Anime on Demand
[C] stars Kimimaro, my new favorite contender to take the gold at the “irritating milquetoast main character” event in the 2012 Olympics. Kimimaro attends an economics class at college and works two part time jobs to live a dull, subsistent lifestyle. His goal in life is to become a civil servant and live the most boring life imaginable because he has massive father issues, the kind that the show is eager to remind you of every 5 minutes. All this changes when a terrifying baby-eating clown man appears. I’m not making this last part up, honest.
But this is not just any clown man! This is Masakaki, lord of the clown men and representative of the “Financial District” - a bizarre, featureless skyscraper-filled world just beyond the veil of reality, a place where money is power and people put their lives on the line to fight bizarre Pokemon-esque battles to survive and accrue real-world wealth. Should you be bankrupted here, then the consequences are worse (and stranger) than death, but succeed and you can become richer than your wildest dreams. Kimimaro is drawn into this strange world and made an “Entrepreneur” - essentially a Pokemon trainer with a special credit card that holds Mushu, his “Asset” and partner. Mushu is a surly demon lolita girl and I’m willing to bet there will be figures of her on sale by the end of the month. From here the show explores the strangeness that is the Financial District from the viewpoint of Kimimaro and the other Entrepreneurs. Why does this other world exist? Just how much can it interact with the real world? Will our protagonist grow (or buy) a spine?
The main issue I have with [C] is that it feels downright schizophrenic. The setting and central plot hook item, the Financial District, is poorly set up as the show spreads its exposition out very thinly over many episodes. This makes deciphering what is happening on screen much more difficult than it need be. Many of the plot elements in the show are picked up and dropped again with no notice or impact, while others are thrust in your face to such a degree that you get sick of them. I feel examples are in order for each case. Kimimaro has daddy issues. This plot point is brought up very frequently, and the resolution of this is clearly signposted so when it was concluded I knew exactly how the scene would play out, and tuned out.
On the other end of the spectrum, Kimimaro has an unrequited love. While this is heavily outlined when first introduced, it is only brought up once more before becoming all but invisible thereafter. I thought this was supposed to be a massive motivation for the main character? The show also suffers from a lot of heavyhanded discussion of morality in regards to the Financial District and money in general, which quickly becomes tiresome.
The worst offender of this uneven exposition are the battles themselves, or “Deals” as they are known. Despite watching each episode twice now I still do not have a concrete idea of the rules that govern the combat, simply because the explanation is so fragmented and incomplete. When our spineless protagonist gets into his first Deal he spends the entire time running away and getting his Asset grievously wounded several times in the process, to the extent that it felt exploitative. It doesn't help that Mushu spends the entire fight bitterly complaining and calling Kimimaro an idiot instead of instructing him (and by proxy, the audience) about how the fights are supposed to work. As a result the whole process is as confusing as a Yu-Gi-Oh battle, complete with the magical deus ex machina attack that saves the day at the end.
This inability of the show to focus on any one thing also extends to the art. While the backgrounds generally look nice, especially in the more dynamic moments like the show stages in the Financial District, the characters themselves let the show down badly. With a single exception, all of the male characters look downright ugly - a deadly combination of poor facial proportions and constantly being drawn off model make them quite simply unpleasant to look at. One particular issue that blights most of the cases is that if they are not directly facing the camera their features look out of place - something that gets very irritating in the longer conversations. The show also has an irritating tendency to switch between drawing characters normally and rendering them in 3D CG, a debilitating disease that Mushu suffers from greatly. While not a deal-breaker, it can be very jarring to have a character switch back and forth between the styles. I did mention there is an exception to this - Masakaki. Masakaki is suave as hell and has a truly amazing and outlandish outfit - imagine the Johnny Depp version of Willy Wonka, only twenty times more intense in both personality and looks and you’ll have something close to how crazy and awesome this character is. Plus he makes little jingles when he moves, and has a badass hat. If I were ever persuaded to cosplay, I would dress as Masakaki.
For all it’s flaws, [C] has a lot to like - the central idea has a lot of promise and if properly developed it could have a very interesting tale to tell. The main worry with this is that the show only has eleven episodes in total and the show will need to move at a much brisker pace than these first three episodes if it wants to tell a meaningful story arc. The show also has a number of interesting visual flourishes - QR codes, the Financial District's architecture, the design of the Assets and more, but these are also victim of the schizophrenic presentation and they barely get time to appear on screen. One thing I can praise without qualifier is that the background music, in particular the more downbeat and ponderous tracks, is very good.
[C] is a frustrating show to watch. It has an interesting premise wrapped up inside a smothering layer of poor presentation of such an egregious nature that I was always one step away from turning it off. If the show were to pull its socks up in the next two episodes I could see it paying off in a big way, otherwise it could quite easily become nothing more than a mediocre show with only a single kick-ass character to show for itself.
You can currently watch C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control in streaming form via Anime on Demand.