「世界か、自分か」 (Sekai ka, Jibun ka)
“The World, or Myself?”
It’s not every anime adaptation that asks, ‘Where should we start?’ and decides, ‘At the very beginning!’ and means that literally. Fewer even are those that, in the next scene, kill the protagonist. Sure, ’twas all a dream, it turns out, but it certainly goes a way to distinguish Rewrite from a typical adaptation of a visual novel set in some high school. Sure, the high school hijinks refuse to go out without a fight, but they’re certainly outclassed by the mass of imagery act they had to follow. If nothing else, we can probably conclude that Rewrite has a higher ambition.
At this point perhaps it’s best for me to take a step back and introduce Rewrite the visual novel, for those who didn’t read about it in the preview (you should though. We work pretty hard on those things). Even those who have may benefit from a bit of an elaboration. Rewrite is a visual novel developed by Key, the people who brought you Little Busters!, CLANNAD and Kanon. Unlike those three titles, though, the lead writer of Rewrite was not Maeda Jun but Tanaka Romeo, and a rather different product came out of that. So while Rewrite may have the veneer of a usual Key adaptation, featuring sob stories, a quirky mascot blob (no, not her) and the now anime-staple caffeine supplement, Key coffee, those who loved, say, CLANNAD should expect a different viewing experience. While magical realism has always been an element of previous Key works, Rewrite pushes all the way to fantasy. While CLANNAD and Little Busters! were about certain kinds of interpersonal relationships (within families, within a group of close friends) Rewrite has a much wider scope. And while Maeda always ultimately ended on optimism even in the face of tragedy, Tanaka brought with him arguably a pessimistic undertone. So, due warning: Rewrite is ambitious, but also different, and different is not always better. I mentioned that I consider Rewrite to be a flawed work, and perhaps the anime will address those flaws, but I can’t really discuss that without wandering into spoiler territory so I’ll leave the topic hanging for now.
What I can say, though, is that translating Rewrite from a visual novel to the anime medium is going to take all the ambition it can get. I consider Rewrite impossible to adapt straight, so perhaps it should be heartening that the team at 8bit does not seem to be exactly doing it straight. Readers of the VN can no doubt tell that this pilot’s gone differently to how the VN started, but anime-only viewers (hi!) may notice it going… weird? Episode 01 was a double-length premiere, but even then Rewrite seemed to be cramming a lot into limited time. Sure, Rewrite is very long and some cramming is definitely necessary, but it’s the way they do it, too. There’s essentially two different anime going on at the same time. One is your typical high school slice-of-life/harem comedy, with all the usual archetypes getting introduced one by one. There’s the unassuming male protagonist who narrates his life too much (Morita Masakazu). There’s that one male friend (Yanagita Junichi). There’s the childhood friend (Saito Chiwa), the tsundere (Asaki Risa), the mysterious transfer student and backup tsundere (Shinomiya Saya), the kouhai (Suzuki Keiko), and the senpai (Kitamura Eri). All very standard. At the same time, there’s all the strangeness that goes on. The two are mixed, but not exactly soluble. They come together as a collection of disjointed scenes that do not fully link into a cohesive narrative, more a run-on sentence than a structured paragraph. Non-sequitor things just kinda happen, and if I was being positive I would call it a surreal stream of consciousness. That could be appropriate, if the intent was to erode the sense of reality, to make the viewer question what what is real and what is a dream. Or is it just confusing and born of bad pacing? I think it can go either way; the line between the two is very thin.
Perhaps it will be easier to pass judgment next episode, as it seems that the two halves of the show are colliding with the meeting of ‘the witch’. For now, I remain cautious. Still, the animation was not as bad as I was expecting (keeping in mind the first episode budget, though), by which I mean that, giant CGI octo-spider (and others) aside the fight was pretty cool (by which I mean whee, explosions!). The music will always be good, since they’re drawing from the excellent Rewrite soundtrack (and some Harvest Festa too, it seems). And at the very least they tried to do this pilot in an interesting way. There is potential here, potential enough to keep watching, for now. For Rewrite, though, I never feared for lack of potential, I feared that it will implode under its weight. We shall have to see.
As is our custom now, Random Curiosity won’t be settling on which shows its writers will be picking up full time until the waters have been tested a few weeks into the season. If you have any particular views about coverage of Rewrite, please be sure to let us know in the comments.
One more piece of housekeeping: spoiler potential is incredibly high with Rewrite. Please mark all your spoilers, and even your speculation, to keep the comments clean and welcoming to read for all viewers. Thanks.
ED: 「Philosophyz」 by 水谷瑠奈 (Mizutani Runa)