The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide Sagrada Reset
How would you rate episode 1 of
Sagrada Reset ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Dear lord is Sagrada Reset boring.
There's a lot more to it than that, of course. Just like how something being “fun” can always be broken down into specific reasons, “boring” is a simple summation of a complex state of affairs. So let's do a little breaking down, and try to unpack exactly what about this show is boring.
First of all, it has no sense of drama or suspense. The show's premise is predicated on heroine Haruki Misora's ability to reset the world up to three days back, and hero Kei Asai's ability to perfectly recall things that happened even in the deleted version of the world. There's definitely room for compelling drama there, but Sagrada Reset's first episode essentially just has each of its characters explain all their qualities directly to each other, turning what could be dramatic intrigue into pure exposition.
Secondly, it has no sense of character. A scifi premise isn't enough to make a show interesting, particularly when that scifi premise is employed as poorly as it is here. Before that, you need to care about a show's characters - and Sagrada Reset's characters are as boring and unreal as they come. From its bland, inexpressive character designs to the fact that everyone speaks like a robot unfamiliar with human conversations, it's impossible to care about this show's cast. And if I don't care about them, I can't care about their problems.
Finally, it has no sense of pacing. This first episode rambles through long, aimless conversations between its leads without offering any kind of hook until the last few seconds. If the show were creating a strong tone or adding texture to its characters, that'd be forgivable, but Sagrada Reset's overall visual execution is as boring as its cast. Even the final, interminable monologues on the nature of sadness and righteousness fail to generate any sort of dramatic spark. Sagrada Reset seems to think listening to these faceless teens recite adolescent philosophy is its own reward, when in truth it feels more like punishment. The things they're saying aren't inherently meaningful, which means their value comes down to how they illustrate character, and as I've mentioned, Sagrada Reset's characters aren't portrayed as people at all.
Ultimately, there's nothing truly terrible about Sagrada Reset, but also nothing to recommend, and the end result is as dull as they come. Sagrada Reset gets a pass.
I've seen some bad anime debuts already this season, but this may be the most flat-out boring one I've seen in quite some time. In fact, I literally dozed off multiple times during the episode, to the point that I had to go back and replay parts to make sure that I hadn't missed anything. Granted, this could have happened because I didn't sleep the greatest last night or was watching the episode at the time of day when I'm normally most inclined to get sleepy, but usually anime – even bad anime – has enough going on that I don't have this much of a problem staying awake during it. That's why I am inclined to think that the series itself is at least partly at fault.
Of course, it doesn't help at all that this is one of the most lifeless opening episodes that I have ever seen. It has a feel and flavor very similar to Kokoro Connect, which shouldn't be surprising since Shinya Kawatsura was the director for both. That one at least had interesting characters to go with the lightly-used but still compelling sci fi touch, though, whereas the characters here to a fault are incredibly dull and have abilities that are used in uninteresting ways. The flat characterizations and deliveries make it feel like Kawatsura took one of his other big directorial efforts – Tanaka-kun is Always Listless – way too literally. The awkwardly banal dialog is also every bit as unrefined and unexpressive as two of the three main characters are. (And really, why didn't someone at some point in the production process point out that maybe – just maybe – it wasn't a good idea to have two basically emotionless characters at the heart of the story? Series can easily survive one such character, but two is a serious hindrance to any kind of spark developing.) The artistry and animation are decent in purely technical respects but there isn't much liveliness to any of it, either.
Whew! I'm running out of synonyms here, but I think you get the point by now. It's entirely possible that Sagrada Reset will eventually do something interesting with its opening three episode arc, as the twist at the end of the episode shows at least some potential. As is, though, watch this episode if you need a good soporific but otherwise make sure that you have your stimulant of choice on hand.
I'm utterly confused on how to react to this series. Its starring trio are insufferably boring. Lead couple Kei and Haruki tread water through the narrative, both lacking any kind of stirring emotional core, sense of humor, or frankly humanity to make them engaging. They're rounded out by meddling Sumire who is fixated on nudging the two into a friendship. Yet her motives don't come off as sincere. The way she goes about things, her inflections while speaking, and her usual expression all come off as potentially sinister for a reason I can't put my finger on. Everything about this show is just weird and I found myself fluctuating from boredom while I watched two robot people discuss at great length why they should or should not help strangers and Kei dissect why Haruki is dead to the world.
The reasoning seemed emotionally nuanced, or at least I was led to believe that by how much time Kei languishing over Haruki's extreme emotional sensitivity before her time-travel-esque ability deadened it. That's the other thing, the characters have arbitrary superpowers. These are important to the plot insomuch as they crop up whenever the episode calls for it but they don't really make sense are only serve as something else to spend a lot of expository dialogue on.
In the midst of its cicada symbolism and memory diving, the episode sets up a side plot about a lost little girl who hangs around the hospital and school looking for her mother. Haruki takes to her for unknown reasons, she has some kind of moral code that the characters also discuss at length that left me slack-jawed and no closer to understanding anything about Haruki. Still, for whatever reason, looking after this girl falls under her “rules”. Just as I was about to write this show off as failed character study, Sumire waltzes up and declares that the little girl is dead. In fact, her mom is probably dead too and we're thrown into a mystery drama about dead people wandering around.
Okay, so now I'm interested. Having survived Kei and Haruki's bland pseudo-analysis of one another now I want to know what's going on despite knowing that I'll only be subjecting myself to further punishment. Why, Sagrada Reset, am I going to spend more time with your bland robot characters and their barely animated talking heads?
There's room for humor in a serious discussion, but you wouldn't know it from the first episode of Sagrada Reset. This show seems determined to treat its emotional content as calmly and rationally as it can, and that gives it a uniquely odd atmosphere. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that I like it, the intellectual tone is certainly distinct enough to make an impression. Whether you love it or hate it, you'll probably remember it.
The biggest problem with this episode is that it doesn't even come close to selling me on the idea that its characters are real human teenagers. The straight-faced monologues that these kids rattle off sound like someone took an essay on morality and wedged it into a TV script. The closest we get to actual humor is Kei's repeated conversation with his basketball-playing friend, and even this turns into an earnest discussion of people's personalities. Negative emotions appear to get the same icy treatment as positive ones, and that monotone delivery makes it a slog to get through at times.
If you can keep your head up and your eyes open, the good news is that there are some intriguing themes at play here. The idea of the town's residents forgetting their powers if they leave seems like it'll be important later on, and Kei has some useful observations to offer on the topic. Things only get deeper as the episode goes on, so it's nice to see that the writing is able to keep things relatively easy to understand. Sagrada Reset doesn't appear to be pushing one viewpoint over another at the moment, instead trusting the audience to come up with their own conclusions. I like it when a series assumes that I have at least half a brain, since it usually cuts down on obnoxious spoon-fed morals and heavy-handed metaphors.
Judging by this first episode, Sagrada Reset probably won't work for everyone. It may not even work for me, and I enjoy grappling with tough questions through the lens of fiction. That stark, emotionally subdued tone is just so pervasive and overpowering that it makes the characters seem as abstract as the ideas they put forward. Unless the show can pull off some top-notch character development later in the season, this will be a title that you absolutely need to be in the right mood to enjoy.
Is there any such thing as a "good person" in this world, and how do you judge such a thing? If you do good things for selfish reasons or even no reason at all, are they less good than if you did them out of pure empathy? Even then, if you have too much empathy, does this lead to another kind of selfishness, where you seek to soothe others' pain because it's the same as soothing your own? All these questions and more will be pondered by alarmingly monotone high schoolers in Sagrada Reset!
Sagrada Reset takes itself extremely seriously from its earliest moments, with a melancholy ballad resonating under the opening credits that made me wonder more than once if this wasn't the end of the show rather than the beginning. (Given the time loop premise, that's probably intentional, and that song will probably come back near the end of the show, but it was still distracting.) Yes, the barely-there animation isn't really to blame for the lack of expression on everyone's faces. These kids are here to ponder the mysteries of human nature without a drop of teenage emotion, which makes Kei and Sumire's concern over Haruki's detachment especially hilarious; it's not like they're baskets of sunshine and laughter either. It's clear that once the plot really gets going, Sagrada Reset will probably be a mystery club anime similar to Hyou-ka or HaruChika, where they use their superpowers to solve the dilemmas of other superpowered citizens, but the show is already playing around with much loftier ideas and a more important main plotline than its contemporaries.
The total lack of relatable emotion in this somber world full of monologuing teens is definitely a barrier to entry, but if there's one thing Sagrada Reset does better than similar joyless exercises in chin-stroking like The Perfect Insider, it's exploring ideas with some unexpected depth and complexity through conversations and metaphors that are simple to follow (even if it doesn't seem like any teens would actually talk like this). I've referenced this useful image off and on when talking about writing in anime, and while this genre's worst offenders end up fully in the red quadrant ("probably just bullshit"), Sagrada Reset bounces around pretty comfortably between the other three, which gives me hope that it can explore some profound ideas later in its run.
I'm wildly allergic to long-winded monologues in anime, so I was pretty wary of this show at first, but if you can make it through to this episode's end, even Sagrada Reset's loftiest concepts come together into something intriguing by the first mystery's cliffhanger. It could still devolve into a bunch of pretentious gobbeledygook before the end, and it would definitely be stronger with more distinctive character writing, but this author's ruminations on human nature are more thoughtful than expected, so give this a shot if you're down for a navel-gazer this season.
I was a bit surprised to see that Sagrada Reset is based on a series of light novels rather than a visual novel – its plot about people with powers, including one that can “reset” time up to three days, with the caveat that if she doesn't “save” first she'll also forget that things have reverted, seems like perfect VN fodder. Of course, at this point it might have been a very dull game, given that the main problem with this episode is its propensity to tell rather than show. Everything we learn about main characters Kei, Haruki, and Sumire is narrated or fed to us by one of the other characters – “You two are a lot alike,” people tell Kei about Haruki, but we never actually see much that indicates that, unless “monotone delivery of lines” is a character trait. “Everyone in this town has powers,” Kei tells us, but unless that person is relevant to the plot, we don't see it, which feels like a wasted world-building opportunity. When Haruki isn't sure she wants to simply trust Kei, I know how she feels, because somehow his telling her to trust him doesn't have a whole lot of impact when we've seen him do precisely one active thing, and that, a game of basketball, has exactly zero to do with the plot.
All of this makes for an episode that feels like it drags on forever. Scenes all take place in vast, nearly empty spaces where the main characters are the only people in sight, from the school to the streets – and if people lose their abilities upon quitting the town, then wouldn't you think there'd be a lot more population to see? If it's a beautiful day, why is no one else on the roof or at the playground? While it might be trying to give a mystical or at least otherworldly feel to the setting, all it ends up feeling is lazy, which can be applied to decidedly lackluster character designs as well.
Sagrada Reset's first episode feels like a misused opportunity. Things don't begin to get truly interesting until the end, when Sumire's fable/parable about two seemingly identical men starts to take on a bit of relevance. From the final scenes, the preview, and the ending theme's spreading pool of blood, it seems very likely that there's a lot more to this series than this episode is giving us. But starting this slow was a major risk, and it's not one I'm sure is going to pay off – with a slated twenty-four episode run, Sagrada Reset does have the time to make this a much more intense and compelling story, but if it takes too long to get going (and given that this is part one of three, as indicated by the episode title), it could lose us long before things get good.
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