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[MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD]
Toonami’s latest original series, Housing Complex C, comes from up-and-coming animation studio Akatsuki and director Yuji Nara. Set in a low-cost apartment building in the coastal town of Kurosaki, it’s clear from the start that something just isn’t right. From a mysterious past featuring blood and petrifying screams, to an uncertain future of newcomers and visual horror, there’s a lot to unpack in this four-episode anime. With the first episode, “Optical Illusion,” having aired this past Saturday on October 1st, let’s begin to explore what potentially makes this anime worth watching, with basic spoilers ahead. Hopefully, there’s something in this review that piques your interest to check out the premiere, and maybe the rest to come.
Beginning with the opening to the episode, the viewer is thrown right into the action, with a scene that blends past and future. Right off the bat, the darkness and gore of the series hits, establishing the overall atmosphere, before transitioning into the linear events of the program. Although visuals are fun and provide an unsettling tease of what’s to come, the show is stronger when it finds its footing in the story to follow—it’s hard to start off a series with a scene “in the middle of things.” That being said, this lead-in does feature a noteworthy, surprise credit for Yoshitoshi ABe, who is famous for his work on Serial Experiments Lain. In a similar fashion to Lain, here he lent his talents to the original character designs, which are most visible on second glance in the show’s latest poster artwork.
Nevertheless, once the principle story begins, we’re introduced to the cast of characters presently living in the housing complex, which interestingly features mostly older adults. This is a fun, clear departure from the typical younger main cast of many other anime series. Additionally, these elderly individuals are not one-note comedic caricatures, they contribute to the plot like real people alongside the two main children. On the other hand, the cast also features a group of immigrants, who mostly consist of adults as well, albeit much more silent and secretive. With that in mind, despite the many adults in the cast, the main two characters still consist of younger girls, Kimi Shirokado and Yuri Koshide. Together, they play multiple parts well, both of cute kids trying to make the best of their summer as well as the first to witness and react to many of the spooky happenings around, within, and under the apartment complex.
With that in mind, of course it’s also important to judge this anime on its creepy and haunting elements, which were definitely lighter in the first episode. Ultimately, “Optical Illusion” was definitely designed as a basic introduction to the world, establishing the vibe, setting, characters, and the possible horrors to come. This results in much more of a slow-burn style episode, where one could argue not too much happens beyond occasional scary imagery and the arrival of the foreign workers. However, the deeper you dig into what may be happening in this series, the complexity begins to bubble to the surface. Many of the instances are brief, but an image of the future is already forming little by little. Whether the rest of the series is executed well, delivering fully on the horror anime factor, is yet to be seen, but the show certainly has potential.
Lastly, many horror stories of the past are often rooted in real world fears or concerns, where the unsettling imagery and situations serve as metaphors for what’s actually being discussed. Although it may be too early to tell, Housing Complex C appears to be tackling fears surrounding old age, racism towards immigrants, children forced to grow up quickly, and facing the violence of our ancestors. All in all, combining these interesting concepts with the initial creepy visuals, unique characters, overall mystery, and potential for more horror, this anime series could become something great, even if it’s first episode is slower and more focused on set up. Only time will tell, but the series has proven promising, and if anything, look forward to the ending of the first episode to further keep you guessing.
Season 1 Episode 1: “Optical Illusion” (7.5/10)
Housing Complex C continues this Saturday on Toonami at midnight with the episode “Mismatched Buttons”