Reviewby James Beckett,
Scar on the Praeter
Episodes 1-13 Streaming
The Akatsuki Special Ward is an isolated and lawless section of Tokyo that has been cut off from the rest of the world ever since a violent rebellion unseated the corporations that controlled the city. Since then, the Ward has been a battleground between the three groups vying for control of the territory: Helios, Artemis, and the PSSS (Public Security Special Force). Key figures in this never-ending turf war are the Scard, powerful fighters whose tattoo marking signify that they have been blessed with powers from godlike entities. Yamato Kai was just a regular guy who was trying to make a life in the Akatsuki Ward for himself and his younger brother, but everything changed when he unwittingly inherited the Scard mantle from Eiji Arashiba, the Ward's beloved protector. Now Yamato finds himself at the center of the conflict between Helios, Artemis, and the PSSS, and things only get more complicated when a powerful new group called Dusk enters the fray, bringing with them an age-old grudge that threatens to destroy the Ward once and for all…
Project Scard: Scar on the Praeter is the latest anime from the infamous Studio GoHands; its director is Shingo Suzuki, and it was written by Tamazo Yanagi. The last anime that Suzuki and Yanagi were involved with were GoHands' Hand Shakers and its sequel series, W'z. I'm mentioning the creative team up front because this is as good a time as any for a full disclosure moment, since I have something of a history with GoHands properties…which is to say that Hand Shakers and W'z are some of the worst goddamned anime I've ever seen in my life.
I reviewed both shows if you'd like to get a more in depth look at the suffering they inflicted upon me. I'm going to stick with the assumption that no rational person would seek out either entry of the GoHands Cinematic Universe without the incentive of monetary compensation, though, so if you want the short version, here it is: For whatever reason, GoHands has become obsessed with an aesthetic that involves pasting the 2D animation used for its characters into fully three-dimensional CG spaces (weapons and special effects are also modeled using CGI). This means that the “camera” being used to capture the action in the shows' fight scenes can swing around in complicated arcs and patterns that would surely be a royal pain in the ass to animate using more traditional digital methods, but it also means that every GoHands anime I've ever seen is an assault on the eyes that often literally induces headaches and motion-sickness.
So, going into it, I couldn't exactly forget that the people responsible for making Scar on the Praeter also produced the ugliest animation that I had ever seen in my life (at least, before EX-ARM came along to steal the throne). Did the studio live up to their legacy by producing yet another disaster-piece, or was the third time actually a charm? Well, I can tell you the good news up front: Scar on the Praeter is, without any shadow of a doubt, the best GoHands anime that I've ever seen. It's also pretty terrible, but c'mon. You all knew that was coming.
Still, though, points for improvement! Specifically, the writing here is leagues ahead of either Hand Shakers or W'z. That is to say, I'd only accuse the first six or so episodes of being insufferably boring mush-piles of exposition and nonsense worldbuilding — after that, the story actually picks up a little bit! While I won't say that I ever came to care about the multitudes of overdesigned anime boys that fill out the ranks of Helios, Artemis, or the PSSS, they at least have all sorts of drama going on between them, and plot has the basic decency to go absolutely buck-wild with the silly twists and betrayals and double-secret-fake-out cliffhangers in the back half. In particular, our hero Yamato has an ongoing friendship and rivalry with Kazuma, the younger brother of the martyred Eiji, that goes places that honestly surprised and interest me somewhat.
To be clear, none of this writing is good; when it isn't boring, it's equal parts hackneyed, melodramatic, and self-serious. It is functional writing, though, and the bar is so low at this point that we have to take whatever scraps we can get. I dug the soundtrack more here, too, if only because I generally prefer its jazzy post-rock style than Hand Shakers' glorified elevator music OST (though Praeter still does that thing where it'll have tracks either begin too early or end too late, and the music just keeps playing over scenes where it really isn't necessary).
Here's where I have to take off my Nice James hat, though, and get back down to brass tacks. I'll admit upfront that the nauseating camera work is nowhere near as problematic in Scar on the Praeter as it was in previous GoHands series, but that is the only nice thing I can say about this show's visuals. I'm sorry, but no amount of polished writing or improved music can get me to ignore the fact that every single frame of Scar on the Praeter, without exception, is almost offensive to look at. The backgrounds were apparently created using Unreal Engine 4, which explains why they look ripped straight from a cheap PS3-era video game, and there is not one single instance where you could believe that these 2D characters and their 3D environments occupy the same plane of existence. The backgrounds themselves are so overcluttered, and the color design is so hideous, that it is often hard to even know what you're meant to be focusing on in any given scene. The characters will often literally look like 2D JPEGS that have just awkwardly been photoshopped onto a moving, 3D background, and that's because, well, that's exactly what they are!
The action scenes are sometimes fluidly animated, yes, but it hardly matters when you can't even believe that they are really holding the weapons that keep making all of those sparks and flames shoot out from every angle. There's no weight to anyone's movement, no sense of space or reason in the editing or direction of the action — and this is when the animation is at its best. At its worse, the results look so bad that I can't even be mad at GoHands for what they've created. I'm just embarrassed. They might as well have just cut out a punch of papercraft dolls and filmed themselves chucking them around some intern's desk space, for all of the good that their “signature” production style has done them here.
Is Scar on the Praeter the worst anime I've ever seen? No, it isn't, and I wouldn't even argue that it is bad enough to make for a fun night of drinking and riffing, like prior GoHands shows have been. Does that mean you should actually watch Scar on the Praeter? Good Lord, no. No. Absolutely not. Didn't you read that second paragraph? This show is terrible! But it's the kind of terrible that doesn't so much assault your senses as it does gently irritate them for 13 episodes before shrugging its shoulders and disappearing back into the void. I won't remember it come next Tuesday, and neither will any of you. That is probably for the best.
Overall : D
Story : C-
Animation : D
Art : F
Music : C-
+ It's better than Hand Shakers and W'z, especially with its writing
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