OP: 「Red Doors feat.米良美一」(Red Doors feat. Yoshikazu Mera) by TeddyLoid
「電影の魔女」 (Den kage no majo)
“The Witch of Thunder”
18if might be what you get, if you took LSD and mushrooms before going to sleep, and started having severe hallucinations in your dreams. Central to the series are witches, misguided girls afflicted by a deep slumber known as the ‘Sleeping Beauty Syndrome‘, escaping a difficult reality through the construction of a deceptively benign dream world. The caveat lies in the fact that unwitting people who happen to stumble across a witch’s realm are at risk of dying in real life, if they die in said dream world.
Presumably in a style formatted like the game providing 18if’s source material, puzzles need to be resolved in order to leave the dream world. The Witch puzzles are initiated by entering through the red door, with a blue exit door spawning once a solution is found. This is usually attained by either killing the Witch to wake her up in real life, or resolving her personal problems through empathetic conversations. Schmooze, kill, or be killed. I don’t think I would last longer than a couple of minutes!
Haruto Tsukishiro (Shimazaki Nobunaga) finds himself trapped, but holds a distinct survival advantage in the fact that a young, white haired girl called Lily (Nazuka Kaori) turns up time and time again to assure his safety. From what we’ve seen of Lily, one could describe her are being reminiscent of the stands from Stardust Crusaders, or the zanpakuto from Bleach. Only I’ve got a description that fits even better. Per-son-a.
There are many similarities between 18if and Persona 4, with the two crossing over on the theme of a dream-like world, and resolving people’s problems to release the shadow in their hearts. Although the dream world is arguably better executed in 18if, with a much funkier and stylistic take, there is some way to go before the characters become just as compelling. Haruto and Katsumi Kanzami (Koyasu Takehito) were pretty engaging, especially compared to Yuu Narukami from Persona 4, so there is certainly promise in this particular regard. As for releasing people from the grip of a shadow, did Haruto just Talk no Jutsu the Witch of Thunder? Although it felt a bit cheesy, I suppose it established one of his defining traits in being an incredibly smooth talker. So we can also expect less violence and more diplomacy, where witches are convinced to cease and desist.
Yuko Sakurabe (Endo Aya) had a lovely backstory going on detailing her transformation into the ‘Witch of Thunder’, incorporating the theme of bullying. But I personally felt it was forcefully shoved into our faces, with a minute long exposition scene being too short to achieve much intricacy or depth on such sensitive topics. To put it simply, as good as the ideas were, they were ultimately shallow in execution. More time is required to flesh out the witches themselves, as opposed to revelling in the abstract artistry of a postmodernist dream world. There is also a limitation on the potential character development of witches. Rather than a struggle to finally accept your true self as seen in Persona 4, things seem to hinge around Haruto’s reassurance that he will improve their lives. For the show to already rely so much on the force of Haruto’s character feels like quite a precarious situation. If he falls short on engaging the audience, then any kind of intrigue would likely fall flat.
18if is a pretty psychedelic anime, and I think people with a penchant for the unusual may find it worth their while to give it a shot. Fans of the abstract may particularly find themselves at home, with many aspects of the show simply oozing a minimalist style. Hopefully, this single episode was an explanatory induction. Rather than going down an episodic route, I think 18if would probably benefit from having 2-3 episode properly expanding on the backgrounds of characters.
ED: 「Wonderland」by Lily (Nazuka Kaori)