The 2015 seasonal lineup have given rise to several shows surrounding superheroes and their antics. From the well-known juggernauts like One Punch Man, to the more paradoxical ones like Punch Line; superhero stories seem to be on an all time rise, which can be a direct respondent to the recent boom for superhero films surging in the west. With the success of The Avengers, currently one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, and Marvel's ever-expanding cinematic universe, as well as DC Comics, who has also thrown their hats into the ring to follow the trend, this phase isn't expected to die down anytime soon.
Japan has always been influenced by the actions of big brother, and this is now being reflected in the world of anime, with the introduction of shows like 2013's Gatchaman Crowds and Samurai Flamenco, all the way up to what's being produced today. And like studio Bones's other 2015 show Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront), which explored this idea in a less common way, they once again take that approach with Concrete Revolutio: exploring the inner workings of the would-be organizations that would form if superheroes truly exist. Similar in structure to the governing bodies found in movies such as The Incredibles and Men In Black, Concrete Revolutio focuses on the political maneuvering and policies that such an organization like that would have to navigate when dealing with "superhumans". The biggest difference from those movies, however, is the creative liberty that Concrete takes to toss in every supernatural entity in consumable media under the same umbrella, which results in the biggest supernatural orgy placed in a TV series format since the likes of X-Files and Once Upon A Time.
Before we dive further into this review, I feel like it's absolutely essential to give a bit of context about studio Bones and their infamous reputation when it comes to dealing with plots in supernatural premise anime. Bones and proper writing meshes as effectively as oil and water. If there isn't a pre-written guideline to follow (and sometimes even that isn't enough), studio Bones can almost guarantee to write themselves into a corner, with convoluted narrative choices and contrived plotting. When it comes to visuals and auditory choices, they are often leagues ahead of the pack, but the moment it's time to work on the script, they're as proficient as a group of monkeys on a typewriter. Darker Than Black season 2, Eureka Seven AO, and recent entry Kekkai Sensen, are just the tip of the iceberg when discussing Bones's infamous track record.
So as a forewarning, when you sit down to watch a Bones anime, good visuals are almost always pre-packaged with it, but unfortunately, the chances of a coherent narrative to accompany those visuals are as likely as a coin toss.
Now let's make this clear, Concrete Revolutio isn't really "badly" written, just badly organized. Following the plot is somewhat manageable if you dig deep and pay attention to minute details, like setting changes and timeline placement. And as to be expected, the visuals were great, as they tend to be with the content the studio creates. But when it came to that coin toss on whether or not we would receive a coherent narrative, this is yet another Bones production that reinforces their standing as the ADHD studio. There may be a huge influx of superhero titles being produced in recent years, but none can boast the same kind of headache inducing clusterfuck narrative set forth by Concrete Revolutio.
The story takes place during several timeline events that's intermingled into one overarching narrative. The first timeline that's introduced is the personal journey and eventual turncoat direction taken by Jirou Hitoyoshi, the show's protagonist, and window into the world of Concrete Revolutio. The other major storyline is dedicated to the macroeconomics and real world implementation of superhumans, coinciding with the organizations that would be created as a direct result of their presence. What brings both stories together is our protagonist himself, who is an agent that works for the 'Superhuman Bureau', which is one of the biggest governing bodies that oversee the handling of superhumans; may that be by suppressing those that they deem "dangerous", or using them as tools to further their agenda.
What Concrete Revolutio deserves credit for is tackling the subject matter with some level of sobering realism. It's not often that we get a superhero story that bothers to explore the inner-workings of the politics and regiments needed to make such a world function. With shows like One Punch Man that only generally discuss the ideas of a superhero organization, or Samurai Flamenco that does so intermittently between arcs, Revolutio goes the extra mile by making the idea a primary focus, and scratches an itch that some viewers didn't even know they had for such a topic, to begin with. It was an interesting idea that blended the surreal world of comic book lore, with that of actual political maneuvering.
But that's where the praise ends. Despite this intriguing premise, Concrete's plotting is nothing short of... mind-numbingly bad. Everything that it had going for it, from the retro comic-book inspired art-style, to the interesting storyline, is made null and void by Bones's inability to craft a coherent narrative. And this isn't to say an interwoven narrative about supernatural beings told in different timelines can't be done (anime titles such as Baccano and Durarara can attest to that). This is just another case of Bones being 'Bones', which is a shame since the potential for something good was there. Like I already said, if you pay enough attention you can piece the puzzle that is this narrative, but even when you do so, the resulting picture is as warped as anything laid down by Pablo Picasso.
If you do decide to watch this anime, do so with the understanding that the story presented to you will be an utter mess. Not a bad story, I can't emphasize that enough, but simply a messy one.
With that out of the way, let's discuss something that studio Bones do demonstrate competency in, and that's their visuals. As briefly mentioned, the show has a very nice art direction. Drawing inspiration from western comic-book panel work, we get a vivid depiction of the show's universe. With lots of saturated wall-to-wall color, stippling (halftone) effects, pop art illustrations and other key elements used, this show is great eye-candy. If you're a comic-book enthusiast or simply looking for a visual treat, this title should be on your radar, for it is nothing short of excellent in the art department.
Following suit, we're also given a soundtrack that upholds the feeling found with superhero stories. With uplifting synthpop numbers, post-modern rock undertones, and quirky ambient sound-bites to help set the mood. It did a decent job in keeping in tempo with the actions being demonstrated on-screen. Despite no real musical cues really standing out, or any moment where I can say the soundtrack ever went above and beyond what's expected of it, It was still a cut above average, not impressive but still serviceable.
Like the world the story takes place in, the characters are equally vibrant in personality and outward appearance. And if you could recall, I mention that the show included every fictional supernatural being in its universe, which led to quite a diverse lineup. While not as memorable individually, as a whole the characters introduced were expansive enough to keep things interesting. You never know what you'll get at any given episode. One minute we're following intergalactic sentient beings, and the next we're given magical girls from another dimension. It's hard to pinpoint or even describe the cast in any detail, when I said "the biggest supernatural orgy", I really do mean that.
The biggest problem with the characters come from the main cast that we follow on a daily basis. They're not bad, but at the same time, they're just not that interesting. These are characters who's definitive personality traits are only as interesting as their superpowers. They're better defined by what they can do than who they are. Because of this, they're not people most viewers would find intriguing. They're mostly there to carry the plot along, rather than anyone that you'll want to personally invest in.
All in all, the cast was fun but wasn't really anything beyond that.
The premise and art style is what ultimately got me through this show. I never thought I would find the inner-workings of a superhero universe to be so interesting. But as far as enjoyment is concerned, Revolutio really fell short, thanks in no small part to the horribly executed plot.
Concrete Revolutio is a show that I hesitate to suggest trying out without mentioning a few precursors. This anime is NOT easy to follow, even for the more astute of viewers out there, nor is it rewarding as a story when it is all said and done. But if the idea of politics being incorporated into a superhero universe seems intriguing to you, then I say proceed with caution. Visually the show keeps up the track record of Bones's other works, but it sadly does nothing in improving their standing in the sloppy plotting department. Concrete Revolutio may not live up to its potential, but it's still something that contains some inherent value.