Review/discussion about: Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou
One of my father’s favorite superheroes is Superman. But, to me, Superman is always one of my least favorite.
He can lift cars. He can literally deflect bullets. He can regenerate by exposing himself to sunlight. But what kills him? A rock. He is boring and, ironically, weak. Lame.
You know what is not lame? Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou. Kryptonite will not be taking down Concrete anytime soon.
The anime world coins Concrete as a split-cour anime. Its first half plays in one season. A season-long break is taken. And then the second, final half plays during the season following the break. It is basically a two-cour anime rather than two, independent seasons since the second half directly continues where the first left off.
The first half to a split-cour is generally meant to create the foundation. Introduce the characters, have some plot, get the audience interested in what it has to offer. The payoff comes in the second half.
Concrete does not resign itself to such simplicity.
The anime is framed in a fascinating way. Rather than the events being played in a continuous fashion, they are scrambled. Episodes take place years and months apart. Often times, the current period jumps back-and-forth within a single episode. Most certainly interesting. But why? Why intentionally make everything difficult to follow?
Before this question can be answered, Concrete’s themes have to first be explored. Three major themes exist. This amount is a lot for an anime to handle, especially a first half to a split-cour. The handling is made harder by their scope: morality, racism, and control.
The first theme, morality, is the most prominent in the anime and arguably the most important. Many events, like Fuurouta killing the bugs in the “Black Fog” or Earth-chan the robot flying around the globe helping people, revolve around a philosophical thought that has stumped men and women forever: What does it mean to be “good” or “evil”?
Is it considered good to take out a civilization bugging others when that same civilization were the first ones to be treated poorly? Can a lie, which is inherently wrong, ever benefit another? The actions of the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are constantly up in the air, questioned by not just the cast but also the audience.
The second theme, racism, starts appearing later on in the season. Racism is certainly not as philosophically challenging – racism is simply discrimination of another based on race (or a similar trait). But it is no doubt just as important.
Concrete has people with superpowers and those without. Sometimes they work together, but, more often than not, they are clashing. Superhumans even clash with other superhumans. One episode focuses on the destruction of a harmless family that literally cannot die. Another episode highlights the betrayal of Rainbow Knight, the best and most important superhuman. In essence, these nonhuman people are treated in a particularly racist fashion.
Concrete further explores its theme on racism when it showcases horrible mistreatment of the nonhuman groups. Coexisting with monsters, experimenting on superhumans, and student-held rallies for both. The anime does not just present racism and leave it for later; the anime actively explores it.
For these and many other examples, they continue investigating the theme on morality. Should an undying group that is doing no harm, but cannot ever be stopped, continue to exist? Were Rainbow Knight’s actions as infamous as they seemed?
The third theme, control, intersperses itself throughout the season. Like government, the theme is always there, but it only occasionally explicitly appears. It hides in the shadows. Unseen but not unheard of.
The “Superhuman Bureau,” the conspiring nationalistic powers of Japan and the United States, and lobbyists like “Imperial Ads” have their hand in many of the events. Akita secretly meeting with other members of his species to run the proceedings behind the scenes. The US submarine filled with in-super-humane test subjects. The poisoning of chocolate to curb superhumans. These are steps these different groups take. Steps made to seize control.
On its own, this theme is interesting, but it is its overlapping with the other themes that makes it purposeful. Whether or not the Superhuman Bureau wanting to eliminate rather than protect Grosse Augen, a dangerous yet beneficial superhuman, questions the morality of their actions. Japan and the United States hiding superhuman test subjects in a secret alcove, which causes Claude to kill the scientists in charge of the project, targets racism and morality respectively. Imperial Ads pushing to stop the Revised Superhuman Law in order to deal with superhumans and monsters how they, Imperial Ads, want to challenges racism once more.
Now back to the main question. Why make the narrative intentionally difficult to follow? The answer is in the themes themselves. Morality, racism, and control are ideas that are often times convoluted and confusing. Multiple perspectives, personal bias, and situational variables do not always leave a definitive, linear answer. In other words, the complexity of the themes coincides with the convoluted nature of the narrative.
All of these details are occurring in just the first half of Concrete, giving the anime a very strong foundation for the second half to eventually work off of.
Concrete’s color range is large, adding a lot of pop and pizazz to the different characters, locations, and events. It is not even worth trying to list all of the colors; the anime grabbed a rainbow and slathered it all over itself.
The art also includes different techniques to continue Concrete’s appeal. Almost as if braille were covering the walls or the sky, some backgrounds adopt what appear to be a ton of tiny dots. Other backgrounds have parallel lines. These techniques add a comic-book feel which, given the superhumans and superpowers, fits wonderfully.
Lights and shadows have a presence, too, making the various scenes and abilities that much more detailed. And Concrete even includes comedic mouths and expressions for just a dash of hilarity. Not so much funny that it drowns out the drama but enough funny that a quick laugh or two can keep the drama from overwhelming the audience.
The visuals of the ending track also deserve a mention. The giant caterpillars, eyeball entities, and humanoid spiders, accompanied by the psychedelic colors, movements, and realistic depictions, follow a common motif of the anime: Not everything is as it seems.
Actual animation throughout the season surprisingly keeps up. The usual hair and eye movements are around (not all of the time, but they are there), but it is the episodic battles with their high animation levels that stand out. Iron Raito duking it out against Android Megasshin and Jirou, Jirou using Equus to kill MegaGon, and Earth-chan colliding with an electrified liar are just a handful of examples that demonstrate the nice animation Concrete has. Alongside the explosions, the collapsing objects, and the superpowers of the different superhumans (a special shout-out goes to Kikko’s “Meteortail!” magic), the anime’s animation never lets up.
But most impressive are the character designs. Kikko has three main designs. Her everyday human self has purple hair and a nice blue outfit. Her good side is more magical girl in origin with lavender-colored hair, star-filled eyes, and intricately-made clothing. And her bad side contrasts her good side with magenta hair, red eyes, and black attire.
Kikko is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to the designs of the anime, but most of the characters switch up how they look now and again. Jirou has his formal attire while in the Superhuman Bureau and his more renegade, vigilante look when he is on the run. Fuurouta has his various forms – balloon, bird, bee – as well as his dichotomous clown and worker outfits.
Fuurouta’s dichotomy highlights a trick that Concrete uses. In order to orient the audience, these different designs are associated with the past and the present. When the audience sees Hyouma, the time wielder, in his brown outfit, they know the current time period is before Jirou’s defection. But if he is in his purple outfit, the audience instead understands that the time period is back to the present.
And many other members of the cast are the same way, like Earth-chan and Hikaru (the electric user) and Raito. Nearly every character has a design that varies, is interesting, or both, proving once and for all the strength of Concrete’s art.
While the cast of Concrete is not as strong as the story it contains, for a first half to a split-cour anime, they have proven their worth more than enough.
Emi is arguably the most mysterious of the bunch. The audience does not know much about her. She is technically not a superhuman; she is a monster. Her nickname is “Ogre Emi” given her manipulation of dark, often otherworldly creatures. And as the audience comes to learn, she can shapeshift to look like any woman in a photo or drawing. (It is unknown currently if she can do this for males since she has never been shown to do so. It is probable but so far not canon.)
Beyond these more superficial details, she remains a mystery. Her backstory does not exist yet. Her motives are unclear. But what is understood is that she has a deep affection for Jirou.
Not just in her helping Jirou when he goes berserk (which is already valiant). But also in how she listens to him. Cares for him. Dotes on him more so than anyone else she has ever known. Her relationship with him has even sparked some controversy. That, perhaps, Jirou is only with her out of obligation for everything she has done for him. To some extent, Emi knows this, too. Especially near the end when she states, “I wanted him to chase after her,” referring to Jirou and Kikko.
However, Emi’s most interesting trait is one that is not really a trait of hers at all. To reiterate, the narrative flits back-and-forth between the past and the present. But, strangely, Emi is very rarely shown in the present.
Despite how much she is around in the past. Despite how much she lives for Jirou. Her presence in the present is next to none. The cool part is that is the point. Emi is mysterious, so what better way to amplify her mystery than to exclude her almost entirely from what is arguably the more interesting timeline.
As such, it is inevitable that she should have (read: better have) some important scenes in the second half. But, for now, she is more than utilized in the first.
Kikko almost remains as mysterious as Emi, but, thankfully, the anime goes into a bit more detail with the witch. This wording is not an insult; she is canonically a witch. Or, as her companion Ullr calls her, “Star Child.” For much of the season, the audience sees Kikko as nothing more than a kindhearted girl. Still, her main role is acting as a lens the audience uses to understand Concrete: She participates in the events, but she is always posing questions the audience should think about.
For Kikko, Jirou is love at first sight. Literally. She joins the Superhuman Bureau in order to be close to Jirou and to understand the world he lives in. While with him and through Emi, she learns of the beast within Jirou. A similar trait she shares with the man. Yet she remains rather passive for the majority of the season. Then the last few episodes come around.
Throughout the season, it was hinted that Kikko seeks energy in the form of human happiness. During the last arc, however, her true reason for being on Earth is revealed: She is looking for a suitor – i.e., a “spouse” as Ullr puts it – in order to officially take over the “devil realm” where she presumably comes from.
Her eviler side arrives because she believes Claude to be Jirou. Claude says and does what she wants Jirou to say and do. And, of course, her love for Jirou plays a role, too. So she mistakenly makes the assumption, turning her against the Superhuman Bureau and, more importantly, Jirou. As such, she indirectly forces Jirou away: Emi agrees to help Jirou get Kikko back on the condition that he forevermore stays away from Kikko.
While Jirou keeps his promise, Kikko fights to understand Jirou and to get him back. In the present, she becomes like Emi, chasing after the man that she has come to love so much. And, again like Emi, she is in a strong spot as a character for when the second half rolls around.
This leaves Jirou. Jirou is considered human despite his incredible and incredibly dangerous power. He is adopted, his idol is the now-deceased (maybe; still somewhat unconfirmed) Rainbow Knight, and he works with the Superhuman Bureau in order to do right by his father and by his hero.
Arguably the main protagonist, Jirou sees many of the events. They test his convictions. More specifically, they test his definition of justice. The side characters help to make this happen. The episodes usually bring a new set of characters who get their own backstory as well as another new way for Jirou to view justice.
For example, helping out a known, helpful superhuman. Stopping an old, misunderstood grudge. Showing an old friend what justice thinks of him. Fighting what he calls “beasts.” Realizing what others think of their own powers. Witnessing someone who always values good. Explaining his side to a fellow admirer. Understanding limits. Having the strength to stand for what one believes in. And learning the sad, unfortunate truth about his hero.
And in regards to the narrative themes on morality, race, and government, justice is paramount. All three themes rely on justice. On what justice means and brings and gives to those involved and not involved. And like those themes, justice is not always defined.
Jirou puts it best: “But not everyone can be black or white. Even if they’re grey…. If they believe in justice, I want to be the ally of justice.” Jirou wants to be like his hero Rainbow Knight. Someone that does not view life as either yes or no. Up or down. Left or right. He wants to be the man that aids justice. In whatever way that may be.
Justice is not just Jirou’s theme but all of the characters’ theme. Emi and Kikko and the myriad of other side characters justify justice in their own way. Jirou, though, takes it to the highest level: He embodies justice. He comes to the conclusion that he is “no longer justice.” Thus, he pursues being an “ally of justice” to protect everyone, transitioning from the main protagonist to the main antagonist. Due to the nature of the narrative, this transition happens repeatedly, but it shows how multisided Jirou’s character is.
What will become of Jirou is anyone’s guess, but he is saying and doing what he should have been all along.
Like the narrative, Concrete has only just begun to work with its characters. But, what has been given about them and what they represent thus far, they are primed and ready for what lays ahead.
One of the strongest parts of Concrete is the ending track. No lyrics are sung. Just a simple and slow hard guitar accompanied by resounding drums and a killer beat. It all comes together to create a track that captures the foreboding feeling of the narrative quite well. And to top it all off, the piece is catchy to listen to.
The opening track does not even compare to the ED, but it does have strengths of its own. The beginning with the “Whoa!” and the general quietness. The middle with the various beats and nice singing. The end with the payoff to the build-up and the stepwise, quick finish. The OP comes together nicely, making it a nice lead-in to the episodes it precedes.
The rest of the original soundtrack is filled with all manner of songs. “Revolution” gets at the rock-n-roll vibe that matches the cool (as in popular) vibes of the anime. “A Bittersweet Pill” is exactly that: a bittersweet song. And variations of the OP and the ED litter the anime. Concrete’s tracks are mostly there for atmospheric purposes, and, while almost none of the tracks positively stand out besides “Kinji Rare Ta Asobi” due to its origins and relations, the tracks are fitting for the anime and not much more.
Sound-effects in Concrete are pretty standard for an anime filled to the brim with superpowers. Special shout-outs for Earth-chan’s squeaky sound when she makes a step and Kikko’s magical magic are deserved. And a smaller shout-out for the occasional English-spoken lines.
Finally, voice acting performances are likewise standard. Sumire Uesaka as Kikko gives the witch a young, girly voice. Kaito Ishikawa as Jirou goes through some emotions. And Ayana Taketatsu as Earth-chan gives the bad-fighting, good-girl robot a cute way of speaking. About average overall not just for them but also for the other performances.
Except Mr. Cloud that Kikko summoned for three seconds in episode one. His “Hi!” and “Bye!” were so jovial.
This anime falls into that weird category of shows that I find to be very well crafted yet neither enthralling nor appalling. It is just there.
On the one hand, the show is interesting. The constant time shifts. The more mature themes that society deals with and that nearly everyone should think about. The cool battles and the pretty colors and the yet-to-be-revealed mysteries. It is an anime that requires me to think rather than just be amused by its brand of entertainment.
Other parts were amusing. The running gag with Jiro calling Kikko by name and Kikko subsequently blushing was fun to me. And when the anime turned the romance into a vital part to Kikko’s character and the story, I was pretty darn happy. In other words, I was thinking and I was smiling.
On the other hand, the show is uninteresting. The characters, despite how wacky or fun or different they may be, are not memorable. That is, they do not leave a strong impression. I do not see myself raving about Kikko weeks from now. I do not see myself talking about Jirou months from now. I do not see myself mentioning Emi years from now. They are cute, cool, and crafty, respectively, but not characters that have any lasting impact.
The anime also lacks enticing comedy or drama. Hilarity is there. Drama does exist. But the level that these areas reach did not resonate with me deeply. A slight chuckle here, a head nod there. These reactions are about as much as this one got out of me.
Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou may seem like a pretty strange anime. And it is. But what lays inside is a lot of execution. Thought-provoking themes, well-prepared characters, and surprisingly-cool visuals and music create an anime that more than readies itself for its second half. Another way to put it is that Superman wishes he was as super as this one is.
Story: Great, themes on morality, race, and control, wrapped in a confusing yet purposeful narrative structure, establish a very strong first half
Animation: Great, diverse color range, various artistic techniques boost appeal, above average actual animation, and very nice character designs
Characters: Great, Emi, Kikko, and Jirou are set up nicely, the side characters are purposeful, and the theme on justice ties them all together
Sound: Fine, good OP, great ED, okay OST, standard sound-effects, and about average VA performances
Enjoyment: Fine, while the whole package is there and interesting, the unmemorable characters and low emotional resonance bring down the experience
Final Score: 8/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3