A boy named Kotarou has a dream in which he is walking around an abandoned city overtaken by vegetation. He tells himself that he needs to ‘do everything right next time’, and his dream is soon cut short when a mysterious girl suddenly murders him with a razor-sharp ribbon.
After he wakes up, the mother of his childhood friend Kotori has come to ask him to find her as she’s gone missing again, and, since this is something that happens a lot, he goes to the forest where she usually is and finds her sleeping there. Oh, that Kotori. So wacky. He lures her back home with the sound of coins (because…wacky?), but the whole time he can’t help feeling watched. When he goes to sleep again, the girl from his dream comes into his bed and bites his arm.
At school the next day he meets a new transfer student and has an exhaustingly long ‘fight’ with her over whether or not he saw her underwear when he helped her out of a tree she was stuck in. We also get treated to a lot of overly long, unfunny sequences in which he talks to his friend who is an angry delinquent. As we are treated to many vignettes from their boring lives, now with the annoying transfer student as well, every night the same girl comes into his bed and gobs on his arm, and its getting kinda old. When he tells his friends about this supernatural occurrence they suggest that he go and see the school ‘witch’ – the leader of the Occult Research Club. She proves difficult to get in touch with, but she does eventually send him a text message telling him to come to the school at night.
At the school, he follows a bunch of messages to lead him to her, but suddenly a bunch of monsters appear and so does the girl from his dream. He somehow ends up in another dimension with two annoying fairy things and the dream-girl ends up having to fight a gigantic octopus. Kotarou finally gets back to the school and meets with the witch, and that’s where this complete clusterfuck of a first episode ends. Don’t look at me, I didn’t write this show. I thought writing the synopsis as it happened would help to make sense of it but apparently not.
Not only was this first episode ludicrously difficult to follow, it was also ludicrously long. It seems like there’s at least one anime every season lately that has a double-length first episode. In the ones I’ve seen, that’s been necessary – both Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night needed a lengthy prologue to get the wordier parts of the stage-setting out of the way without cutting anything important, and Re:Zero wanted to maximise its first episode’s impact by showing two different paths to the same conclusion. This, on the other hand, did not need to be 47 goddamn minutes long. At all.
It does absolutely nothing constructive with all this extra time and instead of devoting it to explain what the express hell is actually happening, it instead makes almost every scene about five minutes longer than it needs to be. There are so many times where I just thought ‘why is this important?’ Why did we need that whole stupid scene about the transfer student’s cherry-patterned underwear? Why did the show start with a montage depicting Evolution and then dinosaurs? (Which, for the record, were better animated than anything else in this show) Why are Kotarou’s interactions with almost any character, especially in the classroom, so awkward, unfunny, drawn-out and boring? Just…why?
Also, and I know that lately almost once a season I say this about at least one show, but everything about this show felt incredibly outdated and if you’d shown it to me without telling me it was new, I would have assumed it was from 2005, maybe 2006 at the latest. It’s just got the really gimmicky hypermoe aesthetic – all the important girls have really big hair and stupid hair decorations and they all act like confused kittens half the time. Back then I used to really like this kind of thing and think it was cute, but 10 years on I’m older and jaded and it’s honestly just creepy to me now. It’s creepy when high school students act like confused baby kittens. I haven’t seen it portrayed the way it is in this show for quite a while so it had a bizarrely nostalgic feel to it. There’s nothing inherently sleazy about anything that happens – even the stupid fight about the underwear happens without the underwear actually being shown – but it still has that early noughties feel where moe female characters act more like weird aliens trying to learn how to be human than actual humans. It’s not exactly offensive, just weird and offputting and irritating to watch, because the show really, really wants you to find these girls super adowable and wuvable. But their character designs are just so gimmicky and bad and look at the school uniforms. Original uniform designs are good and all, but those are just plain ridiculous. To top it all off, the animation is really bad – a hell of a lot worse than you’d expect for something based on a Key game. One of the first things I wrote in my notes was ‘wow this animation sucks’. The irritating music that was almost certainly lifted right from the game is just the icing on the cake really.
I was actually pretty surprised to find out that this show was apparently really hyped up and people were looking forward to it, but like I said, it’s based on a Key game. According to people who ought to know though, this is only really aimed at people who have played the game, and everyone else will be extremely lost. Er, they got that right.
Still, I’m hesitant to believe even fans of the game would enjoy this – I’d be too annoyed at the bad animation and clumsy direction.