Length: 12 episodes
Genre: Sci-fi, action
It’s not a character-writing problem localised to anime, but rather a much larger issue with zero-to-hero stories. When the protagonist is blessed with a certain destiny, striving towards that lifestyle is hard to take seriously in the real world. Such self-importance is not only ridiculous in any social context, but arrogant! What makes you so special, to be born with such a ‘destiny’, huh? These characters have a plot-imbued ego. And I am tired of them. Evidently, so is Revisions, an anime that puts this kind of protagonist under the microscope, and viciously exposes this tired trope’s unrealism.
When he was kidnapped in his childhood, Daisuke was saved by a mystery woman with pink hair. She told him that, one day, he would be extremely important and have the power to save the world. This goes to his head, and we’re treated to a morning in his normal life: wake up, lift weights, walk to school alone while wondering how nobody else is ready for the inevitable rapture, and then save a childhood friend from a stalker. By kicking them, and making her look a fool. This results in Daisuke being called out, but he doesn’t listen. Because he has a destiny to fulfil, losers. His pushiness and eagerness to prove himself are qualities that are not allowed to flourish or given a free pass – as they are in many similar stories – but they are criticised by his peers unto his deaf ears. Were this another anime, they might call his deterministic attitude and rigidity to his opinions a good thing, but anybody in the real world knows these aren’t typically good character traits, and Revisions refuses to let him off the hook for it.
Things don’t turn around for the boy when the rapture does come. The entire Shibuya district is suddenly transported into the future, where a gargantuan, cyberised monster breaks down his school’s walls and begins killing certain classmates, while abducting others. Despite the full CGI anime’s stiff human animations, the sprawling creatures and wide cinematography create a truly terrifying image as the teacher attempts an evacuation. In the face of such a terrifying foe, Daisuke takes out his trusty pocket knife, ready to fight the monster. But he freezes. No amount of weight-training could prepare him to fight this evil thing, and he, fundamentally, doesn’t have the power to fight and prove himself.
Of course, that destiny spiel was actually embedded in the truth. Milo, the woman from earlier, arrives to fight the monster with a gun but is marginally ineffective. She sees Daisuke and instructs him to pilot a small mecha – different from the Gundams, it has a distinct exoskeleton design – and fight the beast termed a ‘Revision’. She attempts instruction, telling him which gun to use and how to make the most of each bullet, but he doesn’t listen. Daisuke knows best. Daisuke is going to to prove himself. Daisuke is hardly effective, choreographed smartly to flail more than fight, but he wears a giant grin as he basks in his self-importance.
The group of friends that he was amongst as a child before the kidnapping warped his psyche are all given the possibility to pilot the mecha and fight back, and it becomes increasingly clear that he has no aptitude for this. Despite the psychotic glee he shows, staring into the camera in a brilliant scene when asked to fight, Daisuke loses his cool as his friend’s are more effective fighters – due to greater caution and reliance on tactics rather than any inherent skill. Daisuke in fact has ‘tantrums’, and the cast are exceptional biting about them as they lock him up in a cell to ‘think about what he’s done’. Like a petulant child.
Daisuke’s mental deconstruction runs parallel to the overall story, where Shibuya’s police force and politicians attempt to control the panicked public, quell the invading Revisions, communicate with Milo’s headquarters, secure supplies, and, ultimately, find a way to take the entire Shibuya district back home. There is a great deal of tension in the air as the head of police, a put-together man trying his best, battles against the self-appointed leader of the Shibuya prefect, a glory hunter attempting to further his career, and it becomes apparent that the Revisions are more intelligent than they may seem. Donning human forms, some Revisions members even come to Shibuya to negotiate – causing a great deal of tonal dissonance due to their skimpy and laughable outfits and hilarious overacting. Revisions managed such genuine normality, even in the face of its sci-fi setting, that the top-hat wearing chipmunk’s ‘botchi botchi boy‘ monologues ruin the show’s credibility.
To be frank, then, that Revisions’ background is nothing special for the genre. No character particularly stood out, even though the political tirade was a solid affair. The show was too keen to explain its time travel systems without actually developing them, and between it all, found little time to meaningfully move the plot between its many twists that do little to escape Evangelion-like mecha anime, but without the nuanced runtime or enticing visual metaphors to bridge the gap that dialogue can’t cover. It’s not like Daisuke’s friends particularly show much personal complexity or interrelationship, either, other than Keisaku and the way he uses a funny-bone to cover his insecurities.
Through the unremarkable plot-twist bonanza of the second half, Daisuke has to overcome his problems with ego, and it’s inspiring to see him learn to value his friends and comrades, but it allows the show to walk into a problem with media more generally: fiction is often fun because it is not realistic. Melodrama is a dirty term to many, but, frankly, my life wouldn’t make good television, and while I love my friends, few of them make compelling dramatic characters. Revisions offers a realistic outlook from its fictional citizens on a sci-fi twist; socially, politically even, if a little keen on the moustache-twirling type of politician; but it fails to present a particularly interesting story beyond that. While the message to write smarter, more realistic protagonists is extremely well-crafted within that realistic backdrop, Revisions runs out of steam after identifying the problems. Despite the title’s suggestion, then, Revisions doesn’t have a solution.