Kosher Kuts: Tokyo Tribe 2

Instead of attempting to describe Tokyo Tribe 2, I think the lyrics to the opening theme of the show can do it more justice. So, without further ado:

Tokyo Tribe Opening Theme

You got it? I suppose not.

Tokyo Tribe 2 is the brainchild of Santa Inoue, a Japanese artist famous for his interpretations of life in Tokyo. Initially a manga (of which you can download the first issue here), the story involves two childhood friends, Mera and Kai, who are now involved in rival gangs (AKA: tribes) in the city of Tokyo. In their struggles they learn the important lessons of street life, including that all-important aphorism: “bros before hos.” I could make a case for the slow evolution of Kai from a naïve street urchin into an experienced leader of the urban underground, but the story is not meant to be that subtle and philosophical.

There is definitely enough meat on the plot to maintain your interest. Although the viewer is dumped into the story midway, a combination of present-day actions and flashbacks bring you up to speed fast. Intrigue, deception, humor and action are maintained in equilibrium as well. The only truly shallow parts of the story are the chase scenes, which can last as long as three quarters of some episodes. Many of these scenes try and milk the action for too long and require more suspended disbelief than the bat and sword fights between Kai and Mera. Fortunately, these scenes are not commonplace.

In addition to being a mangaka, Santa Inoue is a toy and clothing designer. These ambitions certainly shine through in the show’s artwork. The animation has an artificial glow to it, which perfectly mimics the ambient lighting in buildings and the streets at night. Masashiro Emoto, the character designer, made a definite effort to express the characters through their clothing. From Hashim’s Brett Favre throwback jersey to Mera’s fur-lined leather jacket, every tribe member looks distinct and chic. Even the tribes themselves have very clear styles, such as the martial arts–oriented Wu-ronz and the artillery-minded Shinjuku Hands. Inoue also likes to make references to the Wu-Tang Clan and other rappers with his characters, which adds to the authenticity of the presentation.

Even more important to the aesthetic is how the anime uses its hip-hop persona. Despite the rather odd lyrics in the intro song, the beat is infectious. Similarly strong hip-hop beats play throughout the show and enhance the mood of the situations in which they’re used. Tricks such as a spinning record for scene transitions in some episodes highlight the show’s individuality.

Little touches throughout the show immerse the viewer into Tokyo’s hip-hop culture. Sometimes that immersion isn’t entirely appreciated. It’s safe to assume that an anime about gangs would have some violence in it. Violence is a big part of the series, but it’s not the worst of the show’s mature content. There are several scenes in the anime, including in the first episode, that contain disturbing sexual imagery. Like the chase scenes, these moments are few and far between, but they break the flow of the story and only serve to put off the viewer. It’s not isolated to the anime either; the first issue of the manga has some disturbing graphic content in it as well. A number of these incidents in the manga were kept out of the anime. As a result, the anime is a very different experience from the manga, but I enjoy the anime more because of it.

In the end, the intro song’s lyrics do tell the story of Tokyo Tribe 2. It’s a good anime if you “wanna fresh style.” The atmosphere can “get funky for ya” and may just hit you like a “Buriburiburuburu bulldozer.” Even if I didn’t always like their “hardcore manner mode,” the rest of the series is good enough to recommend you check out the first few episodes to gauge your personal interest. This “brand new joint” is not quite the “top of Tokyo,” but chances are most viewers will enjoy it like a “present from Santa.”

The Final Kut

Mazel Tov!

  • Atmospheric presentation
  • Fun, if slightly light story

Oy Vey!

  • Gratuitous sexual content
  • The anime is not licensed yet