Night Head 2041: Anime Review

I normally don’t review shows when I drop them, though considering my reasons for dropping Babylon in 2019, I probably should have done so. Considering that, and with how far I got in Night Head 2041, I feel I’ve watched enough of the show to make it worth reviewing. And, much like Babylon, it had done enough to draw me in, in spite of some serious red flags, that I do want to talk about it.

The protagonists of Night Head 2041 - the brothers on the police force on the left, and the escaped twins on the right.

As the title of the show says, Night Head 2041 is a reboot of the long-established series about psychics, this time re-imagined as a cyberpunk series set in 2041. The series is set in a dystopian setting where there has been a massive population drop after a series of calamities. In Japan, the government has responded to this by passing a bill to not only outlaw all forms of spiritual belief, they have also outlawed possession or publication of works of fiction that depict spiritualism and the supernatural.

In the midst of all of this, two twin brothers, both psychics, escape from a research facility, where to the best of their knowledge they were in the 2020s. Meanwhile, a different pair of brothers, who are part of a police special unit responsible for raiding religious organizations, end up undergoing a psychic awakening of their own.

Let’s get the good out of the way first. The show uses anime-styled CG characters, and unlike a lot of other series that use a similar method of presentation – they pull it off splendidly. The animation looks fluid, and the backgrounds are detailed and atmospheric, causing everything to fit together in ways that so many other 3D anime series and films don’t. On top of that, the CG really works to help them do more with less when it comes to animated psychic battles – it gives a better sense of objects being thrown around in environments, instead of using generic energy blasts, or having bits of debris rise out of nowhere in particular, without being reflected in the environment. If the upcoming animated series adaptation of Akira is animated in a similar manner, I think this would be a point in the show’s favor.

That said, while the story hooked me in at first, there was a slew of red flags that grew over the course of the series. The premise itself had a vague hint of the smell of the Fundamentalist Christian movie series “God’s Not Dead” around it – except with cyberpunk trappings and the explicit Christianity being replaced with general spiritualism, and with the addition of psychics. That grows and grows over the course of the series, until the twist in the show caused me to drop it.

You see, the calamities that caused the massive population drop. That was The Rapture. They don’t call it The Rapture – but it’s a massive event that caused the majority of the global population, specifically focusing on people who believed in spirituality or supernatural phenomena, to be transported to a different Earth where they could leave in Peace and Harmony, while the Atheists and Agnostics and non-believers and people who go through the motions without actually believing are stuck on this Earth to suffer until they believe.

The first bit might be okay in isolation if the payoff worked. However, the first in combination with the second felt like the writer read a bunch of Fundamentalist Christian fiction of the “(our version of) Christianity is under siege!” variety, along with the Left Behind novels, and went “Hey, this could be good, what if I made my own, non-Christianity specific version of that!” without even remotely considering the deeply problematic elements of the original works that persist in isolation from Christianity, in part because they have very little actually to do with Christianity.

It’s a bummer, because the show did psychic combat really well, and the idea of the government trying to repress the idea of psychics while having their own group of secret psychics to use to enforce their will on the population does have a good hook to it. That’s just not what this show is.

Night Head 2041 is available for streaming on Crunchyroll – but I’d strongly recommend skipping it. If the earlier series – Night Head Genesis, for example, doesn’t have this problem, please let me know in the comments.

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