by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Oh, W'z. Sometimes I'm almost tempted to admire this show's stubborn insistence on carrying out every single beat of its plot in the least effective manner possible. In this week's penultimate chapter of Yukiya and Haruka's Bogus Journey, we get two scenes that ostensibly rank among the biggest we've seen from this series yet: a full-blown action set-piece between our protagonists and DJ Nielsen, and a final resolution to Koyori's search for her Mayumi and Nagaoka. Neither of them work in the way they were intended, and W'z's failure stings more this week than usual. Sometimes W'z comes close enough to approximating a halfway decent anime that it's even more painful to watch it whiff things so badly in the home stretch.
After weeks of kinda setting up to a theoretically climactic showdown, the ridiculously named “Church CHat Chat!” has finally seen fit to bless W'z's viewers with an honest-to-God fight scene, and the results aren't terrible! They're not good, mind you; no matter how much the camera work has improved, it still looks way too floaty and makes the action feel lightweight, and those awful CGI Nimrods will never look good in motion. I could track what was happening though, and the cuts of 2-D character animation weren't half-bad, either. As far as action sequences go in the Hand Shakers universe, this was one of the better ones.
The central issue lies in the narrative pretext of the fight, which is grounded in one of the hackiest tropes out there, next to a character waking up at the end of a story and learning the whole thing was a dream. You see, DJ Nielsen and Tamari have brought along Tazuna and Koyori to fight, and both pairs have equally contrived reasons for tussling with Yukiya and Haruka. Tazuna and Koyori want to take Yukiya's power to protect him from Okuike's wrath, and it turns out that Nielsen just wants to test the kids' mettle. Tazuna's issue could have been much more easily solved with a conversation, and I have very little patience for stories that use “testing a character” as an excuse to squeeze in a bombastic battle without having to come up with any stakes.
There's no drama or weight behind this fight; it just ends because Nielsen decides he's seen enough. Sure, we get a halfhearted explanation later of how he usually just “crushes” any irregular Hand Shakers like Yukiya that pop up, but why would W'z save this information for after the fight, so we might think that Nielsen was a genuine threat for at least a little while? After spending what feels like forever trying to portray Nielsen as this mysterious and potentially dangerous third party, he ends up being just as toothless as any other villain in Hand Shakers.
Then we get to the second major gear shift of this episode: reuniting with Mayumi and Nagaoka. This is another one of those “on paper” situations that would be an easy score for a series that had established its character arcs and narrative threads better, but alas, this is W'z. The search for Mayumi and Nagaoka has been the closest thing to a plot we've had for the past eleven weeks, even if all that means is we got a paper-thin piece of exposition tossed off every now and again while the cast generally wasted time. And yet the payoff for all of that non-setup is somehow even more deflating: Nagaoka and Koyori have just been hanging out in Ziggurat, and Nielsen has known where they were the whole time. They've been staying in Ziggurat for years because modern medicine still can't cure Nagaoka of his mysterious illness, though why they haven't bothered to reach out to Koyori is a mystery. So an entire season's worth of episodes were essentially a waste, since there's no reason why Nielsen couldn't have just told Tazuna and Koyori about this years ago, and all it takes is a simple phone call to reconnect the sisters after a decade of separation.
We even learn that Nagaoka and Mayumi were Yukiya's parents this entire time, which is another revelation that should be a big deal if it weren't treated with zero gravitas. This also makes Yukiya's fixation on Koyori both more sensible and slightly creepy, since it was always framed as an ambiguous kind of attraction that could easily be mistaken for a crush. The real crime is that W'z has just played its final hand, and now there's nothing left for the audience to hold on to. Yukiya and Haruka's emotional arc has essentially been resolved, the Koyori/Mayumi story took four months to go absolutely nowhere, and DJ Nielsen is no longer an antagonistic force to reckon with. The last remaining strand that needs addressing is the Okiuke stuff, which I'm not even sure W'z cares that much about, considering that the main villain of the story has gotten about ten minutes worth of screen time and a single lame monologue's worth of motivation. The only thing left to anticipate is that when Yukiya and Haruka inevitably defeat Okiuke and Seba in battle, W'z will be finally done, and the Hand Shakers franchise will cease its reign of terror once again.
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