With Netflix producing more and more original content, it’s not surprising that the streaming company would green-light a curious little vanity project from Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig. The show stars Jaden Smith, whose life is so much like a live-action anime character already, only without the pastel-hued hair.
Well, Neo Yokio fixes that oversight and also gives Smith’s character, a young demon hunter named Kaz Kaan, magical powers -- but only, it seems, when the plot conveniently requires it. Nothing makes much sense in Neo Yokio, and it’s extremely difficult to figure out what kind of show it is. Is it a loving homage to the anime shows of the '80s and '90s, or is it a winking parody? Is it a sports story? A giant robot story? A magical story? A love story? Apparently, yes. It says yes to all of those things and a whole lot more besides.
I had no idea what I was in for when I settled down to binge-watch all six episodes of Neo Yokio, and while the endeavor only lasted three hours, the scars run deep and might last forever. I have a lot of thoughts.
1. The show starts out with the old Thames TV intro that used to play before Danger Mouse and Count Duckula. Why can my brain remember this and not the names of any of my middle school teachers?
2. This introductory scene is clearly meant to introduce Neo Yokio as a hustling, bustling, matchless metropolis. A newer, yorkier New York City, if you will.
3. Neo Yokio is coming off as a complete ripoff of San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6. So it’s the less respected DreamWorks version of the superior Disney/Pixar original.
4. Wait, who is narrating this? Is it Jude Law? It’s OG JLaw! I’d honestly adore listening to him reading names out of a phone book.
5. Neo-riche demon hunters. Go on, Mr. Law. *sips at my Dr. Pepper* Your honeyed vocal tones can sell me anything.
6. The first real disappointment of the show: This theme song is not J-pop! The OP for any animated series should be a bop.
7. Uh-oh, Jude Law is voicing the robot. I can’t hate on this show in good conscience anymore.
8. OH GOOD KAZ IS ONE OF THOSE EMO, SELF-FLAGELLATING PROTAGONISTS.
9. Hmmm ... can’t be an homage to anime without a panty shot, I guess.
10. Mr. Lockwood! I remembered one! He taught eighth-grade history. Well, back to the show.
11. Kaz Kaan is a member of the magistocracy. He’s a magistocrat. He magistocratizes. He works magistocratically. I swear I am not making any of this up.
12. Kaz’s obsession with fashion and superficiality grates like nails on a chalkboard and I dislike him and I wish him to die in a fire borne of a thousand suns. Jaden Smith’s extremely dry delivery doesn’t help. Kaz’s words show his concern, but his voice is just a monotoned bummer. Constantly placing him in scenes with much more seasoned actors really highlights this. This scene is with Susan freakin’ Sarandon!
13. It’s a restaurant so I’m expecting some Instagram-quality shots of their food, as per every other anime show.
14. Dang it, show.
15. Richard Ayoade voices the sales clerk at this men’s store and now I want a spinoff with his character.
16. Kaz’s archrival in a most eligible bachelor contest is a blond-haired blue-eyed white guy with a multi-ethnic entourage. This is probably as woke as this show is going to get.
17. I really want to know what blackmail material the producers have on Jude Law.
18. Kaz’s first exorcism of the series is his ex-girlfriend. As you do.
19. Kaz becomes so bummed out and disenchanted with his life that he heads to the cemetery, where his own grave is waiting, because I guess, for magistocrats, dying is a part of the job description?
20. This interaction with an older man at his wife’s tombstone won’t end well. I can already tell.
21. KAZ HIS WIFE IS DEAD YOU DON’T NEED TO CHANGE THE PERFUME HE SPRITZES IN HIS WIFE’S MEMORY. JUST LET HIM HAVE HIS PERFUME.
22. BUT THIS BABYLON 5 PUN IS UNCONSCIONABLE.
23. Kaz is so punchable. So. Punchable.
24. FINALLY SOME ACTIO--oh it’s over.
25. After Kaz exorcises a demon from the body of his ex-girlfriend, she’s stripped down to her underwear because that’s exactly what anime girls always end up doing.
26. Are they gonna hook up again? I swear, the best meet-cutes are exorcisms.
27. And this episode ends with ... a field hockey game. Why couldn't this show be a sports anime? At least then the main crux of it would be TEAMWORK and FRIENDSHIP and not I'M RICH AND THAT'S A BUMMER.
28. Her cat just blepped and razzed her and I have so many questions.
29. Say what you will about Kaz. That is the most polite nosebleed after a kiss that I’ve ever seen depicted in an anime-inspired whatever the heck this is.
30. Kaz’s best friends have dropped in from an alternate reality version of The Boondocks.
31. Kaz is upset because he’s wearing a midnight-blue tux instead of a black tux and the soiree he’s going to is called the Black and White Ball. This plot has all the gravitas of a Marcia-focused Brady Bunch episode.
32. Neo Yokio’s version of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an Andy Warhol expy as its curator and, honestly, much respect.
33. I take back my offering of respect because of the cheap joke that this show is inevitably going to make based on the name of this art piece.
34. Kaz gifts his ex-girlfriend Helena with chocolate and that gigantic Toblerone is the best character in this show so far. It’s a lot more charismatic than the main character.
35. Ugh, I hate when demon possession makes you acutely aware of the superficiality of late-stage capitalism.
36. “You don’t deserve this big Toblerone.” Wow, Kaz. Harsh.
37. Sailor Pellegrino’s cat has its own treadmill and why do the barely noticed background characters have the best stuff?
38. Tuxedo. Masks. Who do I have to submerge in sulfuric acid for that pun?
39. FINALLY SOME ACTIO--oh it’s over.
40. Oh, Jude Law. I’d lay in a comfy bed and have you read poetry to me any time. Even if your voice is coming out of a mecha-butler. No, I don’t know what that oddly-shaped bulge is beneath Kaz's sheets either.
41. So I googled the poem that the robot’s reading and it’s by Rudyard Kipling, who had lots to say about colonialism. Subtlety, in Neo Yokio? It’s more common than you think!
42. “Squid-ink is the most melancholy pasta.” Wrong. The most melancholy pasta is the seven-year-old box of Lean Cuisine buried at the very back of an office breakroom freezer.
43. Helena’s isolationism is based on a profound misunderstanding of what hikikomori means. The hikikomori (shut-in) problem in Japan stems from a variety of factors, like pressure to fit into modern Japanese society and families who want to “save face” and are willing to support these shut-in behaviors. What I’m saying is that one fashion blogger with an existential crisis does not equal hikikomori behavior.
44. Meanwhile, in the pocket universe that Lexy and Gottlieb exist in, they’ve created something called a caprese cocktail. In other words, a bloody mary martini, which I could go for right about now.
45. Kaz’s yum face echoes the mascot for Milky, one of Japan’s most popular candies. How dare you defame Milky by invoking its mascot. Peko-chan is rolling over in her chewy, sugar-lined grave.
46. Stephen Fry shows up as a foul-mouthed, long-suffering school headmaster and suddenly the quality of acting goes through the freaking roof.
47. FINALLY SOME ACTIO--oh it’s over.
48. Y’know for hikikomori, Helena’s fans are really outgoing and proactive.
49. Oh dear, the Helenists have kidnapped Kaz. He's in mortal danger! He’s about to be sacrificed to demons! Aaaaaand I just don’t care.
50. SAVED BY TOBLERONE. TOBLERONE IS THE INANIMATE CARBON ROD OF NEO YOKIO.
51. Kaz speaks to his ex-girlfriend while trying not to show that he’s still heartbroken. What could make this conversation with an ex even more awkward? Oh, yeah. “Bee-tee-dubs I gotta go to my uncle’s funeral. Toodles.”
52. The funeral is presided over by a chanting priest chanting nonsensically, but it’s clearly meant to sound like Hebrew. Is this antisemitic? This is definitely antisemitic.
53. Kaz goes out with his mecha-butler charged at 22%. Meanwhile, my low battery anxiety is so terrible I can’t leave home if my phone is less than 85%.
54. That’s how I like my martinis. Not shaken; not stirred. They must be tumbled in skilled hands like an unwieldy fidget spinner.
55. A Ranma ½ reference! But why did this homage to a classic gender-switching anime happen to the two characters who dropped in from The Boondocks?
56. Lexy’s body is female, but he still identifies as male, even as he makes moves on a character who is described as a lesbian. I can’t tell if this is transphobic or homophobic or both. In any case, this feels more than a little gross.
57. “You can’t just kiss me to make your ex jealous.” THANK GOODNESS SOMEONE CALLED KAZ OUT ON THIS. Although, Lex, you are a guy who made moves on a gay woman while female-presenting and that also feels all kinds of wrong.
58. Kaz, your obsession with your own self-worth has caused the death of your faithful robot. And the robot is revealed to have an elderly female pilot. WHAT A TWIST.
59. I’m now having an existential crisis, and it’s all because the sentient robot turns out to have a human pilot. WHO HAS A VOICE CHANNELING THE PEPPERPOTS FROM MONTY PYTHON. Plus the character is named Sadie, same as Jude Law’s ex-wife, which is awkward. So that's a lot to take in.
60. I’m not a New Yorker so I’m not sure if my discomfort at seeing the Twin Towers intact but submerged in water is warranted or not. Particularly when the current plot revolves around an act of terrorism which destroyed a building? Help?
61. Oh, show, why are you introducing a new antagonist so late in the series?
62. This show has gone from Kaz lamenting his Cartier watch to him proclaiming “Communism forever!” at a press conference and if that’s not character development, I’m not really sure what is.
63. You can’t visit Union Station without stopping by the oyster bar. Also, the sound of Steve Buscemi slurping down oysters is amazing and disgusting at the same time. Well done, show.
64. Helena successfully drops off the grid, Kaz is depressed and THE SHOW IS STARTING OVER. NOOOOOO.
65. Kaz has a new mecha-butler and the new design is so much better than the original robot’s design and if this show gets another season, I really hope the JLaws converge and Jennifer Lawrence takes over the speaking role of this robot from Jude Law.
66. If this show gets a second season.