If you want to know why I love seinen as much as I do, look no further than Dimension W.
The hierarchy of this season is coming into clear focus earlier than usual. I haven’t watched Ajin yet (that will be rectified very soon) but it seems we have a very clear tier system developing – two seinen, one jousei, and everything else. Boku Dake ga Inai Machi and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu stormed out of the gate with sublime opening salvos, and Dimension W has joined them at the top of the table. I don’t put this series quite on the level of those two, but the gap between they and it is narrower than the gap between it and every other show this season.
Dimension W is a reminder of why more seinen anime is almost always a good thing, because even if it doesn’t necessarily reinvent anything it exemplifies what makes great seinen great. A gruff, iconoclastic protagonist, top-notch world building, a memorable cast of sidekicks and adversaries, and style out the ying-yang. With a creator and staff this good it’s not remotely surprising, but Studio 3Hz is making a case for itself as a force to watch with this show – the visuals and music aren’t merely good, they’re legitimately great.
Great losers are often a staple character of sci-fi noir shows like this, but in Dimension W’s case the name seems to be a bit of a misnomer. Loser (unmistakably Nakamura Yuuichi) is a wildly popular phantom thief so named because he always fails to steal the great works of art he advertises that he’s going to steal. But Loser’s real agenda isn’t the art, it seems, but what’s hidden inside it – and preteen son in tow, he goes about staging elaborate thefts as a cover to get what he really wants (and at least in the instance we see this week, succeeding).
While Kyouma and Loser are theoretically on opposite sides in this skirmish, the seem more naturally allies than enemies – outsiders with an axe to grind against the status quo. Loser’s gripe against New Tesla is as old school as it gets – they killed his wife and horribly disfigured him. Hey, I’d want revenge too – but any time the use of illegal coils is involved Kyouma is going to get called in, and this is no exception.
Kyouma, meanwhile, has officially been placed in charge of Mira by Marie – on the grounds that since Mira is going to go around hunting for illegal coils anyway, it’s better to keep an eye on her while she’s doing it. The sort of partnership we see between Kyouma and Mira is as old as seinen (in fact far older), but it’s a natural for the sort of comedy and drama series like this try and develop. And the two of them have great chemistry right off the bat, even though Kyouma is a man of few words.
It’s not clear yet what Loser’s advice of “follow the numbers” means exactly, but what is clear is that Dimension W is not a place to be trifled with – and that illegal coils are every bit as dangerous as N.T. selfishly claims them to be. The aftermath of Loser’s heist is a gruesome and fantastically staged demonstration of that, as the owner of the artwork hiding Loser’s target (though he seems to have had no idea) messes with something he shouldn’t be messing with and pays a terrible price.
If you’ve watched shows like Cowboy Bebop, Solty Rei, Kekkei Sensen or (obviously) Darker Than Black you’re familiar with the vibe Dimension W is trying to create here. But it’s all about the execution, and the execution so far with thisseries is spot-on. The usual caveat about one-cour adaptations of ongoing manga definitely applies here – there will come a time when Kamei and Suga run up against that barrier, and ultimately how Dimension W will be remembered will depend in part on how they decide to deal with it. But for now, it’s delivering the goods in a big way, and helping to get Winter 2016 off to a pretty decent start.