interesting, it was also visually interesting.

There weren’t many, if any, breathtaking moments of animation. There was nothing I would describe as awe-inspiring. However, the first time we saw what this series had been describing as the Handlers, that was a pretty neat scene. Nevertheless, this show was at its best when it wasn’t focusing on the creatures of the Stasis.

One of the things you will notice right away is the incredible amount of CGI that’s in Kokkoku. There’s no getting around how awkward and unnatural this looked in parts. But since this was such an unnatural world with unnatural circumstances, the blatant use of CGI helped add to the dreary atmosphere of this series.

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All throughout Kokkoku, there was a sense of isolation. Using the setting of the Stasis, as well as choosing to stop time during sunset, this story’s world appeared very apocalyptic. For all intents and purposes, there was no longer any civil order — no rule of law. Society ceased to exist.

The unnerving part of this was, society was actually running fine. Everything was just stuck in a screenshot of time. This show created a sense of pure desolation in the middle of a thriving civilization.

Along with this, the struggle between the Yukawa family, who represented survival, and the Genuine Love Society, who represented hostility, got brutal.

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There was a handful of, let’s go ahead and call them, “fight scenes” in this series.

Kokkoku was not an action based anime. Therefore, the face-offs between the Yukawas and the Genuine Love Society didn’t employ any over the top moves; there weren’t grandiose clashes. Although, there was one part of Kokkoku that kind of got like that.

The Yukawas weren’t warriors — they were people. They were just like any typical family; they didn’t have any experience on how to fend off a group of fanatics. That’s why the majority of this series’ fights were hauntingly simple – kill or be killed.

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There was a part in this show where one of the Society’s goons had Juri Yukawa by the throat. This person had no qualms about taking a life, and thus, he wasn’t trying to restrain Juri. He was trying to strangle her, and he was succeeding. There wasn’t any fanfare to this scene. There was only a person squeezing the life out of someone who was struggling with all their might to fight back.

This was a little uncomfortable to watch.

However, this was nothing compared to when Juri’s brother, Tsubasa Yukawa (voiced by Hirofumi Nojima), had to fight off one of the Society’s disciples. With Juri, she was at a massive disadvantage since she was against a hired killer. Tsubasa, on the other hand, had to face off with an average guy. The issue was, this “average guy” was a staunch believer in the Society’s teachings and was not willing to negotiate.

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As you might expect from a duel to the death between two inexperienced fighters, things got ugly fast.

With its premise and its animation, Kokkoku was all set to go, and go it did. This story, from very early on, had me locked. And sure, the narrative and the visuals played a role in gluing me to the screen. But there was one element to this show that made my viewing a blast, for the most part.

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The Characters

Before getting into the characters that I liked the most, I have to point out how the actual make-up of Kokkoku’s cast was impressive in its own right. And this was thanks to the Yukawa family.

I’m having trouble thinking of another anime where four generations weren’t just in the same story, they all played a significant role in said story. If you can believe it, Kokkoku was a family tale.

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This gave the Yukawas an instant motivation to want to fight their hardest against the Genuine Love Society. Had any one of them only needed to look after themselves or, at most, one other person, I imagine there would have been a lot more reservation while determining when and where to counter-attack. But since multiple members of their family were in danger, the Yukawas didn’t have the luxury to be cautious.

Moreover, one of the Genuine Love Society’s most ardent teachings was nothing more than slander against the Yukawa name. To the Society, the Yukawas were irresponsible with the power to stop time. This was beyond unfair since most of the Yukawas were unaware they had this ability, and the one who did, Grandpa Yukawa, I would argue, was very responsible with this power. He didn’t use the Stasis for corrupt means. Although he could have made his family’s life a lot more comfortable, he didn’t want to become reliant on something he didn’t know all the rules to.

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For the Yukawas, it was a simple to root for them. This was a fight that found them, and if they had gotten the choice, they would have preferred to stay out of it.

As a result of this, it made the villains of this show, the Genuine Love Society, that much more despicable. Within this organization, there was a mix of religious extremism and old-fashioned greed, and Kokkoku used this so the story didn’t need to the waste effort in explaining why this group was trouble. This gave the series the time to explore why the people caught up in the middle were doing the things they were doing.

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Did I like every character in Kokkoku? No. Do I think everyone was essential and added something to this story? No. Did some people piss me off, not because that was their type of character, but because they were just awful? Yes. Am I referring to a single person? Absolutely, and we’ll get there when we get there.

For the time being, though, I want to highlight four specific characters that made this series as fascinating as it was. I’m not going to go into too much detail since one of Kokkoku’s strengths was how it allowed the viewer to piece together this story’s puzzle themselves. I don’t want to take that away.

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The first person is the leader of the Genuine Love Society, Junji Sagawa (voiced by Hozumi Goda). He was a great villain because he was very logical in how he went about doing things. But what was nice about his brand of logic was how it took into account other people not always thinking without emotions. He never once got into a philosophical debate with the Yukawas. Sagawa had his goal, and that was all that mattered to him.

The second person is Shoko Majima (voiced by Asami Seto). It’s not a stretch to imagine that if put in a similar situation, Shoko would have done everything Juri and the Yukawa family did in this show. Shoko had valid animosity, except she also knew what she was doing didn’t put her in the right. She never pretended to be the unsung hero of this story.

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The third person is Grandpa Yukawa. Although he was the Yukawa most familiar with the Stasis, even he didn’t know how it worked entirely. He had enough information to maneuver in this world, but there were plenty of things that surprised him. He had to adapt on the fly with the rest of his family.

When I first saw Grandpa Yukawa, I assumed he was going to turn into a one-time character who did little. I’m glad I was wrong.

And the fourth person is Juri Yukawa. She was awesome, and was, without question, the best thing about Kokkoku.

Juri Yukawa

There are so many things I want to talk about concerning the stuff Juri did in this series. But since I am going to recommend this show, I don’t want to give away spoilers for some of the best bits of Kokkoku. And I already know me admitting that will come back to bite me.

Therefore, the only thing I will say about Juri is, there came a point in Kokkoku where she said, “F-it.” Since the Genuine Love Society was looking for a fight, she turned around and gave them a fight. I know it’s because of Juri I can stand by this show.

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Series Negatives

Kokkoku was littered with plot holes and conveniences. The more I think about what happened in this series, the more things do not make sense.

As I said at the start of this review, many of these problems were easy to ignore. There were few situations where these issues were the main focus of the story. That said, there was one plot hole I noticed the moment it became apparent because it counteracted something this show had been doing well.

I mentioned it earlier, Kokkoku allowed the viewer to discern the rules of the Stasis for themselves. Due to that, it meant it was much more apparent when things didn’t line up.

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For a person to enter the Stasis, they must undergo a ritual that attaches a jellyfish-like creature to their body. Once this occurs, a person is then free to roam around the Stasis as they wish.

Should a person die while in the Stasis, the jellyfish creature would then leave their body. The first two times this happened in Kokkoku, the jellyfish immediately attached itself to a member of the Yukawa bloodline who was frozen in time. So far, so good.

Then when a third person died in the Stasis, nothing happened. Why did nothing happen? Something should have happened since there was at least one other member of the Yukawa bloodline frozen. I was waiting for Kokkoku to bring this person into the story, but it never did.

This went against the rules this series established.

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If you try to tell me this was not how the Stasis worked, you would be doing this show a disservice because the only other alternative was the jellyfish randomly going into a new host. If that were the case, that meant the two random individuals that got a jellyfish after the initial spell just so happened to be members of the Yukawa family.

Then again, dumb conveniences like that would have been nothing new for Kokkoku.

Before I bring up this show’s most egregious fault, let’s talk about Takafumi Yukawa (voiced by Koji Tsujitani), Juri’s deadbeat of a father. What a sack of useless crap this guy was. Why was he even in this show? The only answer I have been able to come up with was him serving as Kokkoku’s biggest source of slapstick humor.

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Do I need to explain why the sentence I just wrote is annoying? Why did this show have so much slapstick? Not only that, why was there always slapstick during the worst times?

There was a scene that had Juri and Grandpa Yukawa struggling with the idea of taking a life. Even though the person in front of these two had hurt their family, they could not bring themselves to become killers. In fact, Kokkoku had been making a point to demonstrate how hard it was for someone to will themselves into triggering the intent to kill. This culminated into a powerful moment between grandfather and granddaughter when they realized they could not cross such a line.

Then with zero warning, in came Big Papa Takafumi, out of freaking nowhere, wielding a sword he went looking for without telling anyone and went, “KATANA,” and stabbed the guy Juri and her grandfather had just taken pity on with not a care in the world.

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And instead of looking horrified, Juri and Grandpa stared at each other and thought, “look at this crazy son of a bitch.”

Why would you do this show? Why ruin this moment? This was a massive mood killer. But the worst part is, this was fine compared to what happened next.

I simply cannot believe what I saw happen in Kokkoku. In all the anime I have reviewed, even in the worst of the worst, I have never seen this. I have watched garbage play out before my eyes, BUT NEVER THIS.

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When this moment hit, I immediately called into question every bit of good that happened in this series. The level of cheapness this show reached for this story to get itself out of the corner it wrote for itself was unacceptable.

Every single fiber of my being wants to dissect what happened. But there are two reasons why I’m stopping myself:

First, this mistake came in episode twelve. Not only that, it came in the last five minutes of episode twelve. Is it even possible for such a short amount of time to completely derail a series that was, up to that point, fantastic? I SURE AS HELL DIDN’T THINK IT WAS.

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Second, I’m incapable of fully explaining the sheer gravity of the sickening bull s@#$ that was this move. You must see it for yourself to understand why this one instance, single-handedly, almost ruined the entirety of Kokkoku.

Remember how I said this wasn’t going to be a fun series to review? And do you recall me mentioning how me recommending this show was going to come back and bite me? For you see, there is a small but loud part of my brain that is telling me I should not recommend Kokkoku.

But there were just too many good things in this show I can’t ignore. Thus, I have a new limit to how much nonsense a series can throw at me and still be enjoyable.

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Final Thoughts

The finish line was right there.

I’m exhausted. I have never been so dejected by a series I really did like. This show had an excellent premise. It had wonderful animation. It had a strong cast of characters, minus one, that was great to follow. And this story had a phenomenal lead in the form of Juri Yukawa.

Sure, there were holes and mistakes throughout this show. But there was more than enough good to make up for those problems.

Then, suddenly, SURPRISE.

Perhaps against my better judgment, I can’t bring myself to recommend skipping Kokkoku.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Kokkoku? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

Post Editor: Onions

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