None of the top dogs this season are backing down from the fight, that’s for sure.
With this week came the interesting (if not surprising) news that Dimension W will be coming to Toonami in the Untied States. If ever a show seemed a natural fit for that target audience, it’s this one – Dimension W is more old-school Bones than much of old school Bones. I don’t know how well this series will end up faring in terms of disc sales in Japan – if Stalker is to be believed, modestly well or so – but it seems a good bet to be well-received by Western fans, and as such represents a welcoming development for those inside the industry and out who believe that the international market is the key to keeping anime alive creatively.
I’ve said on many occasions that I prefer a top-heavy season to one with a myriad of pretty good shows and no elites, and while Winter 2016 isn’t bad in terms of depth, there’s no question the strength is at the top. There are four really strong series leading the table, and Dimension W just keeps impressing with its sense of style, elegant exposition and unusually even dependence on character and plot. This episode is a prime example of that, offering some fascinating plot developments that in-turn shed some fascinating light on Kyouma’s character.
The new MacGuffins for this arc are a pair of African “princes” (though in truth they look more like Indians, as imagined by Toboso Yana). The elder is Salba Ene Tibesti (Toriumi Kousuke), seemingly the leader of Islero, the African… what- country? Robotics corporation? New Tesla’s African branch? The younger is Luwai Aura Tibesti (Yamashita Daiki), who would prefer you call him “Loo”, thank you very much. Loo is the key to Salba’s plans, seemingly, but he arrives in Japan with a different set of priorities.
The first half of the episode is definitely lighter in tone than what Dimension W has presented of late, and it’s quite fun and just flies by. Loo’s stereotypical view of Japan (remember, the country where Kikuhiko works at a 1950’s butler cafe) is spot-on, and his happenstance relationship with Kyouma is quite charming. This is a side of Kyouma we haven’t seen much of – a significantly softer side, intercut with some actual empathy. And Loo himself (no small thanks to Daiki, who’s among the best seiyuu around at this sort of role) is agreeably cute and funny without being over the top.
What this interlude also does, I think, is raise an interesting question: why does Kyouma behave so differently with Loo than he does with Mira? I can think of two answers which seem highly plausible fits with the picture that’s been painted. First, it may be the fact that Loo is almost certainly a cyborg – a boy with an “artificial body” in Kyouma’s words, words quite different than he uses to describe androids like Mira (or robots). A cyborg is essentially a living person with a cybernetically enhanced body – an android a wholly artificial being. To Kyouma that distinction may be vital.
The other explanation may be that Mira reminds Kyouma uncomfortably of Miyabi – the girl whose grave he (almost) visits before bumping into Loo. If indeed this girl is Miyabi, she seems to be about the same physical age as Mira. A clue that this may be the same girl is the reaction of Tsubaki, the owner of the Japanese clothing shop Kyouma takes Loo to and clearly a very, very important (and long-standing) friend, when she sees Mira. She immediately asks what the relationship between she and Kyouma is – suggesting that Kyouma may have a history of relationsips (one of them, anyway) like this one.
I really love the way Dimension W (like the recent Gangsta) is so trusting of the audience – it allows the picture to form pixel by pixel (for example, the casual confirmation of the fact that this is 2072 via a bottle of wine), and doesn’t burden the story with leaden explanations. There’s a very interesting moment near the beginning of the episode where Mira tells Mary she can find no “reason” why she was born, to which Mary replies “no one is born for a reason unless they’re a tool. And right now, you’re not a tool.” Clearly, this question of identity, and where the definition of sentience lies, is a crucial one in Dimension W.
As most good seinen of this nature do, Dimension W continues to ask new questions even as it offers glimpses of the answers to existing ones. What happened between Kyouma and Miyabi, and just why and how completely he lost his memories in the process, is obviously crucial. Just how does this race on Easter Island that Salba is cooking up tie into all this? And as all this is happening Loser continues his iconoclastic hunt for numbers, and “Elizabeth” offers us yet another identity to further muddle the question of just who or what he or she really is. It’s a really fascinating puzzle to try and put together, and I’m in no hurry to get to the end of it.