Kokkoku (Moment by Moment) Series Review

It’s no secret that I didn’t enjoy the start of Winter 2018’s supernatural horror anime Kokkoku (Moment By Moment) and I really wish I could say it got better as the series went on… but it didn’t. Kokkoku had the makings of an anime hit: an interesting premise, a strong female lead, and some rather unique story elements. But, despite having all the trimmings of the next big anime smash hit, the final product left much to be desired… So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the series that found new ways to piss me off each week! Yay!

Synopsis

Nineteen-year-old Juri Yukawa just wants one thing, to live out her normal life, and maybe get a job. But, when her nephew and NEET brother get kidnapped by a shadowy cult, Juri discovers a family secret that will change her life and lives of her family forever. The Yukawa clan has the ability to freeze time! Now Juri, her grandfather, and her deadbeat dad must use the Yukawa’s coveted Stasis power to find her nephew and brother, and maybe save the world!

Plot & Story

It pains me to say this, but, Kokkoku had so much potential, and yet it wound up being a clumsy, poorly executed mess. This was by far the biggest disappointment of the Winter 2018 season. It’s a supernatural, horror, mystery anime with a female protagonist, and yet week after week this anime was just one missed opportunity after another. If I had to sum up the biggest shortcoming of this anime it would have to be, POOR EXECUTION!!! Week after week, episode after episode, it became painfully obvious that the series lacked any real direction. It had a solid premise: a family with the power to freeze time must stop a cult hellbent on using their power to take over the world… I mean come on, it practically writes itself! But the execution of that premise was just not handled well. I don’t know if it is a carryover from the manga or if Geno Studio didn’t have the experience necessary to handle a story like this, but, my god, was this a frustrating series to watch.

The series started on a high note, introducing us to the characters and there was even some pretty decent world building. We learn a bit about the Yukawas, their power, and the Stasis world, but even that spoon wa fed to us in the most roundabout way humanly possible. Either we’d get information at the last possible minute or it was dropped in our laps with no setup or explanation! It was almost like most of the exposition that would have helped the viewer understand what was going on was added in during post-production as an afterthought, rather than an integral part of the actual story.

The pacing also didn’t do the series any favors either. There was just no sense of urgency for anything because the series literally takes place in a world where time is frozen; time is irrelevant! The episodes just seemed to drag on and by the end of them you wind up more confused than you were going in, because absolutely nothing is explained! On top of that Kokkoku has a serious tonal problem. One minute, you’re watching a guy get his head ripped off, the next we’re watching Juri’s nephew frolicking through the frozen world. The serious moments were usually followed up with ‘comic relief’ moments that felt out of place, and, more times than not, completely undermined the significance of whatever preceded it.

And last, but certainly not least, the characters. There was a point in the story where I started actively rooting for all of the main cast to die horrible deaths at the hands of the series’s big bad; that’s how much I liked them. Juri started out as a rather strong and formidable female lead. She was intelligent, resourceful, and she didn’t take crap from anyone. But, somewhere along the way, she became little more than fanservice fodder. At one point, most of the male characters would make a comment about her large breasts or fantasize about raping her… and don’t get me started on the fact that the end credits feature images of Juri clad in nothing but her underwear in increasingly more provocative poses. The rest of the cast ranges from mildly annoying to ‘how are you relevant to the story again?’… But I will say that I absolutely adored Juri’s grandpa. He was the only saving grace of the series! Even the villain who started out strong was ultimately undone by his absolutely stupid ‘evil’ plan, which managed to be one of the most head-scratching parts of the entire series, because it wouldn’t have done anything to disrupt the natural order of the world at large, so I never quite understood why he had to be stopped in the first place.

Art & Music

Art-wise, this series was a mixed bag. I liked the character designs, but they weren’t exactly anything to write home about. The series went with a more realistic style for the characters, and while it retained some of the more exaggerated ‘anime’ animation styles we’ve seen before, there was a realism to the characters that I quite enjoyed. There was also considerable use of CGI throughout the anime, but it was almost exclusively used to depict the frozen elements of the Stasis world (ie. water, animals frozen in mid-air). In the first few episodes it looked pretty cool, but as the series wore on so too did the gimmick.

The opening theme song ‘Flashback’ performed by MIYAVI Vs KenKen, does a fantastic job of capturing the eclectic style of the anime which is only highlighted by the surrealist imagery and inverted color scheme of the opening sequence. I will admit fully that I absolutely hated the opening theme song until somewhere around Episode 6 or so. The loud screechy lyrics just weren’t my cup of tea, even if they were being sung by my beloved Miyavi… The ending theme song ‘Asayake to Nettaigyo’ (朝焼けと熱帯魚 Sunrise and Tropical Fish) by Boku no Lyric no Boyomi was much easier on the ears, offering a much more mellow sound. Unlike the high energy of the opening, the lyrics evoked a sense of melancholy, describing the feelings of loss after a breakup, wrapped in a light bubblegum pop sound. When I said in my weekly reviews that the end credits were my favorite part, I sincerely meant that, both because it meant the end of another episode, but because I also absolutely loved this ED!! Unfortunately, the gratuitous fanservice in the ending sequence kind of cheapened the whole experience for me.

Themes & Trivia

Survival of the Fittest: There is a recurring theme in Kokkoku that only the strongest survive. The Stasis world is not for the faint of heart, any perceived weakness of will is immediately corrected. Weak-willed individuals are more susceptible to turning into Heralds/Handlers and becoming one with the Stasis world.

The Metamorphosis: is the title of a 1915 novella by Franz Kafka about a man that awakes one morning to find that he has transformed into an insect. The transformation of individuals into Heralds/Handlers takes place in a similar albeit more accelerated fashion.

Unleashing the Monster Within: The Stasis world has a way of unleashing a person’s true nature. Weak-willed individuals become heralds, bad guys become literal monsters, and the ‘good guys’ either succumb to the lawlessness of the Stasis world or become hardened by their experiences.

The Art of War: In Episode 8, Grandpa Yukawa quotes from Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The book is an ancient Chinese war strategy guide. Each chapter of the 13 chapters focuses on a specific aspect of warfare.

Jesus Allegory: There’s this whole Messiah complex going on with the series’s big bad, Sugawa. He is trumped up to be this savior of mankind sent to usher in a new age of human existence along with his disciples in the Genuine Love Society cult. Not to mention there’s a scene where Jesus-mode Sugawa walks on water!

Comments

I’ll keep this short since I pretty much got most of my feelings about the series out in the Plot & Story section and the TWELVE EPISODIC REVIEWS I wrote over the course of the series, but, there is still just enough rage in me to eek out one last rant! *Clears Throat* I absolutely positively hated this series not just because it was a poorly executed mess (believe me, that’s a big part of it) but because the series started off with so much potential only to squander it all in order to bring us a disjointed confused mess! Don’t get me wrong, there were some genuinely good moments; the premise was unique and built this wonderfully grounded fantasy setting with its own lore, but it never fully explained any of it. There were a lot of nice tidbits and factoids dropped every now and again, but the true nature of the Stasis world or the Yukawa’s time stopping powers were constantly shrouded in mystery.

There was this overarching mystery aspect of the series that never got the appropriate payoff. In fact, the last two episodes felt like they belonged to a wholly different series! The final showdown between the Yukawas and Sugawa was rushed and one of the most unsatisfying boss battles I have seen in a long, LONG time! The fight lasted two minutes, maybe three minutes, and in that time Sugawa is relegated to little more than a weak husk of a man… it was sad. Then to add insult to injury, after eleven poorly paced excuses for episodes, the final episode was an animated masterpiece. It was everything I wanted from the series and more, a cohesive compelling story with likeable characters, tangible stakes, and a beautifully executed and emotional conclusion. THIS IS WHAT THE SERIES COULD HAVE BEEN! This was what I had been expecting when I signed up to review Kokkoku and yet, they waited until the last episode to finally deliver a decent story and rather than making me happy, it just further fueled my ire!

Fleeting Moments

Plus:

  • Interesting premise, with some rather unique supernatural elements
  • A strong female lead, who more than carries the series for the first few episodes
  • That last episode was the single most enjoyable part of the entire series (the only episode worth watching in my humble opinion)
  • The opening and ending themes were absolutely perfect

Minus:

  • The pacing is so slow it’s like watching grass grow in some places
  • Sloppy storytelling with little to no tangible payoffs
  • Unlikeable characters and half assed villains
  • Tonal dissonance that constantly undermined some of the more narratively relevant plot points

This anime was a hot mess from start to finish that may have been better served as an animated film rather than a twelve episode anime series. The pacing and execution issues could would have been largely corrected in the more cohesive format of a feature length film. Wasted potential, Kokkoku was nothing but the culmination of a whole heaping pile of wasted potential and the result was a clumsily pieced together story that failed to meet the mark. Would I watch this anime again? Absolutely not, once was more than enough! But, by all means, if you like flashy gimmicks and disjointed plots, then Kokkoku is the story for you! If not, there are plenty of other great supernatural horror anime to watch!

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