It’s hard to discern whether Neo Yokio is a satire parodying the “one percent” or a loving tribute towards New York’s elitism. I suppose that’s entirely up to us to subjectively decide for ourselves. The newly-released anime series, written by Ezra Koenig sets the show in a fictional adaptation of New York, named Neo Yokio. Jaden Smith voices the main protagonist, Kaz Kaan, who is heavily immersed in the life of a bachelor, yet slays demons when he’s not mundanely engaging in aristocratic pleasures.
The first thing that struck me about, ‘Neo Yokio’ was how the foundations of the show originate from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, ‘The Great Gatsby’. Kaz Kaan embodies Jay Gatsby’s role of, rich bachelor who melancholically lives amongst the “one percent”, yet yearns that female companion to fill his void, currently occupied by a broken heart.
Kaz comes from a class of exorcists that had been exiled from society until the demons showed up in Neo Yokio. He is accompanied everywhere by Charles, his mecha-butler (voiced by Jude Law), and is often ordered against his will by his Aunt Agatha (Susan Sarandon) to slay demons. For those that know of Jaden Smith know that he comes across as a very detached figure from this world, constantly exercising his mind with existential questions. This persona is no surprise that he plays Kaz’s role so perfectly in this anime, essentially playing his normal self but in animation form.
Whether its by design, Neo Yokio pokes fun at the wealth and white privilege within its society, trivialising the problems they face. It’s weird to use the term white privilege, when Kaz’s character is of African-American descent, sporting pink dreadlocks (maybe a character design paying homage to Lil Uzi Vert?), but I suppose that also adds to the satire. Kaz has an archenemy, Arcangelo Corelli (Jason Schwartzman), who both constantly compete with each other, for who is the most sought-after bachelor. It’s a petty rivalry laced with elements of irony to it, with the irony coming from both characters being essentially the same people.
Ezra Koenig and Jaden Smith both do superbly well of wringing New York dry of all it’s elitism. Removing the mask of wealth, and privilege, the show does ask many relative questions. Kaz is a demon slayer, slaying demons that pose a threat to the affluent society, however, throughout this arc you start to realise if the REAL demons are the members of said society. Helena St. Tessero (voiced by Tavi Gevinson) is the female character who serves as the voice of reason for Kaz, as well as the story. She enlists the help of Kaz, so together they can burst the bubble of this prisoned society.
But Neo Yokio’s six-episode arc mostly feels like an introduction to what could be a really great show. The episode finale shows us the other side to Neo Yokio’s bourgeoise, “the walled city,” or the slums of Neo Yokio. Although, its portrayed in a brief flash (showing how strong a substance the brainwash of this society is) it momentarily shows the poverty, anger and unrest that could potentially boil over in season 2 of this project. “I’m starting to think Neo Yokio is not the greatest city in the world”, is what Kaz says in a deadpan tone, yet it’s the epiphany that sparks interests into what this show may be.