You voted. We watched. This is the second instalment of a series of conversations between Watson and myself about anime that have, for whatever reason, been deemed as worthy contenders for the title of Worst Anime of All Time.
As stated last time around with Mirage of Blaze, our goal is not to criticize unpopular anime just for the sake of it, but rather to have a real discussion (yet hopefully still an entertaining one) about what makes any given show work/not work, and whether or not it’s truly deserving of the widespread condemnation it’s received from viewers.
So sit back, enjoy, and feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions in the comments.
Watson: Awright, let’s do this.
Artemis: Oh hell yes. Care to give your first impressions then?
Watson: Can we go back to watching Mirage of Blaze? Because I feel that’s an underappreciated show, with deeply-laid themes, and it deserves more time spent on it.
Artemis: Hey now, I happened to think that Hand Shakers was the epitome of excellent taste and good storytelling.
Artemis: … Yeah, I shouldn’t lie about such a thing. Sorry about that. Tell you what, let’s start off on a hopefully easy note and talk about the visuals first. Seeing as I think anyone who’s seen Hand Shakers would definitely want to bring those up in pretty short order anyway.
Artemis: Still traumatised, I see. I take full responsibility.
Watson: Honestly, I’m in need of a stiff drink after that. Hand Shakers is bad in so many ways. But the visuals…
Artemis: Did you get the impression that Hand Shakers spent a lot of money to end up with a show that was still really damn ugly? I have no idea how much money actually went into this project (and I’m not sure I ever want to know), but it seemed like people were keen to show off. With truly spectacular results.
Watson: That’s one word for it.
Artemis: And what word would you use?
Watson: Words almost fail me completely. See, anime strikes me as a medium that lives or dies by its visuals. Other things are important too, but shitty visuals will kill an anime show more surely and swiftly than practically anything else I can think of. Once you’re past a certain minimum level of visual quality then some sort of ‘diminishing returns’ effect kicks in, whereby improvements in visuals do not directly scale to a better show, but you do have to achieve that minimum standard. Given that, I’m amazed by how terrible Hand Shakers looks while, as you say, quite possibly having had a fat wad’o’cash poured into it. On the bright side, at least we now know what happens when you give a 13-year-old weeabo a CGI suite to masturbate with. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
Artemis: It put me in mind of a half-finished video game designed by students. Male students, that is.
Watson: I think the video-game analogy is pretty apt, because there were some first-person scenes early on that put me in mind of movie adaptations of 1st-person video games. This is the only show I’ve watched that actually made me physically ill, and a significant part of that was this style of camera-work – it kept floating to views I didn’t want, and not focusing where I did want. So if they were indeed trying to go for a 1st person feel, it really did. Not. Work.
Artemis: I’m looking over my notes that I wrote while watching the first episode and I have the specific words ‘motion sickness’ written down.
Watson: So do I, along with ‘headache’.
Artemis: That first-person style POV, combined with the camera being shaken around every few seconds, made my stomach feel distinctly queasy. Now to be fair, they did stop most of that after episode 1. However, that intensely saturated colour palette was a continuing trend. And while I suspect that the anime was attempting to be cutting-edge and stylish, it instead had the effect of, again, making it look like some kind of student project gone wrong. Horribly, nightmare-inducingly wrong.
Watson: Yeah, and that was enough to make me wish for the good old days of Mirage of Blaze too. Some of it was ever-so-slightly justified, because the show is notionally set in Osaka and, as you know, some parts of Osaka – like Shinsekai – really are a gaudy mismatch of colours. The temple of Billiken is just surreal. But the colours and brightness being used so damn much literally gave me a headache every time I watched. A tip for any readers considering watching this in full-screen: don’t. Just don’t.
Artemis: And just as a general aside, I also found the character designs ugly. But that’s a mere detail in comparison to the rest of the visuals.
Watson: Really? I’m interested you say that, because I thought there was something weird about the character art too, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was disturbing me about it.
Artemis: The eyes seemed large even by anime standards, so there was something almost bug-like about them perhaps? Particularly with whatshername.
Watson: The one who, in four episodes, never took a single action or said anything other than “hm”?
Artemis: Yes, her. Koyori, or so Wikipedia has just informed me. Guess I blocked that from my memory pretty quick. Anyhow, the colours they used for her were in direct contrast to the rest of the visuals too. Everything was small (except the eyes), all the colours were cool and pale.
Watson: I didn’t even notice that, although I did NOT like what they did with the character in general. Overall, I got the impression the show was trying for a triumph of style over substance, except they thought “fuck style, let’s go for SPECTACLE, bitches!”. And then they managed to miss that too, because they were 13-year-old edgelords who got WAY too excited about how “cool” the show they were making was.
Artemis: Just before we get into the characters themselves, I do want to point out that there was one lone aspect to the visuals I did quite like, and that was the moving backgrounds we got on buildings and walls and such. I thought it gave the series a kind of futuristic vibe, and by itself it was a cool little effect they had going on which, stunningly, was not overused. It’s the kind of thing I’d want in my house somewhere, whenever we get the technology to have affordable, moving art walls.
Watson: I’m sort of on the fence about that one. I agree it’s a cool effect and one that, somehow, was not overused. But we’ve seen it in anime before, and I’m not sure it fitted the “modern day” vibe of the rest of the show.
Artemis: We have seen it before, yes. It wasn’t a new effect per se, just one I appreciated on its own terms.
Watson: Fair point.
Artemis: Needless to say, it did not help the anime as a whole in the long-run. Glitter does not make the shit sandwich any more palatable.
Watson: Not even a little bit. In fact, I’ve heard glitter described as “craft herpes”, which is quite close to what we ended up watching this time.
Artemis: Oh wow, I’m gonna have to use that term myself sometime.
Watson: Your scrapbooking friends are sure to love it.
Artemis: So onto the characters then?
Watson: Sure, we might as well waste our time that way as any other.
Artemis: Though I have a hard time actually using that word to describe them, I must say. Since, you know, ‘character’ implies some kind of actual characterisation, surely?
Watson: One would think so. And yet, here we are…
Artemis: What we got instead was a series of character traits, in the most basic sense of the word. Character A has comically large breasts. Character B doesn’t speak. Character C looks like a 10-year old despite being 25. Etc. etc. And this was an original series as well, just so you’re aware. The creators were not duty-bound to pull from any source material. Complete creative control, and this is what they came up with.
Watson: Well done, you’ve managed to make it even more depressing. But yes, at best we got simple archetypes from the “character” wardrobe – crazy scientist, angry short girl, and so on. It just makes me so fucking miserable that we got this level of crap. I can see why Hayao Miyazaki says that anime was a mistake.
Artemis: I don’t know that he was referring to Hand Shakers specifically when he said that, but then again…
Artemis: Even more tragically, that STILL was not the worst thing about the show.
Watson: … Go on. Let’s see if it matches up with my views on that.
Artemis: Two things actually. First, and possibly unexpectedly, the anime needs to win an award for worst background music of all time. I’ve never said this about background music before because I thought, at worst, it could just be dull to the point of mild annoyance. But this was so bad it was actually offensive. And it just kept going. The same terrible tracks for several long minutes, over and over again. Worse than awkward elevator music. Worse than the music you have played directly into your ear when you’re put on hold on the phone. Worse than both of these things put together.
Watson: Is this that piano thing?
Artemis: To be honest, I can’t even remember. It was all instrumental though. Not that the OP or ED were any good either, but at least you could just go ahead and skip those every episode.
Watson: Oh I did, believe me. Once was more than enough.
Artemis: The second and arguably more important thing would be the writing itself. To be clear, it wasn’t even a case of it being plain bad so much as it was totally nonsensical at times. As in, it often literally made no sense. One character would say something, and the other would reply in such a way that I was forced to wonder if they were speaking to one another directly at all, or speaking in completely different languages.
Watson: Definitely something I noticed as well.
Artemis: This is of course without getting into the way in which random terminology was tossed around. Please tell me I was not the only one sniggering every time someone said “Nimrod.”
Watson: You were not.
Artemis: “Is that your Nimrod?” “Hurry up and use your Nimrod!” “I wonder why I don’t have a Nimrod.” I have in fact heard worse naming sense in anime before, courtesy of a mascot character named Sodom, but that’s another story.
Watson: Okay, here’s the part where I try really hard not to go on a massive rant. People may not be aware of this, but writing is something that really matters to me in my entertainment, and the writing in Hand Shakers sucked SO MUCH that it was a sort of shitty-writing singularity, pulling in other elements of that show across a kind of awfulness event-horizon and turning them into an unintelligible mess.
Artemis: It was truly awful in ways I cannot accurately describe.
Watson: Well, each episode was about 23 minutes long. Which in my opinion was about 22 minutes too long for the content they actually had. The first episode had a SHAMEFUL amount of exposition crammed into a voiceover in the last 30 seconds of the show.
Artemis: ‘Shameful’ is a pretty good word to describe things as a whole, actually. Actually, scratch that. Maybe ‘shameless’ would be more apt.
Watson: It is teeth-grindingly bad. I got a blood pressure spike every time I had to force myself to watch another episode.
Artemis: Let me guess. The fanservice alone kept you going. HOT.
Artemis: Let the records show Watson has responded with Crying Emoji, in case I cannot properly copy/paste this chat session into the WordPress editor.
Watson: I just don’t know what to say. Rapey chain-boobs, a boob-tastic class president bouncing around, positively retarded bondage poses…
Artemis: I think it was wish fulfilment, pure and simple. “And the geek shall inherit the earth.” I think that’s how that sentence went? Girl with breasts so large I don’t even know how she was standing upright has crush on average geek guy. Average geek guy gets special super-powered girl to look after, who is incapable of bathing herself or changing her clothes on her own. Literal crotch-stomping and chain-BDSM ensues with another character pair so we know who the real villains of the piece are.
Watson: I’m getting nauseous again just thinking about it.
Artemis: If there’s one specific kind of fanservice I hate above all others though, it’s the sort which forces me to turn down my speakers because even though I’m not watching porn, it sure sounds like I am. I.e. too much moaning (in pain, allegedly), please make it stop.
Watson: Which brings me to another point I want to make, actually. I have watched some TERRIBLE anime for articles. No, really – some of them were bad. The essential difference here is that whatever those shows did, they did so knowingly and effectively. I might not have liked what the creators produced, but they knew exactly what they wanted to make and they delivered it with the laser-focused accuracy of a smart-bomb. This is the first show I have watched where the anger-inducing misery appears to be solely the result of incompetence. And I can’t say I like the experience, despite the novelty.
Artemis: I suppose Hand Shakers really was a novel experience in some ways, wasn’t it? I almost wanted to watch more to see what lows it could go to next. ALMOST. And that’s exactly the kind of thing we were ostensibly looking for with this particular article series, so…
Watson: I am frankly amazed that shit like this had so much money poured into it. I suppose once you’ve done that you might as well release the turd and see what happens, but honestly, I’m stunned. I mean look, the name Hand Shakers didn’t thrill me. Still, I watched and loved a show which could be accurately described as “two boys save the world by clapping their hands”, so I was at least willing to give it a try. That spirit of forbearance was in NO WAY rewarded.
Artemis: Alright. So to wrap things up, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you thought Hand Shakers was worse than Mirage of Blaze.
Watson: Yes. Worse. Much worse. Incredibly much worse.
Artemis: And you gave Mirage of Blaze, what was it, 2.5 stars out of 10?
Artemis: So I’m guessing the lowest we can go is 0.5. Heh, probably should’ve set those boundaries first, oh well.
Watson: How do you score this offence against humanity?
Artemis: I’ll give it 2 stars, purely because I feel that this early on in the game, I need to keep something in reserve. Also because despite Hand Shakers being objectively terrible in nearly every single way, I did actually find at least one decent thing to say about it. What am I supposed to give an anime when I find nothing at all?
Watson: A decent kick comes to mind. Look, I cannot possibly give an anime that literally made me physically ill 2 stars. Put me down for 1 star I guess – you’re right that we need to keep something back. But I’m also going to give it the first ever “Goldun Rytarr” award, for writing that goes far beyond the ordinary bounds of terribleness. I’m having trouble imagining how a show could be any worse.
Artemis: Fair enough. A serious contender for Worst Anime right here, then.
Watson: Ohhhh yes.
Artemis: What WILL we be faced with next??
Watson: How about a straitjacket and another stiff drink?
Artemis: And on that note, see you next time kids. Remember: always ask your parents first.
Watson: Hand Shakers: not even once.
Question of the post: To anyone out there who’s also seen Hand Shakers, what did you think of it? Is it deserving of the title Worst Anime, and why/why not?