by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Hand Shakers ?
This week on Hand Shakers, our heroes get a part time job and then go on a brief walk. I wish I could say I was being snarky or glib, but that's the honest-to-goodness synopsis of this week's entire episode. There is something that kind-of-sort-of happens right as the credits are about to roll, but for the first twenty minutes of this episode's 21-minute runtime, we just see Tazuna and Koyori cooking, Tazuna and Koyori talking, and Tazuna and Koyori walking. I've seen plenty of series spin their wheels as the season draws to a close, but this is circular spinning worthy of a master juggler. I honestly can't remember the last time I saw such a brazen attempt to waste as much time as possible.
You might even classify this week's entry as a bottle episode, which is when a show tries to conserve on budget and resources by writing an episode that utilizes the absolute minimum amount of settings, actors, and special effects. They key is that what a bottle episode lacks in scope and spectacle, it must make up for in storytelling. Even in animation, coming up with new backgrounds, characters, and action can be a cost and labor-intensive proposal. However, no matter what medium you're in, words come cheaper than anything else, and this is where this episode falls flat on its face. Despite the show only being a couple weeks away from ending, despite Koyori's newfound ability to speak, and even despite the fact that every major character shows up in some form or another, this episode of Hand Shakers has absolutely nothing of interest to say until its very final moments.
The plot shows signs of laziness within minutes, as “Tazuna and Koyori Get a Job Cooking Together” is a story Hand Shakers has already done not long ago. That first chronicle of the duo's cooking skills at least had some fascinatingly bizarre writing choices to spice things up, but this week, the plot can't even muster that much detail up. Tazuna and Koyori go to work at the Cocktail Corn, they chat with their former rivals, and they collect a paycheck at the end of the day. No developments happen in their relationship, nothing new is learned about either character, and now that Koyori can talk, the cheap amusement of her pantomiming shenanigans have also been tossed to the wayside.
As for the other characters, their appearances do nothing but remind us of what we've known about all of them since episode one. Chihiru and Hayate are still slapstick sitcom characters, Kodoma and Hibiki are back to slumming it in the idol business, and Lily and Masaru return to “low-key” advertising the Precious Memories card game. It's truly bizarre how much cross-promotion is going on with that game in Hand Shakers; I imagine there has to be some kind of product placement deal with Animate that mandates the card game's significance, but I can't help but find it funny how much screentime the show has devoted to it. Stay classy, Hand Shakers.
All of these characters' reappearances only serve to remind the audience of the strangely low stakes the series has set up at this point. Hand Shakers is a Supernatural Death Game type of show, and the formula for these stories is old hat at this point. Series like Future Diary, BTOOOM!, Eden of the East, and more have all taken different approaches to what is essentially the same concept, but Hand Shakers lacks what even the most average of those series was able to get right. It has yet to convince me that anyone playing this game really cares. Sure, the other Hand Shakers did their best to beat our heroes in battle, but the minute they were defeated, every one of them had no problem settling back into their normal lives. The only character who seemed even slightly rueful about her loss was Chihiru, and all of that seems to have disappeared completely. Since Tazuna and Koyori have made it clear that they have no desire to actually seek out opponents and win the game, it's impossible to root for them. If they don't care about winning, why should we?
The final minute or so of the episode does at least something of plot relevance. The Mysterious Man from way back in episode 5 shows up, revealing that not only was he Makiwara's old partner, but he also has Koyori's former Hand Shaker with him, a young girl who could basically be her doppelganger. What does all this mean? I'm sure we'll find out next week, and I for one can't wait to see what happens next. Not because I'm interested or anything, mind you. It's just that one more episode of Hand Shakers means we're one week closer to the end, and that is an exciting prospect indeed.
Hand Shakers is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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