This Week in Anime
What the Hell is Happening in 7SEEDS?

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

7SEEDS is based on an award-winning science fiction manga, but something went very wrong in the adaptation process. This week, Nick and Steve navigate this unfortunate trainwreck on Netflix.

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. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Nick
Steve, I think it's fair to say that we're entering one of the strongest summer seasons of anime in a while. There's just a smorgasbord of exciting, unique, and engaging anime to sink our teeth into. And what better way to kick it off than by talking about another bad Netflix anime instead?
Steve
In this metaphor, the gun is 7SEEDS, and the bear is me.
Yes it's 7SEEDS, an adaptation of the acclaimed and celebrated shoujo manga by beloved creator Yumi Tamura. And boy is it something.
So I'm not familiar with the original manga, but Yumi Tamura is a highly renowned shojo mangaka, and she's responsible for Basara, which I've heard people call one of the greatest manga of all time. She started writing 7SEEDS after that, turning it into this sprawling epic spanning over 30 volumes and 16 years. And Netflix decided to produce a show cramming half of that into 12 episodes. You might start to see where things went wrong here.
Yeah, let me say up front that I recognize 7SEEDS' manga has its fans, so I'm by no means trying to make a judgment on that account when I say that 7SEEDS the anime is an absolute trainwreck from start to (non)-finish.
Honestly, a gigantic post-apocalyptic story told by a shojo author published in a josei magazine sounds like something I would be super into! And there are plenty of seeds (har har) here that could be interesting if explored in greater depth. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the most unmitigated disaster of any Netflix original anime production.
I'm truly shocked to see this coming from the director of such a beloved masterpiece.
I mean, just from the premise of trying to condense 17 volumes of story into 12 episodes, this project was fundamentally broken, so I can't lay the blame solely on the director. Regardless, the show does just look bad. There's not a cut of animation that doesn't look stilted or awkward, and the compositing on the show makes it look like a lost digipaint series that was blown up to HD and covered in filters.
I know the manga started in the early 2000s, but I really don't need this level of authenticity.
I tend to forgive weak animation if the storytelling is still solid, but then we get into the real problem of 7SEEDS: the anime's storytelling is fundamentally broken.
I thought I had it bad when I was reviewing the second season of Tokyo Ghoul:re, which similarly tried to speedrun through its source material. But this is more like a tool-assisted glitched speedrun where we're constantly clipping through things like character development and worldbuilding and plotting in general. There are edits that literally gave me whiplash.
Just as an example, the following four scenes all happen within the same five-minute span in the very first episode. We go from idyllic raft village to giant bug island to attempted assault to shipwreck before we even know all of these characters' names.
 
 
It's sort of amazing to see in practice. Nearly every line is pure exposition or characters explaining their own personalities to the audience. The first episode skips across three separate settings and time periods with no indication of a connection between them. What should feel like a tense survival/mystery setup feels like a fever dream. And that's still the best episode, because after that we get to maybe the dumbest thing I've seen all year: the big plot twist.
Well, I say plot twist but considering it comes 30 minutes into the show, it's more like the world's most poorly-timed infodump. Basically, it turns out that the various characters haven't been shipwrecked on an island, but are in fact the only humans left in Japan after an off-screen apocalypse.

Y'know, fine, a story like this doesn't need to go into the specifics of how they got there. It can focus on their struggle to survive in this new world without bogging us down with backstory. Except it turns around and does that anyway; we're constantly coming back to the origins of this grand plan to ensure humanity's survival. Say what you will about some of these characters, none of them can be as moronic as the people who were in charge of putting this project together.
Spoilers: this is a goddamn lie.
Yeah so the dumbest thing is that with the exception of their guides, every character was selected without their knowledge or consent to rebuild the human race from scratch. They were literally kidnapped and relocated against their will, and apparently the people in charge figured they'd all just roll with that.
Look, they turned out totally fine!
It's so colossally stupid that I spent the entire show waiting for a twist that this was all a conspiracy, or a lie, or an alien simulation, but nope. The people who designed humanity's last hope were just the dumbest motherfuckers ever.
When you put it that way, that does seem true to life. And we haven't even mentioned that one of their many bright ideas was putting together one team of people who were the complete opposite of all the criteria they were looking for, just in case they were wrong I guess? This is our initial ragtag team of dumbasses, and to be fair they're some of the more endearing characters.

And what a colorful variety they are! There's Natsu, ostensibly our protagonist, who does things like falling down, crying, and falling down again.
There's Botan, who yells at everyone but has great hair.
There's Semimaru, who's an asshole.
And Arashi, who can swim, pine over his girlfriend, and get eaten by giant venus flytraps.
Oh, and I guess there's also that guy with the shades I posted above, who may or may not be the Angel of Death. I wouldn't worry too much about it.
They're ostensibly our main group, but after about five episodes of wandering around being sad, they pull a Berserk and wind up on a boat for the rest of the show while everyone else does theoretically interesting things. Very generous of the government to leave them that boat, which none of them know how to use by the way. Because again, they're untrained civilians who were kidnapped into repopulating the earth.
It's fine! Everyone is initially packed into these themed groups, but soon enough people split off and groups merge together, and the cast is ultimately too large to keep track of everyone in so short a timeframe. Most of them just blurred together in my brain. Semimaru, despite being a huge creep early on, weirdly ends up becoming one of the most likable characters just by virtue of his personality being awful enough to stand apart from everyone else's blandness.
He's far from the only character who's an asshole, but he's the only one who's an asshole over petty, harmless stuff. Everyone else is either a non-character, a blank cipher of sadness, or just the biggest dickhead.

He's also apparently the last person on the planet with anything resembling emotional intelligence.

Meanwhile, the dude you posted above is the first "villain" the Spring team has to deal with, and he tries to kill everyone because he gets infected with giant bug eggs. Super cool guy!

Hey, he makes up for it by setting himself on fire and telling them to go somewhere else. You just don't understand the complex character writing at play.

It's clear from the get-go that 7SEEDS is intent on exploring the grey morality of a world where the survival of humanity itself is at stake, but there simply isn't enough time to do so thoughtfully. It either ends with wishy-washy redemption "arcs" like that, or devolves into straight-up misery porn.
It all comes back to the adaptation cramming as many plot points and character beats into each episode like a clown car of trauma. Like the episode where Natsu's group runs into another team who's set up a utilitarian farm cult after overthrowing their leader. There's a lot you could explore there, but it's all just tossed at the audience's feet like a dead rat your cat wanted to share.

It's the kind of conflict you could build an entire arc around, discussing the harshness of group survival vs the right to equality and human dignity. You could examining the perspective of leaders who refuse to let anybody have a baby because they're angry at being forced into the post-apocalypse against their will. But by the end of the episode, we've left them behind to hang out with Dog Jesus.

Ah yes, the story of Dog Jesus and his friend who only speaks in baseball analogies.
 
 
Also I'm just now noticing how differently he's drawn in each of those screenshots, lmao. Live feed from the Gonzo animator floor:
I mean, maybe he's on to something. To all appearances, baseball is the most powerful means of survival left on the earth.
This is the best fucking scene in the entire show. It made me laugh for a full minute. I wish the entire anime was this bonkers.
I'd watch a whole show about the magical disappearing and reappearing sabertooth tiger.
For real, this story is full of giant praying mantises, vindictive saber tooth tigers, killer bats, and dinosaurs. If only we could spend a reasonable amount of time with any of them! Might be fun!
Or any time explaining them! We're meant to believe these characters were frozen long enough for giant insects and extinct species to repopulate Japan, but also briefly enough that most major cities still have standing architecture.
Look, if we're going to start questioning basic plot elements, we might as well start with why the people in charge thought the best way to keep an entire underground colony entertained in the post-apocalypse was to hire a ventriloquist.
Oh god, I legit forgot about that plot cul-de-sac. There's a lot in this show that, lacking proper characterization or atmosphere, just feels like survival cliches and misery porn, but nothing beats the sheer dumbness of that flashback. We go from City of Ember to Soylent Green in three minutes.
It's one of my favorite parts of the show, just because it embodies the absurdity that arises from squeezing this plot into this pacing. You've got the soylent stuff. You've got ticks living in people's blood (not how that works, by the way!) You've got a beautiful vocalist pied-pipering everyone to their death inside of a refrigerator. And you've got a Buddhist dummy! It's exquisite.
Then there's the coup de grâce of how all this so gracelessly ties back into Hana's mysterious parents, who turn out to just be assholes.

That's the other thing that bugs me about this. For a story about random strangers being forced to work together in crisis, there sure are a lot of people who know each other. Dog Jesus wound up in a group with two people who knew him. Hana is the girlfriend Arashi is obsessed with. Heck, even non-named characters often recognize each other.
Like you mentioned earlier, it's almost convenient enough to make you suspect that something bigger is going on, but the quality of the anime just leads me to believe it's bad writing. Luckily for us, the show saves the worst for last, making sure to drag out the backstory behind the other Summer team and their wacky top secret Danganronpa academy.

Oh god, this fuckin' backstory. This is where I straight-up just checked out. The whole "kidnapped into propagating humanity" broke my suspension of disbelief a while ago, but then learning that the people behind that plan also raised an island of super-soldiers for the plan made my eyes roll out of my skull.
It's an entire island of special ops kids that FOR SOME REASON they have to cull down to only seven, so after a certain point the teachers start booby-trapping everything to weed out the extras. It's the kind of tragedy porn that loops back into sweet unintentional hilarity.
 
 
See, when shit like this happens in a Danganronpa story, it's intentional satire on the nature of socially-enforced exceptionalism or something. Here it just seems like the people in charge are evil idiots who figure giving a group of traumatized teens guns in an uncharted wasteland is a formula for success.
Again, if we were actually afforded any time for the gravity of their situation to sink in, I could see myself suspending my disbelief enough to empathize with what these kids go through. But it all happens in such quick succession that it feels like a YouTube abridged version of itself.
And the worst part is that all this misery doesn't even get a conclusion—it's just a setup for why Team Summer are a bunch of psychopaths who use children as live bait for dinosaur hunts.
Just a great bunch of guys and gals to hang out with...

And that's not even getting into how apparently Hana's dad was the one who did all this to them, so their leader tries to take vengeance in the most misery-porn-tastic scene of the whole show.
Up to this point, I could at least have some fun with the show's awfulness, but if ever there was a production ill-equipped to handle an attempted rape scene with the appropriate care, it's this one. In the end, it just feels gross and unnecessary.
It feels like parody, honestly. We go from this dude trying to rape Hana, to her escaping, to him suddenly kissing his nameless teammate in about 30 seconds, and the whole thing left me wanting a shower.
It's so fucking bad. Just unequivocally bad. And don't even get me started on Dog Jesus finding nice things to say about Hana's dad. Dude kills an entire island of children but "I don't think he was such a bad guy!"
But yeah, all this leads into 7SEEDS' ostensible climax, where the rest of Team Summer decide to kill Hana so their friend will stop acting crazy, but they totally fail because nobody in this show can do anything right.
Hana survives a fall down a bottomless pit but ends up slipping into a whirlpool on accident because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I should also specify that this whirlpool is made of the worst-looking water I've ever seen.
And then the show just kinda stops. It doesn't end because nothing is resolved and nobody's accomplished anything and everyone's still at each other's throats at the edge of extinction. But the animators were finally, mercifully allowed to stop working on this 12-episode trainwreck, and now I guess we wait in dread for a second season.
Usually, anime adaptations of manga will try to structure episodes with a beginning, middle, and end, so these individual chunks of a bigger story can still feel like something complete. 7SEEDS doesn't even try to do that. Each episode ends on a bizarre non sequitur, like it's giving up instead of actually ending, and that's what the entire season feels like too. It takes off in a mad dash, then stumbles over itself until it lies bleeding in a ditch, waiting for the moment when it will have to get back up and tumble its way to the finish line.
It's not the worst thing Netflix has left in a burning bag on my doorstep (hi Sword Gai), but it's perhaps the most demoralizing. It's a nonstop buffet of mediocrity dragging what could be good material through the dirt until you either give up or leave to read the manga.
Shit went wrong while making this (it was originally supposed to come out in April), and this show alone should be proof that Netflix isn't going to save anime. Ultimately, they're just concerned with quantity over quality, and they're fine with overworking animators to produce these disasters just like so many other companies. This should be a wake-up call.
Thanks, Netflix!

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