Concrete Revolutio – Review

So yeah, I finally went back and took a second look at the one fall show everyone kept saying was worth watching, and it turns out they were very, extremely right. Concrete Revolutio is excellent – very creative and full of piercing ideas, constantly coming up with new ways to contrast its rich cast of characters against each other. Easily the best new show of its season, and also one of the best shows of the year – if I were to write my top ten list over again, I’d probably put it right above Death Parade. It’s a bit of a shame that I slept on this one while it was airing, but the experience of marathoning it was actually very satisfying, and likely helped it come off as more cohesive given its base complexity, so I can’t really complain. If you missed it too, I’d definitely check it out.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below!

Concrete Revolutio

Episode 1

Pop art aesthetic, those little dots from comic-style newspaper art, wild shadows and colors, wildly divergent pieces of stylistic detritus from classic 60s-70s cultural artifacts

Incredibly busy. Busy in chronology, since it jumps wildly between timelines. Busy in action. Busy in ideas

This busyness can make it difficult to engage either on an emotional or pure narrative level

Wild, day-glo colors

Kikko Hoshino’s the girl

Jiro Hitoyoshi’s the guy

Rich pastels

Some rock songs for both the BG music and the OP

A scientist selling off information to industrial spies who are actually aliens

Lots of really compelling images

Kikko can replace objects with each other

Aliens and magical girls and giant robots and monsters

Appropriately twinkly song for her transformation scene

Kikko summons “flat” butterflies with no shadow or depth

Super sentai heroes and whatnot

Grosse Augen, a sentai warrior

The Superhuman Bureau

Equus, Jiro’s big horse-car

Pretty solid animation, but this is a first episode

“What technology!” “It’s just plain magic”

Very rich colors

Humans and monsters fighting together. The complexity of the actual situation is more difficult to engage with than their rules allow

And now some melancholy guitar strings

“We will never forget you, huh?”

“I protect superhumans, and dispose of dangerous superhumans.”

Grosse Augen appears in the future timeline, and has taken over the body of the one he was originally fighting. Apparently Jiro was actually saving him, and disobeying the bureau

Episode 2

Time to meet the ghost boy, who uses his powers to steal treats. He remembers when children used to play with him, but they’ve all grown up

They call her a witch, but she’s a dang magical girl

A black fog is approaching

The government doesn’t officially acknowledge superhumans

Kikko frames it as heroes fighting evil, but of course it isn’t that simple

Ghosts like to play with children, and never age. That’s all they know about them

Jiro’s the only human on the team

Tartaros Bugmen are the ones controlling the fog

“If they’re evil, there has to be a superhuman counterpart.” “Yep, those are the rules.” Interesting

A bug girl wants to be friends with the ghost

Fuurouta is the ghost

Campe is the bug girl

I guess we’re partially dealing with random episodic adventures

Emi and Jiro seem to be already going out

Fuurouta wants to help

The politicians had sold off the homeland of the Tartaros Bugmen. And not understanding that, Furouta killed them. Now Campe is the only survivor

“Even if your goals were just, your means were not of a superhuman of justice”

“You think your single life is worth the millions you stole from Campe?” A great line

“Because he’s a friend, you can’t forgive”

“It was easier back then. There were bad guys, and superhumans beat them”

“Since when did things get so complicated? No distinction between good and bad. Even we’re enemies now. Is it because I can’t grow up? Then I want to grow up, too!”

Jiro lets Fuurouta enter the team, as his own conscience. “Stay the way you are.”

Episode 3

A man who never knew the war ended has returned to Japan. So getting more explicit in the WWII references

A bomb in the airport

Robot dude from the OP trying to investigate, but the Superhuman Bureau takes all the evidence

Having just the third episode focus on a dude investigating the protagonists is pretty bold

He’s a police detective

Recent protests

“The attacker was superhuman, and you hide the truth”

“Heroic superhumans don’t exist. What exists are monsters that have or will cause destruction”

The detective died, and his memories were implanted in a robot body

“Superhumans fulfill selfish desires with unknown powers. What justice can there be in that?”

The schoolgirl is the weapon – another robot

“I won’t let it go to war!” She’s trying to stop the military-industrial desires

“He’s a superhuman, too. The Bureau will protect him!”

“The only person discovered at Guam was him. You never existed.”

A male and female android were created and went missing during the war. Paying for the weapons of the past

Jiro’s father is one of the advisors

“You can’t help but hear, with those ears.” He has powers he never wanted

She’s looking for the male robot she was created alongside

They become an “ultimate weapon” by merging

Discussing kinds of justice

Seems like Emi can disguise herself and use all kinds of powers

“Humans are like that too. They’re designed to love someone. am I wrong? I think that’s justice.”

“Are there that many kinds of justice?”

Mieko is her name

Really sweet guitar track for this. Diverse melodies in general

They’re all acting how they were desgined

Detective Shiba

“I still want to see him. Why?!”

And she detonates herself after learning her purpose

But dang, five years later, he actually discovers her for her “lover”

“You two were given fake love and a fake sense of justice. I can teach you what real justice is right now.”

“I thank you for that. But what you’re trying to do is evil.”

“The scientists taught them justice.”

“Humans interpret justice on their own and sometimes make mistakes. But machines obey.”

“No matter who wins, we’re no longer justice.” “But it still has to be fought out.”

Episode 4

A giant kaijuu-style thing is awakening in a stereotypically tropical island

This seems like the WWII parallel itself, here. Back in time, when Jiro was a boy. Using the superhumans as front-line fighters

The show isn’t really trying to be a puzzle show, it’s just juggling a lot of ideas and moments, and trying to use them for best dramatic effect

“We don’t know if the beast is evil yet.” “All beasts are evil!” “You mean, for humans.” Like with relative kinds of justice. The show hammers on these points, but it’s got a lot to say

This also seems early relative to the normal material. Well before Kikko joined the team, when Jiro was still young and raring to go

“Why are beasts killed without question?” “Their very existence is dangerous.” “But there must be a reason they were born.”

“If that typhoon were caused by a beast, you’d say we should have killed it earlier.” Framing them as natural disasters the government has a responsibility to stop

“Every superhuman has their own evil to fight”

And then Earth-chan arrives, and saves the day

Ah, the professor is Jiro’s foster father. That makes more sense

Grosse Augen “leaving” left a power gap. Many beasts rose, but so did superhumans to fight them

Matsumoto wants to do a radio broadcast on beasts. “They’re popular. Not just with kids, but with young people like me.” hmm

“All my father left me was this factory and debt. I can’t go to college”

“I feel sorry for the beasts. Humans are what created them – born from wars, experiments, and even industrial waste”

“No, they’re from nature. Can humans coexist with volcanoes or earthquakes?” “We already do.”

“Seeing them, I know humans and beasts can get along.”

“They’re just a bunch of beast groupies.”

“Somebody’s making beasts appear to make superhumans look good”

Turns out the radio group actually were supplying beasts to people

“Beasts are anger! Mine! Human’s!” The sins of the past recur both in the wild and in the anger of the next generation

And Jiro himself has a great anger and violence inside him, which he keeps locked up. But fox-spirit Emi can suppress it

No villains here. The beast advocates are understandable, and their own form of “justice” demands collision with Jiro’s current beliefs. Jiro is currently about “keeping the peace” as justice, but keeping the peace is itself a political act – it’s enforcing a status quo that prioritizes certain groups over others

The uneasy balance of different ideas of peace, freedom, and justice – one person’s secure position demands imposition on the rights of others

Episode 5

Master Ultima, a genius monster/human scientist

He found beasts on Mars which now work as American “protectors of peace” worldwide

A publicity manager who managed idols is now being recruited to manage a beast’s debut. Beasts as tools of propaganda on multiple sides, as they’re also used in governmental power plays

“The return of Okinawa in three years… dealing with Japan’s beast hatred by then”

Kikko questioning Jiro’s hatred of beasts. Clearly it’s related to what happened in the war, when he was a child

“The youth were sympathetic towards beasts, as if someone was making them feel that way.” Hm

Kikko is pretty shitty at going undercover

Matsumoto seems to have acquired the beast the US Army allegedly disposed of. If they’re allied, that’s a problem. So the agency’s suspicion is that the US is courting student unrest to further their own aims, whereas the Japanese government wants solidarity, which goes hand-in-hand with conservatism. Treating Japan like another of the US’s proxy governments

“You’re all beasts, so become beasts!” Both this kid and Jiro were essentially guided by the war, but circumstances put them apart like this

And Jiro is himself one of the ugly weapons they’re trying to manage, one that can’t necessarily be controlled

“Now he’s an enemy of the youth and society. And our beast will stop him”

“We’ll shock those talking about the Shinka Genroku era.” Hmm

“This is a soldier. He didn’t want to go to war, so he ran from the US Army. We want to save him from the Japanese government and US imperialism”

“MegaGon is us. Our anger is a beast”

“We are… beasts…”

“I wonder where my brother is going”

“Making Jiro go violent… it’s definitely a challenge to the Bureau.” And that’s their reason for destroying the beast? Jeez

Holy shit, Ukyo Yamato, the lady from the Beastly Wave Radio, was actually Emi. She’s the one who gave the student protesters the beast-creating weapons. Daaang

“To make the people think superhumans are justice”

“The one who has the right to love Jiro… is the one who can help him despite becoming this.” Her love reflects the awkward imbalance of loving these ideals in spite of their underlying violence

“There’s a beast inside Jiro, too. Inside any human, if you ask me.” The show’s treading a tricky line – it’s saying there are parallels between all of these forces, but I don’t think it’s going to the simplistic “the protesters are equally wrong.” It’s more like “any great intentions can be subverted”

“I felt like the beast let me go outside.” The beast is our violence. I can see why Guy really likes this show

The writing can be pretty on-the-nose at times. Literally describing his beast as inside himself

“I guess he’s more reliable than those weird superhuman things”

“I like them because humans can’t understand them.”

And the Bureau’s evil plan works. Everything’s a fucking mess

“Are you a messenger of nature? An ancient god? A victim of humanity? Or something we desired ourselves?” DAMN

“As long as children continue to cry from your fire, I will fight.”

And Jiro himself is one of their experiments.

“The beast craze ended after a year and a half. The monster craze that followed… that’s another story.”

Episode 6

A band that’s basically the Beatles who have actual superhuman powers that let others connect with soldiers and everyone out in the field. A physical representation of the protest power of music

And now the crappy gag opening act all get powers

The Mountain Horses

“The power to liberate souls”

“Rainbow Knight and Earth-chan. I loved them as a kid”

Their powers are kinda crap

They were observed by the bureau, but weren’t enough of a threat for it to matter

Angel Stars, officially authorized superhumans. In a scene that’s basically supposed to represent the Beatles’ appearance on television

“We’re not real comedians. Just second rate”

The ghost keeps an eye on them

“Young people who love the superhuman stars will lose their superhuman powers”

“Do you dislike superhumans?” “I just think they should be managed according to the government’s needs”

Their managers are evil, but it’s a job

“What’s wrong with second-rate? Is it meaningless?”

The drummer remembers a time when superhumans were used as weapons of war. “But that was the past.” “Maybe so, but I remember it”

“Just this once. If we don’t stand up now, we’ll be lower than third-rate”

I love these shitty heroes

“It’s not like dreaming will kill you”

“Don’t you get it? They are superhumans. Don’t you see how many people are laughing?”

Episode 7

Emi and Kikko’s guardian conspiring. Apparently Kikko is not what she appears

Mr. Judas, a new superhuman

And then Earth-chan appears

“If you’re so smart, why can’t you tell between good and bad?” “The world isn’t that simple.”

Kikko appreciates Earth-chan’s simplicity

“They took advantage of my ignorance and sold me crummy stocks.”

“I’m the victim, not the villain!” “I know good from bad!”

“So he’s the villain?” “If Earth-chan says so, then I guess so.”

Relying on the simple morality of others isn’t some kind of higher approach

“I was wishing you’d come.” “That’s why I came.”

Gorgeous shots here

Earth-chan ties the smokestack tops up. But she can’t fix structural issues

Japan’s participation in a new earth defense league is being discussed. Of course, there will be student protests, because this is another part of Japan being coopted by American interests

“Earth-chan sides with what’s right, but it’s not like what she sides with becomes right.” “We will make it so.”

And this is nicely complicated by the fact that Earth-chan’s existing loyalties aren’t reliable or inherently just, and that other superhumans actually agree with the protests

“I went back to the evil organization. They were the only ones who accepted me.”

“Violence again?” “Because I believe it’s what right.”

“I won’t be tricked by a witch”

Earth-chan’s creator actually made her in a very cruel way, but Judas believes in her regardless. The effect of her justice can be true regardless of its origins

“Lies are necessary for people sometimes. Maybe for you too”

I really love these electronic-tinged Earth-chan songs

To Judas, Earth-chan is the representation of a simple, pure justice. Just like Emi sees Jiro that way, and just like Jiro eventually comes to see Fuurouta. We all want to believe there is a pure justice somewhere, or at least someone who believes in it, even if we can’t see it ourselves

Episode 8

Welp, looks like Earth-chan does eventually join Jiro’s group

So now the students are protesting superhumans

“He’s refused to register with the bureau. We have no obligation to protect him”

And the superhumans use requests as a pretext to break up protests

The Eye of Lucifer, Rainbow Knight’s enemy

The show keeps hammering how these events go in cycles and are forgotten

Rainbow Knight was framed by the government to increase control of superhumans

And the new generation believes the propaganda of the past

More crunchy guitar riffs

Ah, the Gigander captain is Daiketsu. Makes sense

This show is of course also a love letter to all these classic heroes

Some more solid animation for this fight

“I have to know. I need to make it clear… that he was evil. Justice and evil are totally different.”

“You’re a superhuman of justice.” “No. The most I can do is be a hero.”

“Even if someone is gray, if he believes in justice… I want to be a hero”

Episode 9

An invincible, never-aging family

The US kept the father as a war hostage, and used him for experiments

“When they are reunited, they’ll have to sign up with the bureau. They’ll need to participate in experiments”

Pretty much every power within the actual bureau has some real significant narrative/thematic purpose, and is consistently used in a variety of ways

I assume this episode is intended to play on the post-war idea of the unbreakable family structure. The literal nuclear family. Though I’m not sure what analogue that idea might have in Japan

This story takes place after Jiro left the bureau

“Does this country not understand what compassion is?”

The US means to steal the family

“If they can’t reveal our secret, they want us gone”

Episode 10

Time for time travel

“Why use their powers for fraud?” “It’s because they had them.”

“Superhumans saved me during the war. But these two take normal humans for fools!” Seeing them as a monolith

“Boys like their toys. Especially those that act grown up”

“IQ. They eliminate anything them deem as evil, through assassination”

“Your reasons matter not. The moment you took hostages, you became evil”

“They were both destroyed. Makes you feel stupid for hesitating.” Those who believe utterly in their own justice without hesitation often win, because confidence and swift action is powerful. This does not make them right

Looks like Jaguar, or at least Jaguar from a different time, also exists within IQ. Seems younger

“Let’s talk, as you’re with IQ”

“Just like Shakko said. You can’t erase the past”

And now Kikko’s just straight-up captured Jaguar’s old self, and the new Jaguar is lecturing him. This is pretty great

“I’m after future dwellers trying to change history. Wait! Is another one of me already in this era?!” hahaha great

So the younger Jaguar is in the past likely searching for his own future self, who deserted the Time Patrol to try and change the past

He first created IQ to try and save superhumans, but was stopped by himself, and so went back in time again to create the Superhuman Bureau. But his prior selves still exist. “Time never goes back to 0”

And his old IQ self believe the Bureau is evil. This is great

IQ accuses them of crimes, and they say “well, I guess they’re right”

And this also plays perfectly into the general theme of how our youthful fire doesn’t necessarily work, with his older self literally being forced to kill the younger self who refused to compromise

“Will the world become clean just by eliminating it all?” “You’re still a child.”

Lecturing Jiro about efficient weapons. “You’re still a kid if you think things can be solved with fists”

“Will defeating evil really change the world? That’s just a childish dream.”

“Such a mortifying past. You wanted to erase it, huh?” “That’s how adults are.” Reflecting on the government censorship as well. Damn

“History doesn’t disappear the more things are added over it.”

Episode 11

“Justice/Freedom/Peace.” Quite a title

Students protest as the Angel Stars perform for soldiers

“Jiro can’t say no to Emi”

This publicist lady, damn

The scheming government dude is trying to destroy the Bureau

Claude is apparently the one the government (or at least EDC-supporting) alien, along with the publicist, have allied with. And the one who’s commandeered the sub

“Should you not use what you believe and strive for a better future? Is that nonsense?” “Yeah, if you’re just babbling alone.

“One single person can change the world. Is that just a fantasy all superhumans rally behind?”

Claude is an individual thinking on the structural level, the detective accepts the structure but seeks “justice” on the individual level

Flashes of Equus in the blaze

The publicity group managed to get the footage of the US sub on the air, which reveals how it was using superhumans as batteries. Their own goals are murky, but this is itself an extremely legitimate kind of “justice”

“That should’ve been our job”

“Shouldn’t we have protected them?” “I would have if I’d know.” “Really?” This is why Emi and the others hide information from Jiro

Kikko is done with Jiro’s flimsy morals

An anonymous tip leads Kikko to Claude killing some medical staff, and she does some dark transformation

“Hear me, future Queen of the Demon’s World” alright Kikko

“Somebody had to do this”

Episode 12

She’s from the Demon’s World, and looking for a contract/husband in this one

She’s destined to be a leader there

And of course, those doctors were experimenting on superhumans

The boy in the picture is Jin. He was killed by Rainbow Knight, according to Emi

So the other ghost-man is just an advisor for Teito Advertisement at the moment?

Ah, Jin is the man who knew about witches. Not surprising

“Instead of just fighting gangs and monsters, maybe superhumans could…”

Superhumans in general beginning to develop a social consciousness

This show is slowly moving towards “what if superhumans really did want to fix the world? They certainly wouldn’t waste time fighting giant monsters”

“We can’t trust you adults anymore.” “But you’ll trust Claude?!?”

Kikko’s Jiro is who she wants him to be

Oh shit. The Rainbow Knight kids were sent to the joint US-Japan experimental island. He was attempting to shelter them

And they used him as a fall guy to justify creating the Bureau

Episode 13

The Strange Office is blowing the lid on the experiments. YEAHHHH

And the advertising agency is involved, and the detective is helping them, but they’re trying to destroy the Bureau

So now the chief is dead

Student protests are happening worldwide, on “World Peace Day”

ooor the chief takes over the body of the guy being propositioned by the publicity group

“You’re still going to fight Claude, for Kikko?”

“When you’re with her, you try to become the person she wants you to be. Like you can save every single superhuman.”

“We are Claude!”

The kids remember the promises of their parents better than the parents do. Once again, “adults trying to erase the ugly past”

Earth-chan plans to punish both sides, lol

GREAT fight with the detective

“Defending my freedom disturbs the peace! Pursuing your justice violates my freedom! There is no single answer!”

“Out there, there must be someone like the superhumans I looked up to as a child. I want to be able to protect them, at the very least, as an ally of justice.”