A lot can happen over the course of a single day but what if there was a way to make sure that you would never have to worry about missing a deadline or special event. Well while a few anime series have explored the concept of time manipulation and some characters even can use it as a special ability, what about a series that sets itself almost entirely in frozen time? That anime happens to be Kokkoku and now that the complete series has been released in English from Sentai Filmworks, is the series worth your time?
Juri Yukawa may be freshly graduated from college but her career prospects are incredibly low as she once again fails a job interview. Forced to return home to her middle class family that is struggling to stay afloat due to a lackadaisical older brother that refuses to work named Tsubasa, a laid off father Takafumi, a nephew named Makoto that is being raised by her single older sister, and a wise Grandfather. This dysfunctional family creates a fairly interesting dynamic since, out of the entire group that is shown, Juri appears to be the most put together of the group outside of the Grandfather as she handles all of the tasks around the house. At least she is until the older brother Tsubasa is tasked with picking up her nephew Makoto from school.
After picking up the young child the pair find themselves kidnapped and held for ransom by a group calling themselves the Genuine Love Society. While the kidnappers demand that the family pay a sizable, but just within their bounds, sum of money for the safety of the pair, they must do so within a half hour or both Tsubasa and the young Makoto will be killed. After a bit of infighting Grandfather pulls out a magical stone that he uses to transport Juri, Takafumi, and himself into a Stasis world. In Stasis all time is frozen except for those who have specters residing within them and through the use of the stone Grandfather manages to secure the safety of these three as they move to the location to rescue their family.
Unfortunately things quickly take a turn for the worse as the three find themselves accosted by others that are able to move within Stasis. Unable to save their kidnapped family and having to leave her father behind, Juri and Grandfather escape from the impossible situation only to find that the Stasis world is far more dangerous than one may think and that the leader of the Genuine Love Society is willing to do anything to reach his goal of obtaining Juri’s family’s secret for himself.
Kokkoku is something of a strange series as it struggles heavily with pacing which is ironic considering the series takes place during frozen time. The first quarter of the season works incredibly well as viewers see how Juri’s family interacts with one another and learns bits and pieces about the Stasis world through both serious moments that involve the protectors of the area, Handlers, and comedic moments that focus more on how one could possibly explain the physics behind the magic. In fact the series is truly at its strongest when it focuses on Juri’s family dynamics as many of the characters get a chance to shine in some form and show some growth, outside of a certain character that is relegated to being a buffoon, while Juri herself proves herself as a strong female lead willing to put herself at risk if it means keeping her family safe.
However past this point Kokkoku finds itself wallowing in half-explored story elements, bits of development for side characters that tend to go nowhere beyond showing the dangers of the Stasis world, and an incredibly weak motivation for the main antagonist of the series. Multiple episodes can pass with characters talking through their plans, making an attempt or succeeding at it, only for it to either end up meaningless or simply run down the clock. In fact viewers will be happy that they can watch this series all in one sitting since the numerous cliffhangers that happen between episodes that result in nothing would be incredibly frustrating if watched at a weekly basis.
That isn’t to say that Kokkoku is a bad series as it does explore some interesting moral questions especially since it places the characters in a world where, outside of attempting to murder someone frozen in time, there are few consequences to someone’s actions. This type of question is presented numerous times throughout the series with the ending truly pushing the limits of just how well a person can mentally withstand being in a world where all time is frozen. Between this moral quandary and the great interactions between the members of Juri’s family Kokkoku does feel like a strong show at times but thanks to the aforementioned horrible pacing that sees multiple episodes pass with little happening, a villain whose motivation that is hard to take serious, and so many vague handwavings about elements of the Stasis world, it truly does struggle, especially since the finale pulls out an incredibly contrived trump card to bring the story to a close.
The animation studio handling Kokkoku is a rather fresh one as it has only handled a single OVA prior to this series and the company really wants to emphasize themselves as every episode features a short clip advertising themselves at the start. The series features a more realistic looking color pallette outside of a few of the magical sci-fi elements that appear from time to time and it is worth noting that there are some spectacular looking scenes featuring the Handlers, but there are also a number of issues with the actual character designs.
For the most part the characters and the environments are handled decently but their faces are often rather awful looking, especially in later episodes. Oddly enough it is worth noting that while the ending sequence does feature quite a bit of fan-service featuring the few female characters but the series itself is tame in this regard.
With this release of Kokkoku Sentai Filmworks has created a fresh English dub for the series alongside the original Japanese voice track. The English voice cast does an incredible job for most of the characters with Juri’s voice actress fitting her fluctuating emotional state quite well. Those who prefer the Japanese voice track will find that some of the older characters are handled better by that group of voice actors.
The soundtrack for the series is decent enough with a nice mix of background music accompanying some of the more serious scenes. The opening sequence theme “Flashback” is actually quite catchy and matches the animation very well while the ending theme “Asayake to Nettaigyo” also sounds decent but, as mentioned before, is accompanied by an odd choice of fan-service shots.
The only bonus features offered in the English release of Kokkoku are clean versions of the opening animations, a clean closing animation, promos from the original Japanese release, and trailers for other releases from Sentai Filmworks.
Kokkoku‘s premise sets the series’ up for a strong start and while it makes great use of that beginning to build up Juri and some of her family as strong characters and introduce the Stasis world, it really begins to falter from then on. With sci-fi fantasy elements that feel barely touched upon, numerous meaningless events, and a poorly written villain the series’ pacing becomes its biggest fault leading to a series that starts out intriguing but will likely only hold a viewer’s attention thanks to the strong-willed Juri and to see how her the rest of the family can make it through this ordeal.
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