This morning something they big happened in terms of anime in the UK: a new anime series was aired on British television. This almost never happens, so it deserves a closer look.
The only anime that ever tends to get shown on British TV are children’s shows and Yo-Kai Watch is no exception – don’t expect any anime for adults to be on UK TV any time soon (or even ever). Yo-Kai Watch was originally a video game released on the Nintendo 3DS in 2013. Since then a manga comic has been released in English, and then an anime TV series began in January 2014. But this series has only just been made available for British viewers today, with new episodes airing on weekend mornings at 7.30 on Cartoon Network (sorry to those who just have Freeview, I’m afraid you’re left out), and repeated on the same day at 19.00.
Yo-Kai Watch follows the adventures of a young boy who in the English-language version of the series is called Nate Adams (Keita in the original Japanese). While out bug-hunting with his friends Eddie (Kanchi), Bear (Kuma) and his love interest Katie (Fumi), Nate is upset that Katie only finds him average. Nate tries to impress Katie by capturing an impressive-looking glowing insect, but while doing so he comes across a lone, large tree, next to which is an old capsule-toy machine. After hearing some ghostly cries asking him to feed the machine, he does so, takes out a capsule and opens it. Upon doing so, out comes a strange ghost.
The ghost, who calls himself Whisper, thanks Nate for freeing him. Whisper claims to be a “Yo-Kai”, which are a form of supernatural being in Japanese folklore that affect the lives of those nearby. Whisper offers to help Nate by becoming his butler, assisting him in any way possible – not that Nate is interested at first. When Nate gets back home however, he spots his parents arguing. Whisper tells Nate he can find out the cause of the problem by using a special “Yo-Kai Watch”, which Whisper offers and Nate uses. The watch shines a bright light to reveal other Yo-Kai, which only Nate can see. In this case, the problem is caused by Dismarelda, a Yo-Kai that spreads misery. The problem is solved when her husband, the joy-spreading Yo-Kai Happierre appears; causing their effects to be cancelled out and the two leave the house.
The rest of the story sees Nate trying to find other Yo-Kai, and becoming friends with them either by negotiation or confrontation. For example, he meets Jibanyan, a cat Yo-Kai who used to be a normal cat but was killed by a truck. Since then he possesses humans in order to fight back against all road vehicles. Nate stops him, the two become friends, and as a sign of their friendship Nate is given a special medal. The rest of the series sees Nate and his new medal-giving friends trying to stop troublesome Yo-Kai and spread goodwill around town.
Upon hearing this plot you might be thinking: “Hang on, a story based on a video game in which you collect strange monsters? That sounds familiar.” You would be right. It is hard when talking about Yo-Kai Watch not to make comparisons to perhaps the most commercially successful anime to hit Britain, Pokémon (No. 25). Therefore, Yo-Kai Watch is not the most original of stories which may put off some anime fans. Plus, you can only watch it in English, not the original Japanese, and personally speaking I’m not too keen on the opening and closing title sequences.
However, the actual content of the show, while not being a brand new idea, is actually pretty good. The quality of the animation is top notch; the characters are entertaining; the jokes are pretty decent; and while you can only watch it in an English dub, it seems to be handled pretty well, which is unusual for a lot of anime. One of the problems I normally have with dubs is that the American voice actors performing the roles often sound a bit too childish for the characters, but that’s not a problem when the main characters are either children or small ghostly creatures.
But the best thing that can be said for Yo-Kai Watch is that it is actually being shown on British TV, which is so rare. I would therefore recommend people watch it, mainly to show support for anime being televised. Admittedly this is a problem for those who don’t have access to the channel, but with the original video game coming out next week as well, support can be shown in other ways. Ultimately my hope is that be encouraging support for this anime, it might encourage not just Cartoon Network, but other TV networks to venture into anime as well.
Yo-Kai Watch airs at 07.30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings and repeated at 19.00 on Saturday and Sunday evenings on Cartoon Network. The original Yo-Kai Watch video game is released on Nintendo 3DS on Friday 29th April. More information on the show is available on the Cartoon Network website.