18if Series Review: Great Individual Moments in an Ordinary Series

Overview:

Haruto wakes up in a strange place and soon learns he is inside a dream where a sleeping girl has become a witch. Lily recruits Haruto to save the witches and help the girls wake up.

Review:

18if is one of those stories that you know at the beginning you can’t really judge until the end. There’s a lot of weird stuff going on, not just because it is inside of a dream, and as an audience member you are largely kept in the dark. What 18if did very well was to continuously give the audience enough prompts to keep thinking something was coming. What it did poorly was deliver an ending that was satisfying enough to make the overall journey feel like it was worth the effort.

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Despite that, I still kind of liked watching this show. I don’t think I’ll bother with a rewatch because the ending really isn’t particularly interesting or satisfying, but the individual stories of the witches were entertaining enough. Not to mention, the sleeping beauty syndrome that then turns into a rant about females, purity and god was kind of hard to swallow. While there is nothing wrong with the idea, the execution left a lot to be desired with little groundwork of that kind of overall theme being laid down in the earlier episodes that seemed to focus instead on subconscious desires, freedom and identity.

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Which leads me to the other issue with 18if. Each week we have a new witch as our focus and a new art style to accompany her. This makes the show fresh every week despite the basic story being boy meets witch in dream, witch throws a tantrum and then boy talks to her and ‘saves’ her before witch wakes up. And some of the episodes were absolutely gorgeous to look at. However, what it meant was that some weeks were misses both visually and from a story and character point of view. Some witches were really interesting and others were horrible. I found myself see-sawing between really loving this show one week and the next just kind of being indifferent to it, and at one particularly horrible episode I found myself actively disliking the show. It isn’t a very cohesive way to tell a story, though cohesion clearly wasn’t what they were going for as their main focus.

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Still, it isn’t like this is just a disconnected ramble. Haruto as the central character is pretty consistent in his actions and thoughts. Even though he is tasked with saving witches, his methods are at times interesting and he isn’t above being underhanded to get things done.  Yet he isn’t a villain or a jerk. He’s a mostly nice guy that doesn’t like being bothered and is a little bit confused because he realises he’s stuck in this dream and not waking up.

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While I mostly enjoyed the early episodes, formulaic though they were, I really do think the show needed a bit more depth in the characterisation of the witches. Some of their motives just made them seem really and incredibly childish. It is hard to get behind their sometimes murderous actions when they just seem to be so petty. And yes, I get they were all hurt by whatever in the real world, but lots of people get hurt in the real world and don’t build a dream escape where they torture people If this is what the story wanted to do, then it needed to give us more time with each witch and they needed to really flesh out that witches pain and make the audience connect with it. Make us feel she was possibly justified in her actions and make her eventual change of heart actually touching or meaningful. Really, the whole way through the show, that emotional depth and connection was missing from a show that seemed entirely about human emotions.

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The Professor is another character I struggled to connect with. You get that he is researching the witches and dreams because his sister is one of the girls trapped in the dream world, but it just seems so convenient that he walks in and out of the dream world seemingly at will. And then he has a phone that connects between people in dreams and people in the real world. They never explain any of this other than saying ‘research’, without specifying what kind or anything else that might actually make this in anyway logical. More importantly, for all that the Professor is sometimes acting as the voice of Haruto’s conscious, you have to wonder why the Professor didn’t do more to help Haruto out earlier. Mostly, he’s a bystander but occasionally he jumps in and does things. It makes him inconsistent and kind of annoying. Though he does have a cat avatar so maybe we can forgive him.

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Though, it is the ending where this show truly suffers. Once the witches are all woken up and Lily directs Haruto to kill Eve who is apparently waking up and that will destroy the world. I know they spend a lot of time in the final three episodes hitting us with exposition to try and make this make sense, and there’s some weird Eve worshipping cult in the real world, and some stuff about getting revenge on god by destroying the world, but really given the story we were watching and the final, they really feel like two entirely separate stories and neither really got enough focus to be satisfying.

All and all, I ended up disappointed with 18if, but I don’t regret watching it. For all its flaws, it was still a mostly entertaining watch for the season, and visually it was quite memorable.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Uses of Dream Sequences in Anime

Tuesday's Top 5

Previously I looked at the best uses of phones in anime and this week I’ve decided to turn my attention to dream sequences. My criteria wasn’t that these were the best dreams but the best use of a dream sequence to serve either the character development or the plot. This is strictly my opinion so as always, I’d love to know what would be on your list.

Please Note – There are spoilers below.

Honourable mentions to Ouran High School Host Club and Card Captor Sakura.

Number 5: Madoka Magica

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Madoka Magica uses dreams in a similar fashion to a lot of magical girl stories. Our main protagonist starts by having a dream of fantastical and terrible events before waking in the mundane real world where she is decidely ordinary. However, what sets this particular story apart is the nature of the dream itself. Madoka is seeing alternate realities where she has lived through the events to their conclusion before Homura has rewound time start over to try to change the outcome. This makes the events of the dream fairly significant to understanding the eventual outcome of the story and gives it a bit more weight on rewatching than just a cool battle sequence to start events off.

Number 4: Another

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This one is as straight forward as it comes and yet very affective. Kouichi has started to get to know Mei and as a result has been ostracised by his friends (okay is being deliberately and entirely ignored). It makes sense that he is starting to have fantasies and dreams about the one person who is talking to him still. However, other than showing that the two are forging a bond, this dream sequence also gives the audience a space to take a breath. Another is continuously hitting its audience with a dark and gloomy atmosphere with each scene dripping in over the top seriousness, so this brief moment of respite, even though it is a dream, is welcome and also the calm before the horror that follows. All and all, it works well within the narrative.

Number 3: One Punch Man

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I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the biggest fan of One Punch Man but I did appreciate what they did in the dream sequence where we see Saitama energised and enthused in a way we rarely see him reality. What does a man who can defeat everything in One Punch actually want? Clearly, he wants a decent fight. Seeing his character quite literally come to life in the dream made the contrast with his everyday incredibly flat emotional state so incredibly clear and just made him a much better character because you could see he wasn’t bored and disinterested by choice. He genuinely wanted to feel alive. There just wasn’t anything left to challenge him.

Number 2: Sailor Moon

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Like Madoka, Sailor Moon also begins with a dream sequence where Serena dreams of the destruction of the Moon Kingdom as well as the guy she thinks she’s going to fall in love with. However, revealing their past lives isn’t the only thing dreams are used for throughout Sailor Moon. Villains attack characters through their dreams, the dead communicate with the living, future selves send dire warnings, and prophecies for the future all come through dreams. Then again, the entire show is about protecting the dreams of people so it makes sense that the idea of dreams is returned to again and again. Overall, remove the dreams from Sailor Moon and you wouldn’t have much of a show left.

Number 1: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

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The climax of season 1 (broadcast order) sees Kyon and Haruhi stuck in a closed space she created where the two characters get to spend some quality time together and may or may not reveal some fairly interesting points about their developing relationship. However, what I like about the sequence is that after it is over Kyon wakes up from a dream but the next day at school Haruhi has her hair up in a pony tail (a direct reference to something Kyon had said in the ‘dream’). They never actually confirm whether this is a dream or an actual alternate reality that was created and nothing more actually needs to be said. Whether it was a dream or a reality, the impact on the characters has been clearly established without further explanations. Also, when you place this story in the appropriate place from a chronological point of view it makes Kyon’s actions and acceptance of some of Haruhi’s worse moments a bit more believable even if the guy is still a little bit of a doormat who really needs to tell her to stop a lot sooner.

So that is my list of top 5 uses of dream sequences. I’d love to know your favourite anime dream sequences so be sure to leave me a comment below.


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18if Episode 13: We Came, We Saw, We Drank Tea and Ate Cake

Review – With Spoilers:

While I’ve enjoyed 18if all the way along, what this show really needed to lift it to something I would actually enjoy rewatching was a strong conclusion that really brought all those weird elements together. While they certainly brought back all the characters this episode, what we didn’t get was anything particularly satisfying about this conclusion.

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The revelation that Lily is Eve even though Lily wants Haruto to kill Eve (kill turning out later in the episode to mean sully her purity, as in kiss her, which doesn’t happen either mind you so seems like an incredibly pointless part of the narrative) was pretty obvious when you sat and thought about it and again, does it matter? They don’t do anything with this idea of Lily representing Eve before and Eve being who she was after so is it necessary at all?

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On the other hand, Eve has the incredibly clichéd motivation of being annoyed at god and clearly that means you should hate men and destroy the world. I really find this kind of motive for a bad guy dull. And even the writers must have realised how petty Eve was being given they appeased her by throwing a tea party. Not even joking. The witches all come back and eat cake and drink tea and that more or less stops Eve from destroying the world.

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And then we finally get to Haruto, the one character the audience have had a chance to actually connect with. We know he’s in hospital in a coma and then… Then he decides to go with Eve through some door to someplace humans can’t go but says he’ll come back. Cut to scene in hospital where essentially he flat lines. No more from Haruto.  I’m not entirely convinced that this is in anyway a satisfying way to wrap up this show. Basically, I’m still glad I watched it because it has been visually interesting each week and some of the dreams have been quite fun, but the overall narrative has falled pretty flat in the end.

I’ll do a full review soon.


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18if Episode 12: I’m Feeling This Was A Little Anti-Climatic

Review:

This kind of seems like 18if has finally pulled everything together and is moving toward the final showdown between Haruto and Eve in the dream world, which means it really should be feeling exciting. We learn this episode where Haruto is in the real world (though no actual hints about how or why) and we also finally find and save the professor’s sister. That’s two big mysteries from the series solved and yet it all just felt kind of ho-hum.

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What made it worse was the show seemed to be trying to set up various characters in a sinister light in the real world but that has no weight given everything of interest that’s happened in this story has happened inside the dreams. More importantly, even the witch that died came back this episode which means even death lost its weight and importance in this particular story.

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While it is coming together, it is more working on paper than in reality. The feeling that you should have when watching this episode just isn’t there and the confrontation with Eve that will occur next week probably won’t fix the problem.


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18if Episode 11: Does This Count as Recap?

Review:

This episode of 18if was both satisfying, in that we are finally see them trying to connect all of these incidents and give us some explanation about Haruto, and also incredibly frustrating. Frustrating because we spend a large part of the run time flashing back through all ten withes we’ve previously encountered.

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While Haruto’s mystery is one I’ve wanted dealt with, and I wouldn’t have minded one flashback through the encounters just to remind me because some of the earlier ones have become hazy, by the third time we cycled through the 10 girls that Haruto saved I was more or less over it and just wanted them to get on and make their point.

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That said, we do get a direction for this show to go with the introduction of Eve. Some cult the Professor is encountering in the real world want Eve to wake up full of love to save the world (yeah, that seems dodgy no matter how you look at it). Lily wants Haruto to kill Eve. The Professor is still in information gathering mode, but is probably going to run out of time given Haruto is working with Lily and heading for Eve by the end of this episode.

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Not that we have any idea what Haruto has decided given pretty much all we know is that he wants out of the dream world and he’s well aware at the moment that he can’t do that on his own. So the overall story is interesting, but this episode was a lot of recap and it felt like it dragged.


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18if Episode 10: Dream a Little Dream

Review  (some spoilers below):

While overall this show has been a bit hit and miss, episodes like this remind me why I didn’t drop the show early on. Occasionally it hits the mark fairly perfectly. While the viewing of episode 10 is a disjointed at confusing experience, it has all the qualities one would expect of wandering through someone’s dream and it captures the personality of the dreamer this week pretty perfectly to the point where with minimal dialogue you feel you know her more than you should after only a single episode.

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But while the individual story of the witch of the week is quite superb (both in delivery of the story and the visuals), it is the ongoing narrative that gets just a few pushes this week and seem to be preparing the audience for some sort of reveal (which if it doesn’t occur will be horribly disappointing but this episode has given a real sense of anticipation). The mystery of Haruto and Lily which has been ongoing seems to be getting closer with the cat guy finally acknowledging he can see Lily (or maybe he finally started seeing her, I’m not really sure what happened there) and then the dreamer this week clearly asking how long Haruto had been asleep.

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This is something a lot of us want an answer to and the question coming head on toward the end of the episode seems to indicate that maybe the show will attempt to address this before the seasons end.

While 18if is not the be all and end all, it has provided a fairly interesting viewing experience this season. I’m not sure about rewatch value and I guess I’ll wait and see how it all ends before I make my final decision on that.


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18if Episode 9: Crash and Burn

Review:

While I’m not overly easily offended by content in anything, this week’s episode of 18if just seems incredibly unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong with the show wanting to highlight some of the issues idols have to deal with and looking at gender expectations, but this episode doesn’t actually take its own subject matter seriously and plays some fairly sensitive material for cheap shocks or laughs.

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Even then I probably would have just moved on from the episode thinking that next week we’ll get a new witch and a new problem, except that even the story this week didn’t really make sense. Was she stabbed in the real world? Was she not stabbed? Is Haruto actually her fan in the real world or did he just pretend because he was investigating her as the witch? So many questions that just make the endless montages of idol training this episode presents us with truly pointless to watch.

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And then after a short torture sequence (though more suggestion than actual presentation) and an incredibly stupid escape that continues to just kind of dismiss any kind of serious issue raised by this episode, Haruto shrugs and everything is fine.

I’ve actually enjoyed this anime so far but this is one episode I will happily skip if I ever watch this series again.


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