(Author’s note: While I do recommend Takopi’s Original Sin, please be advised that there are many mature subjects covered here. Graphic violence, child abuse, and suicide are depicted in detail, so please pass on this if it makes you uncomfortable.)
Sometimes sleeper hits are the short ones. Puella Magi Madoka Magica was my favorite 2010s anime, and I’ve been enjoying Smiling Friends on the western cartoon side. I love the deconstructive nature of both shows and how mundane realism mixes with happy optimism. Taizan-5’s Takopii no Genzai/Takopi’s Original Sin just ended and it’s 16 chapters of pure-grade emotional nightmare fuel. A heavy work that speeds by quickly, this manga is a definite hit for those that can stomach the premise.
Born to Make You Happy
Takopi’s Original Sin opens with Happian octopus-like creature Takopi meeting Shizuka. Immediately there’s an unsettling mood, as Shizuka looks bruised. Takopi comes from a planet that wishes to make people smile, so his mission is to do this to Shizuka. Unfortunately, it seems that Takopi cannot read social cues, since his attempts at cheering her up fail miserably.
Takopi’s method of cheering people up involves Doraemon-like gadgets which are cool but functionally useless for someone like Shizuka. From her rejections of Takopi’s gadgets, it seems like there’s something she’s hiding. As Takopi finds out, Shizuka is a victim of bullying, and is constantly tormented by socialite student Marina.
Confused by the physical pain that Shizuka experiences, Takopi shrugs it off and tries superficial ways to make Shizuka happy. He doesn’t understand negative human emotions or how to read people. It reaches a climax in the opening chapter where Shizuka does accept one of Takopi’s gadgets. The tool in question is a rope that extends infinitely to find a friend and patch up their relationship.
She uses it to kill herself.
Confused at what happened, Takopi decides to rewind time to try and stop Shizuka’s suicide, and here the manga begins.
Everything is Not What it Seems
Oddly enough, Shizuka’s attempted suicide isn’t the titular original sin; that comes much later. However, this manga does a great job at subverting your expectations regarding what will happen. The main theme of the series is that fleeting joy is not a healthy way to get rid of trauma. Each of the main characters (Shizuka, Takopi, Marina, and class representative Azuma) undergo suffering that morphs their character arcs.
While the first few chapters highlight Marina’s mean streak, the reader learns of a justified reason for this. In fact, Shizuka and Marina’s lives are intertwined due to the actions that their parents take.
This is not portrayed as a good thing.
In the end, I felt myself rooting more for Marina than Shizuka, but in this manga there are no clear winners. Every character is guilty of something heinous, and no one here is truly good or bad. The trio of human characters all deal with some sort of parental abuse, and Takopi’s Original Sin pulls no punches.
Hope Springs Eternal
…And yet, Takopi’s Original Sin has an air of optimism surrounding it. In contrast to the downer settings of the children, Takopi remains stalwart in his goal. His optimism is a breath of fresh air as he tries to find ways out of the problems at hand. This, of course is in contrast with how the series will punch you in the gut with every page.
Takopi is the glue that holds everything together (even if he’s partly why everything falls apart). His actions have good intentions but end up making things much worse. As much as it’s a story of him trying to help others, it’s also a cautionary tale about knowing limits. He reminds me of Pim from Smiling Friends, who has a happy-go-lucky approach to his goals. However, in worlds where negativity reigns supreme, both characters undergo a healthy dose of realism before achieving their objectives.
In addition, Takopi is so darn cute that you can’t stay mad at him. Even when he’s breaking the law, you can’t help but smile at his chipper demeanor to the whole situation. We need more characters like Takopi.
Short and (not so) Sweet
The biggest strength of Takopi’s Original Sin lies in its length. At 16 chapters, this series can be binged in a single sitting, which I recommend if you can stomach it. The series doesn’t overstay its welcome, and its interpretation of time travel works well for its length. I also enjoyed how every chapter felt like a wham episode, with new revelations adding to each character’s arc. If an anime were to be made of this (I hope it does!), it could fit a 2-hour feature film nicely.
Every page is used to great effect, and there’s no filler at all. This also works with the art style, which includes rough art and figures to show the abuse of the characters. Bloody bruises are shown in rapid succession, and the verbal abuse feels nonstop, which desensitizes you near the middle.
The short length also means that the barrage of depressing themes can rain down on you quickly. It heightens the conflict, as it parallels with how dire the issues are within the story. From Azuma’s desperate quest to win his mom’s approval to Marina living in a broken household, the fast pace works. I feel like if it was a slow burn, it would have been a lot more pessimistic and negative.
If I Could Turn Back Time…
Takopi’s Original Sin is a manga that’s heavy but worthwhile. The constantly depressing tone works in contrast to the titular character’s optimism to great effect. It’s something I would only recommend mature readers to experience, but highlights the human condition. In a story that isn’t quite rosy, I’m glad that there’s still hope by the end of it.
If you’re looking for a cutesy adventure series featuring a zany octopus, read Assassination Classroom (I love that one also). If you want something with emotional flair and narrative twists each chapter, check out Takopi’s Original Sin.
(Author’s note: Takopi’s Original Sin is available to read in English on the Manga Plus app.)