It’s a common argument had regarding many western animated series. “Does Avatar The Last Airbender count as anime? Does Totally Spies count as anime? Does Garfield count as anime?”
Today, we’ll be examining the question with regards to Neo Yokio, the popular Netflix Original series created by Ezra Koenig and starring Jaden Smith. This is partially because I have weird enough taste such that I really like the show, partially because Pink Christmas just came out so I guess that makes it relevant (although really I shouldn’t care about that), partially because I need some practice at writing total bullshit content about that show as practice for the silly anime fan shrine I want to make about it (coming soon), and partially because I feel guilty not having actual content on this website yet.
To answer the question, first we must define the term “anime”. What is anime? To answer this new question, I’ll refer to the informative work produced by ADV Films known as “The Anime Network Promo Video”, located at this youtube link. This seminal work clearly defines anime by listing a series of component features of anime, so I propose to determine Neo Yokio’s anime status systemically by comparing it to each of these criteria. This will be the means by which we determine the answer once and for all.
What is anime?
Anime is… Action
Easy one. Plenty of action in Neo Yokio. Kaz Kaan shows of his demon fighting chops on a regular basis. Next criterion!
Anime is… Sci-Fi
Alright, so this is also pretty easy, but I want to write a bit more about it. It’s pretty clear that mecha butlers are a sci-fi feature, this meaning that Neo Yokio passes this criterion easily too, but the world of Neo Yokio does not follow the traditional sci-fi model of “our world with some advances”, but rather it’s more of an alternate present setting. That being said, people apply the “sci-fi” label pretty loosely in a lot of cases (the classic example being Star Wars, despite being set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, it’s generally grouped in the same genre as “our world in the future” works like Trek). So I think that Neo Yokio should still be considered to contain sci-fi elements.
Anime is… Comedy
Yes, it’s a comedy show. Just because you don’t get the jokes doesn’t mean it’s not funny Helen.
Anime is… Martial Arts
You may think this is another stretch, but I’d argue that Kaz’s training and techniques in fighting demons qualifies as a martial art. So tick off another one.
Anime is… Straight From Japan
“A-ha”, you may be saying, because you think you’ve got me on this one (or maybe you’re just reading through a list of good 80s bands). “Surely, Neo Yokio can’t fit this one. Ezra Koenig is American.” But the animation production for Neo Yokio was credited to Japanese studios Production IG and Studio Deen, and episodes were directed by veteran anime directors Kazuhiro Furuhashi and Junji Nishimura. So it DOES come from Japan (sort of) (at least close enough such that I can count this as another pass) (but apparently Pink Christmas had animation done by US studio Titmouse Inc so not sure about that one) (and most of the actual animation work was done in Korea but that’s true of like EVERYTHING so yeah)
Anime is… Totally Unexpected
I don’t think anyone really expected the guy from Vampire Weekend to make a biting animated satire of bullshit New York rich people culture taking visual cues from popular Japanese animated series and starring Jaden Smith as a human embodiment of Jaden Smith’s Twitter Posts. Neo Yokio was indeed totally unexpected.
Anime is… Not Kid’s Stuff
Yeah, I don’t think kids would get Neo Yokio. It’s not that it’s inappropriate (although I do recall a few curse words but to be honest kids know those words anyway), it’s more that it probably wouldn't make much sense. Critics may claim that it doesn’t make much sense to adults either but bah I say, bah.
Anime is… On Right Now 24 Hours A Day
This one is the real tricky one. One could argue that Neo Yokio, due to being on a streaming service, is indeed available whenever you want it regardless of the time of day, but one could also take the position that this criterion actually requires anime to be continuously playing 24 hours a day. And as it’s on an on-demand streaming service, the time and amount it’s watched is largely dependent on the viewer.
So in conclusion, we can tell that Neo Yokio is anime, but only if you have it playing continuously for a period of at least one day.