The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
Kizuna no Allele
How would you rate episode 1 of
Kizuna no Allele ?
Community score: 2.9
How would you rate episode 2 of
Kizuna no Allele ?
Community score: 3.6
What is this?
Kizuna Ai appeared like a comet in the virtual world, becoming massively popular in the blink of an eye. After five consecutive years of gracing the Lapin Doll—the highest honor of the Virtual Grid Awards—she disappeared as quickly as she came. Several months have passed since then...ADEN Academy is a school that specializes in training new talent who will make their debut in the virtual world. There, students each with their own hopes and dreams work hard every day. A young girl named Miracle enrolls in ADEN Academy with this conviction in her heart. There, she'll meet all kinds of people and make wonderful new memories with them as they each pursue their dreams.
Kizuna no Allele is based on virtual YouTuber (VTuber) Kizuna Ai and streams on Crunchyroll on Mondays.
How was the first episode?
I wonder how I'd feel about this show if I didn't already know who Kizuna Ai is. I became a regular watcher of hers back when she was just starting to gain in popularity—and while I dropped off long ago, I still have fond memories of her as a loudmouth gamer reacting comically to games both big-name and indie. Because of this, I find it impossible to suspend my disbelief when it comes to a world where Kizuna Ai is considered the world's greatest singer. I mean, when I think of her singing, I don't imagine that music video we get at the start of this episode; I picture her singing Hej Hej Monika! in badly accented Swedish.
Getting to the actual anime itself, it's surprisingly cliché despite the virtual idol element. This is basically every other high school romance anime. We have our heroine, a “normal girl” who is talented but shy. One day, she is noticed by the school's pretty boy “prince” after running into him by accident and reacting in a way that shows she's “not like the other girls.” (She likes flowers that have leaves that smell like cucumbers! How scandalous!)
The episode is bookended by music videos—ostensibly to show us both Kizuna Ai's talent and Miracle's. The problem is that the songs are so overproduced that they sound nothing like a live performance would (no matter what the visuals would have us believe). Both Kizuna Ai and Miracle basically look like they are lip syncing rather than singing—which makes them seem like frauds rather than stars.
In the end, I'm not very interested in this anime. While a world where live-streaming and idol culture collide seems like a prescient concept worth exploring, that's not enough to offset everything else the anime is doing.
I don't have a very strong, consistent opinion one way or the other on the whole concept of “VTubing,” to be honest with you all, so I can't say that I went into Kizuna no Allele with any heavy expectations of either the heightened or lowered variety. What I can tell you is that I came out of the premiere believing two things very strongly: The first is that I do not like it when I have to make extended eye contact with anime characters that are staring directly at me through the screens of my viewing devices—this isn't freaking Blue's Clues, and even internet megastars like Kizuna Ai need to respect my personal space, m'kay?
The second thing I learned is that making an animated cartoon about characters who desperately want to become VTubers is just a bridge too far for me. I always thought that biggest part of the appeal of VTubers was that a real, flesh-and-blood person was able to slip on the mask of animated abstraction and don a persona that literally would not be possible in the realm of meat space. In Kizuna no Allele, though, characters like Miracle and all of her VTuber-in-training classmates are really just a bunch of drawings and pixels that are moving really fast and being lent the voices of a bunch of actors standing by themselves in tiny recording booths, all of which come together to create the illusion of people, who themselves are trying to make use of science-fiction virtual-reality technology to pretend to be a bunch of pixels and colors which all come together to form the illusion of—
Sorry, I know, I'm almost certainly overthinking the philosophical nightmare that the core premise of Kizuna Al represents, but my mind can't help but wander when the rest of the just is just so danged boring. It covers all of the same overfamiliar bases as any of the lesser idol anime from recent years, with only the main gimmick of the VR world and corresponding VTuber angle to differentiate it. As we've already discussed, I think the VTuber angle only makes the already undercooked elements of the story that much worse, and it isn't like the bland music or underwhelming visuals are going to make any converts out of skeptics like me. Maybe this is a project that makes sense for diehard Kizuna Ai fans or super devoted followers of the VTuber industry, but I just don't get it, and I'll be happy to remain ignorant and devote my time this season to searching for greener, less uncanny pastures.
I was always going to be on the outside looking in with this one. While plenty of my friends have gotten into the VTuber scene in the past few years, I've never really gotten the appeal. Yet even as a non-fan, I've been aware that Kizuna Ai was infamous for being an exceptionally corporate and soulless project even in the already viciously commercialized industry of big label VTubers. So making a whole show about starry-eyed, aspiring VTubers dreaming of living up to her entirely manufactured legacy was always going to be a hard sell.
On the plus side, this premiere suggests it has very little to do with actual VTuber activities. Miracle may use the same mocap and 3D animation tech that real-life streamers use, but her designation is that of a “Virtual Artist.” In the context of the show that seems to just mean being an idol with more steps and worse music. So I guess the show won't have to try wringing drama out of YouTube streams and the like, but it also means this episode feels like a slow, personality-devoid idol show with nothing unique to its name. It especially hurts the central “performance” which is just a motion-captured dance routine that features extremely limited dancing. Add to it all that Miracle herself is a boring, cookie-cutter protagonist and there's just not much here.
The only other element of this show worth talking about is that it mostly exists as cross-promotion for Kizuna Ai as a brand, and in that regard it is successfully shameless. During Miracle's requisite exposition dump disguised as a school lecture, the teacher describes Kizuna Ai as “a better performer than anyone in the world.” The opening three minutes are a full-length Kizuna Ai music video, followed by Miracle looking dead at the camera and telling us how amazing it is. The story even hinges on AI's mysterious disappearance, just to further mythologize her as a VTubing Deity. It's like if there was an entire TV series built on the messianic legacy of the Coca-Cola polar bears, or the GEICO gecko—a blatant and tone-deaf attempt to sell you on something artistically hollow.
The only mildly redeeming quality is that it looks fine, and there's a certain charm to the 3D segments keeping the janky way most VTuber models clip through themselves. That's not enough to make it worth watching, though.
Today is not your premiere day if you aren't well-versed in the art of mixed media featuring cute girls. Kizuna no Allele is based on the virtual idol Kizuna Ai (pronounced “Ai”), and appears to star a girl with the unlikely sobriquet of Miracle, who wants to be just like AI. In the story's world, Kizuna Ai herself vanished five years ago, and now aspiring VTubers can join virtual classes at ADEN to learn how to, well, become virtual idols themselves. Though I don't know if you should trust a school that encourages you to read the comments on whatever platform is standing in for YouTube…
It's hard not to compare this to alice gear aegis Expansion, because both shows feature similarly cute and color-coded groups of teenage girls trying to fulfill very specific dreams. I do think this one is a little better, if only because no one annoyed me right off the bat. Miracle also appears to have a fighting chance of making it in her chosen world, because she's really not that bad compared to her idol. I appreciate that her choreography is noticeably less flashy and impressive than AI's, because it does a nice job of showing that she's still learning how to do this, and also perhaps that she's a real person donning a virtual persona rather than AI's self-aware artificial intelligence schtick. I also like the way that Miracle will just charge down any new path or through a portal that pops up in front of her. Is it smart? Maybe not, but it also feels like a very believable thing to do; goodness knows I can't resist a mostly overgrown path in the woods.
All of that said, there really isn't much to this episode. It's plainly a showcase for virtual idols and an attempt to cash in on VTuber popularity, and that doesn't make for a great viewing experience, especially if you don't like vaguely unsettling CG. Chances are you already know if you're the target audience for this, and if you aren't, I daresay it's safe to just keep walking by.
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