The Winter 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Akiba's Trip: The Animation ?
What is this?
Tamotsu is just your average otaku oddball, obsessed with collecting figures (especially from his favorite Anatomy Rangers) and prone to getting rid of people by quoting the fantasy novel he wrote in middle school. On what seems to be a normal day, he and his younger sister Niwaka are rambling around Akihabara together when suddenly a pink-haired girl falls from the sky. She quickly strips the clothes off a cosplayer, who collapses in a cloud of purple smoke. As it turns out, this is all related to online rumors of “bugged ones,” people infected by mysterious bugs who can only be stopped by ripping their clothes off. Tamotsu finds himself caught up in the pink-haired girl's quest to defeat bugged ones when he tries to defend her and dies. Now resurrected via her strange powers, Tamotsu has a new purpose in his life: to strip the infected! Akiba's Trip The Animation is based on a video game series and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Wednesdays at 9:00 AM EST, with an English dub available on Funimation.
How was the first episode?
The name of this new Gonzo offering is based on a sly pun (eliminate the apostrophe and you have a more accurate description about what is actually going on in the series), and that combined with the ridiculous premise suggests that this will be a zany, fan service-laced action-comedy. That it is set in Akihabara, which is virtually Geek Central for the world, furthers suggests that otaku-related humor will flow free and full. Indeed, the first episode does expend an awful lot of effort in those directions, but in entertainment media effort alone doesn't guarantee a good result. This first episode could be Exhibit A for that.
The main problem is a simple one: the episode just isn't funny – or at least nowhere near as funny as it aims to be, anyway. I did get one or two chuckles out of some off-the-wall jokes, but way too many attempts bomb pitifully. The epitome of this is the supposed joke about the sentai figures themed with internal organs, which lands with such a hard, dull thud that its echo can be heard from miles away. I will give the writers at least some credit for going the extra mile by dropping the foie gras reference on the super-limited figure, but it doesn't make the original any funnier. Likewise getting rid of the pesky salesperson with the chunibyo routine feels like it should have been funnier than it was, but again, the execution is just off. The English dub doesn't help on this, as the dialog is sometimes too rapid-fire and/or indistinct to easily follow.
The main reason that I'm not rating the episode any lower than I am is because the action component works well enough to save the episode from the anime Pit of Despair. Its frenetic pacing is coupled with some fully-detailed (if not always perfectly-smooth) action sequences done in a style reminiscent of a Gainax or Trigger project; it's hard to appreciate how under-animated simple punches commonly are until you see some of the gut and face shots that land here. That, paired with a deliberately-rough look and some vivid color use, gives the content a very busy visual style.
If I had to stylistically compare the series to some previous project, it would probably be 2015's Punch Line. If it is actually aspiring to anything higher than that, though, then it missed the mark badly.
The first episode of Akiba's Trip is not what you'd call subtle in any way, shape, or form. Its visuals are colorful and its animation is energetic in a “consistency be damned” kind of way. The otaku-focused humor is delivered quickly and constantly, and the initial exposition is presented with a heaping helping of self-awareness. Oh, and the plot involves stripping people's clothes off in the middle of Akihabara, which I suppose is a little crazy as well. It's the kind of opening episode that puts a show's subjective charms front and center, which should make for an easy decision between sticking around and bailing out.
If you're on board with the tone and premise that Akiba's Trip puts forward, then it's a pretty compelling sales pitch. Tamotsu seems well suited for his role as the show's main character, leaning heavily on self-deprecating otaku humor without being too obnoxious about it. He's loud and eccentric, but he also has some decent initial chemistry with the other characters. By looking at the world through the lens of his nerdy sensibilities, this episode is able to present some of its wilder and crazier elements with a wink and a nod, and it looks like Akiba's Trip is more than happy to laugh at itself.
Of course, this only works if the comedy strikes a chord with the viewer. If the humor isn't your cup of tea or the “defeat baddies by stripping them” premise is just a bridge too far for you, then all that exuberance will seem more like simple noise. It's also possible that there won't be much to fall back on once the novelty wears off; this episode's occasional attempts at emotional or dramatic appeal aren't terribly impressive. At the risk of making a truly terrible joke, this could turn out to be a case of the emperor having no clothes.
Personally, I'm on board for at least a couple of weeks. I had enough fun with this first episode to feel like it was worth my time, and I'm curious about where the series will go from here on a creative level. The fanservice appears to be relatively mild-mannered (especially in light of the premise), and the show as a whole has an endearingly goofy vibe. The English dub makes a good first impression, which is another encouraging sign; a strong dub can do wonders for a comedy series. Akiba's Trip may be dumb and ridiculous, but it has potential if it can continue to own those traits and use them to its advantage.
Akiba's Trip really frontloads basically everything that might put an unsuspecting audience off about it. In fact, even the title gives the game away. Framed in the logo as “AKIBASTRIP,” the joke is “Akiba Strip,” implying both Akihabara and stripping. And this first episode does indeed involve a lot of Akihabara and stripping - following dedicated otaku Tomatsu, it posits a world where “Bugged Ones” are rambling around Akihabara like cosplaying zombies, and can only be stopped by having their clothes ripped off. As tough girl Matome explains, “the more their skin gets exposed to air, the weaker they get!” Alright Akiba's Trip, if that's what you're going with, I'll buy it.
So, the immediate tenets of Akiba's Trip are “fanservice show” and “very otaku-savvy.” Neither of those are at all my cup of tea, but as far as shows in that genre space go, Akiba's Trip actually seems like a very strong one. Like last season's Keijo!!!!!!!!, Akiba's Trip is confident, energetic, and upbeat - its panty flashes only rarely get into violent or mean-spirited territory, and it makes no apologies about its absurd premise. Even the show's otaku humor is better than average. Instead of lengthy digressions about how the things that are happening are “just like an anime,” characters like Tomatsu and the cosplaying Arisa just feel like genuine geeks - enthusiastic about their hobbies, often framing things in terms of favorite dialogue quotes, and just a little self-conscious.
Akiba's Trip is also extremely well-produced. The show has a very strong visual personality, featuring wild color schemes, creative character designs, and dynamic animation - the first comparison point that came to mind was 2015's Punch Line. Akiba's Trip show foregoes consistent character models in favor of strong expression work and animation, making for an appealing and tone-appropriate visual ride. All of the fight scenes in this first episode were extremely well-animated, maintaining an excellent balance of wild poses and parsable choreography. Even the music was very diverse and lively. As far as fanservice shows go, Akiba's Trip seems like an all-around top tier production.
Akiba's Trip also has a fairly reasonable dub. There are times when Tomatsu's vocal affectation doesn't quite seem to match the energy of his expressions, but I'm personally fine with that; “loud shouting” comedy has never really done much for me. The dub script also leans into the believability of these characters' personalities, with lines like “this is bad…as if that wasn't obvious” feeling more naturally self-aware than more strained and specific references. Overall, while Akiba's Trip isn't really a show for me, it's overall a very energetic and aesthetically appealing production. If you're looking for fanservice, it doesn't get much better than this.
Oooooh. It's secretly Akiba STRIP. I get it. I hereby declare apostrophe-enabled puns to be the very worst kinds of puns. Fortunately, Akiba's Trip doesn't turn out to be the very worst kind of show, when it easily could have been. I mean, it's not good, but this could have been a whole lot worse.
First of all, Studio Gonzo is not fooling anybody with their oddly familiar approach to this material. If you've seen any footage or imagery from the games this is based on, you know immediately that this anime doesn't look anything like its source material. But you know what it does look like? KONOSUBA. In fact, it looks exactly like KONOSUBA, just with slightly better art and animation by my estimation. (Both shows have this perpetually off-model look to their bright yet sketchy character designs, but KONOSUBA's animation sorta looks like Gainax with a bad hangover to me, while Akiba's Trip looks like old-school limited animation Gonzo with just a little more giddy-up in its getalong, I guess.) Still, regardless of whether you prefer KONOSUBA or Akiba's Trip's take on "so bad it's good" animation, there's no denying that the latter is trying to imitate the success of the former. It's pretty shameless style theft.
Shameless imitation aside, going the "ironic shitpost animation" route for this material was probably a good call given its ridiculous softcore premise. You're either going to turn an idea like Akiba's Trip into an ecchi series or a comedy, but turning down the skeevy fanservice and turning up the moronic humor to the extent that they did is a risk that I can't help but find kinda endearing. Watching the English dub for this episode probably enhances the slough of otaku jokes in its first half. Funimation did a good job with the adaptive script and delivery, getting a few laughs out of me from even the dumbest gags like the protagonist breathlessly describing a horrible chuuni novel he wrote in middle school that contains five really stupid proper fantasy names per second. For the first 12 minutes of Akiba's Trip, I was kinda having a good time.
But then the second half dampens that good will completely by changing the focus over to action and nudity. The action works pretty well in its limited cartoony way, but not well enough to carry a whole show, just a few comedy snippets, and that's where the compliments end. The show abandons its mildly clever observations on otaku hobbyism for tired ecchi punchlines and weirdly sincere attempts at drama, not to mention a kissing scene that was somehow ten times more uncomfortable than the episode's titular clothing-shredding. As dumb sleaze goes, you could probably do a lot worse than Akiba's Trip, but aside from its mild improvement on the KONOSUBA visual style and a handful of jokes that might just be funnier with an English dub, there's not much more here to recommend.
Hey, does anyone remember Those Who Hunt Elves, the show where a group of misfit humans had to run around removing elves’ clothing to find the symbols that would send them back to Japan? If you do, Akiba's Trip might seem strangely familiar – its premise is that a group of misfits have to run around stripping “bugged ones,” people infected by a supernatural insect in Akihabara. In their case it's to stop the proliferation of the bugged ones, since they can infect others, so it's in everyone's best interest that these people get stripped in public. Really.
After the horrible moment when I realized that I had been fooled by the title – Akiba's Trip can be condensed to read Akiba Strip – this actually turned out to be surprisingly entertaining. Protagonist Tamotsu is the sort of unlikable otaku stereotype who would be incredibly annoying in real life but comes off as funny with his quirks, such as quoting his own middle school fantasy novel or refusing to like popular things because everyone likes those. His favorite series is “Anatomy Rangers,” which turns out to be Power Rangers knockoffs with various body parts attached to them, like the one with a huge ear on her chest or the guy with a liver around his neck. It's a joke that doesn't require stripping fanservice to get, and there's a fair amount of fast-paced chatter that suits Funimation's simuldub style very well.
As for the stripping and fanservice, well…I've seen worse. Boobs defy physics and there are plenty of shots of women (and men) lying around unconscious in their underwear to fulfill your fanservice needs. No one is particularly well drawn and all of the women have basically the same figure and body type, but if it's skin you're looking for, both the start and end of the episode have plenty. Interestingly enough, the actual stripping is too quick to really see, and there's much less of it than you might expect from the title – most of the episode is about Tamotsu being Tamotsu in Akiba. Since this is only the introductory episode, that seems like it might change, and now that Tamotsu has his powers, the show could be much more invested in the stripping theme going forward. Given that he's also assembled a team – the pink-haired girl, his little sister, and Arisa, a freakishly strong cosplayer who is also a fan of Anatomy Rangers – this feels very likely. But if the humor and fast paced banter can remain major parts of the show, this could be a lot more fun than anything based on the premise of stripping people in public should be. It's defying my expectations so far; let's see if it can keep it up.
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