“Neo Yokio is so obviously a male work with an unapologetic male gaze.”
Title: Neo Yokio
Episodes Reviewed: S01E01 - S01E03
Creator: Ezra Koenig 👨🏼🇺🇸🌈
Writers: Ezra Koenig 👨🏼🇺🇸🌈 (6 eps), Nick Weidenfeld 👨🏼🇺🇸 (2 eps), and Alexander Benaim 👨🏽🇺🇸 (1 ep)
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Meh. Wavers between mindless entertainment or a chore. The animation looks dated, which surprises me considering the pedigree of its studios Production I.G. (creator of the original Ghost In the Shell) and Studio Deen (creator of Rurouni Kenshin). Maybe the Japanese animators phoned it in—the general vibe I get from this series altogether. Shannon Liao puts it succinctly for The Verge, “The show has no soul. It’s dead on arrival.”
The only reason I’m scoring higher than a 1/5 is that its brand of classist humor can be perfectly entertaining in small doses. Its one-liners are fantastic when taken out of the context of, well, 20-minute blocks of the same schtick over and over again. Neo Yokio makes for a great gifset, but not an actual TV show.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test: NO
Neo Yokio is so obviously a male work with an unapologetic male gaze. For example, the female character Sailor Pellegrino (voiced by Katy Mixon) is introduced with a long camera pan from the leg up before reaching her face. When we meet a freshly-exorcised Helena (voiced by Tavi Gevinson), she is drenched in water, clad only in lingerie. Another scene opens with the image of a girl’s butt, reminiscent of misogynistic fan service that plagues much of modern Japanese anime.
The only reason I’m giving this higher than a 1/5 is due to recurring female characters—the aforementioned Helena, and Aunt Agatha (voiced by Susan Sarandon) who is a henpecking antagonist. Their characters are terrible and vapid, but so are all the men. I guess that’s one form of gender parity?
It’s refreshing to see people of color represented in anime style. Multiple characters are black, and not overly stereotyped. While Lexy (voiced by The Kid Mero) is a little eye-wincing with his cornrows and “ghetto” accent, he’s still part of the “neo riche” and is thus often depicted in tuxedos or pretentious field hockey and tennis outfits.
I have to echo @adornedbychi, however, when she points out of the relative absence of women of color (two brown women do appear; however, they are sycophantic “Helenists” with extremely minor roles).
And not just black women, but where are the Asians or Latinx? Maybe they show up in latter episodes, but for now I’ll score what I see—a false equivalence of “black men only” as “diversity”.
While Lexy and his friend Gottlieb (voiced by Desus Nice) are inseparable, they are never explicitly stated as gay or straight. Were they, this score could have lifted a nudge. Unfortunately, the only concrete handling of LGBTQ themes in Neo Yokio tanks this category. Since it occurs in a latter episode that I have not seen, I can only defer to Vrai Kaiser of The Mary Sue who does a breakdown of its transphobia here:
“By introducing a shenanigansy plot wherein Kaz’s cis male friend is transformed into a woman, the show opens the door to twenty minutes of walking into horrible stereotypes about trans women, including having the female-identified, loudly male-identifying Lexy use his physical appearance to hit on a lesbian; or having Kaz tell Lexy not to talk because his voice “gives him away.” The latter plays on fears of trans women being subject to mockery or even violence if they can’t pass, and the former plays right into TERF ideology that trans women are “really” just men trying to get with lesbians.”
Mediaversity Grade: D 2.25/5
What a waste of an interesting concept and a roster of big-name talent. I’d be on board with the internationalist collaboration between celebrity Americans and veteran Japanese animators, but the product never comes together and winds up being a confused veneer of pop culture references that never pay true homage to such anime classics as Sailor Moon or Ranma ½.
We do have to thank Neo Yokio for it’s incredible one-liners. But feel free to skip the show itself because too many of them at once will just give you a headache.