Handa-kun – 02
I think the most sensible thing to do would be to look at this as the premiere episode of Handa-kun. It’s not that last week’s was all that bad, but it really doesn’t give you any idea of what sort of series Handa-kun is. And when you’re already dealing with an audience likely to contain a sizeable minority disappointed to find out this series isn’t remotely Barakamon, that strikes me as an especially unwise way to begin.
Assuming you made it this far, you certainly got a better and far more representative episode this week. It still wasn’t quite there, to be honest – the comic timing and cast seem to be just slightly out of synch, and I didn’t find the material had as much punch as it did in the manga. But it was pretty funny for the most part, and gets across the genuine oddness that I find very appealing in Handa-kun. In a way, it’s almost Sakamoto desu ga? if Sakamoto were clueless about both how cool he is and how adored he is, and panicked his way through an anxiety-driven existence. I’ve never seen a school series adopt this premise, and it never fails to strike me as interesting at the very least.
There is a lot of Handa-kun acting as a comedic (and sometimes semi-dramatic) catalyst rather than a true main character in this show, and you get a taste of that with the Aizawa and Reo stories. Handa’s slightly unhinged paranoia is certainly part of the joke, but so is what his presence does to those around him – be they smitten girls or jealous boys converted into acolytes by the sheer brilliance of Handa-kun’s radiant light. Strictly as a premise I find this more interesting than Sakamoto’s, though through two episodes the anime side of that series was the better executed. But if the third episode of Handa-kun is as superior to its predecessor as this one was, we’re going to be in very good shape.
Rewrite – 03
I guess I’m still trying to figure out where I stand with Rewrite, which is definitely taking a slow turn towards more serious material. I remain fully confident that I was right in my assessment that the first two episodes were meant by Tanaka Romeo as a deconstruction of the Key template – both a semi-affectionate self-parody and a testing of how far that template could be stretched. And for the most part, I think that was brought off successfully.
But now we’re starting to get into areas where things like format and length really matter. No one can bitch like Key fans can bitch, and believe me I get that. But there’s been a consistency in the broad opinion that Rewrite would be the most difficult of Visual Arts’ full-length VNs to adapt to anime form, and as far as we know Rewrite is going to be 13 episodes (though there’s some anecdotal evidence that it could be a split-cour). Can even a writer as talented as Tanaka-sensei turn Rewrite into a coherent story given those limitations?
At this point, I’m not sure either way. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here, and I quite like the way the world of mysticism is worn on the sleeve of Rewrite rather than a misty undertone for most of the series, in the usual Key fashion. But I’d be lying if I said that it really made sense as a whole yet – rather, the audience is expected to react to it in the same generally jaded manner as Koutarou. One of Tanaka’s challenges, certainly, is going to be to turn all that mythology into a cohesive narrative in whatever time the anime allots him.
The other potential issue I see involves the cast. Even if you accept the premise that the introduction is a self-aware satire, as the story becomes more plot-driven and the tone more serious, those riffs on Key characters have to be able to carry the story on their own terms. Unless you’re going for flat-out comedy – and I don’t think that’s what Rewrite is doing – the cast has to matter to the audience as people. So far most of them are still in the Visual Arts avatar stage, with more peeking through at the show’s stronger moments. There are an awful lot of these girls, as usual for Key, and at least some of them will have to make the transition to being fully-realized characters if Rewrite is going to be a fully-realized story.