- Titles: TWEWY, It’s a Wonderful World, Subaseka
- Genre: Action, supernatural, drama, urban fantasy
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Shin-Ei Animation, Domerica
You know those days when you just don’t want to talk to anyone? So you hide behind some earphones and pretend not to notice the world around you. Days when you kind of wish you could become invisible. Well, Neku has been having one of those days for a while now. That is until he really does become invisible! But not to everybody. It seems he’s suddenly become a player in a deadly game. Now he has to race all around Shibuya with his partner if he doesn’t want to get erased. But Neku doesn’t even know how he got here or what he’s playing for. Will he find the answers he seeks before it’s game over for him?
Whoa, guys, that sounded almost like a real synopsis. I’m very proud of myself. I swear I didn’t copy/paste it from somewhere else. With my luck, it’s probably on the back of the original game and I subconsciously took it in.
I guess this is as good a time as any to let you all know that I did play The World Ends With You years ago. I got it on DS when it first came out and for a while, I played it nonstop. In fact, I still have it and my DS still works. They really made consoles sturdy back then.
The World Ends With You looks cool. Well, it looks like the game which I thought looked cool. It uses these very bold outlines for the characters wich makes them stick out and look a bit more cartooney. In fact, the design style is what I would call carton aesthetics. Simple and bold shapes that are probably a bit easier to animate than those finer detailed models. I believe it works very well here.
I don’t mean to keep bringing up the game but I can’t seem to help myself. For those of you not familiar with it, I don’t blame you. It’s a 14-year-old game that came out for DS. Not exactly fresh. When it came out though, it made a bit of a splash and one of the reasons for that was that it was a very stylish game. It had a distinct visual aesthetic. It incorporated a lot of real-life locations from Shibuya. It used graffiti and street fashion in the designs and had a banging soundtrack.
All of these elements have been applied, pretty much as is, to the anime. This could have gone either way but in this case, I’m going to say it’s a win. Even after all this time, the strong individual sense of style that The World Ends With You cultivated comes through. It’s no longer particularly edgy but it’s still distinctive. I think the production did a great job. I found myself simply enjoying looking at the show.
Story & Characters
Ok, back to mention a game I suspect no one that reads this will have played.
A lot of people cringe at the idea of video game adaptations. And for good reason. They just don’t work most of the time. I mean sure, Steins;Gate did ok for itself but the game is still better… I was cautiously optimistic for The World Ends With You. After all, it had a really good story. Even if you strip out the game mechanics that is, I thought the lore of it had enough substance to make for a good 12 episodes.
The thing is, you have to replace those mechanics.
A lot of the game is you (as Neku) running around and killing noize (monsters). It’s significant in the game because you’re the one doing it. You get the rush of pushing the buttons in the right order and at the right time. But when you see the same thing animated, in a non-interactive way, it’s not the same thing. The animation was good but it’s never going to give you that same rush. And as such, I found that there were just a few too many random noize fights. They should have added a bit more narrative to pad the story.
However, the biggest problem (and really this is a massive problem for most video game adaptations) is the protagonist: Neku. The supporting cast of The World Ends With You are pretty decent. Some might be a bit cliché but generally speaking, they are nicely developed characters you can relate to. I had a few favourites.
The thing is, they are supporting characters in the game as well. You meet them, team up with them for a bit, talk to them to get to know them. As such, they were always written to be complete characters. Neku is a PC. As such, he has a few traits that are strong enough to give you a sense of who he is but in general, he’s a brick. He has no real distinctive personality because he’s YOU, the player. The more you can see yourself as Neku while playing, the more immersive the experience becomes. And games are always aiming to be as immersive as possible.
So Neku is a somewhat antisocial teenager who wants to be left alone but deep down is a nice guy. In other words, he’s everyone. Just a little cooler or edgier than your average kid so they can live vicariously through him but at the end of the day, there’s nothing about him that’s going to break the fantasy that he’s your alter ego.
And that works great for games. But it kind of sucks for movies or anime. At least, it does for me. Neku isn’t the worst character around but he’s just kind of meh. He’s an incomplete everyman. For most of the story, he doesn’t have any memories so he just goes along with the action because there’s nothing else to do. His motivations are weak and they get weaker as the episodes progress but his actions and words go the other way, getting more desperate and dedicated. Again, this makes sense for a player that’s just beaten a strong boss and now has that adrenaline rush and is ready to conquer the world, but when you watch it in a more detached matter, it feels hollow.
I say all this and I mean it. There are a lot of problems with the adaptation of The World Ends With You. And yet, I couldn’t stop watching it. I’ll be honest, I had fun with the show. I objectively could tell that it wasn’t a great anime but I also wanted to watch just one more episode every time.
Usually, when a show does that for me, I chalk it up to great pacing. That’s part of what good pacing can do after all. Every episode ends in such a way that makes you want to continue the story. Part of it is probably just that. But there was more. A lack of pretense perhaps. The adaptation didn’t work but it also didn’t feel like a soulless cash grab. Maybe it was, I have no clue. This is pure speculation. To me, it felt like someone making this show really tried, in earnest.
When all is said and done, in my opinion, The World Ends With You The Animation isn’t all that good, but I liked it.
You might like this anime if:
You enjoy the designs. You also liked the game back in the day.
My favourite character:
Beat – he was my fave in the game. Joshuah grew on me as well.
- Every time anyone scans someone – take a sip
- Every time Mr. Kitty saves the day – raise your glass
- Every time Neku is emo – gasp!
- Every time some poor sap gets erased – pour some out
- Every time there’s a billboard – take a sip
- Every time Neku remembers something – take a sip
- Every time there’s a red skull pin – hmmmmm
- Every time there’s graffiti – pay attention
- Every time Mr. H shows up – switch to coffee
- Every time there’s a lollipop – get a snack
- Every time a character specifically mentions Neku’s headset – take a sip
- Every time we see the 104 – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions “the composer” – take a sip
- Every time we see 7 days – turn your phone off
- Every time anything is taboo – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.