Something in Tokyo Revengers that's been present since the beginning, but hasn't really been brought up much in the story, is just how god damn young everyone is. While Draken's build could fool you, there's nobody in the main (past) cast over the age of 16, which is already pushing credulity a bit. Yes, teenagers are often gangly, acne-ridden sociopaths before they grow into their conscience, but it's still a stretch to see literal middle-schoolers running roughshod over the mean streets of Tokyo and getting in literal gang wars. So now that we're flashing even further back to see the origins of Toman, it's hard not to feel like I'm watching the Muppet Babies version of a biker film.
Which isn't necessarily a slam. That tension is what makes much of this episode's story work for me more than any other element, as it's both endearing and quietly disturbing to witness an even younger Mikey precociously hop and skip through brutal assaults on a day trip to the beach. We've known for ages that Mikey's blessed with a childlike innocence and a severe penchant for violence, but in the current (past) storyline he's at least a little tempered as an established gang leader. But here? The contrast between his childish ideal of a delinquent – he won't upgrade from a moped until he can buy a REAL 250cc machine – with his already highly-developed ability to turn older boys' faces into salsa is as entertaining as it is unsettling. It's also pretty nice to be reminded that these are still teenagers, with the crew either drooling over the saddest beach butts ever put to animation and trying to look cool in swimming races. As a peek into the salad days of Toman's humble beginnings, this flashback does a good job.
Things get shakier once we reach the meat of this story, however. This is, after all, supposed to be explaining why Kazutora holds a grudge against Mikey and why Baji would turn coat to join him in his vengeance. Turns out it all comes down to a series of mistakes, bad luck, and some questionable mental gymnastics that left me scratching my head. The part where two teenagers try to steal a motorcycle for Mikey makes sense – 13 is just the right age where immature impulse and growing personal agency collide to make people do the dumbest shit possible without a second thought. Seeing a couple of sixth-graders talk about how they'll totally be able to steal a motorcycle without a problem, only to royally screw it up, is the most realistic thing to happen in this entire show, honestly.
The issue arises when it turns out the store that Kazutora and Baji were trying to rob belongs to Mikey's heretofore barely-mentioned brother. For one, it seems kind of weird these teenagers who all ride motorcycles wouldn't know their friend and gang leader's older brother literally owns a bike shop. More pressingly, the ensuing botched robbery-cum-murder is supposed to establish Kazutora's grudge against Mikey and it makes next to no sense. Yes, we've been given hints that Kazutora isn't entirely mentally stable, but it still feels weird for him to talk himself from “I accidentally killed Mikey's brother” to “This is Mikey's fault, I have to kill him” in the span of 45 seconds. I'm really hoping there's more to all this than just Kazutora being crazy, because that's a decidedly uninteresting conflict from a character standpoint. If anything, Mikey should be the one holding a grudge considering, y'know, the guy murdered his brother in a brainless attempt at grand theft auto. So having it be the other way around is bizarre, to say the least.
The rest of the episode holds up just fine, at least. Seeing Baji in shock at what he and Kazutora have done, only to be confronted with an equally despondent Mikey, both plucks the heartstrings and begs a lot of questions about how they managed to stay around each other for at least a couple of years. Hopefully the following episodes either focus on that drama, or give more depth to Kazutora, because otherwise this arc may be in serious trouble.
Tokyo Revengers is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.