The Winter 2016 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Dimension W ?
What is this?
The discovery of the 4th dimension, Dimension W, propelled human civilization into the future at lightning speed. Through the use of wireless trans-dimensional coils, an infinite amount of power can be pulled from Dimension W with zero consequences, solving the global energy crisis overnight and giving birth to a mega-monopoly in coil manufacturer New Tesla Energy. But not everyone is happy to be living in the future. Professional coil repo man Kyouma Mabuchi hates this new world controlled by homogeneous technology from a sinister corporation, so when fate drops a robotic girl named Mira in his lap, he doesn't want anything to do with her. However, she's desperate to join him in the repossession of illegal coils for cash, while keeping a secret mission left behind by her creator and the true genius behind the coil system, Dr. Yurizaki, close to her mechanical heart. Dimension W is based on a manga and can be found streaming on Funimation, Sundays at 9:00 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
After watching the premieres of both shows one after the other, I think Dimension W and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash are accidental opposites. Where Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash heightens weak material with captivating execution, Dimension W has those strengths and weaknesses flipped.
The story of Dimension W is immediately appealing in its simplicity. Technocratic dystopias have been done before, but not so often that the concept feels stale, and putting a rustic old tech-hating ruffian together with an open-hearted android leaves plenty of room for trust issues and great chemistry on both sides. Studio 3Hz's color and design work is also simple and engaging, pulling imagery from multiple generations of cyberpunk classics without coming across as too generic or derivative. It's a huge breath of fresh air after watching one teen-aimed anime after another pull out the same painfully busy aesthetic tricks, and the (slightly) more adult or at least general-audience tone that accompanies Dimension W's story is refreshing as well. It's an extremely Western-audience-friendly anime that doesn't feel like it's trying too hard to be cool, and you don't see one of those every day!
With all that in mind, this is absolutely the kind of show I want to leave with high marks and a glowing recommendation, but there's one glaring issue that gives me pause about whether Dimension W can fulfill its early potential. I'll just be blunt: series director Kanta Kamei (Bunny Drop, Saekano, OreShura) has never handled an action show before, and his inexperience with the conventions that drive that genre really show in this first episode.
His slice-of-life approach to an action-driven story does help Dimension W feel unique, but not always in a good way. Dimension W has some downright bizarre editing, style, and music choices for an action series that suck a lot of energy out of what should be a more engrossing premiere. Kamei makes simple plot points harder to follow by splitting them into disparate chunks across scenes, buries big establishing shots of important locations in weird transitions (like the odd shark-filled-aquariums-and-robot-wrestling-themed hideout of Mabuchi's contractor), and interrupts suspenseful moments with sudden close-ups of the characters in a cut-out style that just stop the momentum dead. If anything about Dimension W's first episode struck you as distracting, it's probably the result of weird habits drawn from the director's long history of cuddly comedy work. (And yes, that includes the episode's tame but very poorly placed fanservice moments. That worked fine for Saekano, but it really busts up Dimension W's rhythm.)
Don't get me wrong: I'm a big fan of Kanta Kamei, and I enjoyed all three of his previous shows listed above, even when their stories were less than impressive, solely because of his effortless handle on slice-of-life charm that made them feel special. Time will tell if his style elevates Dimension W's material or muddies it, but I'm still holding out a ton of hope for the show's potential. So long as the animation remains steady and the characters develop well, we might still have a winner on our hands.
This is the first debut of the season that I can see being appealing to people who don't normally consume anime. Not the least of the reasons is the mention of good ol' Tesla, darling of pop culture, and with that as a draw, the general fun of Dimension W should be able to hook viewers all on its own. It has a nice sense of action, a science fiction world that, will similar to our own, hasn't descended into standard dystopia, and a heroine who is an appealing mix of strength and teen girl emotion. It's even got a bit of a hipster factor in the hero who refuses to switch to new technology cars because he loves the old-fashioned way.
All of that aside, Dimension W's first episode is very well paced. We get a good sense of both the world and the characters without the show resorting to the sort of explanation that takes the form of extensive narration or expository conversations that feel false. For example, Mira's father, a renowned scientist who first pioneered the technology needed to access the energy of Dimension W, is revealed through the newspaper clippings on his wall. The fact that Mira is likely based on his murdered daughter is seen in a flashback with nothing specifically said; we can simply infer it from the glimpse of the dead girl. We even know that not all illegal coils look them same from the crooks crowing about how these particular ones he's gotten his hands on are especially good because they look just like the real thing except for the small x's on them, a nice way to sneak in some world-building information. On the whole, this is just a well thought out episode, which helps to excuse some of the clunkier aspects, such as the Collectors apart from Mabuchi all having character designs that clearly mark them as Other or the more gimmicky aspects of Mira's appearance, such as the “tail” and her tendency to slap Mabuchi for pretty much everything. That's a character quirk that I especially dislike, and while there is an effort to explain it away as a result of Mira's emotional strain, it doesn't quite ring true...plus seeing her all teary-eyed, no matter how justifiable, gets old. She's the “sweet” to Mabuchi's “tough and grouchy,” and that's a dynamic that I'm just a bit tired of.
On the whole, though, this was an enjoyable half hour. I'm always a sucker for dance routines in openig and ending themes, so Mabuchi glumly dancing away in the opening was a treat, and there's even a “villain” who it was easy to gape at with shock as he says the equivalent of “but they said sorry, why isn't that enough?” about a man's murdered family. It isn't perfect, but it is a good watch and it certainly looks like it could maintain that going forward.
Dimension W is Funimation Entertainment's stylish co-production with Orange and Studio 3hz. The sci-fi series stars Kyoma, a “collector” who recovers illegal energy coils and looks like he stepped out of Samurai Champloo. He crosses paths with Mira, a robot designed by the inventor of energy coils and modeled after his dead daughter. Kyoma is a professed Luddite in a world that has abandoned gasoline, and Mira's cute exterior masks hidden fighting abilities. The two are a natural match to take down a shadowy conglomerate regulating the world's power supply.
The show features a crisp, bright color palette interspersed with color-blocked backgrounds for added emotional effect. A sudden comedic surprise or action sequence will drop the background art in favor of lime-green or burgundy. It's interesting visual shorthand to grab the viewer's attention, something Kanta Kamei has utilized in his other directorial works like Oreshura.
Kyoma's a unique protagonist insofar as he's not 15 and brimming with super powers. His demeanor and design feel like the older “coolness” Shinichiro Watanabe favored in his previous works. His counterpart, on the other hand, is relegated to fanservice fodder over personality establishment. We see that Kyoma works on cars after getting an earful on the price of gasoline and the revolutionary nature of Tesla coils. This is character building, meant to quickly establish Kyoma as old-fashioned and stubborn to viewers. Mira is shown taking care of her father, which might lead you to believe she's at most nice, but it's also very basic servile robot stuff.
What we do get to see a lot of is Mira's butt. Lots and lots of it. Jumping in the air? Close up on Mira's butt and skirt. Falling down on the street? Close up on Mira's butt. That isn't to say you can't have fanservice at all, but after the fourth instance of zooming in on her tush, it became distracting. Fanservice is best utilized when the mood is right for it, either in comedic situations or steamy moments. Random instances like this always feel forced. As a short aside, this show also marks the second this season featuring a somewhat threatening gay man. Can we please kill this stereotype?
Dimension W is sitting on a lot of potential, both for its interesting but none-too-complicated sci-fi setting and the cool male protagonist change-up. My only hang-up is Mira's place in the story by the end of episode. I'm cautiously hoping she comes into her own soon.
Review: A loner of a somewhat older man works as a troubleshooter-type and drives a vintage car despite living in a futuristic city. One night on a job he encounters a short, quite capable robot girl, who ends up seeking to work with him despite his reluctance to do so. The older series that this premise most reminds me of is Solty Rei, and some of the shots in the closer in particular suggest that a nod to that series might have been intended. Since that's one of my favorite series of the 2000s, I am naturally primed to like this one.
This is a much darker and grittier tale than Solty Rei was, though, which is pervasive in both its art design and storytelling. In fact, in both regards the first episode has an air which lies more between Cowboy Bebop and Mardock Scramble. It dwells on the shadier underbelly of his looks like it should be an almost utopian future world, and that should endear itself to Western fans. Of course, the fact that the robot girl is quite sexy, with a pluglike appendage on her backside that distinctly (and no doubt intentionally) resembles an animal tail, doesn't hurt, and the closer in particular takes pains to emphasize that. The jaded, couldn't-care-about-anything attitude of the male lead also reinforces the classic “lone wolf” persona.
If I had to make a guess on where this series is going based on the first episode, this is one of those anti-establishment tales, one where the protagonist and his allies wind up fighting against the seemingly-benevolent megacorporation which de facto controls the world. That the protagonist actively resists using the new energy technology supports this, as does the fact that the symbol on the back of his shirt is a reverse of the shape of the coils used to power most technologically-based items. It even has the classic “fatherly scientist figure packed is most advanced research into the technical marvel of a robot girl” story element, which no doubt means that she contains some big secrets in addition to being unusually emotive. The anger inherent the father figure's destructive suicide, and his claimed reasons for despising the megacorp, also speak to shady elements afoot, to which the robot girl is undoubtedly the key.
The visual style of the series is not as sharp as the best-looking series so far this season, but that does, at least, contribute to the setting's rougher feel. Animation and music are respectable enough to support the action elements, and the depiction of the implosion/explosion towards the end of the episode is impressive. Overall, this isn't a stand-out first episode but there is enough here to get people interested.
Last year at Anime Expo, Funimation made a big to-do about being on the production committee for a show called Dimension W, based on a manga nobody in the room seemed to have heard of. It was an odd announcement for that venue – they had a packed house full of thousands of rank-and-file fans, but the news was more suited for a shareholders’ meeting. Now that I've seen the show, Dimension W makes it immediately obvious why Funimation decided to invest.
This thing feels, instantly – like in the first few moments – familiar. Aesthetically it is a pastiche of just about every Bandai show to have hit it big with Western audiences, a kaleidoscope of visual memories from Adult Swim broadcasts a decade ago. Like a particularly bold remix, careful to obfuscate its most direct influences so as not to feel like simply a lift, this show pulls from Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Outlaw Star – you'll even catch little details and shot composition that reminds you of Samurai Champloo. Inky blacks and neon, noirish angles, crisp character designs with long expressive faces, a world bustling with sci-fi concepts that all feel strangely familiar.
Yep, this is undeniably one of those, the high-concept, decently-animated gritty sci-fi show that American anime fans have always seemed to embrace. It isn't a total home run – this is based on a manga that I haven't read, so I'm not sure if this is just the storytelling style of the original creator or something the director is doing, but the editing is an issue. The story is pretty straightforward, but it's actually a little tough to follow thanks to a bunch of odd editing choices. The pacing is herky-jerky as a result and I found myself a little less-than-interested thanks to the choppy, uneven way the story is presented. If they clear that up and decide to tell this otherwise pretty simple story (here's a spoiler: the source of unlimited energy they discovered is not what it seems!!) in a pretty simple way, this show has the visual chops to be a real success.
I'm not ready to send Dimension W up to the pantheon of great Bandai shows that we all embraced back in the early 2000s, but they've made it so clear that those are the fences they're swinging for that it's tough not to make the comparison. I'm more than willing to follow these characters around for a little while and see if the story gets a few more hooks in me, but to say I cared deeply about what happened in this episode and can't wait for the next one would be a massive overstatement. This is a big wad of potential right now and little else, but I will absolutely be watching to see how it turns out.
Well, it looks like we might have the season's first mainstream success. Adapted from a manga by one of anime's most talented series composers (Shoutarou Suga, who also composed the adaptations for My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU and The Eccentric Family), Dimension W looks like a show smartly calculated to hit a major audience, from its cyperpunk world to its action-vignette setup to its almost Bebop-esque aesthetic flourishes. It's a polished and engaging work so far, an easy watch in spite of its occasionally self-sabotaging elements.
Kyoma Mabuchi is the classic protagonist for a show like this - in a world that's adopted scifi coils and massive corporate regulation, he lives defiantly in the past, the wandering samurai of gasoline who cleans up riffraff to survive. His style of bounty hunting is visually engaging - his needles and wires lead to fun fights, even if the show doesn't have the animation to make its action scenes really sing. He's gruff and distant and undoubtedly hiding a heart of gold, and makes for a fine counterpoint to Mira, the girl who represents the future.
Mira's character is a bit more of an open question, and probably the most frustrating thing about this episode was how the camera just could not stop leering at her throughout. She's likely supposed to be the emotional heart of the show, who draws Mabuchi into engagement with some grand conflict, but when all the camera cares about are her boobs and butt, it's hard to believe the show is taking her seriously as a person. In shows like this, it's much more enjoyable to see characters who actually own their sexuality, instead of being manipulated by a voyeuristic camera - but Mira falls into a general “innocent daughter” archetype, and so she's fetishized in spite of herself.
In spite of that issue, there's plenty to like in this first episode. The show's aesthetics are trying hard to stand out, and though the backgrounds don't really bring this cyberpunk world to life, little tricks like the dynamic shadows and energetic wipes do create some sense of style. Nothing about the show's dystopian setup or bounty hunter template is really new, but they're still strong ideas when executed well. The writing feels natural throughout, which makes it likely (especially given Suga's previous work) that Mabuchi and Mira will soon develop a compelling rapport. Overall, Dimension W is not yet outstanding, but it's a fine entry in a fundamentally enjoyable genre space. It's also often the case that shows frontload their fanservice to trick audiences into sticking around, so I've got reasonable hopes even that issue will clear itself out soon enough.
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