Hand Shakers
Episodes 1-2

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Hand Shakers ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Hand Shakers ?

Where do I even start with this show?

We are only about a week into this Winter season, and Hand Shakers has already etched out its own little corner of notoriety in the fledgling new year, offering one of the most baffling premieres in recent memory. While I wasn't able to cover the first episode for the preview guide, I won't waste too much time echoing the sentiments that have already been covered so well by my colleagues. Everything about Hand Shakers' first episode was a trainwreck; the characters were rote and uninspired, the plotting was nonsensical, and the animation was so garish that it managed to induce literal motion sickness in a number of viewers.

It's been said that few things are more important than a first impression, and Hand Shakers seemed determined to stake its claim as the Worst Show of the Season at the start. Since I seem to have become the resident expert on Terrible Anime That Revolve Around Hand-Based Superpowers (Big Order, Taboo Tattoo), I volunteered my services to cover Hand Shakers, though it didn't take long for me to realize just what a mess I'd gotten myself into. By the time Hand Shakers's second episode ended, I realized two things:

1. The animation in this second episode has improved over the first. It's still quite bad, mind you, but the cringe-inducing CGI and stomach-churning camera movements have been noticeably toned down.

2. Every other aspect of the episode got worse. Much worse.

Outside of the ugly animation and art direction, the first episode of Hand Shakers had very little in the way of actual plot. Our blank slate of a protagonist, Takatsuki Tazuna, wakes up a comatose (and even blanker slate) girl, Koyori, and they're granted superpowers when they hold hands. Much to his dismay, Tazuna learns that if he lets go of her hand for too long, she will die. They randomly do battle with another pair of Hand Shakers named Break Chain and Bind Chain: a domineering man who uses those godawful CG chains to sexually bind and control his submissive female companion, Some nonsense about “the Revelation of Babel” and “Nimrods” and “Ziggurats” is tossed around, and roll credits. Sure, it's a stock stew of nonsense, but unlike the animation, it's nothing offensively bad. This week though, the episode actually has to follow up on whatever this series is going to actually be about.

That's where the wheels really start to come off.

After Break and Bind Chain are swiftly dispatched in an anticlimactic battle, Tazuna quickly learns from Makihara that not only will he and Koyori have to continue to fight other Hand Shakers, but Koyori will have to come live with him so they can continue to hold hands. Naturally, this raises many questions: What will his parents think? What about school? How can he explain away this girl that's constantly holding his hand everywhere they go? After all, she's not only mute, but also incapable of feeding, dressing, or bathing herself! All of these questions, as it turns out, have a very simple answer:

Nobody cares!

Sure, Makihara makes some halfhearted excuse to Tazuna's parents about Koyori being a foreign exchange student from Brazil, but none of this actually addresses the bizarre circumstance Tazuna finds himself in. In fact, he seems to be the only one shocked by the ridiculousness of the situation, but lampshading your story's lack of forethought doesn't make it less of a problem. Absolutely nobody, not Tazuna's parents, nor his teachers, nor his friends, seems in any way concerned about this strange mute girl who will never let go of his hand. With his parents clearly around and aware of this situation, Tazuna has to show Koyori how to use a spoon and feed herself. He has to teach her how to undress herself and take a bath, and then he has to wash her because she can't do that by herself either. The fact that this young teenager is being forced to feed, dress, and bathe a girl his own age doesn't seem to bother anyone but Tazuna. At one point, our protagonist is heard literally screaming in embarrassment and shame from the bathroom, and all his parents have to say is, “Aren't they getting along so well?”

What?

The problems this episode demonstrated run deeper than simple animation deficiencies or even plain old bad writing. Hand Shakers is built on a premise that simply does not make sense. In one fell swoop, the show has managed to neuter any investment I had in the story, because not one characters behaves like a human being, and they're wrapped up in a plot that seems like little more than a wafer-thin excuse to get people with superpowers to blow each other up. This is a foundational failure of the premise, and it's only the second episode. I haven't even gotten into the prevailing aesthetic issues the show has, such as the sickly purple-and-green color gradient that gets slapped on top of almost every interior scene. There's just so much to break down and discuss, but I feel like I'm already reaching my limit for the length of a two-episode review.

So yeah, Hand Shakers is terrible. It's mystifying, maddening, and bizarre. It's bad in almost every way that a show can be bad. But of course, I'm sure that's why so many people voted for it to be covered in the first place. Hand Shakers seemed like it would be a monumental testament to all of the ways this wonderful medium can go terribly wrong, and even just two episodes in, it's certainly living up (or down) to those expectations. Now we just have to see where the show takes us from here.

Rating: D-

Hand Shakers is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.


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