As thankful as I am to make a living copy-pasting insults from one BAYC-adjacent NFT project review to the next, it’s not every day I get to live out my high-school-era dream of watching TV all day and getting paid to loudly voice my opinion on it.
Imagine my excitement, then, when I learned of Shibuya, a ‘decentralized film distribution platform’ — aka the long awaited ‘Netflix but NFTs’ elevator pitch of every a16z exec worth their Diem’s wet dream. Founded, as these things often are, by a genuinely cool NFT artist and a handful of developers made Twitter famous by their mini-yacht-priced profile pictures, Shibuya seemed to me to have a solid shot at the vacant throne of web3 streaming.
Currently, the web3 video content space — as depressing and empty as every house party I’ve ever thrown — has been dominated by Stoner Cats, an adult animated series starring Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis requiring purchase of a 0.3eth NFT ($700+ currently) to even view. The OpenSea collection is sold out with over 5,000 owners, so presumably someone is watching it. But with IRL gas fees over $4 now, I can tell you it won’t be me anytime soon.
The episode descriptions don’t inspire a ton of confidence either: ‘Ms. Stoner unwittingly receives a mysterious strain of medical marijuana. The cosmic kush causes her to hotbox herself and her five house cats. Thus begins the cat-astrophe.’ Sounds like an Adult Swim reject rushed to series after a few celebrities showed (self) interest, which, let’s be real, is exactly what it is. But on all the world wide web, I can’t find a single review or bootleg to gauge the quality for myself. Perhaps Stoner Cats really is Peak TV’s best kept secret. But the pessimist in me assumes the hodlers simply run a tight ship to keep the value of their NFTs from greening out.
Compared to Stoner Cats, Shibuya is the embodiment of one of those Eastern vs. Western Animations memes. The landing page is a slick GIF in the house style favored by most DAO designers and/or lofi hip hop playlist curators: neon lit anime scenes designed to get high and stare at for hours before you realize it’s just the same ten frames on repeat. Plus, Pplpleasr, the artist behind the project, is, if anything, overqualified for such a venture, with visual effects credits on a bunch of blockbuster films, and crypto animations cool enough I won’t even hold the climax of Batman v. Superman against her.
What’s more, on the day I discovered the project, they’d just launched the pilot of their first series, White Rabbit. And you don’t even need to pay out the ass to watch it! The requisite Ponzi-esque element instead comes in the form of a ‘Producer Pass’ you can hodl to vote on the ending of each new episode. The pay-per-view ‘Bandersnatch’ of it all doesn’t really appeal to me, but at least I could now justify spending half an hour on the clock watching a cartoon. I knew it was meant to be.
Imagine my lack of excitement, then, upon discovering ‘Chapter One‘ runs for all of 45 seconds. Nevertheless, I’m living a young Chad’s dream today, so bear with me as I proceed with my recap/review.
The plot is introduced in an expositional title card — on screen for 5 seconds, or 1/9th of the episode’s run time — announcing every degen’s darkest fear has come true. AI is now uncontrollable and ‘the blockchain is no longer secure.’ A huge fuck you to good writing’s Golden Rule — ‘show, don’t tell’ — but hey. They know how to pander to an audience at least. Character introductions are then dispensed of J.J. Abrams style, as we cut to a close-up of a young woman’s face as she sleeps, which is surely proving out Rule 34 across countless dark corners of the Internet as I type.
A deer, made of dust or stars or something, then appears in the sky (the ‘sci-fi but also fantasy’ trope desperately needs to be euthanized) and the woman wakes. She sits up and sees the shape in the sky, too, but, plot twist, it’s a dog now. She runs through a meadow and her eyes grow wide as she arrives at… drum roll… two doors. I had ‘fork in the road’ on my Choose Your Own Adventure bingo card, but I’mma say, close enough.
So, there you have it. Peak TV. Or, rather, Valley. If you’ve got 0.08eth to spare on a Producer Pass, you can vote on whether the nameless protagonist we’ve been gifted a few dozen seconds to get to know goes through the door with the spirit dog or the spirit hand poking out. But considering the only stakes established in this exquisite minute of television came in the form of a block of text completely unrelated to everything else we saw on screen, I don’t know why you would. Besides, both doors surely lead to the same place — another thousand or so frames of contextless beauty that are decidedly not ppl pleasing.
(P.S. Panning shitty TV turns out to be exactly as fun as it looks. Thanks A.A. Dowd.)