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Neo Yokio, Netflix's new anime by Ezra Koenig starring Jaden Smith, is an attempt at a satirical representation of the upper-class denizens of New York City, even if Koenig himself does not think so. The show primarily focuses on the melancholic, privileged lives that the characters, including the main character Kaz Kaan, live. In brief interludes, Neo Yokio frenetically glances upon the the lives of the suffering working class and the ostentatious wage gape/standard of living. While class discussions are prominent, Neo Yokio requires a pronounced examination of the representation of the magistocrats, demons, and terrorists.
What are the magistocrats?
Kaz Kaan, a magistocrat and affluent bachelor, comes from a long line of magistocrats. The magistocrats are a group of magicians who in the 19th century were employed by New York to exorcise demons. In doing so, the magicians were welcomed into the upper echelons of New York society, and became known as magistocrats. The real world analogue that fits in this narrative is that of immigration and race.
How Neo Yokio Deals with Immigration and Race
Arcangelo snobbishly looks down on Kaz's "neo riche" status, and constantly disparages him for it. Even though the magistocrats have been around for a couple centuries, and have worked their way into the upper-class, they are frowned upon. In the real world, the same division exists. Nouveau riche are disliked on both ends.
The working class is jealous of the nouveau riche, finding them "unworthy" of their new wealth. Old money sees a lack of refinement and taste in the nouveau riche, and frown upon the fact that they have to work. An example of this comes from the social commentary about elitism and varying degrees of wealthy people presented in The Great Gatsby. Arcangelo's slight of Kaz and his companions is a clear representation of the demarcation between old money and new money.
The Inherent Racism Embedded in Classism
The separation between the groups of Arcangelo and Kaz is also a pointed source of racism. This stems from the fact that Kaz is clearly of a different ethnicity than Arcangelo (as are Kaz's friends). Not to mention that Kaz's last name is "Kaan," pronounced and sounding very similar to the popular brown and often Islamic last name "Khan." Classism typically has tones of racism in it, and Neo Yokio is no different.
One can see the inherent racism further explained in the overtly, negative slur that Arcangelo calls Kaz, "rat catcher." The term rat catcher is a derogatory aspersion that is likened to that of other racial insults. That being the case, Arcangelo calling Kaz a rat catcher is highly offensive slander, once again positing the show's primordial societal racism.
Demonic Possession as a Representation of Avarice and Greed
This theme continues in Neo Yokio's representation of demons. In Neo Yokio, demons are presented as you would imagine them. They overtake people, but for the most part, objects. More specifically, items of wealth. The demonic possession (pardon the pun) of wealth is a thinly veiled reference to the bourgeois' narcissistic desire leading to avarice and greed.
The portrayal of demons is another rendition of old money snubbing new money, and racism. When the Helenists, a group of three women obsessed with fashion blogger Helena St. Tesero, decide to get possessed because Helena was possessed, one can see the imitation game appear. The Helenists want so much to be like Helena that they are willing to do anything to be like her, including being possessed. If possession is a representation of avarice and greed, then the Helenists attempt to be possessed is their chance at becoming just as wealthy as Helena is. Helena does not want this happening, especially because she is now "aware" of wrongs of society, and stops this from happening.
Demon Portrayal as a Reference to Immigrants and POC
The same sort of issue presents itself when at a club, Kaz and his friends see a bunch of women portraying demons. Kaz states, "This is in poor taste." Kaz's quote works in two ways. The first is a scoff at the idea of working-class people becoming rich. The irony is palpable, as Kaz, someone who is neo riche, is ridiculing the idea of working-class people becoming rich.
The second way Kaz's quote works is in reference to immigration and race. The women portraying the demons were doing demon-face. The real world analogue to this is of course blackface, yellow-face, brown-face, et al. By performing in demon-face, the women are vilifying demons. Obviously, demons are bad. But when demons are presented, in this case specifically, analogous to people of color, there's a serious problem.
Terrorism as Racism & Heroism
Throughout Neo Yokio, demons are discussed as "terrorists," who are wreaking and causing havoc. There is even a scene where a museum curator is terrified of demons disrupting his event, and he calls them "terrorists." To refer to actual terrorists as demons is a whole other thing. But to use terrorists as a synonym for demons when demons represent immigrants in America? The blatant racism in Neo Yokio is vastly pronounced.
The only actual terrorist in the show is Helena St. Tesero. Tesero is considered a terrorist for blowing up the bachelor board—a board which ranks the highest ranking bachelors in Neo Yokio. When Tesero blows up the board, Arcangelo puts his differences aside from Kaz and actually tries to be his friend. Whether the board is a depiction of social status, and all other delineating social factors or not, does not really matter. To use a bombing in Neo Yokio, a portrayal of New York City, and a terrorist action as a seemingly good event, is in very poor taste. If the show is attempting to make some sort of argument against social status, wealth, et al., this is a bad way to do it.