What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? (SukaSuka)
Episodes 1-2

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 1 of
WorldEnd ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
WorldEnd ?

Few shows beg for an abbreviated title like What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?. Whether you go with the Japanese “SukaSuka” or the English “WorldEnd,” it's safe to say that not many people will be referring to this series by its full name. The good news is that there's an intriguing story to be found once you get past that triple-sentence title. This light novel adaptation builds an unusual world for itself in these opening episodes, putting its own original twists on some familiar plot devices.

Willem, the story's protagonist, is a rarity in SukaSuka's post-apocalyptic world. He's a “disfeatured,” meaning that he's an ordinary human with no fur, fangs, or animal ears. Being part of an endangered (or perhaps extinct) species doesn't get Willem any sympathy from the folks around him, but he does manage to find a job as a caretaker at a military warehouse. The catch is that the weapons he's supposed to guard are fairies who take the form of young human girls. They're expendable soldiers in the military's fight against destructive beasts, and it turns out that Willem is very familiar with the ancient weapons they wield.

Right from the start, SukaSuka establishes an interesting atmosphere. The show's floating island towns have a decidedly lonely look to them, like they're the last remaining pieces of a better world. Even before we learn what's going on, Willem's initial meeting with blue-haired heroine Chtholly feels more melancholy than hopeful. The revelation of the girls' situation comes as a slow burn, with the younger kids' carefree antics seeming more and more unsettling as the pieces of the puzzle come together. That mix of innocence and dread makes for a potent blend at times, tempting the audience to hold out hope for the characters despite the bleak circumstances.

As compelling as the setup is, there are still moments where SukaSuka doesn't seem up to the challenges it's set for itself. It runs into some familiar anime pitfalls, especially in its second episode. Many of the fairy girls seem too neatly locked into a single personality trait, although they do start to exhibit some depth once given more screen time. More worryingly, the second episode throws fanservice into scenes where it's not really needed, which breaks the otherwise consistent mood. The writing is also in danger of overreaching in its attempts to be dramatic, going straight for the big revelations at the cost of nuance. I'm willing to put most of these hiccups down to an early-season scramble to grab fans' attention, but there's definitely room for refinement in SukaSuka's approach.

Still, most of the early signs are promising. In particular, I like what the series is doing with Willem in these early episodes. He's an actual grownup with a complex backstory, which immediately lifts him clear from the abyss of blank-slate teenage protagonists. It also looks like he won't be an all-conquering savior; what we've seen so far suggests he'll be playing a supporting role to Chtholly and company's front-line heroics. That's a welcome departure from the usual “chosen one” formula, and it opens up a fresh set of narrative possibilities for the series. If the hero can't just beat up the bad guys and save the girl, he may have to make some much harder choices.

With an intriguing setup and some reasonably strong production values, SukaSuka is off to a good start. However, it does have a big hurdle to clear in the near future. It's all well and good to have lofty thematic and emotional ambitions, but all the potential in the world doesn't mean much unless the writing and direction are up to the challenge. If SukaSuka can pull off some tearjerker moments without wallowing in doom and gloom, it could grow into something special. If not, it could just as easily devolve into a melodramatic train wreck. That's going to be a tough balancing act, but I'd love to see this series pull it off.

Rating: B

What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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