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Night Head Genesis - 1

When I first saw this come up on L33t-Raws, I thought, "Whoa, I must be really behind on my backlog." Night Head, the original TV series with Toyokawa Etsushi, was something I'd been meaning to look up since 1998. I hadn't heard they were making an anime version, so really, this was a pleasant surprise.

Night Head* is the story of two psychic brothers who escape from the local kooky people's facility, and follows them around as they wander into conspiracy theories, learn about their powers and do all the things escaped psychics are wont to do. Based on what I do know, the appeal of this show is a flair for moody drama and reality-shift vignettes, and I guess Toyoetsu, who doesn't apply to the anime, though Naoto does seem to look like him.

The first episode opens with Naoya as an infant crying incessantly in his crib as his parents try to figure out what's wrong. This shifts to a very young Naoto in school with a constipated expression on his face -- he apparently got mad at one of his classmates and thought his way into giving the kid a nosebleed, resulting in his suspension "for a while". We then get a series of flashbacks about young Naoto and Naoya at a pedestrian crossing, shielding each other from the world, over their father's voice narrating how Naoya is sensitive to people's touches, which causes him to absorb their memories. Back home, we see that their father prepare spiked soda for his sons. Naoto drinks it without question. Naoya knows what his father is doing, but drinks out of duty. When Naoto wakes up, he is in a car with his brother. Their mother is shouting for them through the window, and when the boy realizes what's up, he angrily causes one of the street lamps to explode. As the car leaves, we hear Naoya narrating how the pain of this was so horrible, he retreated into his own head for the rest of his life.

Some random scenes of adjustment to mental facility life later, including variations on sad people in snow, we are shown an enigmatic scene of an old man (Elder Misaki) who communicates with woodland animals, before we are transported to the side of Shoko, a psychic highschooler. Shoko is writing in alien script in her school's library before she is interrupted by her best friend, Miki. Miki thanks Shoko for saving her life, as Shoko warned her against going on a school trip, which true enough, resulted in the students' transport getting involved in a road accident. Shoko reassures her friend that she has a long life ahead of her, where she will get married and have children. Just as suddenly, she tells Miki that the two men have escaped, and gives her the notebook into which she'd been writing. After also giving her best friend a hug, Shoko disappears into thin air.

We are then thrown fifteen years into the future. Naoto and Naoya have grown up into suitably good looking young men, and are busy escaping the institute. As they run, Naoya informs Naoto that Elder Misaki is watching them. The men break through the psychic barrier surrounding the woods, relishing their newfound freedom. The brothers are next seen driving in a car when their tire bursts. Naoya suggests they stop by a nearby pub, Stinger, for help. Naoto is wary of this idea, but goes through with it anyway. The episode ends with them taking their first dramatic step into the pub.

Note: The original series actually began from the point the brothers were first seen driving, bypassing all those sticky questions about how they learnt to drive and how they got the car.

Night Head manages some moody, dramatic scenes that do help punctuate what can be, at least in this first episode, a very slow narrative. Among these little gems are things like how, when Naoya explains to us the pain of his separation from his parents, we hear his mother's cries as he hears them in his head, implying that this, the idea that she did not truly mean to abandon them, is his best memory of her. On the other hand, it can get ponderously moody in a bad way, like watching a teen soap staple its hand to its forehead. It might get better, or it might get worse -- the original show ran in 1992, and it sure doesn't look very much like the cynicism has been upgraded since that era, but only time will tell. At the moment, Naoya manages an ounce more characterization than his sibling, and frankly comes across as the only character with any reason for the viewer to feel anything about.

Background art, especially in the woodlands outside the institute where the boys lived, are done in bleak watercolours -- this results in beautiful winter groves that work, perhaps better than the characters' own art at times, to bring out the desolation in the boys' plight. Speaking of character design, the opening sequence had me rather worried. I sincerely thought, and still do think, that the characters look a bit too much like standard H-title fare. It's something about the extremely pointy chins and noses, the slightly plastic shine, something in the way the limbs are angled -- I did notice that both Naoya and Naoto as children didn't give off this feeling, in fact, young Naoya was very well done, but all the adult-shaped characters did. It's nowhere as bad as say, Ayashi no Ceres or Angel Sanctuary, and only affects about half the art, but it is noticeable. I'm not sure it helped that the OP also features the tackiest looking bit of purple brain directly before the pointy plastic stuff, and I still hope that really wasn't the actual OP to begin with. The closing sequence is marginally better, being a pretty, albeit static, watercolour of the boys that slowly zooms out of an extreme closeup. Our only real indication of music so far is the end theme, which sounds like a slightly more in tune Miyavi singing strings of longish phrases about abandoment.

Overall, I'll admit this series didn't do much in enthusing me to watch more, but it's not bad, enough that I'm willing to give this at least one more episode. I'm aware that if the plot does follow the original series, and the preview does seem to suggest that the story will follow the original's plot closely from now on, it may be a much longer time before the narrative really takes off. If you liked the speed and storytelling style of shows like Ningyo no Mori (Mermaid's Forest), you might like this. I would consider this something to watch on the side, between action shows and more compelling dramas. It does clean the palate, if nothing else, but it might end up being a bit grating on its own.

* Anyone who's never heard of this show before could definitely be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of jerky gay porn by the title alone -- gotta admit, it does make you look.

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