From the studio/director team that brought you shows like Monogatari series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Nisekoi, comes Mekakucity Actors (aka MCA). MCA is a show based on a series of soundtracks and Light Novels that composes something called the “Kagerou Project”. The show, like everything else, is based on the story of the Mekakushi Dan (lit. Blindfold Gang), a group of kids with special powers that are exhibited when their eyes turn red. The story of the show is told in bits and pieces with each episode focusing on a different time or viewpoint of an event that’s in at least one other episode. Initially this can leave thew viewer confused and feeling like there is no continuity. However, if you stick with it long enough there’s actually a pretty good story behind the whole thing.
This review is going to contain spoilers, so if you haven’t watched it yet you may want to stop here. However, I’ve found that the show works on a different level after you already know what’s going on so even these spoilers shouldn’t ruin the series for you. Because of how convoluted the presentation of the story is, I wanted to take the time to actually put together what I got from the plot of the anime. Based on what I’ve pieced together from the show, the story of Mekakucity Actors is as follows:
There was a monster (a Medusa), named Azami, that went into the world of humans and was mistreated. As a result she tried to keep to herself until she met an albino man named Tsukihiko that was actually nice to her. The two had a daughter together named Shion. However, they were still persecuted and attacked by humans in their world. One night, Azami was approached by a snake in a dream. The snake told her that she could create a world just for her and her family, where they could be happy. She creates the world but still ends up being separated from her family. Eventually, Shion has a daughter named Marry (who would be 1/4 Medusa). One day Marry and Shion are attacked by humans and, presumably, killed. Azami uses her power to draw anyone who dies into her never ending world (referred to as the “Heat Haze” in the source material and “the void” in the show). However, the never ending world is not a paradise, rather a place of torment where she and her family are trapped with the snake. Azami sacrifices her Queen snake, the power that allows her to control her world, to free Marry from the Heat Haze and sends her back to the other world.
Azami’s power is still in effect in that world. So anyone who dies on August 15th is drawn into the void, but some people survive and return. When they return they have been given a “snake” that gives them a power. When their power activates, their eyes turn red. It seems that most of the people who return from the void did not die alone (usually dying with one other living thing) and were somehow rescued by that other person or made some kind of heroic gesture in order to get back. That last part is only speculation since the show doesn’t give you the details of everyone’s death. When a person with a snake comes back into the world, they are drawn to Marry because she holds the Queen. As a result, she is met by a boy named Kosuke Seto who has the ability to read people’s minds.
Seto is one of three orphans that were adopted by the Tateyama family. Each of the 3 orphans (Tsubomi Kido, Kosuke Seto, and Shuya Kano) has powers. The mother, Ayaka Tateyama, has dedicated herself to doing research into the story of the Medusa. It is presented as a folktale but she believes that there is truth to the story and has taken in these orphans because she also believes their powers have something to do with the Medusa. One day, Ayaka is caught in an avalanche and killed. After her death, Kenjiro develops powers in response to his strong wish to see his wife again. His powers manifest in the form of a split personality that has full knowledge of the Medusa and the snakes. His plan is to extract the snakes from the people with powers in order to gain the power to somehow access the void and get Ayaka back.
Kenjiro’s daughter, Ayano, becomes suspicious of her father and eventually learns the entire story. Along with her adopted brother, Shuya, she investigates their father. Meanwhile, Kenjiro has continued to do research into the Medusa and has even gone so far as to use two of his students, Takane Enomoto (Ene) and Haruka Kokonose (Konoha), as test subjects. He ends up killing both of them, which gives them powers. Ene ends up leaving her body and becoming a computer program and Konoha loses all his memories and sense of self and becomes a super powered husk of a person.
Eventually, Ayano decides that the best way to stop her father is to return to the void with her snake which will stop him from being able to gather all of the snakes together. She throws herself into the void in front of Shuya and Kenjiro. Kenjiro threatens Shuya into impersonating her corpse to cover things up, but tells him that he will still kill everyone in the end. After this, Shuya convinces Tsubomi and Kosuke to move out of the house. He keeps the secret of what happened and tells his siblings that they are leaving in order to alleviate a burden on their father. At that time he decides that they should form the Mekakushi Dan and continue to support each other. They also decide that they should call each other by “code names”, but just use their last names. Later, Marry joins the group after being found by Seto.
Shintaro was Ayano’s friend in school. Ayano clearly had a crush on him, but he seemed to not notice her in that way. The two actually met Ene and Konoha during a school festival, where Shintaro beat Ene in a custom video game. After Ayano’s death, Shintaro became a shut-in. He was later found by Ene in her digital form and she decided to stay with him posing as a program. It seems like Shintaro is not in a good mental state. Aside from being a NEET, he is frequented by dreams of Ayano and doesn’t seem to remember Ene from his past. While Shintaro is being a NEET, his sister, Momo, was being tutored by Kenjiro while also working as an idol. Momo had gained her powers when she was younger but was unaware of what they actually were. Her power caused her to draw people’s attention, which she always believed was some kind of personal curse. She is approached by the members of the Mekakushi Dan and asked to join them so they can help her control her powers.
Soon after she meets them, they head to a mall where she notices her brother. She’s surprised to see him out of the house but that surprise is replaced by concern when the mall is held hostage by criminals. The Mekakushi Dan spring into action and end up using their powers in order to help Shintaro and Ene thwart the criminals. The next day, Shintaro (and by association, Ene) is recruited into the Mekakushi Dan but is reluctant because he doesn’t understand what’s happening. He leaves the group and runs into the updated Konoha (who he still doesn’t recognize). Shintaro is searching for two kids and asks Shintaro for help.
Konoha is living in Ayaka’s old place along with her young sister Hiyori Ashina and her friend Hibiya Amamiya who are there during their school vacation. Konoha is still basically lobotomized but Hiyori is still drawn to him, which makes Hibiya jealous since he has a huge crush on Hiyori. The same day that Shintaro is wandering around both Hiyori and Hibiya leave and end up getting in a car accident. The accident happens right as Shintaro and Konoha find them. However, Shintaro sees that they vanish right before the car hits, leading him to wonder what’s going on. He goes with them to the hospital where Hibiya confirms that something strange happened to them. Before he says anything else, his eyes turn red and he passes out. The other Mekakushi Dan members show up and take him back to their base. They explain the concept of the void to Hibiya and he becomes more determined to find a way to get Hiyori back.
While this has been happening, Kano has been explaining to Ene what happened to her. He takes her to Kenjiro’s lab to see her body and helps her get it back. Meanwhile, Hibiya, Kido and Momo are taken by some henchmen. They use their powers to notify everyone of their location and the entire group (except for Shintaro) convenes at Kenjiro’s lab. Shuya fills them in on what’s been going on up to this point and they go to confront Kenjiro.
While they are doing that, Shintaro has regained his memories. It turns out that he did have a power. His power was granted directly by Marry. It turns out that Marry, with the power of the Queen, has the ability to reset time by making a wish. The Mekakushi Dan had been stuck in a loop where they had been killed by some combination of Kenjiro and Konoha and Marry used her power to go back to a time when they were all alive so she could spend time with her friends. The power she had given Shintaro, was the power to remember what happened when they looped. So, he goes to retrieve Ayano and the spirit of Konoha so that they can help him confront the snake that has taken control of Kenjiro.
Together, they manage to stop the Snake and break the loop. After the loop is broken we see that all 10 members of the Mekakushi Dan, including Ayano are back together. It looks like they are now free to live normal lives together along with Marry.
The whole thing about everyone being in a time loop does make sense once you hear it but it would’ve been nice to get that information a little earlier on in the process. Up until then, I had no idea why Ayano kept popping up everywhere or why Shintaro seemed like he had a power. In the end, I think holding that information does add a little rewatch value but it does make the ending seem compacted because there’s a lot of new information provided in a short time span. That reveal also takes focus away from the actual fight at the end.
The use of music and animation is also a highlight of the show. Similar to something like Monogatari, the show makes use of some abstract backgrounds and unusual camera angles for effect. There’s also a lot of use of primary solid primary colors for the abstract scenes. It makes everything feel like it exists in a kind of abstract world, which is good for a story like this. It was also a nice touch that they used the music to convey part of the narrative. Especially since the show is based on that same music.
This is an interesting show that does make you think if you don’t know the material. It’s visually appealing and intense and there’s a lot to pay attention to. Because of everything that’s going on, it can feel a little disorienting or overwhelming. This may cause some people to dislike the show, but just because a show might not be as accessible doesn’t mean it’s not good. The best thing about a show like this is that it has a good amount of rewatch value. That and the short length of the series make it a prime candidate for purchase. At the very least, it would be a nice conversation piece to add to your anime collection.