by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 5 of
I might shock some of you this week, because I actually have some positive things to say about W'z fifth episode, “Time Turn Gear”. Never let it be said that I'm not willing to give W'z credit when it turns in material this...well, “good” is stretching things, but it's certainly not as terrible as it could have been! I may be damning W'z with faint praise here, but with the bar set so low, this may be as good as it gets for Hand Shakers Two.
All of the Not-That-Awful stuff comes in the second half of the episode though, which has absolutely nothing to do with Yukiya, Tazuna, or the (lack of much) central plot. The fight that got teased last week is criminally underwhelming and doesn't amount to anything. Once Tazuna shows up, all he does is show off his gear-sword and throw a guy down to the ground before the other Handshakers decide to scuttle off in defeat. I know I complained endlessly about Hand Shakers' bloated and horribly directed action sequences, but I can't help but feel that W'z is barely tossing in enough fight scenes to be considered an action anime at all. It could be that GoHands is trying to keep things simple this time around, or that their resources are being stretched thin enough that W'z simply can't afford to indulge in spectacle for more than a few seconds at a time. Either way, the end result is boring.
Speaking of boring, the rest of the episode's first half takes us back to that damned lab again, eerily photo-realistic backgrounds and all. W'z tries to contrast Tazuna and Yukiya by highlighting Koyori's ageless plight and Yukiya's petulant anger, but nothing comes of it. Both protagonists are so lacking in charisma or defined character traits that it might as well be a conversation between two different brands of anthropomorphic tofu. The two eventually make up and check out Ziggurat together anyway, so that conflict doesn't amount to anything either. All I could think about during this scene was Koyori being stuck in the background, desperately trying to reach the top of the tea shelf, but once the boys get back from Ziggurat less than a minute later, she's disappeared from the scene entirely. It's yet another distracting continuity error and one more instance of Hand Shakers literally forgetting to include one of its central characters in the story.
Once we ditch our heroes, W'z finally picks up somewhat by taking time to develop the other Handshakers who've been milling about on the sidelines thus far. Both of the antagonist pairs of Handshakers are notable for being same-sex pairs, and though the gay subtext was obvious from the get-go, “Time Turn Gear” gives us an extended flashback that covers Senri and Hana's relationship, making their romantic feelings for one another more or less explicit. Senri is bubbly and proudly affectionate, while Hana is the self-serious protector who's initially reluctant to reciprocate that affection, but she eventually ends up embracing Senri's feelings for her. We've seen this dynamic a thousand times before, but the writing is just decent enough to make Senri and Hana's partnership endearing.
We get another flashback later, this time to Yukiya and Haruka's own first meeting as children, though it's much less effective. For one thing, it gets dropped right into the middle of Yukiya's fight against Senri and Hana, which kills the episode's already dire pacing. It also doesn't do much to illustrate why Haruka even likes Yukiya so much – we see her play with him back when he was as blank as Koyori used to be, and there's a brief montage that shows them discover the mythical art of DJing, and that's about it. Koyori isn't even supposed to remember the previous journeys into Ziggurat, so it's unclear what she means by feeling guilty about Yukiya “saving her” all the time. Haruka herself is a nice girl and a step up in the love interest department, though; W'z should just let her become a Handshaker so she can get in on the action already.
Still, given that this is W'z, we couldn't exactly end on a high note. In fact, the episode doesn't really end at all – after Senri and Hana power up by fully committing to their love for one another, we abruptly cut to credits. In the next episode preview, Seba and Midori comment on how weird it is that we're halfway through the season and they've barely shown up in the series. Is this a clever meta-joke, or just more evidence that W'z is trolling us? It's impossible to say, but even if W'z is some kind of insane prank, I'm at least happy that not every single episode has to be completely terrible.
W'z is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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