Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is one of my most-anticipated shows for the Winter 2018 season. I scoped it out prior to the premiere of the season, and when I saw that it is crime thriller focusing on assassins, I knew I had to add it to my list of things to watch. After seeing the first episode, I can safely say that I will not be dropping it at all.
It is originally a seinen light novel series written by Chiaki Kisaki with illustrations from Hako Ichīro, and the anime adaptation is being produced by Satelight with direction from Kenji Yasuda.
In its most basic sense the series revolves around a city called Hakata where approximately 3% of the population consist of assassins. We get to meet numerous assassins and learn about how this community of killers function in relation to one another and their line of work.
I love shows that revolve around anti-heroes and villains, or in this case a bunch of seemingly cold-hearted murderers for hire. I find those stories, if written well, to be brilliantly fascinating. The pilot episode did not blow my socks off with its execution, but I feel like there is plenty of potential for it to turn into a phenomenal series.
The plot, thus far, is essentially about the political and social workings within the world of assassins. While I have seen many other shows and films about this, I have not seen much of it at all in anime. More often than not those stories end up being about redemption and getting out of the trade. I did not get that vibe from this first episode. To me it felt unique and thrilling.
There are a lot of characters in the first episode, one of whom is a cross-dresser that is quickly becoming a fan favourite. He is salty and wonderfully comfortable in his own skin, which makes him a likable character, so I can understand why. The biggest problem with having such a large cast will be variety. The key to making this work lies in creating individualistic personas that stand out from one another. Otherwise everyone will just blur into a shadow of each other, which will make it difficult and unengaging to watch. From what I have seen, there is distinctiveness with some people, but not nearly enough of them to make a positive impact. So, the mass of characters can be a make it or break it for some viewers.
The animation is excellent, except for one minor quirk that I had personally. There are super shiny streams of light, and sunlight rays when the scene shifts outdoors, virtually in every single scene. It can be very distracting and undermines whatever is happening in that moment. A few times I felt myself staring at the shining beams of light, wishing for it to disappear, instead of focusing on the characters and goings on. Aside from that, the animation is neat and sharp, especially during the action sequences.
Jazz music heavily influences the musical score. I fucking loved it. You cannot go wrong with a Jazzy OST. Think about Cowboy Bebop and its soundtrack, which is one of the best ever produced, and how profoundly it impacted the quality of that show.
My only qualm with the first episode as a whole was the execution of it. Two of our main characters come face to face within the first couple minutes of the episode, and then we get a flashback of how this meeting came to happen. In the process, we are introduced to numerous other folks who did not have a severe impact on them meeting, which created an overall ambiguous sensation when it all wrapped back to this encounter. I hope that the progression style of the story smooths itself out as the series moves forward, especially with all of the other positive facets.
All in all, the pilot was not spectacular, however, it exhibits quite a lot of promise for things to come. I am eager and excited to see how things shall unfold henceforth. If you enjoy anime involving crime and crazy ass characters, then I recommend you check it out.
You can watch Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens on CrunchyRoll on Friday mornings.