What Happens When You Blend Gamers
With A Creepy Guy in a Llama Mask?
Incidentally, even once The Ones Within finished its run I still don’t know if the guy is wearing a mask or if he’s actually a human with the head of a llama. One assumes its a mask because of how it sits on his suit but it isn’t as though we ever see him take it off. That’s just one of many unanswered questions Nakanohito Genome leaves the audience with.
Normally I have a fair dislike of shows that finish in a completely open manner, seemingly oblivious to their own run time as the story just stops almost mid-sentence without any announcement of a continuation. In this case, that fact still makes it hard to recommend this show whole-heartedly, but it didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment while watching. What started as a weird little outlier for the season grew on me before stumbling a little and then picked up again before it all ran out of time and just stopped short of the characters achieving their goals or getting any real answers.
And for some this will be enough to not dip their toes into the water or even start The Ones Within. I can’t really argue with that logic. Incomplete stories abound in anime and with so little chance of ever being finished, why spend the time when there are other titles to invest those precious minutes in?
It isn’t as though Nakanohito Genome is some unmissable masterpiece. The story relies very heavily on randomness for its humour and the characters begin in a decidedly one note fashion and while they may grow on you by the end and the chemistry in the group works well enough, they are not deep by any means. Throw in the incomplete narrative and that’s three strikes against The Ones Within before it even begins.
With that being said, I had a lot of fun with this series over the Summer season. The first episode kind of had me a little concerned as I kind of got Danganronpa vibes (only with no where near the oomph) from it and I wasn’t the biggest fan of that franchise. Fortunately, The Ones Within progressed over the rest of its first half by kind of carving out its own weird style and there was just enough mix of mystery, random comedy moments, occasionally on point characterisation, and some interesting visuals to continue to draw me into the odd story of the group of gamers who were abducted or selected to play a series of games to earn views.
It is never really established if they would actually be killed but there’s certainly a number of threatening moments that the characters face and even if death isn’t on the cards, isolation certainly is. ‘The White Room’ is an ever-present threat and one that forms a nice catalyst for drama in the second half when one member of the team is finally isolated and the rest are racing against time to get him back.
The games themselves are equally ambiguous with it never being clear if this is meant to be a real world, a virtual world, or some alternate reality. Some of the games are very clearly just life versions of actual games where others have what appear to be genuine supernatural elements (or at least clearly impossible elements such as a ghost, giant panda, or the creepy plant things). You never really get a good grasp of where the kids actually are or what the mechanics are behind the whole thing though each ‘mission’ is kind of interesting in its own way and watching the group working together, or trying to, in order to overcome the challenges was largely entertaining.
I mentioned the visuals earlier and I do want to return to that. While the animation isn’t great and relies very much on stills and pans, the art itself is incredibly diverse. The range of styles used to express mood and character throughout the series is really interesting and the way the visuals changed up various scenes kept each episode feeling fresh.
Ultimately, The Ones Within is incredibly flawed and yet it isn’t a disaster. More than that, if the characters don’t turn you away, there’s some fairly interesting development of the characters throughout and various pieces of the puzzle are revealed even if the overall picture still hasn’t formed. Basically, I enjoyed this. I do recommend giving the first episode a try if you are looking for something a bit different to watch, but for those who are time poor or who haven’t already watched most of the standard titles out there, this probably isn’t going to worth the time investment.
Then again, creepy llama guy is creepy and there was definitely a tone in this story that just clicked for me. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so divided in my opinion of any anime ever but this one was enjoyable despite its faults.
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Images from: Nakanohito Genome [Jikkyouchuu]. Dir. S Oonuma. Silver Link. 2019.