Does it ever seem like the stock market is all the just a game, one with rigged rules? If so you’d feel right at home in C: Control.
Hidden behind the veneer of the visible world is a second world, the Financial District. What’s the Financial District? Think of it as a cross between a stock market and blood sport combat. When the Financial District comes to recruit you, you don’t get to say no. You also don’t get to set the terms of anything. They give you a bank account and an Asset, and you go battle with other Entrepreneurs, or Entre’s. Battle once a week, or you forfeit everything. And of course, they take collateral to back up their loan to you. What does an invisible world take as collateral you ask?
Or Kimimaro Yoga’s future, in this case. Who’s Kimimaro Yoga? Nobody, really. Just an average second-year economics student who scrapes by in his classes, has a crush on his cute classmate Hanabi Ikuta, works two part-time jobs at convi’s to make ends meet, and dreams of a place of his own with a wife and two kids. Nothing out of the ordinary, no great world-changing ambitions or anything else of the sort. He does have a rather painful history though. He’s an orphan whose parents disappeared under very mysterious circumstances and was raised by a now-aged aunt with some medical problems. He’s also lonely.
Enter Masakaki–emissary, recruiter, pusher, or maybe the devil himself–of the Financial District, with his offer: Your future for your present. Kimimaro isn’t exactly enthused about it until roughly $500,000 magically appears in bank account. Yep, the Financial District gives you money, Midas money to be precise, that looks just like ordinary money to anyone who hasn’t been to the Financial District. To anyone who has been to the District it looks black. Works just like real money though, and that’s the real rub of the show.
When Kimimaro gets thrust into the Financial District he meets Souichirou Mikuni, an experienced Entre who also happens to be the slightly black sheep scion of one of Japan’s most powerful family corporations. Souichirou runs his own guild inside the Financial District with the express goal of limiting the damage to the real world and to build up Midas money reserves to backstop the real world in the event of catastrophic failure by someone inside the Japanese Financial District. Oh yes, there are Financial Districts all over the world, and they have massive effects on the world as a whole, to the point of removing very important things should there be a massive failure in any of them. The effects are only known to those who play, of course, so even if you die young, no one else will know. Kimimaro also makes the acquaintance of Jenifer Sato, a very obviously American IMF agent, who’s been tasked with finding out how the Financial District works. Incidentally, IMF headquarters looks nothing like what the show depicts it as. I know, I’ve worked there.
Everyone who enters the Financial District has to battle, so everyone gets an Asset, formed in some way out of a reflection of their future. Kimimaro gets Msyu (actually, I think it’s “Mashu,” but whatever), a slightly demonic-looking young girl. Other Entres get animals, or robots, or whatever their future looks like to the Financial District. Mashu is one of the few who seems to be able to talk at all, and she quickly bonds with Kimimaro, mostly over the taste of ramen noodles. Souichirou also has a long-standing bond with his primary asset, Q, but theirs is much odder than Kimimaro and Mysu. When push comes to shove though, Assets are weapons and they fight using a variety of attacks code named to various financial terms. Don’t worry if you get confused, it’s not all that important to know the names. The deeper Kimimaro gets in the Financial District, and the more involved he gets with Souichirou and his Mukudori Guild, the more Kimimaro’s life spins out of control as the Financial District gets its claws deeper into him. What’s that old song line? Well, if it seems to be real, it’s illusion/For every moment of truth, there’s confusion in life.
C: Control isn’t a conspiracy story, contrary to what the description above sounds like. It’s actually pretty clear what’s going on fairly early, so relying on the plot to sustain your attention isn’t going to do much. Thankfully Kimimaro has enough of a personality, to give the show some dramatic oomph, and he’s aided by Msyu’s more fiery countenance and Souichirou’s drive to save the world the only way he knows how. I’ll say this for the ending, it’s an ending. What to make of it, though, is open to interpretation, and it leaves a number of promising plotlines–Kimimaro’s aunt, Hanabi, Souichiriou’s family–mostly unexplored in favor of Kimimaro and Mysu. Given that there are only 11 episodes it may have just been a time thing, but it’s still a bit disappointing. There are also a lot of references to the actual financial disasters of the last few years, in particular the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008, so some working knowledge of the last few years will greatly aid in understanding the gist of the show.
The animation isn’t spectacular, but it’s certainly not bad either. The sequences in the Financial District look especially good; the scenes in the real world far less so. Characters occasionally seem to get a bit off model in a bad way, and the character designs are all quite slim to the point of being almost willowy–even Jenifer, the tall, blonde, buxom American. (Can we get any Americans in anime that aren’t blonde, please?) The extras are reasonably nice: two commentary tracks, featuring J. Michael Tatum and Monical Rial on ep 5 and Todd Haberkorn and Brina Palencia on ep 11. The former is decent, talking about the show and the adaptation process, while the latter is mostly forgettable chitchat between Todd and Brina about stuff not having to do with the show at all.
One the whole, C: Control is quite enjoyable for what it is: a smaller production from an experiment in late-night animation. (It was part of the Noitamina block in Japan when it first aired.) Just remember, like Heaven & Hell, the Financial District will always been there to blind your eyes and steal your dreams.