What’s it about ?
This is an adaptation of the Kagerou Project, which started as a series of Vocaloid songs before being spun-off into light novels and manga series. (I’m not quite sure why the animated version gets a new title.)
Shintaro, our protagonist. He’s a shut-in NEET who hasn’t come out of his room for at least a year, and isn’t in any hurry to do it again. Unfortunately, he’s spilled some soda on his keyboard, and the inconveniently-timed holidays prevent any shipping for at least 5 days, so the agoraphobic has to go to the mall.
Ene, the computer program a “friend” installed on his computer a couple of years ago, and who just. won’t. shut. up. Show, you really shouldn’t tease me with a mute button for Kana Asumi if it doesn’t work. (I kid : her usual “bubbly exuberance” shtick is a perfect fit for the character, and she makes a good foil for Shintaro.) Also, she’s downloaded herself onto his smartphone, so she can follow him on his shopping trip. Did he think he could escape ?
Since this was a bit too uneventful, the mall is taken hostage by a group of criminals. Who’ve taken over the centralized security network of the place, and are very smug about it. I smell a theme. Now, if only someone had a super-computer-program on hand to wrestle control back from the thieves…
There’s a couple of weird guys in hoodies who like the look on Shintaro’s face, and offer to help untie him and provide a distraction. Presumably we’ll learn more about them next episode.
The episode opens on a weird flashback where a girl in a high school uniform talks to Shintaro. With both of them sitting on a giant clockwork mechanism. Hmmm…
Head tilts ? Careful composition of shots that tell a whole story without the need for animation ? (And gratuitously gorgeous animation when it’s funny ?) Sprawling landscapes where the mad architect has overdesigned everything ? Random cinemascope format ? Non-realistic colours bordering on chiaroscuro ? That flashback ? I am shocked to see SHAFT & Shinbo’s names on the credits.
This is SHAFT at its SHAFTiest : not only the overpowering style, but also the endless conversations and the recurrent themes (including the playful otaku-bashing). The good news is that it works : the setup is simple enough to avoid confusing the viewer, and the direction only adds depth to it. It certainly helps making Ene less irritating than she could be.
Moreover, it feels like the staff are having a lot of fun making this, and it’s communicative. (Unlike, say, Nisekoi, which is the perfect example of SHAFT on autopilot.) I’m game : bring it on.