March 6-8, 2020
Light another scented candle, lean back in that bubble bath, and prepare to enter the greatest city in the world, according to the people of Neo Yokio that is.
For some, it’s already too late to salvage their opinion of this brilliant show. They will have heard the detractors and given up before even trying it, and to those people, our condolences. Truly, but for those of you on the enlightened plain, you’ll know that Neo Yokio is something of an underrated cult hit, and definitely worth catching up on before the Christmas special, Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas, drops on Netflix this Friday.
Much like the eponymous city, Neo Yokio is a melting pot of cultures and ideas, blended together into something truly unique. It has an anime-inspired art style, but the themes are decidedly Western. Neo Yokio is a satire of modern consumerism and celebrity culture, and one of the best ones around.
Poe’s Law is an internet adage that says that, without an obvious indicator of the author’s intent, it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some viewers for a sincere expression of the parodied views. Neo Yokio has definitely fallen victim to this.
Kaz Kaan, our main character voiced by Jaden Smith, is a young man who feels hard-done-by in a world where his every whim is attended to by his mecha butler, and his biggest problems are competing with his nemesis Arcangelo (Jason Schwartzman) for the top spot on Neo Yokio’s Bachelor Board, a giant ranking list in the middle of the city, occasionally having to earn money by doing demon-hunting jobs for his Aunt Agatha (Susan Sarandon), and ‘grieving the death of his relationship,’ ie. getting over a break-up.
Kaz and the characters in the show sincerely see these things as their biggest problems, and Kaz often places them before even protecting the city from demons. Helena St. Tessero (Tavi Gevinson) is the only character in the show who denounces the capitalistic, petty lifestyle of Neo Yokio, but even then, to say she’s the stand-in for the audience would be a stretch.
It would have been easy for creator Ezra Koenig to make her the voice of reason, but reason isn’t what Neo Yokio does. It wants you to revel in the absurdity.
The show one-ups itself at every turn with social commentary that isn’t mind-blowingly insightful, but never fails to get a laugh. Neo Yokio may be absurdist humour, but in that absurdity it comes so close to a reflection of our own world that it’s hard not to appreciate the jabs at the wealthy upper-echelon of citizens.
Kaz is a divisive main character, it’s certainly fair that some people find his dry, deadpan delivery a little grating, but when viewed as a caricature of all the negative things older generations say about millennials, it starts to become clearer why Kaz is the way he is. He is entitled, obsessed with his image, and he’s constantly moping about how hard his life is, despite living in a society that seems to cater exclusively to people like him.
Kaz should be an insufferable main character, but strangely, he grows on you. You start to understand his problems, and go from laughing at him to being genuinely concerned when his damn tuxedo is midnight blue, you idiot, and it’s a black tie event! Think, Kaz!
When you throw Helena in, who serves as a great foil to Kaz’s vapid nature, and Arcangelo, who’s even more pretentious than Kaz, you have some great character dynamics that entertain whenever they’re on screen together.
The show is only six episodes, long enough to finish in an afternoon, and that’s for the best at the moment. It’s easily digestible, and once you start to appreciate the humour, blazing through six episodes seems like nothing, and you’re left wanting more. The low number of episodes also means that the quality of writing is consistent across the board, dipping slightly in episode four, but climbing right back up for a stellar finale.
Neo Yokio is available on Netflix right now, with Pink Christmas coming out on December 7, the story of that elegant young man who battled demons and celebrated Christmas in the greatest city in the world, Neo Yokio.