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Monday, 11 April 2016

Dimension W

Dimension W

Okay, so I think it's important to note that there was precisely one reason why I started watching this, and that was because of the main character's dancing in the opening. Here's the opening, incidentally, so that you can enjoy his dancing also.

Set in a future in which Nikola Tesla's dream of free energy has finally been achieved using 'coils', devices that draw energy from the infinite wellspring of Dimension W, the series follows Kyoma Mabuchi, a man who hates coils and is obsessed with living without them in a world increasingly reliant on them, who works as a 'Collector' who tracks down illegal coils for money. While on a mission, he discovers Mira, an human-like android who represents the pinnacle of coil technology. As the two form an unlikely partnership, they are drawn into the search for the Numbers, a set of prototype coils with enormous power.

So, this is a really well-animated series, just to start. The animation is consistently good looking, and even manages to be out-and-out gorgeous at times, especially during the finale and during the early few episodes. It's animated by Studio 3hz, whose work I haven't seen a lot of, and Orange, who mostly do 3DCG, but who did do considerable animation work on Durarara!!x2, which also has excellent animation. The voice-acting is strong more or less across the board, and the series has a nice soundtrack, so on a purely technical level, at least, this anime is already off to a good start.

'Loser', a Phantom Thief apparently so named because he never steals anything.
Which makes him ... not a phantom thief? By definition?

That's important to note, I think, because from the first episode this series did impress me technically, and that's a good half of why I saw this series to the end at all.

In terms of story, I oddly never found myself that gripped, and a large part of that is that I never felt like I had an especially good handle on what the world is like and how the characters fit in - not least because the series seems to try to avoid inhabiting that world whenever possible. 

Of the first half of the series, two episodes take place outside the show's main city, instead taking place predominantly in a mansion on a lake, in an arc that takes heavy inspiration from gothic horror; and almost the entirety of the second half of the series takes place away from civilisation, on Easter Island. Cyberpunk stories live and die on the strength of their hectic, urban settings (because those are the places where the individual aspects of cyberpunk - corporate greed, government corruption, technology running out of control, crime, and so on -  converge), so it's strange to see a cyberpunk story that's so keen to toss its characters out of the city and into places that are barely populated.

I can never tell if Mira's meant to seem like a young adult or a child.

Another problem is that I never really got a chance to know the characters before the final arc started. The entire last half of the series is a prolonged arc about Easter Island, one that delves heavily into the backstories and motivations of Kyoma, Mira, and phantom thief Loser - but the emotional weight was completely lost on me, because in the six episodes prior to that, I hadn't really gotten a good handle on what their motivations and emotional states were. I'd barely encountered Loser at all, so all the stuff about his backstory fell completely flat. You could have substituted any masked man and I'd have had the same emotional reaction.

Taken as a whole, the series has some very odd pacing, as well, with the early episodes consisting of short, modular arcs that slowly build up information about the characters, while setting up several plot threads (the conspiracy at New Tesla, Albert's desire to see Kyoma come work for him, the fact that New Tesla will likely try to hunt Mira down, Doctor Yurizaki's strange EMP coil, Loser, Kyoma's past, and the Numbers) only to forget almost all of them come the final arc. Only Loser's plotline and Kyoma's past see any kind of conclusion in the latter half of the series, with every other plot thread being completely forgotten about. 

The protagonist, and some really harsh lighting.

It's baffling, and it bespeaks an adaptation that was, perhaps, not especially well-planned, which is a shame, because when dealing with smaller, more modular arcs, such as in the Lake Yasogami arc, the writers are actually pretty good at pacing and setting out a decent mystery.

All in all, I was kind of disappointed by Dimension W, but I think most of its problems can be chalked up to how difficult it is to adapt a manga into an anime, especially one with only twelve episodes. We've seen before that anime can often frustratingly end in the middle of a storyline, with absolutely no closure on anything, and it seems like the writers were trying to avoid that by skipping forward to a storyline that would allow them to give the series a decent ending while still leaving it open for a second series. No second series has been announced yet, near as I know, but I do hope that one is.

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