by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 9 of
It may have taken 3/4ths of its run to get here, but W'z has finally given us some semblance of a plot and villains to combat our heroes' efforts. Well, kind of. Maybe? We at least meet the villains, in any case: Midori, the enigmatic leader of the Okiuke Group, and Seba, his butler. W'z makes an honest attempt at giving them the usual accoutrement that antagonists require in stories like these: a long monologue that explains their nefarious plans, an attempt to convert our heroes to the dark side, and even a play at capturing the damsel Haruka, which at last gives Yukiya cause to be proactive and go after the composer himself. None of this really works, mind you, but don't ever let it be said that I don't give the show credit for trying.
Here's what we learn from Midori, in a big info dump to Yukiya and Tazuna that explains his whole scheme in the most boring way possible. Somehow, when Hand Shakers go into Ziggurat, they're actually creating a copy of all reality, I guess? And since Yukiya has the power to take things in and out of Ziggurat at will, that apparently means he would have the power to manipulate matter and create whatever he (or Midori) might want. It doesn't make a lot of sense, because nothing about the Hand Shakers universe has ever been explained well enough to operate under any kind of consistent internal logic.
It's also doubly lame to have the motivation of the villain be “I'm so concerned about environmental destruction and dwindling human resources that I need to use the power of Hand Shakers to make a bunch of stuff”. Never mind that neither Hand Shakers nor W'z have ever demonstrated much thematic concern for ecological conservation—this is just a dumb and anti-climactic way to introduce the villain you've been building up for the past eight weeks. And of course, since all Midori has actually done so far is send other Hand Shakers out to beat up Yukiya and blackmail him, there's no reason for anyone to trust his intentions, so Yukiya and Tazuna walk out.
This causes Midori to hit the Plan B button and go after Haruka instead, making for another stiff and lifeless scene. Midori preys on the current rift between Haruka and Yukiya that I guess stemmed from that weird non-betrayal of Haruka's last episode, which Yukiya got worked up over for maybe a minute before immediately getting over it. Midori goes on about Haruka being able to protect Yukiya and becoming the Hand Shaker partner she was always meant to be, and Haruka just goes along with it despite having absolutely no reason to listen to this strange man or care about what he has to say about Ziggurat.
Then she seemingly abandons Yukiya and the rest of her life to go to Okiuke Academy, which causes Yukiya to freak out, and now Nielsen is after Yukiya for something that has to do with the deal that he and Tazuna made off-screen a couple of weeks ago. Thus the episode ends with Nielsen looking for Yukiya at Reiji's place. I think this is supposed to be a cliffhanger, but it lands with a thud, since we still have barely any idea of what's happening or why any of the characters involved even care much to begin with.
What strikes me about this episode more than anything else is its incredible ugliness. That's hardly surprising for this franchise, but something about the visuals this week went beyond the pale even by this show's standards. The scene between Midori and Haruka has them sitting in actual 3D models of photorealistic furniture, which never looks good in this show; there are a number of instances where characters just look sloppily drawn, and even when the show isn't inconsistently implementing its photoshopped backgrounds, you get shots like this, where all I can say is Yikes.
We only have a month left to spend with W'z, so I want to reiterate that this is still one of the all-time ugliest works of animation I've ever seen, even without the crappy fight scenes. Having said that, the next episode preview hints at a a full-on throwdown between Yukiya and Nielsen, so W'z might be delivering the The Full Monty when next we meet. Given the series' track record, I wouldn't be surprised if the fight lasted less than a minute and had virtually no bearing on the plot, but only time will tell if W'z ends up forcing me to bust out the aspirin once again.
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