Hand Shakers – 01 (First Impressions)

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Jist: Tazuna is a quiet high school student who loves to tinker with and fix things, getting so focused he loses track of time. One day he comes across a hospital bed not unlike the one where he watched his younger sister die.

Tazuna takes the girl Koyori’s hand, and receives the “Revelation of Babel.” He’s then attacked and chased by a pair like him and Koyoti, Break and Bind, but with Koyori he learns to summon millions of gears he can fashion as shields and swords with which to fight back.

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First of all, this show is very elaborate and shiny. Those who watched K or its sequel are no strangers to Suzuki Shingo’s baroque style that employs sweeping camera angles that fly around not one but many animated characters, nearly photo-realistic settings, and super-saturated colors.

There isn’t a single shot in this that doesn’t have something going on, whether it’s highlighted dust motes, lens flares or sun rays, or any other number of tiny details. I’ll be honest: it was a little overhwelming, especially after the relative stillness of ACCA.

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It also reminded me a bit of the Star Wars prequel films. Let me explain: their producer, Rick McCallum, spoke with pride about how dense every frame is, how much is going on at once. But while a little bit of chaos is nice, put too much shit in every single frame, without any kind of hierarchy, and the audience’s eye can’t focus on any of it and basically throws up its eye-hands. In other words, too much stuff and too much excitement can be static and boring.

There’s no denying Shingo’s ambition, or the fact he makes a damned impressive and distinctive-looking show here. But there are many instances where the cracks show, and where frame rates slow to the point we’re back in the mid-nineties, watching PSOne cutscenes.

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Not only that, Break and Bind’s rain of chains simply aren’t interesting enough to occupy as much screeen time as they do. It’s fun watching Tazuna and Koyori dart through a tripped-out alternate dimension of the city, dodging the chains from the BDSM couple…until it isn’t.

There’s more to dislike: Tazuna’s inner stream-of-consciousness to open the episode (and his running commentary throughout) was generic, uninspiring shonen-speak. Break is your typical loud-mouthed one-dimensional villain (ironic considering how much in this show is 3D), and female characters’ busts are a size too big and bouncy for my personal taste.

Hand Shakers is big on jargon (babel, ziggurat, nimrods) but small on telling us what the heck is going on and why. So far, the characters of Hand Shakers are being literally and figuratively out-shined by their environment. And like Lily’s reverse tower card, that’s not a good sign.

There were some nice isolated moments of music/animation/character synergy; that and the overall scope of the visuals are good enough for a 6, but—and I can’t believe I’m saying this about this show—I’m going to need a lot more.

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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 07

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Like NGNL’s last outing, this episode of Nanana benefited from a changing of gears; a brief pause, if you will, to take stock of where we’ve come. There’s no new treasure hunt this week. Instead, it’s an episode about amends; namely, amends Juugo makes towards two of the three most important women in his life (Things are perfectly chipper between him and Tensai).

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First on his list is Nanana. Last week her fury was awesome to behold, but also largely unexplained. Turns out Juugo sold most of her video games, presumably in order to afford the trip to the hot spring. The premium regional pudding he acquires proves sufficient in quelling her rage and gaining her forgiveness, along with the promise to buy her new games.

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The other woman won’t be so easily appeased by confections and toys. When Fugi Yukihime, his beloved martial arts instructor and big-sister figure, tried to steal the treasure he’d already acquired, she broke an unspoken rule of the underground. Juugo saw that as a sign she truly had turned her back on him, which depressed him to no end. I’ll admit, how they left things left a sour taste in my mouth too.

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Cheered on by Nanana (who agrees to let him cry into her chest if he fails, which he assures her he won’t), Juugo meets with Yukihime in the night and promptly challenges her to a duel; one he probably knows he can’t possibly win, and doesn’t. But then he activates Nanana’s treasure, surrounding Yukihime in golden chains, and he suddenly has the power to to anything he wants to her.

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If he follows through on his threats, Yukihime will gain license to truly hate him…but she doesn’t want to—as evidenced by her sudden tears—nor does Juugo want her to. He releases her and tells her he wants them to be on the same side, even if he’s no longer with Matsuri. They both apologize to one another, and Yukihime agrees to keep liking him as much as she had (which is likely more than she lets on).

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It was great to see another episode that fills in the blanks of the last, as well as to see so many more sides of Fugi Yukihime, who is as cute as she is deadly. It was always clear the two had a past, but I didn’t realize the true depth of it until now, and both characters benefited greatly from the elaboration. And yes, that was Star Driver the gals were watching. They have excellent taste!

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