Have you been watching Night Head 2041 this season? It’s a compelling dystopian sci-fi drama about two pairs of brothers: Naoto and Naoya Kirihara, who were kept in a lab for many years to study their psychic powers; and Takuya and Yuuya Kuroki, members of a special police force who have been assigned to apprehend the Kiriharas as thought criminals. It holds up perfectly well as a stand-alone story, but did you know that it’s actually a broad-strokes remake of a 2006 anime called Night Head Genesis? Let’s take a closer look at the origins of Night Head 2041 and how it evolves the concept for a whole new generation!
Night Head and Night Head Genesis
To be more specific, Night Head 2041 is actually a remake of a remake: the 2006 anime is a retelling of the 1992 live-action TV drama Night Head. But since there isn’t much documentation on the original version other than that Night Head Genesis doesn’t change a whole lot from it, we can treat Night Head Genesis as the first version for our purposes.
In the 2006 anime, Naoto and Naoya Kirihara have psychic powers derived from tapping into the “unused” 70% of the human brain (a since-debunked idea that Night Head 2041 only vaguely alludes to). They go through the same backstory, but leave the isolated lab to live in a mostly normal present-day Japan and their greatest opponent is ARK, a shady organization that pursues the Kirihara brothers for their rare psychic abilities. Characters like the space and time transcending schoolgirl Shoko Futami and the troubled child Masayuki appear here in largely the same roles as they do in Night Head 2041. The general consensus is that this series has good bones, but its pacing issues and convoluted storyline kept it from achieving greatness.
The 2041 Difference
For the Summer 2021 anime season, Shigogumi (a relatively young studio known for Etotama, Moyashimon, and a few Doraemon movies) teamed up with original Night Head TV drama creator George Iida to reimagine the Night Head universe as a proper dystopian sci-fi with an additional set of brothers who both oppose the Kiriharas and share some unknown connection with them. So far at least, this approach seems to be working wonders. While the 2D/3D hybrid animation style can occasionally be jarring and there are perhaps too many characters to keep track of, turning the world into a 1984-esque hellscape where fiction and religion are considered thought crimes is a perfect way to raise the stakes. The Kuroki brothers have a lot to add to the story as well, struggling to rationalize their positions within an anti-thought-crime police force with their own burgeoning psychic powers. It’s possible that this could all come crashing down by the end, but we’re excited to see what else Night Head 2041 has up its sleeve!
Night Head and Night Head Genesis have largely been forgotten by the public as footnotes of Japanese TV history, but Night Head 2041 has a chance to pull a Dororo and elevate its source material into something truly great. We sincerely hope that that happens!
What did you think of our overview? Had you ever heard of the first two versions of Night Head before? Are you watching the new one? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!