Would you stake your life for your freedom?
Name: Togainu no Chi
Japanese Name: 咎狗の血
Air Date: October 7 2010 – December 23 2010
Studio: A-1 Pictures
After being devastated in the Third World War (known as The Third Division), Japan was divided in two. Several years after the end of the war, a crime organisation called Vischio has taken control of the destroyed city of Toshima (formerly Tokyo, Japan’s capital city), where they are holding a battle game known as ‘Igura’. The main character, a young man named Akira, is falsely accused of a crime. Once arrested, a mysterious woman appears before him, offering him freedom if he agrees to participate in Igura and defeat Igura’s strongest man: the king, or ‘Il-re’. The story follows Akira’s life in the harsh, lawless Toshima as he fights both to survive and to unravel the mysteries developing around him.
Togainu no Chi is a Japanese BL visual novel created by Nitro+ChHiRAL and has been published on three platforms: Windows, PS2 and PSP. The game has been adapted into two manga series and a novel as well as an anime adaption and drama CDs. I’ve never played the game but from what I can tell (and reading several game reviews), it’s pretty good. Since I heard that, I hoped that the anime would live up to its high praise.
Previously in my life, I got stuck in a rut and have returned from the depths of Hell (not really but you guys get the gist)! You don’t remember? I thought I mentioned that I was going on an indefinite hiatus… if you can’t remember, then that’s fine. All that matters is… I’M BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER BABY! I’ve finally whipped my brain into shape and I feel like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders! I am THAT happy ＼(^o^)／
What initially intrigued me about this series was the concept. It’s similar to The Hunger Games; destroyed cities after a war, a twisted contest introduced, slaughter others to remain the only contestant and receive privileges after becoming the victor. This is survival of the fittest; kill or be killed. These sort of plots always impact me the most as I always feel compelled watching the characters develop as they are thrown into something horrendous against their will. Whether the characters break or grow, it’ll be interesting to see how A-1 Pictures play this out. I mean let’s face it, no-one in their right mind would enter a gruesome competition like this. It just goes to show what could possibly happen if politics went all wrong and if those with authority would take advantage of their sick ideals. Not everyone is like that, but I’m just saying if they were… then we’d be doomed. To be frank, I really hate politics (-___-) turning on the TV every morning to see the headlines constantly talking about government, law, policies etc. gets really tedious and it really annoys me how some politicians can be so… manipulative.
The main protagonist is a young male named Akira – voiced by the wonderful Kousuke Toriumi. He is the undefeated champion of a street fighting tournament called ‘Bl@ster’ and is adept at martial arts as well as being a knife expert; handling a knife with ease. Later on, Akira is falsely accused of murder. Though innocent, he is offered a chance of freedom by a mysterious woman if he participates in the Igura tournament in Toshima and win against the ‘king’. Little does he know that the people he will face are some of the strongest and toughest in the world – or Japan at least. Already he has witnessed the frightening strength of a man with blood-red eyes, covered in black clothing wielding a katana with utmost respect. This guy took on a ton of fighters in Igura and remained unharmed. It was just slash, slash slash… and they were gone in a blink of an eye what Akira witnessed was indeed frightening, but he won’t yield to the mysterious man’s wishes of him begging for his life. Akira has way too much pride. The intimating man’s name is unknown, but I recognise his voice anywhere… it’s Hikaru Midorikawa!
Igura is a battle game held in Toshima that may result in the murder of participants. To participate, one must meet with Arbitro and tell him their reason for their decision in participating. Participants are given five dog tags, each engraved like a card in a standard deck of playing cards. One tag must hang from the participant’s neck as proof of participation. Participants must then put their lives at stake to collect others’ tags, with the goal to collect a Royal Flush. If a participant collects a Royal Flush, they earn the right to challenge ‘Il Re’. Of course with every game/competition, there are rules to which competitors or players must abide with. The rules of Igura are 1) there must be witnesses to every battle, 2) no firearms are permitted, 3) no sneak attacks are permitted, 4) the battle finishes when one of the competitors’ backs hit the ground or dies, and 5) the victor takes the losers dog tags after the battle. However if someone violates the rules, the Executioners will chase after them. The Executioners uphold the rules and kill those who break them. There are two Executioners who work under Arbitro (the head of the criminal organisation Vischio), and are named Gunji and Kiriwar. The former is voiced by Kisho Taniyama and the latter is voiced by Katsuyuki Konishi respectively.
Sometimes I understand what’s happening but for the majority of it, I can barely comprehend what I’m watching. One minute I understand and the next, I find myself whacking my head on the table. And it hurts like hell. I swear they’re not properly explaining what’s going on… how did they expect people to keep up with this?!
Vischio produces a drug called ‘Line’ which enhances a person’s abilities and strengths, at the cost of driving them to insanity. There is no way to save a person who has taken Line. However, Akira’s blood has some sort of effect on Line addicts. When someone who has take the drug drinks or tastes Akira’s blood, they writhe in pain and agony; basically choking on it… it’s almost as if Akira’s blood acts as a neutraliser for Line. Unfortunately when they taste Akira’s blood, their bodies may reject it and causes them to die. That’s for the majority of people. Change of topic here, but you know the mystery man with the blood-red eyes I was talking about earlier? His name is Shiki… I like that name.
Keisuke. I know you’re Akira’s best friend and that I never really liked you because you’re too clingy, but what the heck is wrong with you man?! What happened to you to make you like this?! I knew something was going to happen with Keisuke since the moment I started this series, but this is the last thing I ever expected. Have you succumbed to a new low and took Line like the others? Now Keisuke has gone all yandere and psychotic ∑(;°Д°) it’s really starting to scare the heebie jeebies out of me! Before he was like “I want to see Akira smiling” but now that’s turned into “I want to see the face you make when you’re dying” Σ（ﾟдﾟlll）this is the one type of yandere character I do not like! Bring back the old Keisuke, Akira! Save your best friend! As much as I don’t like him, I can’t bear to see you looking so upset!
The plot is simple and straightforward: in the not-so-distant future, a third world war has split Japan into two fractions; one which has been civilised and rebuilt, and another which is a lawless wasteland. The main character, Akira, is a professional street fighter in the more civilised region before he is falsely accused of murder. While awaiting trial with the punishment being life imprisonment, a strange woman named Emma, offers him freedom on the condition that he travels to Toshima, the lawless region, and participate in battle tournament. The prize is the opportunity to challenge the current king of a drug company, which Emma wants to take down from the inside.
The plot description may appear rather vague. Mainly because, even after completing the show, I’ve barely had any time to piece together all the events which have occurred. The backstory of how Japan became its current state is never mentioned in the series itself. In retrospect, the opening narration of the first episode – delivered by a slow, monotonous and uninvolved Takumi Yamazaki – was probably describing the war and the proceeding division, but if it is, it’s through a metaphor so thick and incomprehensible that for those who have never heard of the franchise, will get completely and utterly confused. All twelve episodes open with a similar narration, each slathered liberally with metaphors and analogies and other such things that make zero sense. And once the character n – who has been providing these narrations – enters the story, the viewer is treated to the same half-assed pseudo-depth in his dialogue.
Though the show boasts a broad cast of characters, there only appears to be three types of characters. Akira, n, and Shiki share a similar personality; they’re emotionless, silent and dead-pan boring if you ask me. What they also share in common is tragic pasts which are never fully explained. Keisuke, Rin and Motomi also share a similar personality; they’re the ray of light in these dark and gloomy predicaments. Sure they all have those extra quirks to make them different – Shiki having an ominous aura, Rin acting like a 12 year old girl etc. – but what they all lack is real personality and motivation which makes it difficult to sympathise with them. Supporting characters gave no, urm… support for the plot. They didn’t help the main characters and the plot move along; it seemed they were merely for decoration and petty comic-relief. Gunji and Kiriwar were meant to be fearsome and intimidating but they were the exact opposite. I loved the characters personally, but where was the development? Where was the bond in their relationships? All of this was cut out and when their was the slightest bit of character development, it stops. Maybe because this series was only twelve episodes, but I’ve seen shows with the same amount of episodes with better development. At least the scriptwriter could have been more flexible.
The series, with its complex writing, appears at first glance to be abiding to the game’s fanbase. Yet, simultaneously, it drives off the fans by stripping the story of all the explicit content for which it is loved. In the anime, explicit homosexuality and eroticism becomes the exclusive property of the antagonists – Arbitro wouldn’t be such a wildly offensive depiction of the ‘depraved homosexual’ if he wasn’t the only character having actual homosexual sex. When stripped of sex appeal, the story is left to fend for itself, and it often does fail in this regard as Togainu no Chi does exactly that.
Togainu no Chi is hugely popular within the BL fandom and one would expect it to receive a lavish treatment. The opening, set to a J-Rock number by GRANRODEO, boasts smooth, dynamic animation with thick, bold lines; the promotional videos were montages of exciting, intense, fast-paced fight scenes. At a passing glance, the animation seems, if not cutting-edge, at least impressive and visually stimulating. Then you start watching the series. The low frame count and complete absence of attention to detail could pass in a slice of life series, but in an action-heavy show where hand-to-hand combat occurs often, it’s inexcusable. Backgrounds are dull; every scene is deeply saturated in grays and greens and, for indoor scenes, browns. It’s one thing for a series or a scene to stick to a limited palette – it can draw attention to certain details or emphasise a mood – but it’s another thing to make every frame so dark that it’s impossible to see what’s happening. A black shadow will often be cast across half the screen; sometimes used as censorship, but more often it covers parts of characters’ faces or even the entire screen. Even if it was to avoid any gory details, it makes the show even more incomprehensible.
The animation can sometimes be inconsistent and this carries on through several episodes – characters often look unrecognisably different between scenes and frames. Togainu no Chi uses a particular anime art style where small facial details such as eyelids are outlined. This style is popular in manga, and doesn’t feature in anime much because faces must be very carefully proportioned – when they’re not, they look distorted, as they often do here. Action scenes are handled clumsily and were rather rigid; when stabbed or grazed, characters spurt excessively large amounts of blood. Shots are sometimes shown from awkward angles and hides what’s really happening. This isn’t the best I’ve seen from A-1 Pictures.
The show’s soundtrack was one of its strong suits. The show swaps ending themes every episode, and the always reliable Kanako Itou provides three of them. Itou’s numbers are upbeat without losing a dark, mournful atmosphere; the other ending themes are mostly forgettable (but not overly bad) J-Rock numbers. The background music, on the other hand, runs from listenable, even pleasant, to absolutely grating.
As much as I wanted to love this series, I couldn’t because the way the series presented itself… I didn’t understand a thing. Even when the case is all cleared up, I’m thrown back into confusion. It was a complete mash-up. Hardcore yaoi fan? I recommend you watch something else. There were barely any yaoi elements, and when there were, it was mainly Arbitro and his freakish hobby of torturing young, and handsome boys. Diehard fans, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed… and I hate letting you guys down.