by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
This week's episode of W'z is called “DUDDY bUDDY riDe”. Let that sink in for just a moment. It's a title so preposterously meaningless that it practically warrants a review all its own. First of all, what the hell even is a “DUDDY”? Since this is the episode where Yukiya teams up with Reiji in order to rescue Haruka, maybe it's supposed to be “DADDY”? Even if that's true, it would still make for a hilariously lame name for an episode, an easy candidate for the "Worst Titles Ever" Hall of Fame. There are so many hacky jokes I could crack about “DUDDY” and its phonetic similarities to the word “doody”, but I probably shouldn't. For years, the Hand Shakers franchise has been working overtime to reduce me to my basest instincts and rob me of my dignity as a critic. I have to resist as we near the end of this second season.
In all seriousness, “DUDDY buddy riDE” really is terrible. It embodies every awful quality about Hand Shakers, from its artistry to its writing to its music. The opening scene completely deflates whatever cliffhanger the last episode was trying to set up; DJ Nielsen and his gal-pal arrive at Reiji's house to give him dirty looks about letting Yukiya become a full-fledged Hand Shaker, and all we get out of the scene is confirmation that Nielsen is the one who brought Yukiya out of Ziggurat in the first place. Then Reiji just kind of shrugs Nielsen off, and the scene ends. Reiji goes to join Yukiya in the search for Haruka, and thus the adoptive father and son are off to do some shaking of the hands. There's no dramatic tension to be had, and the cheap attempts to wring some pathos out of Reiji and Yukiya's relationship ring hollow because we've barely seen the two interact this season. Even when they have, it's all been through clichés.
So the first ten minutes of the episode are a bust, but that's nothing compared to when Reiji and Yukiya actually get to Haruka, who's being guarded by Seba. The fight that ensues is predictably bad – the animation is inconsistent, the camera is choppy, and the CGI Nimrods look impossibly goofy in the hands of their poorly-drawn 2D wielders. Seba is a nothing character too, so it's not like he's a remotely threatening or compelling antagonist. I was prepared for all of that, though. What I wasn't ready for was the return of the chains.
I should have expected this, given that the chains are Reiji's signature weapon, but that didn't stop me from hollering once the horrible CG monstrosities started whirling their way around the screen again. If you're the kind of reader that follows along with these reviews without watching the show, not only are you probably better at making life decisions than I am, but you also might not understand just how emblematic these damn chains are of W'z's aesthetic failings. You have to see them in motion to really get the full effect.
Would you believe that's not even the worst part of the episode? That prize goes to how the show handles Yukiya and Haruka's conflict. Haruka gets her own Nimrod this week, and it's a big electric guitar/axe she uses to attack Yukiya for barely explained reasons that are immediately fixed when the two stop in the middle of the battle to talk about their feelings. You know, like they should have done over the phone a couple of days ago, before Haruka let herself get swayed to the dark side by the main villain for all of ten minutes?
I cannot understate how low-stakes this whole show has been. We even get confirmation that the root cause of all this despair came about when those friends of Haruka's said things about Yukiya's sick DJing skills that came across as (gasp) mildly inconsiderate! W'z can't even score any points for realism by having its middle-schooler protagonists get so worked up over such trivial nonsense; I teach 9th graders for a living, and while they really can be overdramatic little hormone monsters, I've heard halfhearted lunchroom debates with more dramatic weight than this.
So Yukiya and Haruka confess their love, Seba is defeated, and the episode ends with DJ Nielsen showing up yet again to create a cliffhanger that will lead us to W'z's next episode. Neat. I'm sure it will be another meaningless battle that amounts to nothing in the grand scheme of things, because W'z still has a couple weeks left to kill before it can wrap up its story once and for all. The only reason this episode doesn't get an “F” is because it didn't make me nauseous. This is the bar that Hand Shakers has set for itself. It can be as boring, empty, and ugly as any anime I've ever seen, but I'll consider it a plus if the show doesn't make me physically sick.
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