Easily binge-able and tightly packed with memorable lines, it’s easy to turn Neo Yokio’s six episodes into a much longer story.
Neo Yokio, written by Nick Weidenfeld and Ezra Koenig, follows an emotionally intense and metaphysically-sensitive Kaz Kaan- voiced by Jaden Smith- as he lives his days as a neo-riche demon slayer in Neo Yokio, an extremely spare and vapid interpretation of New York City in which everything below 14th Street is submerged underwater.
It’s a wide-ranging and densely written effort, episodes of Neo Yokio often become an puzzle wrapped in an enigma- a mix of jokes and references you may be Too Poor to Understand combined with highly-contextual visual moments- in one moment you’re at the Met Ball, the next you’re inside a painting next you’re in a cutscene with a jazz band.
Neo Yokio works nicely because it really is a six episode dip into a world in which its wealthiest citizens are also the most psychologically distraught. Their first world problems (Midnight blue tuxedo at a Black And White Ball) are treated with as much concern and thought as some mysteries of life (the importance of vanity). Most of the characters have this fluent understanding of their internal struggles and are able to explain them clearly- contrast is fascinating and usually funny.
I found myself re-watching a Neo Yokio episode that involved a Taylor Swift-inspired character called Sailor Pellegrino, an outsider new to Neo Yokio. Its draw wasn’t exactly the visuals (though quite good- Anime legends Studio Deen and Production IG worked on them) but the excellent voice work and comedic timing. At the premier, few lines received more laughter than Sailor, as a possessed Damien Hirst skull, shouting “I can see you… bitch.” On paper, it’s unremarkable, but Katy Mixon’s crazy, overly-enunciated southern drawl sells it perfectly.
There’s lots of tiny moments like this that strike the perfect chord. Whether you love or hate anime, step away and let the medium simply be the medium, and nothing more. Online discourse in the die-hard Anime community trashed this project, but perhaps… as they should. Neo Yokio is one of those shows that relentlessly invites you to be in on the joke- none of this is that serious- an idea that carries though the show. Viewers that enter this wanting a rich and serious anime will only get half their wish.