by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 8 of
I mentioned last week that W'z has been making the unexpected decision to abandon most of the action-adventure trappings of Hand Shakers to focus on a story that resembles a slow-paced character drama more than anything else. The results of this experiment have been mixed up until this point, but “NO kNOw Noise” is the moment where the test tubes finally exploded and caught the whole laboratory on fire. This eighth episode of W'z focuses exclusively on character drama and plotting, but it's a complete mess from top to bottom. If nothing else, “NO kNOw Noise” proves that W'z isn't just bad at telling a compelling story – it's seemingly incapable of just telling one that makes sense.
Let's start with Haruka, who's in the middle of a crisis of conscience for having lied to Yukiya for years about her knowledge of Ziggurat and the whole Hand Shakers deal. Koyori decides to mentor up and help Haruka confront her emotions and fears over being a potential partner for Yukiya, and the whole thing is so needlessly melodramatic and dripping with unearned pathos that the first parallel to come to my mind was Tommy Wiseau's infamous freak-out scenes from The Room. Haruka's relationship with Yukiya is already poorly explained, and it feels terribly ingenuine to have her explode into tears and wail over his struggles as a Hand Shaker, which she ostensibly knows nothing about outside of “Yukiya is a Hand Shaker, and he fights other Hand Shakers sometimes.” Koyori's attempt to empathize with Haruka is equally absurd, because these two characters have no preexisting relationship to speak of, and her explanation of her own experiences with Tazuna actually makes less sense for anyone who watched the original series. It's possible that the OVA I never saw somehow injected Koyori and Tazuna with all of the characterization the original Hand Shakers series never bothered with, but I'm inclined to doubt that.
Then, over at the bar, Tazuna briefs the other legacy Hand Shakers about the true identity of the Composer, who is revealed to be (drum roll please) Midori Okiuke, the rich Hand Shaker with the butler partner who's had maybe two minutes of screen time across the past eight episodes. I know this has been heavily foreshadowed before, but the reveal still manages to fall completely flat, because we've been given absolutely no reason to care about Midori or understand his motives. Tazuna also adds that there's another wild-card in the mix: DJ Nielsen is to nobody's surprise also a Hand Shaker, and he's apparently cheated the system to stay a Hand Shaker for years in order to operate as a kind of neutral party. Tazuna made a deal with Nielsen in order to get ahead of the Composer, but we don't get much more information out of the scene, which makes it feel like yet another instance of W'z deliberately wasting our time because it's attempting to stretch one or two OVAs worth of story into a full season of anime.
DJ Nielsen himself is a bizarre character, a flirtatious man who speaks in cringey “hip” lingo that apparently needs to be translated in Japanese subtitles in order to be understood. Given my lack of knowledge about Japanese and the proliferation of the slang Nielsen is using, I have no idea if this joke plays well to native speakers, but it definitely did not work for me. The slang dialogue didn't seem all that difficult to understand in the first place, so the end result is just having three sets of subtitles cluttering the screen while Nielsen and Tamari walk around accomplishing nothing of import.
Then we get to Yukiya's long-awaited live debut as a DJ, which is cute enough in that all of the show's characters show up to support him, though the performance itself felt dreadfully anticlimactic. I'm neither a connoisseur of the show's particular brand of lo-fi music nor am I in any way knowledgeable about what makes for decent DJ-ing, so it's possible that I just didn't “get” what made the performance so special. The rotoscoping animation has lost its novelty by now, and the music sounded pretty bad to me, both in its natural form and when Yukiya added all of the scratches and loops to it.
Then comes the weirdest scene of the episode, when Haruka is confronted by her band mates, who seem a bit puzzled over Yukiya's passion for spinning records, and Haruka in turn seems hesitant to respond when they ask if she knew about it beforehand. When Yukiya overhears this, it's played as this huge betrayal, but I honestly don't get how this is supposed to be such an awful moment. The girls didn't even seem like they were being particularly mean, just a little bemused, which makes Haruka's strange reaction feel even more out of place than it already did.
So in the end, “NO kNOw Noise” was not able to make Haruka's characterization make sense, it completely botched advancing the DJ Nielsen and Composer parts of the plot, and Yukiya's big moment as a performer was a total dud as well. The inconsistent animation and dull pacing made an already dire script feel interminable in execution, and I care even less about where this story is going than I did a week ago. At this point, I'd take watching ten of Hand Shakers' worst action scenes over having to sit through much more of this flavorless mush.
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