Reviewby Nick Creamer,
Limited Edition - BD+DVD
The discovery of a fourth dimension, Dimension W, has ushered in a new era of human accomplishments. By harnessing the power of this mysterious dimension, the New Tesla company has managed to create the coils, a seemingly limitless supply of energy. Of course, this new source of energy comes with its own dangers, and unregulated coils present a clear threat to all of humanity. To combat this thread, New Tesla works with Collectors, specialists adept in hunting down rogue coils. Kyouma Mabuchi is one such Collector, and his own hatred for coils will soon be tested by his new partner - the robot Mira, a girl who seems linked to the fate of Dimension W.
Dimension W was intended to be a pretty big deal. As one of very few shows chosen to air simultaneously on Japanese television and Toonami, and the first to be co-produced by Funimation, its origins were nothing if not optimistic. Taking the show at a glance, it's clear to see why Funimation and Cartoon Network believed there was potential for a breakout hit here. Dimension W's base ingredients match that specific “action anime with a familiar yet stylish aesthetic” sweet spot embodied by shows like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, shows whose appeal translates to a larger audience than most anime. And yet, just one year after its airing, the show has entirely faded from public consciousness. So what was the limiting factor holding Dimension W back?
Well, it seems obvious in hindsight, but Dimension W's main problem is that it's just not very good.
The show starts promisingly enough, opening with a clear premise and a solid platform for episodic adventures. The discovery of the mysterious Dimension W has led to humanity harnessing its energy in the form of coils, but coils have to be carefully regulated to remain safe. Those that hunt down people possessing illegal coils are known as Collectors, and our hero Kyouma Mabuchi is a particularly talented Collector. In the first episode, Mabuchi finds himself crossing paths with the robotic “daughter” of the coils' inventor, Dr. Shido Yurazaki. Before dying, Yurazaki instructs this robot Mira to “follow the illegal coils,” and with Mabuchi clearly possessing his own coil-related baggage, the mysteries of this world seem neatly tied to our two heroes.
The first three episodes of Dimension W are the show at its best, demonstrating solid action chops, decent repartee between the leads, and a generally intriguing world. Mabuchi's distinctive fighting style offers many of the thrills, as his needle-and-wire weapons facilitate many cool tactical payoffs. Mabuchi doesn't have much chemistry with Mira, but that seems to be by design at first. Mira herself is a charming character, and things move quickly enough that so-so characterization isn't really an issue. The show's second episode is likely its peak, as a run-in with gentleman thief named “Loser” ends in an almost Lovecraftian reveal, as the darker side of Dimension W turns a misguided gallery manager into a spiraling tree of flesh and teeth.
Unfortunately, the show swiftly falls apart from there. Dimension W's most fundamental issue is that its storytelling is just plain bad. The show's second arc, a horror-themed story centered around a remote hotel, is stymied by a lack of focus and a fundamentally absurd premise. The story ultimately resolves in a conclusion that involves fights between past and present selves, alternate ghost worlds, one murder being used to cover up another murder, and killer water that can only be defeated by regular water. It's a mixture of absurd, incoherent, and ineffectively melodramatic that prevents much emotional investment, while also lacking the clarity or stakes necessary to carry a good mystery.
The show continues to layer twist after twist from there, building up a piecemeal narrative that lacks any sort of cohesion or satisfying emotional throughline. Much of Dimension W's plot is tiresomely cliche, like the fact that at least four separate wives are murdered to provide motivation for their husbands. Other parts are emotionally frustrating, like Kyouma proving himself more and more fundamentally unlikable while we're expected to find him cool and tough. By the time the series reaches its end, any sort of message about the nature of possibility has been lost in the show's complicated rambling and philosophical gobbledygook, resulting in a final takeaway of “Oh, it's over.”
I harp on the show's narrative problems because Dimension W's character and themes are pretty sterile. The show's visual style, focus on twists, and consistent action make it clear that the story's main goal is evoking a specific kind of cool. Unfortunately, this effort is inconsistent. The show's first couple episodes are blessed with some great animation highlights, battle sequences that are elevated through a clear sense of character weight. Even simple actions like Mira stumbling and falling down are given a sense of physical momentum, where you can really feel the balance of her weight on her feet. Most characters have distinctive fighting styles, and there are some light visual flourishes as well, like the show's tendency to frame characters against flat two-tone backgrounds.
But these visual flourishes are neither positive nor negative on their own - it's the dramatic effect of a show's visual choices that actually counts. In Dimension W's case, its cutaway shots only pulled me out of the scene rather than drawing me in, and they certainly didn't offer any dramatic visual intrigue. The show's animation also dries up fairly quickly, with the second half barely offering any meaningful highlights. And despite Kyouma's interesting style of combat, few scenes after the first two episodes offer him many chances to demonstrate his badassitude. What fight scenes exist are very brief, offering little chance for dramatic interplay.
Dimension W's music is largely nondescript rock tunes, music that fits its style without really elevating its tone. The dub is solid on the whole, though a couple characters felt shaky to me - Lwai in particular is given a scratchy voice that doesn't really parse as convincingly childlike. But the central performances are all reasonable, meaning the question of dub versus sub will come down to personal preference.
Dimension W comes in a sturdy chipboard case that contains the show on DVD and Blu ray, along with a collection of glossy art cards featuring the main cast. On-disc extras are numerous, starting with the standard dub cast commentary tracks and extending to a variety of bonus video features. First off, there are a variety of versions of the textless opening song, along with promotional videos for the show itself and various other trailers. There's also a short and entirely superfluous OVA episode, where Mira and Kyouma go to a bathhouse and give the show one last bonus injection of fanservice.
The remaining extras are more unusual. There's a ten part “production diary” that chronicles the process for creating the anime, going over such diverse segments of production as scriptwriting, sound design, and CG implementation. The various segments include both overviews of production processes and interviews with a variety of key personnel, making it a welcome and very instructive dive into the anime industry. The final extra is called “Rose's Counseling Room,” which involves a chibi CG version of Mira getting questionable psychological counseling from a robot named Rose. If you didn't get enough Mira bullying in the show itself, I suppose you might appreciate a chipper pink-haired robot gaslighting all of Mira's insecurities.
On the whole, the show feels like a phoned-in stab at a coveted genre space, only recommendable if you're desperate for this kind of show specifically. I can understand what it's aiming for, but it never really gets there. There's a fine show hidden somewhere in Dimension W, but this production doesn't cut it.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Generally functional as an action vehicle, some occasional animation highlights in the beginning
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