The Fall 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Z/X: Code Reunion
How would you rate episode 1 of
Z/X Code reunion ?
What is this?
When Azumi was a little girl, beings from five different dimensions converged on her own, beginning a war against the Z/Xes that she was only tangentially aware of. Soon thereafter she fell ill and was put into a medically-induced coma in order to survive. Years later, Azumi is awoken by a Z/X named Rigel, who offers to partner with Azumi so that she can live outside of her medical tank. Azumi accepts, and the two soon find themselves invited to attend Fujimisaki Academy, a new school for elite pairings of human girls and Z/Xes. No sooner have they arrived, however, than the war, long thought over, begins again with an attack on the school. Now Azumi and Rigel will have to fight alongside their new classmates if they hope to survive. Z/X Code reunion is based on a card game. It's available streaming on HIDIVE, Tuesdays at 10 am EST.
How was the first episode?
I'm mildly embarrassed to admit that I don't remember the original Z/X anime. Of course, it did air five years ago, in 2014, and this one was announced the year after, so we've certainly been a long time reaching this sister series. The two appear to be only tangentially related, meaning that they take place in the same world with the same foundational event, but this is an entirely (at least as of this episode) unrelated story. So if you have a hankering for a show about young girls with superpowered fighting companions and mild yuri overtones, you can certainly jump right in.
Of course, that's only if you don't mind a first episode that isn't particularly engaging. While its opening minutes do a decent job of setting things up, introducing Azumi, Rigel, and their situation, the rest of it feels pretty boilerplate. There's the usual “oh my gosh, my boobs aren't as big as hers” moment, the overcrowded introduction of the cast, and the heavy-handed implication that Fujimisaki Academy is far from the upstanding academic institution that everyone imagines it to be. Really, has there ever been a time in anime when a guy with a mustache and an eerie computerized voice called a school full of young girls “an experiment” and it hasn't meant something awful?
The saving grace here is the relationship between Rigel and Azumi that's beginning to build. We do know that Rigel was ordered (or at least asked) to offer herself up as Azumi's partner, and that part of that agreement was that she was never turned into (or stored as) a card, which is how other Z/X partners spend most of their time, because we can't forget this show's origins as a manga based on a TCG. But despite that, she really seems to genuinely care about Azumi in a way we haven't seen the other Z/Xes care for their partners; one flat-out ignores her human partner and the other pops out only because he has to and doesn't appear to do anything to defend Ena like Rigel does Azumi. The scene on the train arriving at school also speaks to Rigel's feelings; she's very motherly towards the girl, and it's definitely a highlight of the episode.
It does feel like this may simply be set up for the action show this appears determined to become, but if it can build on the relationship between Azumi and Rigel, it may be worthwhile in at least one way. Otherwise this doesn't do quite enough to distinguish itself from other similar stories, and all of the lovely illustrations in the ending theme aren't enough to save it from mediocrity.
This series is connected to a collectible card game called Z/X Ignition, which was turned into an anime of the same name in 2014. That series was universally panned by our Preview Guide staff at the time and to this day still carries a bottom-tier overall rating on our site, so the pedigree here is dubious. Fortunately this series seems to be based on a manga connected to the game rather than on the game directly, which may be why the mechanical flow going on here is much smoother and less game-like. Whether this series should be taken as an “a few months/years later” continuation of the original story or an alternate timeline version is unclear at this point; this one's featured duo, Azumi and Rigel, were major supporting cast members in the previous show, and the way that series ended doesn't exclude the possibility that Azumi lost her memories of an earlier contract with Rigel. Class President Ayase was also a major player in Ignition, and having Ignition as a past would explain their special treatment here and Rigel's attitudes and protectiveness. The series' name – Code Reunion – also seems suspicious. On the other hand, the Z/X mechanism shown so far is quite different. At this point I'm leaning toward the alternate timeline explanation, but we'll see.
Regardless of which is the truth, the first episode stands sufficiently enough on its own to be appreciable without knowing anything about the previous series. The set-up is a pretty standard one: girls paired with supernatural/otherworldly partners are gathered together in one place and the main protagonist doesn't know the full details of what the school is about going in. Why the school's students are only girls is not explained, nor is why Rigel is one of the few Z/X that are constantly present; in the first series she managed Azumi's medication, but no indication is shown so far that this is also the case this time around. Presumably that detail will come along later, because previous series or not, there's some kind of backstory there. The first episode is otherwise the standard introduction of an elaborate school and numerous other prominent girls, right up until the time the attack happens.
Attacks on the school are not that unusual in battle school series, but having such an attack in the first episode as part of the current time, rather than the attack being an in media res move, is far less common and sets a stronger sense of urgency to the story than just the standard duels between students (which the first episode also has). That also raises the interpretation that the enemy sees what's going to happen at the school as a sufficient enough threat. Like the first series, this one isn't shy about slipping in some mild doses of fanservice, though the mild yuri implications are, I believe, new. Combine that with technical merits which aren't spectacular but still a significant improvement over ZX Ignition and you have a series that at least rates middle-of-the-road as such series go. Keep a decent balance of character development, story development, and action and the series could be at least watchable.
I had completely forgotten that the Z/X franchise existed, until I got a few minutes into this premiere and thought, “Oh, that's right, the anime where they say ‘zex’ a lot.” While I dig the premise of beings from five different universes showing up out of the blue to pick a fight with our Earth, the original Z/X Ignition did nothing for me, and I honestly haven't thought about it in the five years since it aired. To get a sequel series a half-decade later is a bit surprising, and my biggest question going into Z/X: Code Reunion's first episode was whether it would appeal to someone like me, who may as well have zero knowledge of the franchise up to this point.
The answer to that question looks to be, “Maybe eventually?” I'll be honest, I struggled to find a whole lot to say about this episode, and not because I had trouble catching up on the premise and characters. Rather, this episode felt so terribly by the numbers that I ended up having virtually no feelings about it whatsoever. We meet Rin and her Z/X partner, Rigel, the former fresh out of a coma and the latter sworn to guard Rin as they begin their time at Fujimusaki Academy, where human and Z/X partners work together. We meet a bunch of other girls and Z/Xes, some of whom still want to kill each other, and then the whole school blows up because apparently the war is on again. All of the characters fit comfortably into familiar archetypes, the script zips along with all of the usual beats of a “first day at the magic/warfare/card-game/super-soldier school for teens” episode, and then the credits roll.
The animation is decent enough to keep one's attention, and the story itself is easy enough to follow, so I can't say I had any particularly negative reactions to this premiere; I just didn't have any very positive ones, either. Perhaps it's because I'm not as invested in the world as a franchise fan, or perhaps it's because Z/X: Code Reunion simply doesn't have much to offer that is new or exciting. Maybe a couple of more episodes will give it the chance to make a better impression, or maybe this will be yet another sequel series that is too little and too late.
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