Tomodachi Game – 01

「あれ?友一君は友達を疑ってるの?」 (Are? Yūichi-kun wa Tomodachi o Utagatteru no?)
“Huh? Yuichi-kun Suspects His Friends?”

An interesting series that will appeal to Danganronpa and Liar Game fans alike.

「あれ?友一君は友達を疑ってるの?」 (Are? Yūichi-kun wa Tomodachi o Utagatteru no?)
“Huh? Yuichi-kun Suspects His Friends?”

Wow! This certainly took me by surprise, and out of all the things I’ve been covering this season, this one might just be my favorite. First of all, I was already getting Liar Game vibes with the whole ‘mysterious letter arrives at your door with no apparent sender or return address.’ Even though Katagiri, Yuuichi (Kobayashi, Chiaki) lives a semi-normal decent life he is torn between having friends and making money. Before the game actually starts we are presented with Yuuichi’s inner dilemma in what I believe was an absolutely brilliant display of storytelling. Even though it might be seen as frivolous in hindsight, the way it came together to reveal how the characters are going to descend into madness was very interesting to me and kept my attention throughout the whole episode, not only that, it allowed me to place myself in his state of mind and feel that anxiety Yuuichi must have felt. Yuuichi’s friends are introduced via the old freeze-frame and placing the name of the character on screen. Tomodachi Game goes a step further and places a small description of what stereotype the character is supposed to fit into, and in this episode, it later comes back to taunt Yuuichi. However, you’re crazy to think that I’m going to pause the episode to read what the small description says. There was little time for characters to shine outside of a basic few lines, as the game had to actually start, and the episode had to really double down on that introduction for Yuuichi.

Yuuichi works double-time, working several part-time jobs as well as going to school and keeping up with his studies. His class is planning a school trip too – somewhere (sorry I forgot) and everyone has promised to go. Seems a little silly to me, with a character that is so down under (I believe his parents are not in the picture) that because of a silly promise he has to work extra hard to scrounge up the money so that he too can attend a school trip. Shibe, Makoto (Ono, Tomohiro), the blond-haired boy, even flex’s his rich parents and tells Yuuichi his dad would easily have given him the money for the school trip.

I mean wouldn’t his friends be more understanding? Wouldn’t the whole class try to pitch in for Yuuichi if everyone promised so much that they would all go? Seems to me that Yuuichi was roped into it and feels he has to go because of some wishy-washy reason. But that’s me nitpicking. There’s also the thing that Yuuichi isn’t a freeloader and want’s to earn that money his own way. And that’s also commendable.

Anyway, here comes the brilliant part, all of the money was stolen! OH EM GE! And of course, the whole class starts pinning the poorest person (seriously?!). This is the catalyst that sends everyone into the Tomodachi Game as later that night the friend group receives letters from each other asking them to reunite at the school gate, where they have something important (the money) to discuss with each other. Everyone receives a letter from the other party saying the same thing. Kokorogi, Yutori (Amano, Satomi) the shy small girl, Mikasa, Tenji (Hamano, Daiki) the guy with the haircut that looks like pizza, also probably the student council president, and Sawaragi, Shiho (Miyamoto, Yume) the smart girl who takes everything way too seriously and has no social skills. Are all here, everyone is here. Then BONK! Everyone is hit with a bat (electric shock) by masked assailants and made unconscious. Then they are taken into an all-white room, where Euphoria is about to start (ermm…) – they meet a new character called Manabu-kun (Takayama, Minami) who is all CGi, and designed to resemble a pre-schooler. But is a character from an old TV anime made for kids (with violence like happy tree friends?). With the yellow hat and everything. Initially, it took me aback, but then I took it in stride, Manabu is made to be the game master in the vein of Saw’s Jigsaw or Danganrompa’s Monokuma, at first it was jarring but now I sort of love this decision because it adds to his creepiness factor, besides it doesn’t lose anything as Manabu is still able to express the purple-veil over eyes – anime dread and other emotions that capture his two-faced intentions. As well as when Yuuichi grabs him by the neck; It felt natural and lived in.

The group is taken to another room made to resemble a classroom, with children’s paintings on the window to add to that feeling of creep that permeates so well throughout the episode. It’s just uncanny. Sooner rather than later the game starts, they get to play Kokuri-san, where you ask simple yes or no questions and a spirit answers them for you. But this time the whole group has to be in agreement for the coin to flip one way or another. If one of them wants a NO, Kokuri san will favor the minority. Each of them is given a name tag with a small LCD screen that gives the number of their current debt. However you are not allowed to show the number, but saying it out loud is A-OKAY. Something-something debt goes down something-something rule breaker debt duplicates. I will not be bothered with the rules; Watch the episode again if you want to learn them by heart. Also, NO TALKING ALLOWED unless it’s your turn to read the question. Except for four rounds, the question is made up by the reader, and something-something the debt accumulates to the last person in the round if the questions get answered incorrectly.

So our big cliffhanger is Yuuichi talking when it’s not his turn to try and save Kokorogi because someone here is playing with fire. And she was bullied or something. Overall there’s a lot to love in this first episode, especially for fans of thriller anime like myself. Which Tomodachi Game is sure to be able to scratch even for the most veteran of fans!

Author: FJ

A young fantasy writer during the night, motion graphics and illustration during the day. Currently living in Mexico. Aspiring to make a feature film.

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