Well, here’s another foundation stone for Winter 2016 to build on.
OP: “Genesis” by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION
I had pretty high expectations for Dimension W going in. Anytime the first two words on the genre tab are “Seinen, Sci-fi” you’re off to a damn good start to begin with. Throw in the excellent Usagi Drop director Kanta Kamei and the mangaka who wrote Darker than Black, Iwahara Yuji, and the screenwriter of Uchouten Kazoku, Suga Shoutarou and you have one of the best staff lists of the season. And you can add the 25 year-old phenom Majiro as Animation Director, legendary Seirei no Moribito Art Director Takeda Yuusuke and music from the brilliant Shiina Go (Kyousougiga) and you’re solidly into elite territory.
The thing is, while high expectations can lead to disappointment, more often than not with anime the shows you expect to be the best are the best. Quality usually wins out – quality source material, quality writers, quality staff and studio. About the only doubt I had with Dimension W was the fact that studio 3Hz hasn’t done much, and they’re co-producing with CGI house Orange. But I needn’t have worried – this series is all that and a bag of chips. I’d rank it as the third-best of the season so far behind BokuMachi and Shouwa Rakugo (and there have been recent seasons when this would have been the best premiere), and it holds that spot by a healthy margin.
If anything, the tone of this episode put me in mind of Bones or vintage Sunrise, and there were definite echoes of another recent seinen sci-fi manga adaptation, Kekkai Sensen. There’s a lot of Production I.G. experience in the staff and that shines through too. If you’ve read DtB you know Iwhara’s style captures a sort of sci-fi noir, and Dimension W seems to fall solidly in that range – another reason why it puts me in mind of those old Bones/Sunrise shows like Cowboy Bebop.
In addition to the great look of the series (clearly the CG usage is both restrained and well-integrated) the exposition is also excellent. There’s little doubt as to who anyone is and why they’re doing what they’re doing, and the premise is clearly and elegantly laid out. We’re some 57 years into the future and Earth is running on limitless power sourced from “Dimension W” – sourced via the coils sold by New Tesla corporation. They’re the brainchild of scientist Yurasaki Shidou (Hashi Takaya), the visionary who disappeared ten years before the events of the series begin.
As with Kekkai Sensen, there’s a lot of great world-building and introduction of fascinating oddball characters in the premiere. The hero of the piece is Mabuchi Kyouma (Ono Daisuke), a lover of the old ways and a hater of coils who works freelance as a “collector” of illegal coils for Marie (Saito Kimiko). As the old Dr. Yurasaki hides in a run-down apartment, seemingly dying, Mira, the artificial human who calls him “Father” (Ueda Reina) seeks out coils herself at his behest – seemingly to help with the secret project he’s working on in the apartment. Meanwhile, Albert Schumann (Ishida Akira), an investigator for New Tesla, pretends to be seeking out illegal coils while he’s really searching for the doctor.
It’s a really interesting setup, and it’s executed with a ton of panache and style. While it’s obvious Mabuchi and Mira are going to end up as the sort of odd-couple partners that thrive in these sorts of stories, they get off to a suitably rough start when both of them show up at a den of hoodlums seeking out the same batch of illegal coils. The chemistry between the elfin Mira (she reminds me of a catgirl anime character from the 90s) and the taciturn Mabuchi is excellent, and the supporting characters (we also meet Marie’s science dude, Koorogi (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu)) all pop of the screen with their over-the-top personalities and character designs. One of the marks of good writing in anime is when characters never blur together, even in the first couple of episodes, and that’s definitely the case here.
All the usual caveats apply – the manga is ongoing, the episode count unannounced (and thus probably one cour), it’s only one episode. But Dimension W seems to have a lot of the big boxes checked – really interesting premise, distinctive cast of characters and strong seiyuu, great visuals and music, stellar creative staff. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this series prove fairly popular, but whether or not I’m fully expecting it to be massively entertaining and one of the best series of the season.
ED: “Contrast” by Fo’xTails