This Week in Anime
What the Heck is 18if?

by Michelle Liu and Jacob Chapman,

Slipping under the shadow of bigger titles this season is 18if, an inscrutable little Gonzo series that doesn't really look like anything else out there, because it looks totally different from episode to episode! This week in anime, Micchy and Jacob ponder over why this strange show was created.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

You can read ANN's first episode impressions of 18if here!

Jake, answer me this.

Oh no, I'm bad at riddles.

What god did we offend to awaken the penis genie

I think it's our punishment for watching this many episodes of 18if. Cuz I'm actually, sincerely not sure they expected anyone to make it this far. But this is our reward! Penis genie. What are your three wishes.

1) I wish to scrub the memory of penis genie out of my head
2) that's literally it

But yeah, 18if really is A Lot. Some episodes are honest-to-goodness great, while others are uh...

They are very Uh.

That's what happens when you get a different director every episode, I suppose?

Yeah. Honestly, the whole show is very Uh, I'm not sure I'd use the word great for any single episode. I would definitely call some of the artistic choices great!

There's a whole array of different styles on display. From the (questionable) dick jokes in episode 9 to the children's book/3DCG thing in episode 7, there's some neat stuff in 18if. Sometimes I'm tempted to say I liked 18if better when it was actually animated and called Space Dandy, but that show certainly didn't go THIS far out.

Look at how moe Potato-kun is as a spherical scarecrow!

It definitely has its moments! That papercraft CG Wizard of Oz episode was stunning, I want to see a whole show done in that style. And episode 10, is basically a paradise of weird psychedelic background art and actual animation, which is striking in a show that clearly had very little resources at its disposal.

[tips hat to Koji Morimoto]

Right, so afaik, the production history of 18if is that it's a mobile game adaptation not unlike Cygames' Rage of Bahamut where the devs went "eh, do whatever you want" to Koji Morimoto (the Magnetic Rose guy) and a revolving staff at the largely haunted house once known as Studio Gonzo. So you have a series of lesser-known talents pumping out weird little takes on 18if's extremely thin premise, which is "girls with real-life problems fall asleep due to Sleeping Beauty Syndrome and wreak havoc in their dreams, Potato-kun protagonist solves those problems (or doesn't)".

Except for the papercraft Wizard of Oz Cambodian dictator episode, I have NO IDEA what was happening with that one.

Dream-logic goodness, that's what. I really loved that episode, uncomfortable real-world implications aside.

I wanted to love it! Like all of my "favorite" episodes of 18if, including 10, I'm not sure I understood it well enough to attach more emotions to what happened than "this artist created some cool imagery".

It's this story of three friends growing up together until privilege rears its head and somebody fucks it all up. We sorta follow these kids throughout their friendship and eventual falling-out, until the reveal that oops, Prince-kun committed mass murder, ain't that great. The details are really fuzzy, but it's dream logic. I don't think it has to 100% make sense for the emotional arc to work? It's really the juxtaposition of the fuzzy feel-good imagery with the horrific shit that sells it for me.

That's true. I guess it just didn't connect with me fully beyond the cool art style. Those truly inventive episodes of 18if tend to also be confusingly edited, so it's hard to draw specific ideas and moments from them. But on the flip side, the episodes of 18if that do tell a straightforward story tend to be Quite Bad, so I'm not sure I want that either. It's definitely the weirdest anime of the season!

Oh, that's for sure. Personally I'm alright with the editing being a bit confusing, almost solely because these are supposed to be dreams. The disorienting effect isn't completely out of nowhere. Throw in the creative visuals and you have an Experience that may or may not be pleasant, but at least it's memorable.

This sums up most of my 18if Experience so far.

It might also help if the stories were more varied, which seems weird to say considering all the girls' lives and stories are so different. There's a murderous recluse, a star ice skater, a bullied otaku, a deaf underground guitarist, etc. But the stories being told are all "woman has problem that's usually not told from her perspective, her dream creates some trippy imagery that could look either cheap or inspired depending on who did the episode, Potato-kun says some platitudes at her, maybe this works and maybe it doesn't, girl wakes up, next girl's dream".

You forgot the most important one, the idol who poops.

oh geez yeah

I feel like any discussion of 18if is just going to be the road to episode 9 tbh. Famous idol turns herself into dominatrix to torture all the other industry people who have made her career hell, by turning them into student idols. Including the boys.

But yeah, that format is the biggest sticking point with me too. There are definitely some neat stories in there somewhere, but the show has a pattern of using Potato-kun as a band-aid and going "everything's fine now, ok let's move on". Like in the idol episode, we have the story of a woman who uses her dream world to subject the (mostly male) industry people who abused her to the hell she had to go through. For a while, the show almost endorses her revenge fantasy, raging at the machine, if you will. She poops, she's not perfect, screw the impossible standards she's held to. But then we circle back to Potato-kun and his extremely empty "you actually want to be here, don't you?" platitudes. Uh, no thanks. For what it's worth, she does abandon her group thing to pursue a solo career, so at least she's free from the samey group dynamic of Shark Ladies.

it's not the destination, it's the dick jokes you make along the way

Penis Punch Genies

Yes. "Birdlime."


These don't represent anything at all, no sirree

Uh they represent the need to see a wang doctor, pretty sure those danglers are not built to code.

I guess 18if at its best can deliver some rote stories in an artistically genuine way. Episode three is a good example of this, no intense surreality burying the story, no bad story struggling under meager drawings, just a nice marriage of good storyboarding and art direction to a simple story of a terminally ill girl getting some beautiful days of puppy love with Potato-kun in her dream before she dies.

At 18if's worst, we get the ice skating episode.
Hoo boy the ice skating episode.

I went through that episode the day it was released, because figure skating, and oh boy oh boy. On top of looking like crap, it's also one of the most mean-spirited episodes in the whole show. World-class figure skater gets tired of the pressure, threatens to break her own legs before losing consciousness and getting trapped in her dreams. Potato-kun helps her live a normal life in the dream, but even there she winds up on the ice again. And Potato-kun's like, "actually this is good for you, doesn't matter what you think". Which is like, holy shit, give this girl a friggin' break.

Yeah, the really crushing thing is at NO point does the girl express "yeah I've had a taste of normal student life now, but I do miss being a world-class skating star." Not even a single line. She fully embraces a fame-free life of being an average girl and absolutely loves it, no take backsies. And the show just says "fuck you" because THIS IS YOUR DESTINY, WE WOULDN'T HAVE THIS INSPIRING SKATER TO PRAISE IF YOU DID THAT, SACRIFICE YOURSELF ON THE ALTAR OF ART.

Potato-kun: "See? You belong out there." See nothing, my foot.

It's literally asking an artist to die for their art, because the cherry on the shit sundae arrives when she wakes up from the dream to find out she's been sleeping for decades and now she's old. So she got to experience two different adolescences but lost the rest of her life, because the show hates her, I guess? The fuck, 18if?

Yeah, I liked that episode better when it was in a show called Death Parade. As much as I appreciate 18if for what it's trying to do, what the hell. I can't believe even Heybot! handles its figure skating characters with more delicacy.

it all returns to heybot. it just keeps tumbling down tumbling down...


That's not a teaser, that's a fuckin' threat.

Anyhoo, 18if is definitely an acquired taste, and I have trouble thinking of who to recommend it to. I guess animators? People who like weird art? But then I would only recommend a few episodes: 3, 7, and 10. And if you like pain, go straight to episode 9.

That's the episode that convinced me, the Heybot addict, to catch up, so yeah. I'd recommend episode 7 too, just for the oddly effective blend of papercraft/kids' book illustrations and delicious Grimm fairy tale horror, but otherwise that's about it.

18if is absolutely unique, but unique doesn't always equal good. It's dollar store Space Dandy, for better and for worse.

Hey, Crotch Fire is Very Important.

Right, gifs. Watch 18if if you like inexplicable gifs, because it's a treasure trove.

I'm sorry, I'm too mesmerized by that gif to continue.

I'm pretty spent on this oddity too. All I know is if this lady ever pops up on my cellphone, the answer is no.

Potato-kun's gonna need so much therapy.

If he ever wakes up, I guess

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