by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
At the top of this week's W'z, Yukiya manages to stave off Senri and Hana's climactic attack with a blast of over-animated CG nonsense, taking them out of the Hand Shakers game for good. Once the two girls join up with everyone later at the bar where we inexplicably spend half the series' runtime, Senri remarks that if they had known they could just lose at being Hand Shakers and still be a normal couple, they would have done so ages ago. This naturally begs the question: “What on Earth was the point of all that?” Hana observes that their time as Hand Shakers technically helped them achieve their wish of expressing their true feelings for each other, but the Composer doesn't get credit for failing in a way that happens to be convenient for the characters.
This results in an uneventful, poorly edited episode that isn't even much fun to break down. Once again, far too much of the episode's runtime is spent on having characters exposit without providing any real insight into the story, its themes, or whatever the endgame of this plot could possibly be. We know there's a “Composer” that's pulling the strings of this new Hand Shakers battle royale for some reason, we know that Koyori's search for Nagaoka and Mayumi is still ongoing, we know that Haruka is almost certainly destined to be Yukiya's partner as a Hand Shaker, and we know that somehow DJ Nielsen is involved in all this. While there have been small lurches toward progression, everything I just listed has technically been known since the first episode or two of the series. We're at the halfway point of W'z, and I'm running out of stuff to even recap, because so little is actually happening.
The most substantial material we're provided this week is Gai and Masatak's flashback, though it's a far cry from even the serviceable backstory episode we got one week ago. For one thing, the way the episode begins the flashback is so sloppy that I had to play the episode on multiple devices because I thought VRV had crapped the bed on me. Once Senri and Hana lead Yukiya and Masaru to Gai and Masataka, the two pairs of functional Hand Shakers begin a battle in Ziggurat, only for the scene to abruptly cut to a forest scene, with the two boys as young children. There's no accompanying sound effect or visual cue to indicate this is a flashback, and the context of the scene doesn't even suggest that one is on its way. It truly feels like the editor couldn't find an organic spot to fit the transition, so they just dropped it into the middle of a random scene and didn't look back. For all of this franchise's bizarre gaffes, this could be the most perplexing yet.
Also, the flashback doesn't provide any meaningful understanding of Gai and Masataka's characters. Senri and Hana's love story may have been shallow and rushed, but at least we knew that the two girls had some kind of defined relationship. Gai and Masataka lack any discernable chemistry whatsoever. They both like stars, and Gai makes for an energetic goof to play against Masataka's monotone misanthropy, but there doesn't seem to be much reason that the two are so close. We learn that the pair have known about Hand Shakers for years, from none other than Nagaoka and Makihara, the latter being a major character from the first series. I had honestly forgotten who Makihara was, so his presence around Gai and Masataka doesn't mean anything as of right now. Like everything else W'z has provided, this all seems like protracted setup for a payoff that might never arrive.
At least we do get more action in the central fight scene this week, and it's not half bad by Hand Shakers' standards. The choreography is decent, the storyboarding is comprehensible, and it surprises me to no end that I would describe a fight scene as my favorite part of a Hand Shakers episode. But it depresses me that in order for W'z to get better at delivering action and adventure, it had to become even worse at telling a story, which is a dubious achievement indeed.
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