Winter 2016 – First Impressions Weeks 1-2: Bubuki Buranki & Dimension W

[HorribleSubs] Dimension W - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_10.23_[2016.01.20_00.41.38]

 

Bubuki Buranki

[HorribleSubs] Bubuki Buranki - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.28_[2016.01.22_19.02.45]

While I still don’t particularly like the rise of cgi adaptations for sci-fi anime productions, I do get the need for them. Given the detail and scale required to bring such futuristic landscapes to fruition, unless you have an Attack on Titan sized budget, using computer models is pretty much the only alternative to stripping away the visuals. If presenting spectacular effects and backgrounds is more important than character detail, it’s the way to go. Thankfully Bubuki Buranki is being made by Sanzigen, pretty much the only studio out there that can replicate a typical anime house style without looking super derpy. The same problems still arise in the awkward way models interact with each other or with Japan’s notorious attitude towards keeping the frame rate the same as drawn cells, but compared to other studio releases (e.g. Polygon Pictures’ Knights of Sidonia and Ajin) they’ve got the look down about as well as can be expected.

I’m not really sure what to say about the story as the focus has been chiefly on visual set-pieces and action. The opening half of episode one, which serves as a prologue, depicting a family living amongst giant sentient robots on some kind of terraformed satellite, is easily the most effective in matching a narrative to the visuals. It’s not really long enough to allow for emotional investment but works well to set the stage, while showing how hard the concept artists have been put to work. The world in general looks like an amalgamation of a big futuristic mecha show and one of those high-concept dystopian sci-fi anime like Last Exile or Gilgamesh that were popular a decade ago, although the colourful palette is far more vibrant, reminiscent of Ghibli in its pastoral environments.

Unfortunately past the time shift it’s morphed into more of a simple battle manga, introducing individuals, terms and abilities in such a rapid succession that everything starts to blur into one. I’d probably feel more comfortable if I felt they were building to something with this, but the tone reeks of something that aims to be all flash and no substance. Rather than enrich the world and give depth to the cast it’s mostly “I’ll beat you this time!” and “You’re too weak to take me on” yelling, as characters pull postures as if they’re modelling for promotional art. It all begins to feel like watching a videogame cut scene rather than a story adapted for television, with the cg and extravagant outfits hardly helping matters. The villains in particular could give the Zero Escape franchise a run for its money in how comically dressed they are.

I’ll give it another episode or so but if the sense of intimacy established during the opening really has just been thrown aside in favour of pure spectacle then I’m probably done. I don’t have a particular issue if Bubuki Buranki wants to be Kill la Kill, but if the story beats carry on as a selection of disconnected events with no time to breathe, I can find a better use of my time.

 

Dimension W

[HorribleSubs] Dimension W - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.52_[2016.01.22_19.05.14]

Well look at that, yet another new show with an adult male character. Between this, Rakugo, Erased and Active Raid I suppose we’re seeing quite the renaissance. Or maybe that’s just desperation on my part.

I’ll admit to having a certain amount of interest towards the people behind this one. It’s based on a work by the creator of the King of Thorn movie (he was also the character designer for Darker than Black), so the aesthetics are covered at least. The show itself is being done as a co-production between Orange, a fairly prolific in-between company, and Studio 3Hz, whose only other release is Sora no Method, most noticeable for looking like a typical P.A. Works show in the same season that particular studio decided to release Shirobako. Also the director, Kanta Kamei, has adapted some solid adaptations of middling source material like Oreshura, Saekano, Nanana’s Buried Treasure and mostly noticeably Bunny Drop (ok, the manga only fell apart at the end). So it all equates to a lot of potential, but plenty of unknowns.

The result so far is mostly promising. The animation is decent but not spectacular in terms of directorial flair so I’m guessing the aim is present the story like a futuristic thriller rather than some batshit crazy action adventure. Episode two does have a few tricks up its sleeves with the comic strip panel arrival of Loser but the framing generally feels a little unambitious.

The attention to detail and sound on the other hand is definitely where the quality shines through, with nearly every static background or establishing shot having some small element to add a little personality to the world, whether from people milling about or bits of detritus littering the floors and corners. The show is full of incidental moments, like the shot of someone outside a bar holding up their nose as Kyoma drives away in his gas-powered car, or the audible crack when Mira slaps him hard enough that his body physically jolts to one side. The city also has this interesting balance you often see in many of the best dystopian and sci-fi media, where the landscape has a minimalistic and futuristic polish but also a garish underbelly of neon alleys and rubble-filled streets, with both aspects cohesive to the central vision.

In terms of plot there’s not an awful lot you haven’t seen before, with murder mysteries, evil corporations and magical energy sources scenarios in abundance. It’s all clearly building to something but at this stage we’re just getting the breadcrumbs of a story. The whole idea of harnessing the power of a new dimension via coils that serve as glowing weak spots/power switches is a little uninspired, although the scene of one imploding in episode two definitely shows imagination in the visuals at least. Meanwhile the dialogue is serviceable but a little too focused making everyone’s core response a variation of surliness or defiance, and there’s a lot of pretty dry exposition that you can’t really avoid.

Easily my biggest gripe so far is the treatment of female robot Mira, which the does that really gross thing of making her all vulnerable (despite being physically capable), inexperienced and desperate, yet also sexualises her during compromised situations, with long pans over her body whenever sprawled out, unconscious or in some position of submission. I know anime does this a lot, but it just doesn’t fit in with her role within the story, particularly in regards to the master/student/adopted family relationship she has with Kyoma. It leaves a nasty taste in an otherwise solid show.

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