Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > [C] – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control Episodes 1 and 2 – The Economy of Hell

[C] – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control Episodes 1 and 2 – The Economy of Hell

Only a few days ago I talked about the economic malaise that has afflicted Japan for the past decade or so. I neglected to mention that the situation in Japan is further exacerbated by the unholy union between the country’s oversized businesses and oversized government, with plenty of back scratching, deficit pork spending, and nepotism. It’s the sort of soft corruption, in short, that keeps the wheels turning but might grind up those underneath with nary a thought.

Rage against this system isn’t all that common in manga and anime; escape into a NEET lifestyle is far more common among otaku. Perhaps the plethora of absurdly rich characters, heirs to this or that mega-conglomerate, is reflective of this sense that the haves have because of wealth and privilege; there are rarely self-made entrepreneurs in Japanese media. But rarely has the economy itself been a topic of conversation or subject to critique or social commentary. Leave it to anime to pick the most bizarre way possible to introduce it.

Kimimaro would like nothing more than to take classmate Hanabi out for drinks or something, if only he had the cash

Kimimaro Yoga is a near-broke college student, barely making enough via his part time jobs to stay enrolled as an Economics major. His hopes are modest: a decent income, an affordable home, and a family. The question would be if he can make ends meet long enough to make it—and the answer looked like it might be no.

All this gets tossed out the window by the arrival of Masakaki, a perpetually smiling fellow who somewhat resembles a clown in a business suit (only slightly more creepy). He also is completely unhindered by walls or the laws of physics, appearing and disappearing seeming at whim, but always in such a way as to maximize the shock value.

The fact that Masakaki is still capable of surprising appearances two episodes in is a testimony to the show's direction

Masakaki has a message: Kimimaro has been selected to participate in the Financial District, an extra-dimensional zone where the participants (Entrepreneurs or “Entres” for short) engage in “Deals” with their “Assets.” Just offer his future as collateral, and Kimimaro will be allowed entrance with an appropriate amount of funds to start working.

Kimimaro is smart enough to say no, but when small but decent chunk of cash suddenly appears in his bank account, the temptation begins to grow. It’s so small (500,00 yen—a little over $6000 by current exchange rates) that he thinks it won’t matter. Eventually, he makes the mistake of withdrawing an even smaller fraction of it, only about $100 worth, but this is enough for Masakaki to pull him in.

Kimimaro is understandably shocked when he sees "Midas money" for the first time. It's just one of the ways that the influence of the Financial District seems demonic

The first episode is about the temptation; the second is about Deals, which are … monster card battles akin to Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh. Ok, that’s not quite fair; no one is pulling out a deck or trying to advertise for a collectable card game. But the basics of summoning a monster (the previously mentioned “Asset” and having them use the special abilities in duels is a fairly obvious adaption. The Entres even had cards which, among other things, control their attacks.

There’s economic terminology being thrown around, and attacks both cost money and, potentially, can drain money from an opponent. Deals close after 666 seconds (one of the many such references in the show), so its possible for both sides to survive, but lose enough money and you go bankrupt, getting you banished from the district and with your “future” taken. (The one person this has happened to on screen later committed suicide.)

Every Entre gets an asset, but few one have as fetching as Kimimaro does in Mashu. Take it as another sign he's the protagonist

I could complain about how the economic metaphors implicit here, while perhaps reflective of how the Japanese view the business world, don’t really hold up. In the world of [C], wealth cannot be created or destroyed, only taken from others. The strength of your Asset is far more important in a conflict than anything you do. The only way to succeed is to participate in a shadowy underworld market, because hard work is for suckers.

A better complaint, from the point of narrative, is that the battles make no sense. There are no clear rules, no explanations for why some attacks score points or others don’t, and no sense of rhythm to the exchange. It’s all nicely animated, but I have the feeling that every fight is going to resolve the way it does for no more explicable reason than “because that’s what the writers wanted.”

The Deals are flashy, but there's little substance behind them

The Financial District does have real world effects: Money earned both from the initial payment and from battles appears in the real world, although the influx comes in bills Entres can tell are black. That doesn’t keep the rest of the world from treating it as perfectly legal tender, and particularly successful Entres can use that success to dominate normal markets, which in turn gives them more money to work with for Deals.

Souichirou Mikuni is one such tycoon, and for some reason he takes a particular interest in Kimimaro. It’s implied he’ll be an antagonist by the end of the series, but for now, he serves as a plot device to further explain the workings of the Financial District, a District Mikuni might also have cause to oppose.

Mikuni, it's implied, had a very similar beginning to Kimimaro, so perhaps that's another reason for the sympathy

I strongly debated covering [C] instead of Tiger & Bunny. I haven’t been as jazzed about the later series since its first couple episodes, and [C] has kept growing on me since its start (four episodes are current available on Hulu). Moreover, [C] has a much better series designer and director behind the helm, increasing the likelyhood of an ending payoff.

I decided against covering [C], however, because I don’t think I’d have much meaningful to say. The story is so disjointed, conspiracy-prone, and generally odd that providing in-depth commentary would be difficult even in the best of circumstances. And there’s nothing meaningful that can be said about the battle sequences.

One of the many interesting animation techniques is a sort of screen breaking text that serves as a subtitle for the muffled voice of an Asset (or occasionally Masakaki). There are a bunch of other techniques which have director Kenji Nakamura's fingerprints all over them

That said, [C] is staying on my watch list. So long as it can provide some tolerably good explanation for some of the deeper mysteries of the Financial District, and doesn’t annoy me too much with the battles, I won’t feel that was a poor choice. I’ve got another month and a half to see if my investment will pay out.

You can watch the series here.

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