Something I failed to realize last week, swept up as I was by the episode’s twists, was that this whole conflict was ultimately going to be resolved through fighting. Fighting means action, animated action in this case, and that’s something this adaptation has struggled with since it first began. That hasn’t been too much of an issue for this season, since the few fights we saw were basically just Takemichi getting his ass kicked; short and simple skirmishes that didn’t involve making both parties feel dangerous. Now though? Now the show has to animate a fight between two skilled fighters and convince us they’re both actually powerful. The result is rough to say the least.
This should, theoretically, feel like a high-stakes duel. Several lives are on the line across multiple timelines. It’s Hakkai’s role model for familial love, Mitsuya, facing his monster of a biological brother, squaring off in a bare-knuckled brawl in the middle of a church. Taiju is literally throwing wooden pews through the air and cackling like a madman while a statue of the virgin Mary looms in the background. Yet in execution, it’s just endless minutes of stilted shots depicting totally unconvincing punches, where the only way to tell who’s winning is how loud the sound effect is when their punch lands and which character model has more red splashed across their face like a finger painting accident. Some shows can make limited action, but Tokyo Revengers is clearly reaching for spectacle that it cannot attain with the resources it’s been given.
Compounding that is how the story pretty much immediately gets rid of the most interesting parts of this conflict. Yuzuha gets knocked out almost immediately, relegated to an unconscious object for the Toman boys to protect, which is massively disappointing after last week promised she’d play a part in resolving her family’s turmoil. There’s also just confounding stretches of the episode where it feels like time-dilation has kicked in. Taiju’s right-hand men spring a surprise attack that takes Mitsuya out, decisively turning the tide in their favor, and then just stand menacingly in the background for several minutes while Takemichi and Chifuyu have a lengthy discussion. Sometimes you have to suspend your disbelief with moments like these for the sake of narrative progression, but it robs the conflict of any tension. Taiju and his goons don’t feel like actual characters, but rather video game bosses who will patiently wait for a cutscene to play out before the player presses X to resume the fight.
All of that is enough to make this episode a slog, but it gets just that little bit more annoying when you realize this whole thing is resolving exactly the same way as every other climactic fight Takemichi has taken part in, even down to the key central fighter getting sucker-punched with a steel rod. The only difference is which way Takemichi is looking while he struggles to keep somebody from killing the arc’s central character. I fully understand, and have often appreciated, that Takemichi’s defining trait is his willingness to take a beating for the sake of others, but there’s a point where the story has to find something else for him to do. You can only reiterate Hina’s line about his bravery so many times before it loses its impact.
The one saving grace in all of this is the hope that Hakkai will eventually break out of his trauma-induced paralysis and stand up to Taiju man-to-man. That’s not exactly the most thoughtful resolution to a story of familial abuse, but it would at least offer something cathartic and different for this arc’s resolution. Yet I’m not sure just how long we’ll be waiting for that, considering how slow this episode moved. It’s a shame, but after several weeks of keeping itself grounded and eventful,Tokyo Revengers has once again slid into the adaptation and narrative’s worst habits.
Tokyo Revengers: Christmas Showdown is currently streaming on