WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of High-Rise Invasion, now streaming on Netflix.
Netflix's adaptation of High-Rise Invasion runs for 12 episodes in its first season and focuses on a realm where people get lost in a city consisting of numerous skyscrapers. It has the feel of The Matrix as they don't know how they got there or who's overseeing things, but the main goal is to escape -- especially as masked individuals are going around trying to kill innocents or make them jump off buildings.
While it's a thought-provoking concept, there are some cons to balance the pros that leave the story very tight as to whether or not High-Rise Invasion is actually worth the watch.
WHO ARE THE MAIN PLAYERS?
The protagonist is a schoolgirl named Yuri Honjo who finds herself being hunted by super-powered masks of varying skillsets and vulnerabilities, and who are part of some mysterious hierarchy. Luckily she's able to make phone contact with her brother, Rika, but he's also marked for death, leaving them building separate alliances and hoping to make their way to each other for a reunion.
Yuri ends up befriending another schoolgirl in Mayuko Nise, with Kuon Shinzaki completing the trifecta. Ironically, Kuon's able to help one of the main assassins come to their side, beefing up the ranks so they can find Rika and figure out how to pilot one of the choppers out to the real world. That's because, as they soon discover, this isn't a digital construct after all, and there are higher forces at play.
WHAT'S THIS WORLD ABOUT?
Apparently this is a celestial realm, a test with some people getting dropped in to see which users have otherworldly powers. It's to determine the ones "closest to God," with the masks being deemed "angels" who have to push them to the limit. People unlock certain powers in the process, with Kuon having the ability to control masks, break them out of their overlords' programming and even navigate human mindscapes.
Kuon can also control the "railgun" -- a giant tower that can blow other buildings up -- so she becomes a prized asset who's sought after as the candidates want control of this gun in the high-rise war. But while she's a force for good, there are others like Mamoru Aikawa and Yayoi Kusakabe who believe that murder will get them to the top and that other rivals must be eliminated ASAP, creating a rivalry and shaping themselves as "demons" in the first season.
IS HIGH-RISE INVASION WORTH THE WATCH?
Ultimately yes, but it can be a chore at times. The fight choreography is off the hook, the action sequences are pretty enthralling and the philosophies on tap are quite deep. It's an existential crisis as the show waxes on about class, bullying and how some humans are predestined for certain fates in the real world when really, their full potential has just been stymied based on which families they're born into. It also touches on heaven and hell, and whether humanity has warped the concept by making Earth such a twisted place.
But there are problems such as weird, gross fetishes and over-sexualizing young girls that really make High-Rise Invasion tough to plow through. Also, given how the show randomly chucks heroes, villains and masks in with different powers, bending the rules quite often, it feels forced and incoherent at times. Coupling that with how viewers don't learn much about the overlords and how hard it can be tracking such a packed cast, it'll take some time -- but eventually, the mysteries left to be solved in Season 2 are enough of a hook.