The Spring 2019 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
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How was the first episode?
AFTERLOST is the kind of premiere I both anticipate and dread in equal measure every season: a completely nonsensical, self-indulgent descent into science-fiction gobbledygook that's positively drowning in a gravy of crummy animation and hilariously awful CGI. AFTERLOST isn't the worst thing I've seen all year – we recently got a Hand Shakers sequel, after all – but it's certainly one of the most entertaining failures I've seen in a while.
The episode opens on a girl named Yuki, who's an idol singer until her city blows up. Or maybe she's just dreaming about the city blowing up and the shady scientists who've captured her have stuck her in some kind of virtual-reality nightmare generator. Either way, the city is called Lost, though one has to wonder if it got renamed after millions of people supposedly died, or if it was just ironically destined to explode from the moment of its founding. We later find out that the people in Lost might not have really died, though some citizens have definitely turned into glowing murder ghosts. A guy named Takuya busts Yuki out of her captors' prison and whisks her about on a moped for a bit, and then there's a floating ghost monk who shoots lasers at people.
If the goal in producing AFTERLOST was to create a serious story, then I regret to report that such hopes were dashed the moment the show unveiled its cityscape of PS2-era CGI models. If you could get past that, the scene where Yuki's emotional flashbacks to her happy childhood consist entirely of her family sitting and clapping around a birthday cake might have dashed its chances instead. Mind you, these moments arrive right before she summons the ghost of a former bodyguard to summon a thousand submachine guns, Fate/stay night style, to pump lead into the spooky laser monk. It isn't just the CG modeling that looks sloppy either – the character animation ranges from mediocre to distractingly bad, and the models do not blend at all with the three-dimensional backgrounds.
Amusingly enough, AFTERLOST's greatest sin is also its most tragic shortcoming; it actually isn't bad enough. Sure, it's a trainwreck, but lately it seems like a thousand new anime are getting produced every season, so we've all seen trainwrecks at this point. It isn't enough to just be impressively inept. For a show to escape the cultural void of mediocrity, it has to reach transcendent levels of awfulness. Maybe AFTERLOST will lower its ambitions to an appropriately subterranean level soon, but as far as this first episode goes, I wouldn't even recommend you watch it ironically. There are much better ways to waste your time.
The spring season just hit its first speed bump, literally leaving a brutal crash of rejected Initial D car models in its wake. Mafia henchmen rule the streets in tailored suits with hoods. An entire city got Thanos-snapped out of existence, but life continues on mostly per usual. Our hero cruises around on a moped. And everything is eye-bleedingly hideous.
I desperately searched the internet to find who to blame for this milquetoast sci-fi tragedy. Was it some ill-conceived PlayStation 2 game? A mostly underground visual novel? It's actually based on a smartphone game with nine million users. We shouldn't hold them responsible for this anime adaptation though; they had no way of knowing Madhouse was going to do little more than put those same smartphone graphics into a TV show.
AFTERLOST is not only atrocious to look at, but its characters also operate in a world of nonsense logic. Why is Yuki's dad choosing to send her internet messages through some kind of crazy encrypted program? She's locked up as a test subject. In what world do all the factors align so that she would ever find and decode his message?. Why can she summon (presumably) dead people, and is her summon's Gilgamesh-but-with-guns attack supposed to be cool? It does not.
If I didn't find the plot simultaneously silly and uninspired, the art would kill the show's appeal full stop. It's hard to describe, but the characters and background art are often incongruent with one another down to the lighting. I can tell there's some attempt to do fluid camera shifts during the action scenes, but the stagnant motion in play undermines these efforts entirely.
AFTERLOST is a nonsensical and ugly show whose only redeeming factor might be hatewatching it like Hand Shakers, if it can even manage to be that accidentally entertaining.
I'm not really a fan of hatewatching shows. While I can see the appeal of riffing on incompetent craft, I personally would rather watch something actually good that makes me feel something new. Watching truly terrible media doesn't make me feel smarter; it just makes me feel sorry or embarrassed for the creators whose work failed to come together. As a result, my experience watching AFTERLOST was mostly just one of deep vicarious discomfort, as I shuddered at the idea of working on something so entirely terrible.
AFTERLOST's manifold problems begin with its narrative, which is essentially a grab bag of the most generic anime devices available. There's a hardboiled courier who might secretly have a heart of gold, a mysterious young girl with strange powers, and a dramatic catastrophe called Lost pulling it all together. There's a mission prompted by a cryptic message from a missing father, and a chase scene that briefly reveals our heroine Yuki's powers. There's even a scene where Yuki runs away after being described as an object, something shows exactly like this generally save for their third or fourth episodes. In narrative terms, AFTERLOST feels like what you'd get if you fed fifty forgettable anime into a computer and asked it to average them out into an entirely flavorless narrative gruel.
AFTERLOST's terrible story is somewhat mitigated by the fact that I was often too distracted by its ugliness to look at its subtitles. AFTERLOST's character designs are as generic as they are unappealing, and the show's combination of totally flat shading and terrible composition mean no one ever looks like they actually belong in their environment. The show leans heavily on bottom-rung CG for both its backgrounds and its action sequences, and doesn't really understand how to direct an action scene either. AFTERLOST's two principle visual modes seem to be “Low-Rent Flash Animation” and “Playstation 2 Gameplay,” and wouldn't you know it, these two bad modes also clash against each other pretty aggressively.
In short, there is absolutely nothing to recommend in AFTERLOST. Normally I reserve the one out of fives for shows that jump from incompetent into outright rage-inducing, but the holistic totality of AFTERLOST's terribleness leaves me obligated to make an exception. Congratulations AFTERLOST, you are bad at everything you do.
So our adult male protagonist, who is a well-paid expert courier, uses a scooter to try to outmaneuver helicopter gunships. Okay. If it were a motorcycle instead, that would at least be more understandable, but outside of FLCL, I don't think it's possible to make scooters look cool.
That's just one part of what makes this one difficult to score highly. The premise is pretty sound; some catastrophe made part of a city disappear, there's only one survivor, and everyone seems interested in her for one reason or another. Perhaps it's because she has powers that allow her to manifest the spiritual form of her father's bodyguards to deal with a telekinetically empowered monk, and those two are far from the only ones around with powers. There seem to be at least two distinct warring factions here, and which ones can be trusted is still in question. It's a confusing mess that will no doubt get sorted out over the course of the next couple episodes. For now, everything has the vagueness inherent to just touching the surface of a much bigger picture. While there's nothing unusual about that for a first episode, at least a little more definition of what's actually going on might have been appreciated.
Aside from the premise, the other potential appealing factor is the two lead characters taking the first steps toward forming a bond. As much as Takuya tries to claim that he's just in it for the money or professional pride, he's already starting to regard Yuki as more than just another delivery, and even with her powers she desperately needs a protector. (I'm also not buying that he actually gets killed at the end of the episode.) I can see them making a good pair. The emphasis placed on the idol group is also interesting and makes me wonder if we won't see more of them before this story is done.
The technical merits on this one aren't great; the CG definitely isn't even on the level of this season's Fairy gone. However, the characters and premise have just enough going for them to make for a passable show.
I was torn between a 2.5 and a 3 for this one, because elements of it are intriguing and I wasn't ever bored watching it. I was, however, often confused, and that's ultimately what swayed me to the lower score. There's a fine line between “raises questions” and “what the hell am I watching,” and AFTERLOST teeters between the two, coming down on the latter side more oft than not. This may be due to the fact that there's a concerted effort to make things as exciting as possible, which I can understand. Starting off with extended scenes of Yuki being recovered from the ruined city and having brain scans and whatnot run wouldn't have been as attention-grabbing as simply throwing us into an extended chase scene involving potentially evil glowing purple monks. (Well, monk.) But it might have been a little bit more sense.
On the action front, the episode is pretty good. Most of that action does involve the aforementioned chase scene(s), with Takuya and Yuki doing fancy trick riding on his moped as they attempt to evade a helicopter, gunfire, and more supernatural threats. The man who hired Takuya mentions something called “Tama-Shi,” which refers to the people who vanished during the even three years ago, and there's a good chance that the purple monk is one of them. That would seem to imply that Yuki's not the only survivor, as she later summons her own glowing supernatural protector, a man named Akira who disappeared trying to reach her three years ago. Yuki clearly feels the pain of Akira's spirit form being hit, which almost certainly means that he's either dead or simply no longer human; the question is more then whether he's really Akira or just is taking his form. I'm inclined to think that he's still the person she knew from the gentle smile he gives her towards the end of the scene, which may have some implications for the potential death at the end of the episode.
As for who's controlling the monk, while we don't know for certain, it's definitely looking like Yuki's brother Souma may have been the other survivor. Does this mean that their dad had something to do with the whole Lost mess in the first place? That's the most intriguing thread at this point, but the art and animation are busy enough and the plot confusing enough that I'm not sure I want to stick around to find out. This may be worth a second episode, but I'm not holding my breath.
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