by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Hand Shakers ?
About halfway through this week's episode of Hand Shakers, I was struck by an almost unbelievable realization: we're nine weeks into this season already. Given that this series is only set to run for 12 episodes, that means we're 75% finished with Hand Shakers, which boggles the mind, because there has been an absolute dearth of any plot or character development in this series. After nine episodes, the biggest change we've seen in anything is that Koyori, who was once mute, can now speak. She doesn't seem to have anything interesting to say, mind you, but the fact remains that once, Koyori could not make words with her mouth, and now she can.
I think I need to start with something positive this week. Covering everything Hand Shakers does wrong is a Sisyphean effort to the core, and I need to keep things fresh, or else these reviews will transform into a simple checklist of “What Not to Do When Producing Animation of Any Kind, for Any Reason.” The faults of the first episode of Hand Shakers were the faults of every episode thereafter, and they remain the faults of this episode too. The animation remains shoddy and inconsistent, the visual direction is abysmal, and the schlocky special effects still seem haphazardly slapped on the screen, with no rhyme or reason to be found behind their inclusion. If I go on much more about that, I'll start to sound the like world's weariest broken record. So instead of focusing on all of that, I'll turn my lens to something that actually almost kind-of-sort-of worked, if you turn your head and squint at it funny. I want to talk about our resident Bad Guys of the past two weeks, Kodama Awaza and her manager Hibiki.
This isn't about the fight they got into with Tazuna and Hiyori; no, that was awful. It's what happened after they lost that interests me. We discover that Kodama is, for lack of a better term, a total poser. Her over-confident attitude, the gimmick with reciting famous quotes, and all of her posturing and bravado is just that: a costume she puts on to emulate the famous idols she wishes to join, even though she and Hibiki have almost no prospects in real life. They have no fan base, they can't book a decent gig, and they've been essentially blacklisted from the entertainment industry because they were foolhardy enough to think they could shirk the help of studio bigwigs. What we have is a young girl who's actively failing at achieving her dream every single day, and the optimistic man who has made it his goal to make her famous, which seems to be its own kind of eternally fruitless struggle. He admits that he isn't in love with her, and that there's something kind of pathetic about a grown man clinging so desperately to the untenable success of a teenage girl, and yet the two of them soldier on anyway, with or without the divine assistance of God (or whatever the heck winning at Hand Shaking actually gets you).
This is profoundly sad, and I absolutely wish this show could be about these two instead. They're losers, and they're kind of idiots, but that makes them feel almost human in a way that absolutely no one else in Hand Shakers does. The writing around them is still mediocre, and they don't really have much in the way of personality or charm, but Hand Shakers' bar is so low that I still found myself surprisingly interested in Kodama and Hibiki, how they got to such a low point in their lives, and what might happen to them in the future. It isn't good writing, but it is functional writing, which is an achievement for Hand Shakers.
Of course, Kodama and Hibiki are still trapped in this disastrous series, so everything surrounding them is a complete mess. The half-finished animation and choppy editing surrounding the idol and her manager were especially noticeable, and they feel more or less wasted as characters since all of their backstory is crammed into the last five minutes of the episode. Given the pattern Hand Shakers has established, it's likely that these two will become blandly chummy with our heroes while slowly fading into the background, while Koyori and Tazuna do something of absolutely no importance. Even Koyori's newfound magical abilities aren't really exciting, because the relationship that supposedly spurs on this growth is criminally boring; Tazuna is an absolute nothing of a protagonist, so Koyori's relationship with him can't make her magical girl transformation feel like anything but a silly plot contrivance. Who cares if she can finally talk to Tazuna, when neither of them have ever demonstrated the capacity to think or feel anything worth talking about?
With only about an hour's worth of screen time left in its run, I really hope Hand Shakers has some kind of banana-pants-absurd plot development around the corner. So little advancement has occurred in the plot so far, I can only imagine the show is going to try and cram as many twists and turns into these last episodes as possible, which I certainly wouldn't mind. Hand Shakers has lost any opportunities it ever had at being good or even decent, but it could at least make itself a bit more memorably terrible as it heads into its final chapters.
Hand Shakers is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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