ANIME & MANGA - Article
09:26 - 19th November 2013, by Matt Kamen


The financial crisis of 2008 was felt around the world, rippling out of America as toxic debt and poor investments crippled global economics. Japan was hit hard; the country's gross domestic product contracting by over 12% in the last three months of that year alone. For a nation that depends heavily on high value exports, the effects of such global thriftiness was devastating. Many working in Japan's money markets were literally suicidal with anxiety as a result.

No, you haven't picked up a copy of The Economist by mistake - this is still NEO. The refresher of recent history is important though, since the financial downturn and the subsequent Japanese sense of national desperation beats at the heart of C: Control, the latest series from Kenji Nakamura, director of the darkly beautiful Mononoke.

Place Your Bets
In the world of Control, Japan was bailed out of its economic slump by a Sovereign Wealth Fund - "a state-owned investment fund investing in real and financial assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, precious metals, or in alternative investments such as private equity fund or hedge funds". Thank you Wikipedia. However for many, the save wasn't much help. Crime levels remained high as people struggled to find work, and even those who had jobs could barely get by.

Kimimaro Yoga is affected more than most - with no parents, he's forced to work two part time jobs just to make it through university. Despite his hardship, he's not too bothered about money, wanting simply to earn enough to eventually support a small family of his own. His lack of drive changes when he's all but dragged by the otherworldly Masakaki into the Financial District. This place is a subdimension where Entrepreneurs - or Entrés - wager vast sums of 'Midas Money' while fighting in weekly battles. Victory here has a discernible impact on the real world, particularly the winner's bank balance. It's no mere fiscal fight club though - the combatants are aided by Assets; their investments given form.

After being talked into placing his future as collateral, Yoga is partnered with an Asset named Msyu, a demonic looking girl with giant horns, flame powers and a personality to match. Initially dismissive of her 'master', Yoga's unusual show of concern for her well-being wins her over, and the two prove a formidable team after she teaches him the ropes. Their successes do not go unnoticed - the scheming Soichoro Mikuni gets close to Yoga early on, while Jennifer Sato, an undercover agent of the International Monetary Fund, is particularly interested in the student's progress.

Beyond the risky conflicts, Yoga stumbles onto a mystery surrounding the Midas Money, black notes that only Entrés can see, yet are found in circulation throughout Japan. The role of this rogue currency is unknown - but with the entire nation's future in doubt, could it be connected? And if so, what can one 19-year-old do about it?

Earning Interest
At the time of Control's original 2011 broadcast on the highly respected noitaminA block, Japan was starting to emerge from its own financial mire, but the wounds were still raw. Director Nakamura used the series to reflect the sense of futility and confusion surrounding the economic crash via a more fantastic lens. To most people, money - serious, high level money and the inner workings of the real world finance sectors - is confusing at best, unknowable at worst, but packaging the confusing morass into a colorful and dynamic anime show drove the metaphor home for viewers.

As Yoga and Mikuni emerge as the main characters, their viewpoints come to represent different philosophies over money, and the morals of pursuing and accumulating wealth. For such a complex field, Nakamura wisely chooses not to present any one view as entirely in the wrong, instead preferring to leave grey areas for the viewer to navigate by themselves.

Animated by the legendary Tatsunoko Pro studio and written by Durarara!! creator Noboru Takagi, Control asks how far you're willing to go for money - and how far is too far.
The show is out now from MVM Entertainment.

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