Reviewby Theron Martin,
Seven Senses of the Reunion
Episodes 1-12 streaming
In 2034, one of the most popular VRMMORPGs was the game Union, where players had special abilities called Senses. However, the game ended when a player from top adventuring party Subaru died in real life after her character died in the game. Six years later, Union has been relaunched as Re'Union under similar mechanics and the catch that game death is permanent; no restarts are allowed. Haruto, the former leader of Subaru, has stayed away from games since Asahi died, but he reluctantly accepts an offer to join Re'Union and try it out. When his first quest ends with Asahi appearing out of a chest and acting like no time has passed, Haruto seeks to reassemble the members of Subaru to solve the mystery of why she seems to still be alive in the game. But the former members of Subaru have been scattered by time, while other parties plot to use Asahi's special ability for their own designs.
At first, this light novel-based series seems to be a blend of the premises from anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day and .hack//SIGN. This series never entirely moves away from that parallel, as many of the character relationships and romantic tensions present in this series mirror anohana to some degree, but it also greatly diverges in a number of other ways. While the different nature of the setting is partly responsible, a wonky underlying plot that tries to drastically up the stakes also disrupts things, and generally not for the better. The result is a series with some entertainment value that's far less satisfying by the end, with barely a fraction of its clearest inspiration's emotional impact.
The goals of the two series are also quite different. While anohana primarily focused on bringing about emotional resolution to a past tragedy through its central cast reunion, Seven Senses winds up being entirely about bringing Subaru back together again. Sure, it may seemingly aim to solve the mystery of what actually happened to Asahi with its weird thread about trying to influence the physical world through the use of the game's Senses, but that plot isn't anywhere near completed by the end of episode 12, and it's subordinate to the goal of simply bringing the six core Subaru members back into the fold. Reuniting the crew is a satisfying enough goal on its own that this ill-defined business with the group Gnosis is much more of a distraction than an enhancement. There don't need to be world-shaking consequences for a story like this, and there's definitely no need for a villain who's (literally!) a clown.
The story also can't seem to make up its mind about how tightly it wants to adhere to game mechanics. The whole business about Senses potentially having real-world impact transitions the story more into super-powered fantasy than a “fantasy game world” story, as does an apparent brainwashing effect of the game, but even beyond that, how much attention is paid to the rules of the world often seems arbitrary. Sure, there's room for dramatic interpretation in action scenes, but reducing the game mechanics to irrelevancy for the sake of story expedience is a line that this genre shouldn't consistently cross. Why set it in a game at all if you're going to ignore that aspect?
The series does have a couple of marks in its favor. Though it isn't brought to completion by the end of the story, the mystery surrounding Asahi's status is compelling, and flashes of memory suggesting that something nefarious might be going on only heighten that tension. The rough edges of all the relationship issues – especially how the romantic entanglements impact things – also creates some respectable drama and allows for some good character moments as those romantic connections are gradually resolved. Splitting things between the game setting and the real world to allow a layer of interaction where Asahi isn't around also makes the story a little more dynamic.
Unfortunately that dynamism doesn't extend to the action scenes. Despite the attempt to create big dramatic set pieces, there's just not much zing to them, even when the artistic and animation efforts are decent – and that's not always the case. This isn't as crippling as it could be, as more often than not the reasons behind the battle scenes are actually more important, but it's still a little disappointing. The artistic and animation effort outside of the action scenes is decent, with some good but hardly spectacular background design in the game setting, though none of the design work distinguishes itself as unique. Boss monster designs in particular leave a lot to be desired.
The series fares better on its musical score, which mixes orchestration with synthesized numbers. Often it has the flavor of fantasy MMO background music, which isn't inappropriate, but it isn't terribly effective at heightening the tension of major dramatic or battle scenes. Opener “360° Star Orchestra” makes for a fitting starter, while the more sedate “Starlight,” which exclusively features Asahi, serves as a suitably melodic closer.
Overall, Seven Senses of the Re'Union is a decent series that might have been better if it had kept a narrower focus. The twelve episodes apparently animate most of the novel content to date, so a sequel necessary for completing the bigger picture of the story will be a long time off if it ever happens. At least this series does bring its most immediate plot thread to a satisfactory resolution.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Decent character dynamics, intriguing central mystery
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