The Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide
hitorinoshita The Outcast
How would you rate episode 1 of
Hitori no Shita - the outcast ?
What is this?
Chulan Zhang only planned on making a short trip to his grandfather's grave, but when he arrives, he learns the entire graveyard has been mysteriously desecrated. On top of that, the police inform him that the grave recently had another visitor - his own older sister, who he never knew existed. Put out by all these revelations, Chulan heads off to fix his grandfather's grave himself, only to promptly meet his new sister, get smacked in the head with a shovel, and almost get buried alive. And that's before all the zombies show up. hitorinoshita The Outcast is based on a web manhua and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Saturdays at 9:30 AM PST.
How was the first episode?
Well, that was an episode of something. Hitorinoshita – The Outcast has ambitions that don't quite get realized as it attempts to lay the foundation for what I think is going to be a zombie story wherein a Mysterious Organization battles an Evil Organization and both sides need the lightening power of the Zhang family. Not that Zhang Chulan, an ordinary college student, knows anything about it. This actually represents a pretty major slip-up on the part of the Mysterious Organization, as they send in an undercover agent named Bao Bao to claim she's Chulan's long-lost older sister, apparently not counting on the fact that Chulan might want to visit his grandfather's grave over the holidays. Of course, Bao Bao herself may not have been a great choice of agent in the first place: she's got the personality of a brick and the intuition to go with it. When Chulan says she's his sister, her cover story, she says, “No, I'm not,” which is totally contradictory to her mission.
But even before this point, Hitorinoshita is having some problems. This is one of those horror shoes where the characters have apparently never seen a horror show. If someone has just seen all of the headstones in the local graveyard falling down like dominoes, you don't go to the graveyard at night. If you want to put your grandfather's grave back in order, do that during the day. Also, if the pigeons in your neck of the woods are active at night, you should probably worry, because they're diurnal birds, meaning that they aren't up once the sun goes down. There are just so many signs that Chulan blissfully ignores that watching is a frustrating experience.
Chulan himself is obnoxious, as is Bao Bao, which I'm guessing is not written the same way as “hug” in Chinese. While part of his reluctance to return to his hometown is understandable, he seems to deliberate ignore things he shouldn't and attempts to us him as comedy are tone deaf. The episode has a difficult time maintaining its atmosphere, and while the first few scenes are effective, they go off the rails soon thereafter. The attempts to use the nocturnal pigeons also falter, as the symbolism is overwrought and generally feels shoehorned in. Also, wow are there a lot of pigeons – I hope never to see so many again until Hatoful Boyfriend gets its inevitable anime adaptation.
There are moments that are done well. The color scheme is effective, and the leaping around Bao Bao does when she fights the zombies can look pretty cool. I do like the way she always looks like herself in her photos rather than being prettied up, and as I said before the scene of the headstones falling is neat. But there are far too many other things that this episode does poorly. If you're desperate for a zombie show, there are better ones for you to rewatch.
So what, exactly, is this series supposed to be? A zombie flick? A supernatural martial arts story? A horror tale? The first episode has elements of all three, and yet doesn't primarily seem to be any of those. All that is clear is that the protagonist is a college student who has some powers he's either unaware of or doesn't want to admit to, he's going to be saddled for the long term with Creepy Girl, and there's some other woman out there who acts like she's looking forward to eating a dead boy. In other words, it looks like the protagonist is going to have anything but the carefree life that he wants due to the legacy of his dead grandfather.
Okay, so there's nothing actually wrong with a premise like that, and the first episode does throw out numerous hooks. The problem is that it doesn't actually do anything particularly interesting, exciting, or even effective with its set-up. It puts a lot of effort into being creepy, but then disrupts the mood it was inculcating with Chulan's spastic behavior and reaction shots that would be more fitting in a comedy series. It has zombies on the move, but there's nothing actually intimidating about them, as they pretty much just amble around until the girl slices them up, resulting in some remarkably dull action sequences. The musical score does the series no favors there, either. They don't really even look that grotesque. The young woman looks like she's trying to do her best imitation of Sadako from Ring, which means she has no personality, and all Chulan really does is just complain about things. If he is eventually going to be a hero or bad-ass, he's got some serious developing to do.
However, I can't see many people sticking around with this series long enough to see if it accomplishes that. The opener features some provocatively sexy women but they don't seem like they are going to be core cast members, and even though the Sadako clone is actually pretty when her bangs aren't in the way, her getting sexy is hard to imagine at this point, so it doesn't look like it's going to have fan service to fall back on, either. It's too bad the series couldn't put together more oomph than it does, as it is one of the rare series to focus entirely on characters beyond high school age, but someone in the creative process just don't think this one out well enough.
As far as I can tell from this first episode, hitorinoshita is doing a fine job of imitating the zombies that it so prominently features. It shuffles aimlessly from one plot point to the next without any real sense of urgency or emotion, somehow missing that spark of liveliness that makes a series worth watching. I get the impression that just about any of this season's other titles could run circles around it without breaking a sweat.
None of the characters seem particularly happy to be here, either. Chulan is the very embodiment of a bland protagonist, and he does very little in this episode beyond underreacting to the supernatural craziness going on around him. Baobao goes through the motions of being a mysterious girl with a dangerous past while displaying a slightly narrower range of emotions than the zombies she mows down. Even the supporting cast comes across as stiff and tired, and I'm at a loss to point out any minor character who actually caught my interest.
This episode also appears to be undecided on what sort of tone it's going for. The zombies aren't scary enough for it to qualify as a horror series, the fighting is too uninspired for it to work as an action show, and the attempts at comedy are more dull than amusing. There's no real gore or fanservice to speak of, so it doesn't even have a reasonable claim on the trashy, self-indulgent angle. Character designs are unremarkable across the board, and the animation is vaguely competent at best.
The only reason I can think of to watch hitorinoshita is if you're in search of a “so bad it's good” experience, and even then I imagine it'll be a disappointment. The show isn't absurdly bad or stupid in the way that good train wreck shows tend to be. It just seems ambivalent about its own existence, and it's awfully hard to care about a series that's so devoid of ambition.
I'll say this for hitorinoshita - the show sure does know how to make a zombie attack feel really, really boring. The show's zombies stumble aimlessly across the screen, the camera maintaining a flat, passionless angle as Chulan's fake sister Baobao cuts them down with a cleaver. And even Baobao doesn't seem particularly excited about this exchange; after fighting off a handful of zombies and briefly protecting her not-brother, she promptly declares that this is pointless, and runs away.
Baobao isn't alone in that sentiment - in fact, it doesn't really seem like any member of hitorinoshita's staff is all that happy to be here. The show's premise is all fairly basic setup for what will presumably congeal into a standard monster-fighting squad, with Baobao, Chulan, and their various allies fighting off bargain-bin baddies with their own special powers. But we don't really get to that here; this episode focuses almost entirely on Chulan and Baobao futzing around with Chulan's grandfather's grave, as Chulan very slowly reacts to all the standard fantasy tropes around him.
All of the plot beats here are typical, but their execution is just much slower than you'd hope or expect. Chulan figuring out Baobao is presumably his sister takes a good twenty seconds, and Baobao admitting that her ID was faked takes a handful more. When Chulan decides the zombie attack must be a dream, the show slows down so that both Baobao and the zombies can stop and stare at him, before Baobao declares he's an idiot. And that most reliable of first episode stingers, the “I'm glad that's all over with except whoaaa the fantasy girl is in my class now” special, is here given a good minute's worth of aggravatingly obvious slow-rolling. Hitorinoshita's premiere is a very typical first episode played at half tempo for no obvious reason.
The show's aesthetics unfortunately don't make up for its slow pacing and obvious storytelling. There are lots of clear animation shortcuts in this first episode, and Baobao's fight with the zombies isn't particularly exciting in either a framing or animation sense. The show's style embodies the general fatigue of its overall execution.
Ultimately, I can't really find anything to recommend about hitorinoshita. The show isn't uniquely terrible or anything, but it's a bad articulation of an obvious thing from top to bottom. A very easy skip.
discuss this in the forum (599 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history