「絶望のふちに立って」 (Zetsubou no fuchi ni tatte)
“Standing at the Edge of Despair”
Another season, another Chinese made anime. Evil or Live will certainly acquire a hefty bit of flak just for its origins, but it’s premature to dismiss the show for that when it (as the RC preview highlights) has a pretty damn intriguing premise. Internet boot camps in a hentai-less Prison School–Deadman Wonderland fusion? Well that’s just tailor made thriller. Too bad Evil or Live’s execution does not quite live up to its ambitions.
The main issue right off the bat is the art and animation. No beating around the bush, it’s middling even by Chinese standards, with simplistic movements and static scenes. The show is obviously trying for a Shaft-like style in colour and effects, but the idea is overshadowed by the other problem of using widescreen for the entire damn episode. Intended theatrical release or not (little reason else to use the format), those black bars are distracting and noticeably shrink the applicable viewing area. For dark scenes in particular it becomes a noticeable nuisance, as details literally fade to grey and are lost among the static characters and “stylistic” shots. Kudos are deserved for being the first Chinese anime to even try such a style, but Evil or Live has some work ahead of it if it wants seamless visuals.
Where this gets interesting, however, is in terms of story. Sure we may not have the most unique characters between the meek Hibiki (Ueda Shinichirou) and charismatic Shin (Uchiyama Kouki), but plopped together into a good representation of a concentration camp? Well that’s getting close to reality. Internet addiction and the related “re-education” camps after all are very real and certainly the main inspiration behind Evil or Live’s story. While arguable the show’s gulag treatment is only here for the thrill and suspense, there’s an ironic truth to it, whether that be from stories of actual Chinese who found themselves detained in similar centres, or previous iterations of Chinese re-education systems (see tidbit below). This show, whether it consciously knows it or not, is giving a pretty good impression of real life circumstances for many people. This in particular makes the future plot developments very intriguing because psychology and brainwashing (if staying true to “re-education”) will significantly factor in here eventually. No matter any annoyance with Hibiki’s personality and nonexistent flirtation skills, Evil or Live has some serious potential to get very dark, very fast. The only question is if it’s willing (or capable) of doing so.
While certainly not as good as I hoped it might be, Evil or Live has not stumbled as badly as it could have. We might have middling animation and a roster of the usual character types, but with an interesting premise and a few surprises lurking under the hood, this show still has the potential to pull a rabbit from the hat. Obviously it could all fall apart at the seams, but Evil or Live has at least given me enough to stick around and see what the next couple of episodes bring to the table.
The most serious instances of Chinese re-education occurred during the Great Famine and Cultural Revolution, where simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time could see you sent to re-education camps or subjected to “struggle” sessions. To get a picture of what this actually entailed, read Yang Jisheng’s phenomenal Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine.
OP: 「それでも 僕は 生きている」 (Soredemo Boku wa Ikiteiru) by NormCore