The Fall 2021 Preview Guide
Deep Insanity: The Lost Child
How would you rate episode 1 of
Deep Insanity: The Lost Child ?
What is this?
The world is overrun with the mysterious "Randolph syndrome" that causes sudden comas. Simultaneously, a massive underground realm called "Asylum" was discovered at the South Pole as the syndrome's origin. Weird creatures, unlike any on the surface, dwell there with previously unknown natural resources. To cure the Randolph syndrome (and to get rich plundering the creatures' genetic data and underground resources), people set foot in the Asylum. Daniel Kai Shigure who heads to the very edge of Asylum with a certain wish.
How was the first episode?
The biggest crime that Deep Insanity: The Lost Child commits is wasting such a campy title on a terminally boring story. This is the kind of bad anime that isn't even fun to write about because it does absolutely nothing worth remembering or spending a moment's thought on, as if the show itself is inconvenienced simply by the prospect of existing.
The most non-backhanded compliment I can give Deep Insanity, other than the fact that it didn't cause me literal pain to watch, is that its premise is…kind of okay? I'm fine with the idea of an underground realm that is teeming with beasties in need of slaying, and there's plenty of topical relevance to the idea of a worldwide pandemic that completely transforms society. It's just a shame that nothing about Deep Insanity's plot or characters indicate even a sliver of the creativity that you'd need to stretch such a setup out to series-length. You know how Made in Abyss forces its interesting characters into the deadly unknown in order to juxtapose their greatest fears and triumphs in increasingly rewarding ways? This first episode of Deep Insanity is like that, except the complete opposite.
Like I always say, though, an anime can have the thinnest story imaginable and still succeed if it can deliver on the visual front. Unfortunately, if my earlier hypothesis is correct, Deep Insanity was produced under extreme coercion, which would explain why every single scene looks and sounds so tepid. For the vast majority of the premiere, all we get is static scenes of characters walking and talking about Randolph syndrome and the Asylum and what have you, and things barely pick up when our rookie hero Shigure joins up with the Sleepers to go hunt monsters in the Asylum. If you need definitive proof of the fact that Deep Insanity is deeply resentful of its own existence, look no further than the climactic action beat, where Shigure busts out his special moves and helps Captain Leslie defeat the Scarred whatchamacallit. Not only does the musical soundtrack legitimately sound bored, somehow, the show forgets to actually be exciting once the “action” theme starts kicking in. We get a bunch of static closeup shots of the heroes and the monster, all of which are barely animated, until Leslie breaks out his laser-beam superweapon for an extremely underwhelming finale.
Imagine if the Jigsaw Killer kidnapped a bunch of already overworked animators and chained them to a warehouse full of meat-grinder drafting tables, whereupon a creepy puppet rode out on a tricycle told them that they had to produce an anime within 24 hours or become human hamburgers – Deep Insanity is the exactly the show they would produce. In short, it gets a hefty “No thank you” from me.
You know, I really wanted to like Deep Insanity: The Lost Child. I mean, a lost world under Antarctica is some classic sci-fi goodness, and the idea that a strange virus from the newly-discovered land is spreading across the globe is more than enough reason to send in a group to do some serious adventuring as they hunt for a cure. Heck, I'm even okay with the “this has been going on for years” setting of the anime, where people are disheartened due to the danger and lack of progress. Unfortunately, they take it a step too far in order to rush us right into the action.
Basically, our protagonist Daniel has no idea what is going on. He is handed a gun and is sent into the highly dangerous “Asylum” on his first day with little more information than “follow orders and don't die.” Now, the explanation for this is that the squad's last eight newbies have died and so they don't want to spend the time or effort training him (not to mention that they don't want to make any kind of emotional connection just for him to die right after). But, as we soon learn, this is pure insanity.
Daniel is not some disposable soldier: he is immune to the virus—as are the rest of his squad. Only the rare people like him are able to do what his unit is tasked with doing. Sure, he might die on day one, but the point of training is to lower that chance as much as possible. Hell, they don't even teach him how to summon and use his magical flying sci-fi guns (though that doesn't stop him from somehow figuring out how to use them in a matter of seconds when it counts).
But the biggest problem with Deep Insanity: The Lost Child is Daniel himself, who's the most bland and boring protagonist you could imagine. His background is that he's utterly normal and has no goals, and joined those heading into the Asylum purely to escape his aimless existence and become a 'hero'. But what does it even mean to be a hero? Such an ambiguous term holds almost no meaning here, and Daniel does nothing to explain what “being a hero” means to him. Without clear motivations and a concrete goal of some sort, it's hard to empathize with Daniel.
Now I understand that Daniel is meant to be the audience viewpoint character—our window into this world who is able to ask all the dumb questions we'd like to ask. However, he is so unremarkable, so utterly indistinct as a character, that he's basically a blank slate. And while that might work in a video game where you can pretend the character you're controlling is actually you, it definitely doesn't work here.
It's a cool world and a fun concept (and I totally dig the uniforms), but without a reason to care about our hero, I have no emotional connection to the story—and thus no reason to keep watching.
I don't want to go so far as to say it's always a bad sign when an anime is part of a multi-media project. Just like any other creative endeavor, so long as you have a good idea and people willing/able to make it work, you can make an interesting show from any origin. But full TV anime airing essentially to promote an upcoming or recently released game sure have a tendency to feel assembled out of spare parts, scrapped together to meet a deadline for what amounts to a four-hour commercial. That was the vibe I got from last season's Scarlet Nexus, and it's most definitely the case with Deep Insanity here.
First off, this show looks like dried paste. The character designs all feel like leftovers from rejected Persona spinoffs with all the personality sucked out of them, united by an art style where the driving principle was to make them just convoluted enough to be hard to animate fluidly, without actually being garish enough to stick in your brain. Accordingly, animation here is kept to a bare minimum, leaving our main characters as stiff, blank-faced mannequins, and the action sequences as flat and lifeless as possible. The only thing in this show that stands out visually is the horrendous CG monster they fight for a scant few seconds in the middle, which has been equipped with some bizarre shader that almost makes it look like wet clay animated in stop motion. It's bizarre, hideous, and the only thing I'll remember about this show an hour from now.
That's because the actual writing has basically no substance. It's entirely exposition around the central premise of battle teams spelunking a bizarre underground world of monsters and fighting them with high-tech weapons, with the only character beats being built around the piece of wet plywood that constitutes our protagonist. See, he wants to be a hero, but this harsh and unforgiving job is all about self-preservation – an idea that gets reiterated about 10 times across this one episode, despite the characters operating in teams with defined specialties that are meant to complement each other. It's really hollow and really tiresome, and is clearly only here so our idealistic protagonist can eventually prove that actually, friendship is the real key to survival.
So yeah, this is about as unengaging as a premiere can get without featuring extended periods of white noise. It's limp, dull, and heartless in the worst way, and even for a tie-in to a nascent video game it feels like scraping the bottom of the barrel. Hard pass.
Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Lost World. Plutonia. The Land That Time Forgot. If you're going to make a new entry into a genre that counts authors such as Jules Verne, Vladimir Obruchev, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Arthur Conan Doyle among its earliest creators, you had better make damn sure that you're doing the genre justice. (Unless you're that one Ice Age movie with the dinosaurs.) Deep Insanity: The Lost Child is making an attempt to follow in the footsteps of those early “prehistoric world still exists” creators, and as of this episode, it is not doing a bang-up job of it. In part that's because this episode makes the mistake that many speculative fiction stories do: it introduces far too many names and terms in too short a time. Some of them are explained, such as that “Sleepers” are those sent to explore the lost world known as “Asylum,” while others, such as “Sanity Anchor,” are self-explanatory. But we don't know why the explorers are called Sleepers, or why they need a Sanity Anchor, or even what FIBE stands for, which is arguably less important. It feels like a desperate attempt to catch the viewers' interest.
“Desperate” is actually a fairly good summary of how things play out. Certainly there's desperation on the part of the group in charge of the exploration of Asylum, which was presumably so-named not because it drives people mad but because it could be a place of refuge. There's a lack of people willing to join them in their resource hunt, and that's led to them broadcasting a somewhat suspicious and confusing commercial that leaves out the actual dangers involved in the job. Two officers with the outfit disparage the ad in the opening moments of the show, but it does rope in our ostensible protagonist, Shigure Daniel Kai, who joins up because he wants to be a hero and he likes the VA who narrates the commercial. That's definitely enough reason to join a shady group and risk your life, right? But presumably he's got his own desperation issues that he's not sharing yet; Leslie, his new XO, notes that squad members Kobato and Larry have very specific and personal issues that have put them where they are, so it's not a giant leap of logic that there must be more going on with Shigure, too.
It's kind of hard to care about what that might be, though, when the rest of the logic of the episode is so garbled. The Scarred, monsters who purportedly are analogous to surface animals, look nothing like them whatsoever (and in fact are the worst CG on display this season), and maybe Sleepers can transform into Scarred? Or are the Cthulhu-faced bipedal Scarred something different? Does that mean that Scarred have been transformed by being in Asylum? How does Shigure go from not knowing how to equip his FIBE to suddenly being a master at using it, especially since he was recovering from a faint during training? And why did they let him go on the mission without training? So little makes sense that after a point it almost just washes over you like muddy water.
It's worth noting that this is part of a multimedia project, and I think that it may work better as a game. As far as an episode of anime goes, however, it's kind of a mess, and not the kind that necessarily makes me want to invest the time to clean it up so that it makes sense.
discuss this in the forum (250 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history