by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 4 of
When the season first started, I initially thought that W'z was going to be the kind of soft-reboot sequel that maybe featured some cameos and references to the original Hand Shakers, but otherwise would utilize the ten-year time jump to tell a mostly original story. We're four weeks into the season by now, and I'm realizing my assumptions were wrong. W'z isn't just directly following up Hand Shakers – it treats nearly every plot thread and returning character from that first season with a mystifying kind of reverence.
I gotta ask, who is this fanservice even for? It can't possibly be entertaining for new viewers to watch a bunch of characters they don't know stand around and talk vaguely about events they have no recollection of, and I doubt there are many people (outside of the crew at GoHands themselves) that have fond enough memories of the original cast to warrant spending weeks basking in the glorious return of Tazuna Takatsuki and Friends. Yet here we have “FouR FOR FORce”, another obnoxiously titled chapter of W'z that's more concerned with killing time with the original Hand Shakers ensemble than telling its own story.
I cannot stress enough how little the plot has actually progressed by this point, despite already being a third of a way through this season. This episode spends a solid chunk of its opening on Hayate taking Yukiya to the Ziggurat, though they don't accomplish anything or discuss anything interesting, save for how Yukiya doesn't respect Tazuna for taking a job that requires him to leave Koyori alone and travel the country. This is a stupid thing for Yukiya to get hung up on, and it's only because he's inexplicably developed a crush on Koyori, which doesn't do any favors for our hero's likability.
After that, Haruka invites Yukiya out on a trip to Wester King Fest, a concert where Yukiya's favorite DJ is headlining, DJ Nielsen. I'm pretty sure DJ Nielsen is the guy we met way back in the first episode's opening scene, but this episode doesn't get around to explaining why this might be important, because it turns out that the day of the concert is also the same day Yukiya promised to go out on a mission with Chizuru, Hayate's diminutive partner, and Yukiya has to finish that up first before he can go off with Haruka. By this point, the episode is almost halfway over, and so little has happened that I'm actually beginning to wonder when W'z is going to bust out one of its patented fight scenes again, seeing as we haven't seen a lick of action since the brief confrontation at the beginning of episode two. I hate nearly every aspect of how this franchise executes these sequences, so it's really saying something when I'm so bored that I'd rather risk physical nausea than sit through another second of W'z's awkward dialogue.
This is where the monkey's paw that GoHands presumably keeps locked in the caverns deep beneath its studio must have curled its final withered finger, because we immediately transition to Yukiya and Chizuru making the rounds through a park that immediately set off warning bells when I laid eyes on it. Veterans of the Hand Shakers Cinematic Universe will recognize this park as the location of some of the show's lowest moments. One of the episodes that featured this setting prominently was so bad that I literally yelled at my television when I first watched it. Good times.
Though we we have to suffer through ten minutes of meaningless chatter before Yukiya and Chizuru get into the fight we all know is coming, there are still plenty of comically sloppy visuals on display. This shot and this shot are only separated by a couple of frames in the middle of Yukiya and Chizuru talking, and they represent pretty much everything wrong with W'z all at once. The 2D characters don't blend at all with the cheap-looking CG backgrounds, the bizarre color filters make Yukiya's hair look like it's changing colors from shot to shot, and Chizuru just straight up disappears and reappears between shots. I try to only criticize animation errors when they're especially distracting, but in W'z's case, it's difficult to concentrate on anything else, and we haven't even gotten to the fight scenes yet.
When the two rival pairs of Handshakers finally arrive, I was glad to see that the nauseating camera work continues to be downplayed, though the aesthetics on display are still absolutely ghastly. I will never be able to handle terrible effects filters are just slapped on top of shots with little rhyme or reason. If you think they look bad in screenshot form, I promise you it's even worse in motion.
The whole thing concludes with the dramatic slow-motion arrival of Tazuna, come to partner up with Yukiya and take down the rival Handshakers. This is treated as the exhilarating return of a beloved hero, but this is Tazuna we're talking about. He may have been one of the least obnoxious of the original Handshakers, but he also possessed all the personality of a room-temperature bowl of tapioca. His grand re-entrance to the story is more of an omen than anything else. There was a time where I'd hoped that W'z would be willing to leave the worst parts of its progenitor behind and forge its own unique identity, but no, it really is just “Hand Shakers 2: Even More Hand Shakers”. Of course it's ugly. Of course it's boring. That's what Hand Shakers was, and unless W'z can somehow prove otherwise soon, I can only assume that's what Hand Shakers will continue to be.
W'z is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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