What’s it about ?
Remember Anime Mirai / The Young Animator Training Project ? It started as a way for the Japanese government to subsidize the training of a new generation of animators through series of of random high-concept one-shots. But by the third year of it, you could see that studios were using it to test the waters for pilots of longer stories. (Especially obvious was Arve Rezzle, which didn’t have a proper story at all.) Now, for the 2012 edition everyone was focused on Little Witch Academy, to the point of overshadowing the other high-point of the year : Death Billiards. Which is now getting a TV series, two years later.
The unnamed Barman of the Quin Decim is our recurring host. He’s here to deadpanly lay out the rules to whoever enters what is clearly some sort of purgatory : you must play a random game as though your life was on the line ; and only after that are allowed to move on. He wouldn’t advise refusing to play. (Cue shot of many bodies hanging in a back room.)
Our “clients” this week are a newlywed couple who died in a car accident. As they play a bizarre game of darts (with each hit on the target hurting their partner), it turns out that he’s a jealous asshole who had strong suspicions she only married him for his money, and is pregnant with somebody else’s baby.
There are a couple of waitresses who’ll round out the regular cast, but they barely appear yet.
Rather good ; it can certainly sell the atmosphere, and make even a game of darts epic.
Uh oh. Death Billiards was a perfect introduction to the premise, to the point I’m wondering why they didn’t just re-broadcast it. Instead, they’ve produced a whole new “let’s explain the concept slowly” first episode, and it really suffers from the comparison. It covers most of the same beats with more histrionics and less subtlety (including the bemusing decision of clarifying the final fate of the couple), as well as drastically reducing the screentime of that fun sardonic waitress.
This is a bit worrying. Hopefully this was a one-off misfire, and the next episode will hit the ground running now that the exposition’s out of the way. There’s a lot to like here, but it can’t just tell the same story again and again, with diminishing returns.