Kokkoku (Amazon) is one of the better shows of the 2018 Winter anime season. It’s Sci-Fi thriller that’s a bit on the gritty and violent side (though with a happy ending).
The series has a rather “American” feel, probably because of the way it centers on a fairly dysfunctional family. Dysfunctional families certainly do occur in Japanese television but the dysfunction tends to be treated either as a problem that must be fixed or a source of tragedy. American shows tend to regard such dysfunction as a source of comedy.
Juri Yukawa is the main character, a recent graduate who is desperate to find a respectable office job. She worries that her working-class background and mannerisms will make that difficult.
Juri’s older sister Sanae is a single mother struggling to support herself with temp work. Juri respects her but wants a better life for herself.
Juri’s father Takafumi Yukawa is a slovenly unemployed man filled with unfocused resentment. He’s convinced that life has given him a bad deal, though he’s not quite sure how.
Juri’s Grandfather (referred to only as jii-chan or Jii-san) is a gruff taciturn man, smarter than he looks. He guards a secret, passed down from his ancestors, which he has not shared with the younger family members.
Sanae’s son Makoto is a cheerful energetic boy and the family’s idol. He’s probably the main thing holding the family together.
Juri’s older brother Tsubasa is a NEET whose main occupation is playing video games.
Seemingly without a good reason, Makoto and Tsubasa are suddenly kidnapped. The kidnappers demand a ransom that the family cannot afford. This prompts Grandfather to reveal the secret he has guarded so long.
The secret gives him the ability to enter “Stasis”, a state in which the rest of the world appears to be time-stopped. Other people and objects will appear to be frozen, but you can move people around or take their stuff. Obviously this has tremendous potential for abuse, which is why he has kept it a secret.
Stasis has dangers of its own, including strange monsters and the ever-present risk of insanity.
But Grandfather is now desperate enough to make use of it. He brings Juri and Takafumi into Stasis with him, intending to find Makoto and Tsubasa and remove them from the kidnappers. However by doing this he is walking into a trap.
Junji Sagawa, the utterly ruthless leader of a religious cult called the Genuine Love Society, has been plotting to take control of Stasis for his own purposes. He hired the thugs who kidnapped Makoto and Tsubasa.
When the Yukawas enter Stasis, Sagawa and his disciples and hired thugs follow them in, intending to seize the “Master Stone” that controls entry.
Shouko Majima has been helping Sagawa research Stasis, but she has an agenda of her own.
I’m quite impressed by quality of the animation, even though I’m pretty sure that it is mostly computer-generated. It doesn’t look anything like the CG animation done by American studios. (The characters don’t look like zombies, nor do they look like puppets.) The artwork has a gritty look like an American comic book but the faces are expressive and the motion is believable.
Frankly I wish that American studios would learn how to do animation like this. It seems well-suited for an American-style action movie and might well be cheaper than the current approach of combining live actors with massive CG overlays.