Hope raised in Tokko Vol 1, sustained with some effort in Vol 2, is, alas, lost in Vol 3.
Tokko, Vol. 3Director: Masashi Abe
Cast: Fumiko Orikasa, Kenichi Suzumura, Akemi Kanda, Hiroshi Tsuchida, Kana Ueda
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 2007
US DVD Release Date: 2007-08-14
I was really pulling for the Tokko series. After watching the first disc of the tripartite series collection I was certain I had found a clever, slaughter-gore anime. The dialogue was pleasantly quirky and the story was unique enough that I was thoroughly enamored with Tokko. However, volume two proved to be a disappointment, blighted by a shoody plot progression and ridden with repetition. That being said, I chalked its failure to the nature of the middle child, praying that it was in some way instrumental in its tediousness to set up a terrific tertiary piece. I report after having finally finished the trilogy that sometimes hope is not enough.
Tokko Vol. 3 begins with a full head of steam, dripping with promise (and, as par for the course, gallons of blood). Our protagonist, Ranmaru Shindo, and his compatriots finally have an intelligible goal: to effect the demise of Taishi, a devil who seems to be the field marshal for the demons plaguing the city. Previously, Ranmaru and Co. (known as the Tokko divison of the police) were survivors of a demonic massacre which left them with superpowers. They had the overwhelming and incomprehensible task of killing 108 phantasmic monsters and recovering all the piece of an alchemical box that could return the legions of hell back to their infernal prison.
However, these demons only appeared sporadically, progressively waxed in power, and were guarded by an infinite army of lesser phantoms. It is not difficult to imagine how impossible it would be to depict the defeat of every one of these creature within the tenure of a typical anime series. Thus, the inclusion of Taishi as the definate objective reduces the scale of Tokko to a far more manageable one. The refiguring instantly affects the momentum of the series, propelling it in the same fashion that a marathom runner gets a second wind from sight of the finish line.
At the beginning of the disc, the plot centers around Sakura, the female lead and other member of Tokko, and her brother who has been transformed into a demon by Taishi. His power seems incredible and the confrontations with him are at once heartbreaking and laced with jaw-dropping action. In fact, these encounters are by far the most thrilling of the series. Eventually, Sakura’s brother is finally defeated but at the cost of the first Tokko casualty. Motivated by the already small band’s diminishing numbers, Tokko must simultaneously hunt Taishi directly while liberating their chief who was taken into custody by a corrupt police force who was planning to kill her for an invented charge of treason.
All of this action is both intricately plotted and beautifully executed. How then, you may ask, does the anime fail so completely as you suggest in your intro? To return to the maraton runner analogy, Tokko falls on its face inches before the finish line. Not wanting, to spoil the ending, all I can express is how inconclusively Tokko Vol. 3 ends the series. The Taishi storyline is wrapped up but it is done so in a markedly abrupt fashion that undercuts its own finality. This conclusion is reached in true deus ex machina fashion, with newfound powers and technicalities of preternaturality that were never before suggested as possible.
Furthermore, the larger issue of the roughly 90 still extent demons is virtually unaddressed. Loose ends hang from all corners and, truthfully, I swore I was missing an episode. It appears that Tokko had to cram the entire resolution of a series it expected to continue much further into one abrupt episode. Finally, the volume commits a virtually unforgivable sin of communicating 50 percent of the post battle resolution during the credit sequence. This device makes it not only difficult to concentrate on the intricate plot points conveyed but also makes extremely central information seem to be postscript. At the conclusion of thirteen episodes, the viewer is abandoned and left painfully unfulfilled.
As a contiguous series, rather than a three-disc trilogy, Tokko hangs together nicely and feel would benefit from being watched as such rather than in the segmented television DVD collection. The second volume would have doubtlessly seemed less inert if it had been watched directly after the first, the formers impetus driving through the latter’s episodes. Additionally, the presence of a third and final disc builds anticipation of a tight conclusion. In truth, many series end with equal vagueness and it is less salient. Had I not anticipated the end and been presented with this flawed finale, I would have been disappointed but not crushed as I was by Tokko Vol 3. Again, the special features: trailers and making-of’s are neither essential or interesting.