by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Well class, I've got your papers graded, and I'm afraid to say that you've all failed.
You've failed this social experiment.
Twelve weeks. Twelve entire weeks, you all sat here and watched me. You could tell I was hurting, begging for help, reaching out for even the smallest mercy. And not one of you said a thing. You laughed! You joked! You parroted me like this was all some big farce. If I weren't so personally insulted, I might wonder how any of you can sleep at night, knowing what you've allowed.
Let's be real here: EX-ARM is a bad show. It's a staggering coalescence of terrible decisions, mismatched creative direction, insultingly brazen arrogance, and the wretched stench of mindless corporate art. We can all laugh and rubberneck at every instance of bad animation or terrible compositing or hilariously poor editing until we all die from lack of oxygen. But there reaches a point after a few episodes where the sheer scale of failure that is EX-ARM hits you, and it stops being funny and starts being revolting.
This was a production that by all accounts cost millions to produce, was planned and funded by multiple international media companies, and had the backing of one of the biggest publishing houses in Japan. And it wound up such a miserable mess that I could get away with extended House of Leaves and Pro Wrestling homages in place of a review. Did you guess that I have barely even watched the last handful of episodes? Because that's the truth: I skimmed each episode for a good screencap and then went on my way to do anything else, and not a soul noticed because nobody actually cared enough to pay attention to the story of EX-ARM. We were all more concerned with what jokes and dunks we could get in than anything to do with the actual content.
I'm not saying that to admonish anyone who did it – lord knows I had fun making those shitty gifs. I'm saying this because I want to highlight just how fundamentally broken EX-ARM is. I've sat through tons of anime trainwrecks, from Guilty Crown to 7SEEDS, but even at their worst I was engaged enough with the story to notice and care about all their myriad flaws and toxic messages. But not with this, EX-ARM was Fucked From Birth. Every decision that went into logistically, physically creating this adaptation was the absolute wrong one, and even generously assuming somebody in the creative staff wanted to make it work, there was nothing they could have done that could make a difference.
Because even if there were any decent writing, or interesting concepts, or hints of likable characters in this clusterfuck, there was no chance of it ever coming through. The scripting for these episodes was done under the assumption that, whatever hurdles or setbacks the animation might have, it would be able to do the bare minimum of conveying emotion and movement through its characters and visuals. And that didn't happen. So trying to judge EX-ARM as a narrative becomes akin to trying to review a novel written in braille while wearing a blindfold with your hands tied behind your back. It just will not work, and struggling to make it so will just leave you exhausted, frustrated, and baffled as to why somebody would assign you this task.
More than anything though, after the shock-laughter faded, I just felt insulted on behalf of every creator and artist working in entertainment right now. Anime exists in a huge production bubble at this moment, and despite threatening to burst any day now there are countless passionate artists dedicating themselves to their craft because they love what they do and want to share their ideas and talents with the world. Yet so many of those creators are left rejected when bringing ideas to the table for productions, told their ideas won't sell or aren't worth making, with ambitious original creations being canceled or cut short before they ever see the light of day. There's no guarantee those creations would have been great, but at bare minimum it would be apparent somebody involved gave a shit about making it.
And yet somehow, some absolute brain geniuses with too much money and influence made this steaming turd happen with a full television run and a global broadcast. If that isn't proof that corporatism and art are intrinsically opposed I'm not sure what is. EX-ARM has rightfully been a months-long punchline in anime circles, and thankfully a lot of great writers have documented how this shambling homonculus made it to air for many to see. But even that doesn't feel like proper comeuppance; maybe nothing short of every animator, director, writer, and anime-adjacent employee in the industry getting to take a whack at the testicles of the persons responsible for this mess can be. But sadly piñata-themed vengeance isn't feasible.
So let my final words on this whole mess be this: We all deserve better than EX-ARM. You, me, the world, even the people roped into making it deserve better than this. Because if we don't firmly believe that, then EX-ARM really will be the future of anime.
EX-ARM is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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