What is it?
Tokyo ESP shows a city under siege by a terrorist group of Espers; people who have gained supernatural powers when they are possessed by a magical flying fish. The only thing standing between them and the safety of the normal people of Tokyo, is the White Girl and her friends. The majority of the arc follows Rinka Urushiba’s origin story as she goes from normal high school girl to White Girl, an Esper who fights to protect regular people against the evil Espers.
Episode Runtime: 20 minutes.
Episode Count: 12.
Tokyo ESP’s greatest strength is its premise. The origin of the Esper’s is interesting when it is revealed and the show’s antagonist, known as The Professor, isn’t a typical one-dimensional villain once his motivations are made known. Tokyo ESP shows what the world would become if anyone could gain super powers, and the chaos that would ensue.
Rinka is a relatable protagonist, with a good balance between her flaws and strengths. Her guiding motivation is always to protect the innocent and powerless. The story threatened to dissolve her character into a damsel-in-distress for male-lead, Kyotaro, however it never falls fully into this trap. The romance between the pair is ever-present but it never takes over the narrative. Rinka and Kyotaro’s friends are also compelling. Ayumu is an Esper with the power of premonition, and the son of an anti-Esper senator. Murasaki is the daughter of a Yakuza boss who can gain the fighting ability of a weapon’s previous owner by seeing the weapon’s memories. And finally Kobushi is a rival to Rinka, with the power of invisibility and a sister within the ranks of the Esper terrorist group. The interplay between characters and their ties to the villains prevent the conflict from becoming a simple case of black and white.
What’s the problem?
It is hard to ignore the fact that Tokyo ESP feels rushed. Rinka’s identity as the White Girl becomes famous and relied on far too quickly by the general populace, and moments of crises, both internally and externally, are resolved almost as fast as they occur.
Minami, one of the few captivating villains
The villains suffer the most from these pacing issues. With the exception of The Professor, and his daughter Minami, none of the villains are given any form of motivation or presence. They are simply bad for the sake of being bad and seemingly only present as tools for Rinka and her friends to fight.
Most jarring for me however, was just how pointless Rinka’s Esper power was shown to be. Her power is rarely used in her fights which undermines the power of the villains. If a high school girl with some martial arts training could defeat Espers, why was the military helpless to fight them? Her power could have had many creative uses in combat and it was disappointing that she never really utilizes them.
Tokyo ESP is a by-the-books anime with a great premise, held back by pacing issues and forgettable villains. Given more time in this world, Tokyo ESP could have been remembered amongst the greats, however it fails to live up to its potential and remains as forgettable as it is entertaining. There is hope for the show, as the manga is ongoing, so there is potential for more and should more episodes be released I would return to watch more.
Tokyo ESP is available now, check out the Madman Entertainment website here for more details.