Good Night World
Taichiro Arima is a NEET shut-in who hates the real world in general, and his real-world father in particular, incessantly describing both with the most familiar scatological term. But it all changes for him when he uses his computer, and dons a VR headset, to plug into PLANET, a MMORPG in which his avatar identity is Ichi Akabane. While "Ichi" is certainly a delinquent, he's nevertheless part of a loving online family consisting of father-figure Shiro, a brother called AAAAA (because the person playing the character couldn't come up with a better name in time), and a "little sister" named May; all, of course, have magical powers. (I feel like an idiot after I looked up more info on the show while preparing the review; I actually had no clue who "May" was going to turn out to be IRL, and I REALLY should have known.) Many of the game's players are looking for something called The Blackbird of Happiness (there's a real-world cash prize for capturing it), though when we see it, it doesn't look much like a bird (even though its appearances ARE heralded by black feathers), and it certainly doesn't bring much happiness. Quite the opposite, in fact...
"With that money, I could be a shut-in for the rest of my life"- Taichiro, considering his plans for how he would spend the cash award for catching the Blackbird. (Clearly, Taichiro has ambitious plans...)
The fact that Taichiro is bitter and whiny ("Emo" and "Angsty" are also used to describe him) makes him one of the least appealing anime MC's on record; he's only able to carry on something like a civil (though still surly) conversation with his PLANET "Akabane" online family- and, to some degree, with "Captain Pico", a young woman who's head of a group of "Pirates" in the game. She's had a long-time crush on Ichi/Taichiro; she was even moved to confess to him, "I will never forget the day you bared the darkness of your soul to me." (This show had quite a bit of potential as black comedy, but alas, it's pretty much all over the place.)
I should say more about "Captain Pico", since she's a key character- at least for a while. For one thing, she may not be an especially chesty girl, but her outfit still seems to put her in danger of accidental spillage. The show's initial presentation of her is profoundly silly, but we find out that she, unlike some of the other PLANET players, regards the experience as "just a game", a way to blow off steam. (Some, like Taichiro/Ichi, are here because they can't/don't want to cope with the real world at all; others are here just for the promised money reward for capturing the Blackbird. "Pico's" being in it just for a fun-and-thrills break from reality seems the healthiest attitude, but when we get HER IRL backstory, it turns out she's taking "breaks" from a pretty oppressive reality herself.)
But it's not all... well, fun and games in this fun game world. For the Blackbird isn't an innocuous entity at all- it's a malicious bot (at least from the human perspective) that can upload itself into the actual minds of the players, trapping their minds in a dark world of its own creation, where, among other things, it tests some of those minds to destruction. (The show kind of acknowledges the interesting question of what happens to the bodies (which are still in the "real" world) of those whose minds are sucked into the Blackbird's VR hell. The show, alas, tends to leave loose ends dangling as well, and this may be one of them.) The show broaches the idea that the Blackbird is not intentionally sadistic; it just happens to have no ethical system (or even Rules, like Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics) built into it, and its efforts to understand humans (and itself) would, I guess, be like those of small children trying to understand ants by destroying an ants' nest. Still, not including some limits on the behavior of your sentient AI system seems a major oversight by its creator. (And yes, this thing was deliberately created; its creator, in fact, is a major character in the show, with a PLANET guise as well as their IRL identity.)
So, in summary, we have a kind of sentient virus (first in the virtual world, then in the minds of the game participants), that casually destroys humans, because its creator carelessly forgot to give it a conscience, facing off against Ichi/Taichiro, who HAS a conscience, but it's buried under a ton of psychological baggage that he's burdened himself with (and is perpetually expressing in profanity-laden rage.) Will Ichi/Taichiro be able to "get over himself?" - or will someone else ultimately have to save the day?
The show does, to its credit, try to surprise, though it short-circuits some of those surprises; for example, around the middle of the first episode we suspect something about one member of Ichi/Taichiro's PLANET "Akabane Family"- and the show confirms our suspicions by the end of the same episode. But as I said, other things (and even people) appear in the story and are then simply abandoned without adequate follow-through. (Consider a peculiarity in Taichiro/Ichi's REAL mother's dialogue, when she finally appears in the story. WE notice it, and are later able to figure out what it means, but nobody in the cast who's HEARING it seems to comment on it at all.) And the show indulges in some over-the-top sadism toward a couple of its female characters.
I wish we had a "3.5 stars" rating. It's quite an imaginative show, but its main character is SO insufferable that you just want to punch him in the face. Over and over. The latter part of the show kind of reminded me of Kokkoku, but Juri, the heroine in that one, was compassionate (and self-sacrificing), while Taichiro/Ichi is a self-centered little jerk. Still, to paraphrase a song lyric, if you don't expect too much of our lead, you might not be let down. I also don't usually flag a show for profanity, but Ichi/Taichiro's over-performance in that department has caused me to break that tradition. And as I said, there are some gruesome deaths here. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Violence, for sure. A couple of gory deaths, and there's dismemberment, eye-gouging, and other things you might not want to see. Netflix says TV-MA; I'll second that.
Version(s) Viewed: Netflix video stream
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Good Night World © 2023 Uru Okabe/Shogakukan/GNW/Netflix
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