The Winter 2019 Anime Preview Guide
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How was the first episode?
2017's Hand Shakers is one of the most formative experiences I've had reviewing anime, although for dubious reasons. It was one of the most unpleasant and poorly executed shows I have ever watched. When Studio GoHands initially announced W'z as a standalone series, the thought of another show that was even similar to Hand Shakers gave me great cause to worry, though I never could have suspected that W'z would be an outright direct sequel to Hand Shakers. That's right, the joke's on me: Hand Shakers is back. I can't believe I just wrote those words down.
From the top, W'z suffers from almost all the aesthetic failures of its predecessor. The show's visuals are an incomprehensible mishmash of inconsistent 2-D animation, backgrounds that run the gamut from hand-drawn to computer generated to rotoscoped photography, and CG elements that are poorly integrated, seemingly at random. At one point, a character dons a CGI mask that doesn't remotely look attached to her; it's always hovering a few inches away from her face and never really matches the movement of her head. The show has also retained Hand Shakers' obnoxious color composition, which means that not only is everything simultaneously way too glossy and yet washed out, but there's an odd color gradient filter slapped on top of the already gaudy palette. It varies from a sickly green to an unnatural bluish purple, with weird splashes of yellow and orange tossed in sometimes for good measure. To my eyes, it's simply hideous.
Characters' hair colors will change without warning because of this filter, single frames of animation will have completely clashing color and lighting schemes, and the air around the characters looks like it's filled with motes of dust, highlighted by sunlight that pours in from every direction at all times. This chaotic aesthetic may work for some viewers, but I find absolutely nothing enjoyable about it. W'z's visuals are garish enough to be constantly distracting, which makes for a uniquely unpleasant viewing experience.
Granted, W'z does improve on Hand Shakers in some small ways. GoHands still insists on showing off their digital camera tricks during fight scenes, but they seem to have gotten better at controlling the motion blur – the cinematography is still too overactive to look “cool”, but it didn't give me actual nausea this time, which is always a plus. Also, while the hackneyed script is barely coherent, even for someone who watched the first season, Yukiya and Haruka at least kind-of have personalities, which makes them infinitely better protagonists than Hand Shakers' Tazuna and Koyori. The show's music is also decent enough, so even if W'z an assault on the eyes, it's merely bland and functional to the ears.
Still, W'z seems like it will be every bit as misguided and off-putting a production as Hand Shakers was. No matter how much the story has improved, I can't imagine enjoying this, because this franchise's aesthetic is pure torture for my eyeballs. I wouldn't recommend W'z to anyone but the most morbidly curious. That being said, I'll probably end up watching the whole cursed thing, because well, it's a sequel to Hand Shakers! It's like if Tommy Wiseau made a sequel to The Room. It would do nothing but cause you pain and fill your heart with regret, but you know you're going to watch it anyway.
There's one critical piece of information about this series that its promotional materials have been holding back: it's a next-generation sequel to 2017's Hand Shakers. Though never stated directly, there are strong implications that protagonist Yukiya might be the child of the main duo from that series, and at least one character from that series has already appeared in adult form. The setting of Osaka is the same, and so are the mechanics behind the whole Hand Shaker premise, even if they don't come into play until near the end of the episode. The only significant difference is what makes Yukiya special. He can do the Hand Shaker thing with anyone, not just another Nimrod. The whole concept of a sword made of the protagonist's signature element – in this case CDs – also returns.
Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to have seen Hand Shakers in order to understand this one; my guess based on the first episode is that there will be occasional allusions to that series rather than a constant connection, and the mechanics of the Hand Shaker plot can be gleaned quickly enough. The real question is whether this series will be as battle-focused as the first one or emphasize the musical element more, which dominates this episode and was pushed more in promotion. Certainly music will be an important element, as 28 different musical acts have been listed as contributors for the series, one scene has maybe the most ambitious animation of DJing that I've seen, and multiple other scenes focus on characters dancing or being connected to music. At least some battling looks to be unavoidable based on how the first episode ends.
Because the name Hand Shakers is associated with the series, there's naturally going to be great concern about how it's animated. This is every inch a GoHands production, which means that it fully embraces the signature style the studio developed through the K franchise; all of the funky perspective shots, extensive digital effects animation, big-eyed character designs, psychedelic color schemes, and other quirks are all present. The animation isn't anywhere near as overwhelmed by CG as Hand Shakers was, and several scenes feature extensive non-CG animation. Still, the look definitely won't suit everyone's tastes. The music so far is also entirely in line with previous GoHands projects, a pleasing mix of jazz-flavored light techno, occasionally accompanied by vocals.
If this series sticks more with the musical angle, then it might have something going for it, but that balance between action and music will probably be instrumental to how well it turns out.
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