Review: Neo Yokio Season 1
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
If you’ve been on the internet at all in the past month, you may have noticed that a certain big toblerone has been floating around on twitter. That characteristic big toblerone happens to be cradled in the arms of Kaz Kaan—the moody, pink-haired boy featured as the protagonist of Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig and actor-philosopher Jaden Smith’s six episode long Netflix Originals series, Neo Yokio.
Neo Yokio takes place in, no surprise here, the city of Neo Yokio, a beacon of cultural and architectural innovation and the supposed “greatest city in the world.” Kaz resides in this technologically-advanced and capitalist city. Despite his status among Neo Yokio’s elite neo-riche, Kaz is continually unhappy about his past relationships and second place position on Neo Yokio’s most eligible bachelor board. Moreover, Kaz descends from a long lineage of magistocrats, demon-slayers who once saved Neo Yokio ages ago, and is contracted by his aunt to slay demons as a side job to fund his materialistic, high-class lifestyle. Other relevant characters include Arcangelo Corelli, Kaz’s rival for the top spot on the bachelor board, and fashion blogger Helena St. Tessero, who, to Kaz’s dismay, adopts an ascetic lifestyle following a demon possession.
To put it bluntly, Neo Yokio is a mess.
First off, Kaz is an unrelatable and unlikable character who is inattentive to others. When Kaz’s close friends Lexy and Gottlieb jump into an enchanted pool, Lexy is transformed into a female and Gottlieb into a panda. Instead of trying to reverse Lexy and Gottlieb’s transformations, Kaz takes Lexy, in his female form, to a party and kisses him to try and get back at his ex Cathy. Other instances of Kaz’s disregard for others includes the running gag in episode four where Kaz repeatedly ignores his flying mecha-butler’s requests for a charging station and Kaz’s decision to refer to an employee at an upscale tuxedo store as “sales clerk” instead of the employee’s name.
Moreover, Neo Yokio’s animation is mediocre at best. The show feels clunky as if it were animated in 5 fps. In addition, lip sync between voice actors and animation is out of sync, and although Koenig has gone on record saying that Neo Yokio should be categorized as an anime series, Neo Yokio’s animation detail is miles behind other recent anime releases.
Animation Quality Comparison
The series also lacks a clear identity. Neo Yokio does not project as solely an action show, as Kaz is only seen fighting demons in the first two episodes. Neo Yokio is not solely a comedy show as jokes are few and far between. Kaz’s philosophical rants, though laughably ridiculous at times, do not seem to have humorous intent. Finally, It can be argued that Neo Yokio is simply satire of the privileged one percent, with Kaz admitting that perhaps “Neo Yokio is not the greatest city in the world” in episode six; nonetheless, Kaz’s selfish indulgence never comes back to hurt him in the end.
Despite all its flaws, I was transfixed for every second of the trainwreck that Neo Yokio is. Every word spoken from Kaz’s mouth could pass off as a Jaden Smith tweet, and deadpan-delivered phrases such as “my one true love is now living the glamorous life of an investment banker in San Francisco,” and “while I’m gone, write 1,000 words on the graceful geometry of cable-knit sweaters” were pure gold. In addition, the show’s absurd plot was a welcome break from the predictable nature of most Netflix series, and I found the combination of classical music and a pink pastel color schemes to be an elegant touch on an incredibly unrefined production.
Neo Yokio is rated 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, which I find hard to disagree with; however, I still believe Neo Yokio is a must-watch. Collaboration between artists as disparate as Ezra Koenig and Jaden Smith is rare, especially in film, and although Neo Yokio will never be remembered for its quality, it will be remembered for its eccentricity.
(P.S. If you want to create your own big toblerone meme you can do so through this link: https://youdontdeservethis.com/)