Girls Beyond the Wasteland
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Girls Beyond the Wasteland ?
Now that the team has been formed, aspiring visual novel producer Sayuki Kuroda is going to teach her crew how to actually make a game. But like any project where one person is way more into the whole thing than anyone else, tension soon arises. Fun-loving fujoshi Teruha tries to make their game-creating experience into something that she would personally enjoy, while Sayuki remains committed to marketability and a professional atmosphere. Teruha has a point – Sayuki's “dream team” is a group of minimally invested teenagers. They'd be more committed to the game if the content were something that interested them. Sayuki, however, refuses to let any of their ideas detract from her vision for a popular game, and Teruha storms off. It's up to Buntarou to bring her back. While Sayuki will make an effective task manager, he realizes that they also need Teruha's nerdy passion. (Especially since Sayuki has the charisma and creative drive of an old shoe.) Once they get back, Teruha actually checks out the design document and finds that it contains enough yaoi subtext for her to get excited about. The day is saved, and Sayuki doesn't even have to make any changes to her commercial masterpiece!
Now that was a lazy conclusion. I feel like a large part of my coldness towards Girls Beyond the Wasteland stems from its POV. It's such a dispassionate show when it comes to artistic creation. This show feels like it comes from the POV of a producer rather than a director. Generally, the director is characterized as the the artist, the person who has a creative vision to express through a work of art. The producer handles the practical stuff. They try to ensure a smooth production and commercial success for the completed work. When a producer works without an artist, the resulting piece tends to consist of a hodgepodge of uninspired tropes. Girls Beyond the Wasteland feels like a producer-driven attempt to make a work about the creative process. The result is built on big misconceptions about what actually attracts people to the fantasy of making something, be it games, light novels, manga, etc. It's usually not the details of meetings and commercial considerations. (Although those are vital and undervalued parts of the process.) It's the fantasy of controlling your own version of the nerdy stories that you love (and maybe getting famous for it). By alienating the character who represents this side, Girls Beyond the Wasteland risks alienating a big part of its potential audience. The ideal for the “fannish idealism meets the practical reality of artistic production” is probably Shirobako, which is all about the compromises that occur in the business of making art. So far, this show suffers from a lack of passion.
It'd help if more of the characters acted like people. The other potential source for drama is a love triangle that's developing between Buntarou, Sayuki, and Yuka. Yuka has a crush on Buntarou, but he hasn't noticed. Meanwhile, a romance is blossoming between Buntarou and Sayuki. Yuka notices and feels bad. In terms of character, the big problem is Sayuki. I guess that she's supposed to be the overachieving rich girl who has no idea how to have fun. Buntarou will draw her out of her shell, and they'll fall in love. But there's a difference between that goal and the current reality of “terminator who's been programmed to make bishoujo games.” (Seriously, what's her beef with BL? Fujoshi are a growing market, and a good yaoi would probably make as much if not more than a bishoujo game. The field is less crowded, and most of your team is female. But Girls Beyond the Wasteland is itself a bishoujo game, so the main girl has to share the male player's tastes.) Otherwise, the characters are mostly dull. We'll see how things progress.
The animation continues to be very strange. Characters' faces and hair will contort between frames and never sit comfortably on their heads. They also somehow manage to mess up animating people falling asleep. This happens during Sayuki's first speech - the implication is supposed to be that her audience is nodding off, but their heads move too much, bobbing up and down like buoys in water. This is actually a situation where it'd be better with less motion (even stills) and quicker cuts. This is just one of the episode's most egregiously awkward moments. When it comes to bad production, I'm used to seeing the same mistakes over and over. Girls Beyond the Wasteland, however, fails in ways that signal a deeper incompetence. It's not just bland direction, it's noticeably slow and stilted for something that's trying to be comedic. Any engagement that this story could have had is brought down by the struggling production.
Girls Beyond the Wasteland continues to plod along. At just three episodes in, I'll keep trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, but so far it feels like a misfire.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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