Tokyo ESP is something that I’ve always thought sounded cool on paper, so much so I bought the first manga release, but neither the manga or anime could keep my attention.
I still stand by that the concept is cool but the way that Tokyo ESP handles it feels very poor. Tokyo ESP follows Rinka, a poor high school girl who lives with her father, as she comes into contact with a flying penguin and flying fish that give her the ability to phase through solid objects. Well, the penguin and fish part never sounded cool, and the thing about people gaining superpowers has always interested me, but Tokyo ESP falls over its own feet by trying to stand out with wacky, over the top elements that take the edge off of the show completely – it’s hard to take anything seriously when there’s a flying penguin and a panda teaching people how to use swords, and it feels out of place with how Tokyo ESP seemingly tries to tell a serious tale.
Unlike the manga, Tokyo ESP manages to give a lot away in the first episode as the events of that episode, and this is made very clear, happen after most of the events in the anime. Yes, antagonists are revealed to be on the side of good, notable people are missing, the state of the world has changed – and why? It’s a good episode, but it goes against the other episodes as we already know much of what is going to happen already. It makes it a less engrossing watch when you know much of the end goal, and whilst there are some tender and sweet moments in the series, it struggle to find what tone it wants to present and what exactly it wants to do with itself – it jumps around without ever settling and ever finding a comfortable place.
I enjoyed Tokyo ESP visually although I didn’t have high hopes for it because, when you’ve watched Triage X which is also by studio Xebec, it’s easy to think that they’re not trusted with good IP. The character design in Tokyo ESP is pretty good, and I especially like Rinka’s design, and the OP is an explosion of colour. Tokyo (it’s set in Tokyo, unsurprisingly) acts as a nice backdrop to the action and there are plenty of supernatural elements such as when a fight takes place on a floating ship high in the sky.
There is plenty of action and a bit of fan-service and whilst these are fine on their own, I feel that they don’t mesh together well and make for a jarring experience where Xebec, and the author, tried to fit in too much and didn’t dedicate much time to any single aspect. I didn’t expect there to be much blood but there are people being slashed with blood spurting out that took me by surprise – it isn’t visceral by any means and there isn’t plenty of it throughout the series, but again, I thought this clashed with the multiple tones of the series once again.
Other than the upbeat and catchy OP and ED, the music didn’t leave a lasting impact on me and neither did the English dub. Neither are bad, but neither aspect was outstanding either. I’m not familiar with almost any of the voice talent in Tokyo ESP with Sarah Wiedenheft and Bryan Massey giving convincing portrayals of Rinka and her father Rindou respectively, but I never really felt Adam Dahlberg in the role of Kyotaro, the male lead of the series. It’s hit or miss but, of course, you can watch Tokyo ESP in Japanese with English subs if you prefer.
Tokyo ESP is rather disappointing as an end product, and it seems that it’s unlikely to get a second season despite the manga being on-going. It’s a great concept but the execution focuses too much on being outlandish despite the premise being pretty simple, and the end result is a clash of tones, an unengaging story and characters that waver from being interesting to being one-dimensional. I can’t say I had a lot of fun with it and it’s a hard recommendation, but I’m sure there’s a market for it with people who’ll enjoy it a lot, but sadly I’m not one of those people.
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