A waiter sets a tiramisu in front of a pink-haired teenage exorcist. As the boy mournfully eyes the desert, he deadpans: “I’m afraid I’ve lost my appetite.”
It’s a moment that encapsulates the defining confusion of “Neo Yokio,” Netflix’s new anime-inspired series produced by the renowned Japanese studio, Production IG. The show is the brainchild of Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, who is credited as creator and writer.
Jaden Smith voices Kaz Kaan, a desirable prospect on Neo Yokio’s ‘bachelor board’ from a long line of exorcists. The protagonist has potential to be complex and talented, yet somehow only manages to caricature an ignorant, self-important rich kid with absurdly petty concerns and constant pseudo-philosophical musings.
The title of the final episode,“I’m Starting to Think Neo Yokio Isn’t the Greatest City in the World,” reflects the show’s underlying feeling: like it’s just ‘starting to think’ by the time it’s half-baked concepts have been blended together and prematurely put to screen. Koenig doesn’t seem to have finished envisioning the most basic aspects of what “Neo Yokio” is supposed to evoke or communicate. He aspires to a level of depth and pretense that is lost in the juvenile masculinity and pseudo-philosophical nonsense that informs the show’s conceptional framework. In short, it’s a kind of auteur work, where a singular vision is delivered, but that vision is itself nonsensical.
So do I recommend “Neo Yokio?”
Yes, yes I do. Honestly, this is a show that needs to be seen to be believed: a so-bad-it’s-good masterwork of nonsensical ideas and uniquely terrible animation, voice work, and character design. All this is delivered with the authorial pretense of a Shyamalan, Wiseau, or any other purveyor of cult-classic, must-watch disasters. Grab some friends, gather around the TV, and bask in the one-of-a-kind trainwreck that is “Neo Yokio.”