The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Anonymous Noise ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
If you've read Viz's release of the manga this show is based on, you'll know why I chose that screencap. You'll also be able to appreciate what a crap job this episode does of adapting the source material – basically this is all of volume one without any of the important backstory or emotional heft of the book. I do recognize that there's an attempt being made to intercut the first chapter, which deals with Nino's past with both Momo and Yuzu, into the events of her high school life, where the rest of the story will take place, but in doing this a lot of important details are lost, not the least of which is why Nino wears the mask, which is pretty important to her character.
That's my chief complaint here – none of the cast are given any of the details that make them into real people. As presented here, Nino is just the quirky heroine who will have to choose between Yuzu and Momo, both of whom she somehow knew in her past and are now involved in music. That's actually not terrible as far as romance plotlines go, and maybe if I hadn't read (and liked) the manga, I'd be a lot more forgiving. But a large part of the delight of this story is its combination of love geometry with good old fashioned YA angst, and this episode strips most of both from the presentation. We're left with a generic shoujo romance, and while Anonymous Noise may very well devolve into that later, part of its hook is that it provides a solid base for its storyline that is lacking here.
Not that it's a total disaster. The character designs are nicely cleaned up to look still distinct but much less anatomically problematic than in the manga, and I love the way they use Nino's hair, particularly during the second concert scene. The voices and songs are also working for me, although I'm not thrilled with sticking to “la la la” for all wordless vocalizations; it sounds a bit unnatural to me. I also like the muted colors, which do a good job of standing in for Nino's emotions, which she's largely keeping trapped behind her mask.
Long story short, everything's there to make this a good adaptation…except the actual writing. I am hoping that the second episode will prove me wrong by going back and filling all of these details in with a closer look at Nino's past, and that would make sense; it's a bit risky to start six years before the actual plot begins, or there could be an assumption that viewers will have read the books and already know the finer points of the story. But if it continues in this vein, I'll have to chalk Anonymous Noise up as further proof that the book really is almost always better than the filmed version.
My strong distaste for shojo artistic styles is well-established, so it should be no surprise that I find the character design style in this series to be a powerful turn-off, especially for lead girl Nino. Even the animation of her singing bugs me – and no, I'm not even referring to the CG-driven performance number on that. And yes, I know that wearing face masks in public is a thing in Japan, but in this case it just seems pretentious or like some kind of yanki thing. I'm certain that the latter in particular is not the intended impression, and perhaps not the former either, but it's a needlessly distracting quirk unless something comes up later on to justify why she has to wear it.
Of course, I probably won't be around to see it, because very little about this episode encourages me to watch any more. The story seems to want to be a tale of teen angst set against a backdrop of music, with a girl attempting to reassemble a childhood love triangle and miserably failing to realize why neither of the guys involved might be keen on that. Heck, even the musical number near the end, where Nino starts singing on her own and the band hurries to back her up, is both a song and a performance riddled with overwhelming angst, the very epitome of frustration boiling over. It's actually still a great song, but it's also just too much. Too many characters here are too buried in their own heads and venting their frustrations everywhere in messy fashion, so much so that it's hard to sympathize with any of them. Someone apparently forgot to point out to the writers that having everyone be a drama queen only works in comedies.
Given that, would this concept work better if the storytelling didn't take itself anywhere near so seriously? Probably, but the writing is still quite flawed even beyond that. Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun gleefully showed why stereotypical shojo dialog is so easy to make fun of. Someone here also failed to recognize that and instead takes it all way too seriously.
I will agree with other assessments that the episode isn't actually awful, and I'm definitely way outside of the target audience for it. I just can't see this having much appeal beyond teenage girls, though.
I was initially somewhat intrigued by Anonymous Noise, since I tend to be a fan of character dramas, romances, and shows where music plays a central role. Unfortunately, this first episode offers a pretty instructive case study in how not to construct your adolescent drama. Pretty much every failing of this first episode points to one crucial aspect of strong character dramas - something in your story has to feel real.
That doesn't necessarily mean the plot has to be realistic, or that the characters have to speak like real people, or that the animation has to bring those characters to life. But some element of the show's construction has to parse as true, and unfortunately, Anonymous Noise just doesn't have that yet.
The show's characters all speak in generic, melodramatic shoujo-isms: “at last my song reached him,” “that melody means nothing to me anymore,” etc. Our female lead Nino is pretty much just a walking dispensary of teary cliches, with her childhood friend Yuzu offering the gruff male lead counterpoint. Anonymous Noise's visual execution is also pretty mediocre; the backgrounds have no detail to them, the direction is middling, and the character designs are both generic and not particularly expressive. Even cliche dramatic turns can be brought to life through specificity of character acting, but Anonymous Noise just doesn't have much of a visual personality. On top of that, this episode's climactic performance scene just looks flat horrible - it starts with clumsy CG models, and then completely buries them under abrasive filters and heavy lighting. And the plot isn't any better than either the visual execution or the moment-to-moment dialogue - it's mostly slow-burning reflections on fated songs and missed connections, offering little that's tangible or specific to this story.
That said, none of those issues make Anonymous Noise a truly terrible show. So far it's mostly just a mediocre genre exercise - a melodramatic shoujo romance executed without much distinction. If you're into these sorts of self-serious love polygons, I'd maybe give it a chance. Otherwise, you can easily skip this one.
Holy crap, there's a lot of teenage angst in Anonymous Noise. I'm not talking about the usual pining for love and companionship, either; this is loud, raw, scream-your-feelings-out stuff. Just about every character comes into this first episode with some kind of personal crisis to deal with. We've got long-lost friendships, internal band drama, writer's block, and a whole bunch of messy romantic tension to sort out from square one. At least you can't accuse this show of getting off to a Slow Start.
In practice, all that drama forces the characters to spend most of this episode at maximum emotional intensity. Yuzu drops his guitar pick and walks off the stage as soon as he sees Nino in the crowd, and she ends up running after him and tackling him. The band is in immediate danger of being broken up, and they need an instant replacement when their singer walks out after seeing Yuzu and Nino alone together. It's not clear what Momo's up to just yet, but it's probably a matter of life and death as well. All of these instant crises make for chaotic viewing, and there's little room for thematic depth or nuance thanks to the rushed pacing. By throwing so much at the audience right away, this episode ends up feeling pretty incoherent.
Anonymous Noise isn't exactly a feast for the eyes, either. The performance scenes are full of tricks and shortcuts meant to hide the limited production values: CG character models in the wide shots, angles that hide the guitarists' hands, dark lighting that obscures the backgrounds, and so on. The character designs are also fairly ordinary, with the only distinctive feature being Nino's mask. Even this is something of an oddity, though the lack of explanation suggests that she has some kind of important reason for wearing it all the time. For now, however, it just makes it harder for the show to convey her emotions without writing them into the dialogue.
Many of these storylines have the potential to be interesting, and it's definitely possible for Anonymous Noise to improve over the next few weeks. In order to do so, it needs to dial the intensity back a notch or two and give these characters a chance to catch their breath. With a better sense of who everyone is and what their motivations are, this could be a compelling story. For now, though, it's kind of a mess.
As this season's only straight shoujo romance, I desperately wanted Anonymous Noise to be better. Based only on its production artwork, I was gearing up for something like NANA, starring an edgy lead singer in a high school rock band who also ends up in the middle of a drama-fueled love triangle. That's, uh, kinda what you get. I mean, Nino is edgy but not in the cool, laissez faire way. She seems like a total basket case and the top reason why I had a hard time immersing myself into the story.
Singing a song into the ocean for years is kinda weird, but it's the sort of dramatic character detail that shoujo has no problem committing to in the name of a tragic back story. But then she straight tackles Yuzu, one of her long lost childhood friends, and starts loudly singing in his face. She interrupts his piano practice to again, obnoxiously “Lalalala” into the room, and finally when she gets on stage in the episode's final segment she spends her band debut holding onto her head while having some sort of emotional musical breakdown.
The scripting for this episode is just all over the place. It seems like writer Deko Akao thought if the audience was bombarded with Nino's past, we'd understand her as standoffish loner with trust issues but that doesn't seem like an accurate assessment of how she actually acts in the episode. Viewers never get a particularly good read on her outside of her strange antics and singing which is a major problem for a show that isn't immersed in a complicated fantasy world or action-packed plot. The show hinges on Nino's emotions and thoughts, so we need to understand her and relate to her.
Art wise, there are some gorgeous opening backgrounds here but actual character animation is hindered in a number of ways. First, I understand that for whatever reason, Nino is one of those characters that constantly wears a face mask. I'm sure the staff is happy that it allows them to cut corners but it feeds into the characterization problem I mentioned above. On top of Nino seeming like a non-human weirdo, her facial expressions are limited by wearing that mask all the time so she also emotes less than a standard protagonist. Panning over stills and questionable CG animation in the band scene that staff try to hide behind stage light flares and you have a show that isn't impressive to watch either.
I really want to like this show and I'm going to keep watching it despite all my complaints because there isn't anything else to fill that void right now. The writing really needs to work out how to make Nino a believable person and slow down in its attempts to set up all of its cards right away.
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