Penniless college student Kimimaro is given the chance to make a fortune in the “Financial District,” an alternate dimension where people, “Entrepreneurs,” use their own future as collateral in gladiatorial games. The winners walk off with riches that can be spent in the real world; the losers are stripped of their jobs, their families, and sometimes even their very existences. What’s more, a fellow Entrepreneur, Mikuni, is hatching a plan to use the dynamics of the Financial District to save the real world—but he may end up only hastening its demise all the more.
This spectacular mix of topical subject matter (financial crises, the economies of nations) and slam-bang action yielded up one of the best shows of 2012.
- Takes a potentially dull subject (economics) and makes it as exciting as any action movie.
- Spectacular and creative visuals deliver its complex concepts.
- Roots its drama in real-world goings-on, which makes it all the more affecting.
- It could easily have gone on for another eleven episodes.
- Director: Kenji Nakamura
- Animation Studio: Tatsunoko
- Released By: Fuji TV (Noitamina)
- Released Domestically By: FUNimation
- Audio: English / Japanese w/English subtitles
- Age Rating: TV-14 (stylized violence, occasional language)
- List Price: $69.98 (DVD/BD combo pack)
Your money or your life? Your money IS your life
There’s a certain irony in how Kimimaro Yoga, a student at a certain university of economics in Tokyo, has to work two dead-end part-time jobs just to keep enough Cup Ramen on the table so he doesn’t starve. His father is dead, having committed suicide after losing all his money in financial speculation, and the one girl in class he’s sweet on, Hanabi, appears to already have a rich boyfriend. He doesn’t even have the spare change to throw towards beer money so he can go hang with his friends.
One night a dapper, diabolical-looking stranger named Masakaki shows up at his apartment. This creature isn’t human, judging from the way he shows up inside even after Kimimaro kicks him out. He’s a representative of the “Bank of Midas,” a kind of extradimensional financial institution that exists in parallel to the economy of any nation. He has an offer Kimimaro will be hard-pressed to refuse: Become an “Entrepreneur” (“Entre” for short) in Midas’s “Financial District,” and make tons of money—tax-free!
The workings of the Financial District, and indeed the whole of C: Control, play like Yu-Gi-Oh! as written and directed by Paul Krugman. Each Entre is given a sort of battle avatar—an “Asset”—which they then pit against each other in battles where the attacks all sport the names of different economic concepts. The more you wager, the more you win—presuming you win. Wager too much against too strong an opponent, and you end up bankrupt. This not only expels you from the Financial District, but mulcts you of whatever life you might have had. That’s the biggest catch of all: when you fight, you wager your own future as collateral.
Go for broke or go home -- if you even have one left, that is
Kimimaro is both fascinated and appalled by the Financial District’s machinations, where a few winners chew up and spit out the legions of losers who come and go—and where Masakaki oversees all, cackling and bounding about like the LSD-spawned love child of Willy Wonka and Scrooge McDuck. Among the top-league players is Mikuni, a suave and assured man only a little older than Kimimaro himself, who has gathered a few other like-minded folks together into a guild. Their plan: Use the way the Financial District works against itself, and reverse the course of economic collapse taking place in the real world because of it.
Kimimaro’s ambivalence about the whole thing isn’t helped by the fact that he’s a better Entre than he initially gives himself credit for. His relationship with his Asset, Mashū—a slender girl sporting antlers and a prickly attitude—starts off like a staple opposites-attract romance, but develops an unexpected additional dimension when Kimimaro realizes each Asset represents an aspect of its Entre’s future. What part of the future is this girl to me? he asks himself, and the answer to that question leads him back to the riddle of his deceased father, himself an Entre.
Even creepier are the ways the payouts from the Bank of Midas affect reality. The money from the Bank spends just like the real thing—but only Entres can see it for what it really is: black and diabolical, since it’s made up of someone else’s future. (“Every bill has the smell of someone’s blood,” one character quips.) And only the Entres can see, and remember, the terrible changes wrought in the real world when one of their kind loses. It’s jolting enough when one of Kimimaro’s first opponents turns out to be his own economics professor; it’s doubly ghastly when the man loses, because his unborn child are among the things sacrificed in that loss. (His wife remembers nothing of being pregnant, of course, She may be the lucky one.)
Bankrupting the world in order to save it
Others in the District, each with their own tactics and ambitions, swim into view. An information broker—a grotesque, leering figure with gold-capped teeth and a phallic zoom lens on his camera, like a refugee from the series Speed Grapher—happily fills Kimimaro in on details the latter is not sure he wants to know, but knows he can’t live without anyway. A female investigator from the IMF who has infiltrated the District forms an uneasy connection with Kimimaro, but realizes her higher-ups may not want to do anything anyway: the fact that the District can flood the real world with money means they may do more harm than good if they shut it down.
The most pivotal of the District’s regulars is of course Mikuni, whose plans (save the country from economic ruin) seem from the outside like high-minded altruism. Look closer and you see instead how they unthinkingly recapitulate all the worst aspects of his own father’s arrogance and greed. Mikuni believes that the present is the only future any of us will ever have, and acts accordingly—saving individual lives, but sacrificing the future of the whole, including the futures of those very individual lives, in the process. Kimimaro doesn’t buy it, at one point going so far as to literally torch his winnings (a la “burning all their money in wastebaskets” from Allen Ginsburg’s Howl) because he can’t stomach knowing what it all cost someone else for him to have it. Soon the two are pitted against each other in a battle where nothing less than the economic foundations of the world are at stake, and where even “winning” could still mean the destruction of everything Kimimaro has ever known.