STUPID COSTUME 2: No, this is a horror B-movie!


OBLIGATORY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: No, this is a romantic comedy!

It’s a curious way to start any anime. Fairly meaningless action-cold-open, cut to traumatic flashbacks, cut to immediate genre shift. This does not necessarily make for a bad pilot; A.I.C.O Incarnation, at the very least, a dense amount audience hooks. There’s gun-blazing action just because, some thriller, some mystery, random fanservice, and even a potential romantic subplot because why not? Every audience bait in the book is in this pilot, and combined with the sci-fi flavour makes for as an effective a start as one may plan for.

In practice, while this may be a great start for, say, a movie, it’s not necessarily the best start for an anime. This is because anime is an episodic medium, and between weeks there is an information retention problem. Now, I’m sure many of you, as readers of Random Curiosity, are hardcore anime fans. You research shows before a season starts. You know which ones you want to check out. You have a good idea of what kind of shows you’ll keep and what kind you’ll drop. But the majority of viewers — Japanese couch potatoes — simply have anime as part of their late-night TV diet. And they have a deficit of attention. If you start complicated there will be a portion of viewers you will just lose between weeks. It’s a problem that a lot of sci-fi thrillers like A.I.C.O. have to deal with. They lay out a mystery, with lots of little details that watchers can pick up on. Meanwhile, throw in a bunch of jargon or technical exposition to imply a complex sci-fi setting. All that is very interesting in the moment, but it also requires the audience to process a lot of information — information that they may not retain until episode 02. They may care about your mystery and your jargon now, but within the week it’s gone. That’s why anime pilots generally work better with pilots with a lower information density. Hook them with spectacle, or a fantasy, or just some laughs. Move that high-adrenaline action sequence to the end of the episode. Give some small payoff to the mystery with a minor reveal. The positive feelings, at least, will last until ep 02 and hopefully that gets the audience invested.

With that said, enter Netflix

Netflix has been dipping its incredibly wealthy toes in the anime waters for a while now, to the extent that there are now anime that are made for Netflix. A.I.C.O. is one of them. For big thing about this new platform is that Netflix does not really do the weekly schedule that we are accustomed to with anime. They release their shows in batches. All 12 episodes of A.I.C.O. are available on Netflix right now. At some point I will need to go into more depth about writing anime specifically for Netflix (maybe I’ll find some opportunity while writing about Violet Evergarden), but as far as A.I.C.O. is concerned it means that while an anime watcher on regular TV will have to mentally hold onto your complicated sci-fi thriller for an entire week, for the Netflix viewer, they can just go straight to the next episode. The story too complex? Too alien? Too confusing? All the more temptation to keep watching to get answers as to what that previous twenty minutes was all about. Sunk cost fallacy? Maybe. But in this format, it’s much harder to resist.

It’s a fascinating turn for the anime industry. Sure, there are plenty of series that turn out better watched in marathon. But now, we can have anime designed to be marathoned. And I suspect that A.I.C.O. is indeed binge anime. Give it a go. I haven’t had the time to watch it all myself, and it is certainly the kind of overweight show that can implode on itself towards the end. But you can find out immediately if it does and even then it won’t be weekly torture, but a glorious trainwreck. This is the future of anime. We should start getting used to it.


ED Sequence

ED: 「未知の彼方」 (Michi no Kanata) by 白石晴香 (Shiraishi Haruka)


  1. watched first episode…found myself watch in with fast forward and dropped before seeing the ending theme. Dunno if it has an ending theme either. there are definitely better thing to watch this season

  2. Having watched the whole thing I have to say it’s rather predictable and unoriginal. I definitely wouldn’t have watched the whole thing if it aired weekly. I expected something more from Bones, to be honest.

  3. Problem with releasing this as an Batch, the Story is set in Stone. There are no more possible to adjust the flow to their fans liking. Fells like an instant meal. Sure an Trippe AAA instant meal, but you get no surprises. You like it or not

      1. I’m not insulting you, you may love and enjoy anime – but if you think the direction a series should take in anyway should be influenced by the mob, you aren’t appreciating it as an art form and hence not a true fan. The work should stand on it’s own as intended and either be loved or hated. That’s what makes anime great is the variety.

    1. Even if the show was aired weekly, they wouldn’t be making mass changes to the story because they still need to take a wait and see approach. They aren’t going to air episode 1 and find it was lukewarm and make huge changes for episode 2. Especially when it takes several episodes to get things going, wherever the dislike from fans takes place. If it’s a 12 episode show and fans start dropping out in large numbers at episode 5, it’s too late.

      Besides, bending to the will of the “fans” is never a good idea. If they have a story, they should stick to it come hell or high water. Making adjustments because a vocal minority wants it destroys the product.

    2. Allow me to put on my “I’ve published books” hat and give a little insight here.

      Changing a story based on feedback is not a bad thing. It can be very wise. Changing based on what the loudest fans say can be a less good idea. It can ruin the story. I’m confident in saying that mid-cour changes are not common, because there are too many working parts and most studios are just trying to ship something, and changing course mid-season makes that harder. Creativity also takes time, and kneejerk changes are a mixed bag.

      All of which is to say that taking feedback is complicated. What I’ve learned to do is to search among the feedback for anything that strikes me as true. I use it as a mirror. So if someone says, “This book isn’t X thing I thought it would be!”, and my (mental) response is, “It was never supposed to be that,” then I ignore it. But if someone gives a piece of feedback it and rings true to me, then I pay attention to that.

      I think feedback comes into play between seasons. Manga series can watch for feedback over time, and use it to influence future arcs, though I doubt it often has an effect on the current arc. So releasing an anime all at once really has nothing to do with feedback. It has everything to do with how the story should be experienced. Batch-release anime needs to be told more like a movie or a book, whereas weekly-release anime should tell more like manga or a traditional TV show. Pa-kun went over it well. The way people view the work influences how it’s told. Feedback is processed the same either way.

    3. Anime changing mid-way to accommodate the fans is actually a sign of a bad production. Anime are not made weekly despite what many may think: the anime’s plot, direction, and animation are planned months in advance – how do you think they have animation clips of the episodes up for use in previews weeks ahead of time?

      Sure anime productions have a certain amount of looseness in place to be able to adjust to unforeseen scenarios, but usually these are for stuff like post-production editing, or real-life behind-the-scenes issues that may affect production. If an anime is too loose enough to be capable of adjusting its story on the fly, the result is usually a hackneyed production that’s rushed and low quality – see Gundam SEED Destiny, where episode scripts were sent in late, causing the animation to rely on stock footage along with the story suffering as a result.

      1. I know how the production in Amines works somehow, they need an preparation of 6 months. if they can change things it would only be possible around 6-9. Also there was the Anime Shirobako that everyone here knows

  4. Honestly, it’s OK. But it’s just OK. Has some cool ideas like the living suits but other then that it’s just average. It would have benefited from a weekly airing though. At least for the first half it could have kept some conversations alive.

    PS: Studios don’t ” adjust the flow to their fans liking”. There’s no time for that. Small changes to the story, maybe a minor character doesn’t die when he was planned too, but to change the story? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

  5. Watched the first episode. Looks interesting but not a strong pilot IMO. But I know one thing for sure. Judging at least by Devilman Crybaby, you can certainly make some really good binge anime. From my POV, a strong pilot that can hook you in can become a strong invitation for you to watch the rest of the binge anime right away. For me at least, that’s what happened with Devilman Crybaby and B: The Beginning to a certain extent. I’m more inclined to watch more B than I am A.I.C.O.

    1. I found AICO’s story easier to follow, even if the pacing can be quite slow.

      B the Beginning is more action packed and explosively anime, but their plot’s more confusing. I felt like I was watching 2 entirely different shows tied into one, and even then the connection between the plots felt flimsy.

  6. Oh wow. Netflix actually funded and produced an original anime that ISN’T in CGI. I would never have guessed! 😛 I kid. I know they also have a lot of 2D anime under their belt too, but you can’t help but notice they’re partly part of the recipe for more CGI anime anyway.

  7. Oh and I’m sorry to have to post a third post here, but I keep thinking of more things to add:

    I have a hard time seeing Netflix as starting the ONLY future of anime. I personally would NOT like to see all anime being done in 1 batch. Where’s the fun in discussing every moments per week in detail, with others online and in person, if the only thing our small memories can retain is whatever happens in Episode 12?!

      1. In its defense, AICO’s story is easier to follow than its fellow Netflix series, B the Beginning. That got pretty convoluted – one part of the story felt completely separate from the other, and that part was more strongly defined IMO.

        B’s is the most anime story though, AICO feels more Western in its execution.

      2. @zztop

        So I’m not the only one who felt that AICO’s execution felt more “Western” than your usual anime. Binge watching it actually reminds me more of watching a 2-hour Hollywood B-movie sci-fi thriller, though with less pointless death.

    1. How does it compare animation wise to Suisei no Gargantia? From skimming through the first episode I got the impression that it had quite a few off model looking characters.

  8. Watched first two eps, against my better judgement. Definitely something the something for the RandomC crowd would like. Definitely not my thing. Probably still better than that Dipshits In The Dumps flavour-of-the-season series, but that’s not really saying much.

  9. As the ever devoted otaku, I sat through the entire show in one sitting. The one thing I kept expecting was the failure of the journey in the last episode. The typical tragic ending where everybody dies. I was pleasantly pleased with the pacing of the series and how the slow points and explanations were limited to under 10 minutes even when the villain exposed his evil plans. Great story, well written, totally worth binging. And it’s produced by Bones. Automatic bonus points there.

    Big Daddy
  10. So i watched all 12 eps aico incarnation and iiiiiiiitsssssss good…just good. I expected it to be a bit a better, but considering that the man behind series comp. did comet lucifer, I’m glad I had faith that it would be decent and not end up a train wreck. One thing that immediately jumped out at me is how “western” the storytelling felt. But not just that, the show also felt like a film (to its benefit and detriment). I could literally feel the three act structure within these 12 episodes as i binged the whole thing and i wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if this was originally meant be film. Unfortunately the characters other than Aiko are one dimensional, the world building is lacking (though in retrospect, it wasn’t all that important to the plot), the setting/framework of the series feels a bit underdeveloped, and the dialogue feels stilted at times; but once the show finds its momentum (around ep 3) it chugs along with throwing it’s surreal sci-fi premise and takes you for a fairly entertaining ride from beginning to end.

    As i mentioned before, it’s a shame that Aiko is the only character that feels…well….like a character, but at least the other characters never feel like they’re an offensive waste of time. Yuya is kind of alright and the show tries to have Kaede have a character arc that ends up having a small endearing moment towards the end so that’s nice. The visuals always impressive when it comes to animating the matter and I love the sense of momentum characters have when their running. Running animations are usually cheap-looking in anime, usually only showing the upper-half of a character’s body, so it’s good to see a show that knows how to convey the riveting motion of running. Again, this feels like it was meant to be a film and I’m of the opinion that this story might have been better told as a 2hr and 30 min sci-fi film with compelling characters and better exploration of its themes. Speaking of themes, AICO touches on them, but it plays them relatively safe; and that’s ultimately the best way to describe this show: it’s a safe sci-fi action adventure with a cool premise but it’s dull character work, underdeveloped setting and science, and a slightly deus ex machina ending prevent it from greatness, which sucks cuz this series could have been really great. It’s good though and i think people should still watch it. This feels like it was designed to be binged and there’s no other way i’d watch this. I’m glad this got all 12 eps released right away and I can’t wait for netflix to continue dropping more anime to binge watch right away. AICO incarnation gets a 6/10.

    P.S. People act like you still can’t have deep discussion about shows even if you binge watch em; you can. Sure there’s the pros of watching a show weekly and i don’t think it’s an inherently poor way to watch something, but i think the binge-watching method has a bit more merit as a way to consume and get the best out of the media you watch.

  11. For sake of clearing up a few things, A.I.C.O incarnation was originally meant to air on tv, not netflix. The anime was finished/being close to finishing before netflix swooped in with extra production money to pay for things like multi-language dubbing and distribution (maybe they shouldn’t have spent money on a dub….good god that dub; why is this happening in 2018). Out of the anime netflix originals that have released this year, devilman crybaby is probably the only one so far that can legitimately be considered made for the platform. Some people have this weird idea that netflix goes up to these production companies and ask for certain anime to be made, but that’s not the whole truth. The reality is more akin to netflix going up to certain creators who already have a project they want to pursue and netflix giving them the budget to let that work take off. In the case of devilman, the staff wanted to produce devilman the way they saw fit without any limitations and netflix happened to be the place where they could release their work to a large audience, hence the netflix funding. B: the beginning could somewhat be considered a true netflix original, though not on the same level as devilman. Kazuto Nakazawa and his team already had B: in preproduction before netflix came through. Again, netflix funded it so that it could be completed and released to a wider audience. The point is, netflix or their model has yet to completely influence the way anime is being created or its image. However, this could possibly change the deeper Netflix becomes entrenched in the soils of anime awesomeness.

    1. For my gusto, the behavior of Netflix right now smell like Amazon. expanding under all costs. profits to expand more the streaming platform

      But i think Netflix should also have an Triple AAA Budget for the big “Anchors” out there. Quantity is not the same as quality. It is only there to spread out their name

      it’s an Hit it or miss it stuff!!. No Risk no reward

      1. and if Netflix really want to catch “their hearts” (of the production team and others) they could also help to pay a little fee for the new young talented stuff of tomorrow. Like some Studios are about to build some HQ’s outside the bug cities for the ones that can not afford the money to life in the Cities

    2. They sure are made by different studios, but the thing is that either someone from Netflix has pretty specific tastes in anime, and bad one at that, or they do influence production heavelly, because after watching both B and AICO I’m surprised how both shows resemble each other, in a negative way: bloated trope mess.

  12. Both shows, this one and B: The Beginning, are very confusing for the fans, judging by the polarizing reviews. It is not surprising. I must say that both remind me of 3rd world ghetto buildings, with each floor completely different… On the first glance, it sure looks like a building, but if you have minimal knowledge about construction, you’ll understand that it is atrocious. In regards to these shows it means that they are built out of tropes stacked together by someone who decided to create a “popular” show, but has completely no idea how to professionally build one.

    1. A.I.C.O’s quality has nothing to do with it juggling so many genres or tones. As zztop already pointed out, AICO is a much more uniform and straight-forward series when compared to B: the beginning. What other genre is A.I.C.O juggling here? it’s a sci-fi action thriller from beginning to end and it’s not trying to be anything else. It’s problems come from the fact that a lot of story elements like characters, science, and setting feel a bit underdeveloped. And as i already explained, no one at netflix heavily influenced the outcome of A.I.C.O; the anime was set to air on tv before netflix scooped it up (most likely because the structure of the anime fit their binge-watching model). Netflix is not at that stage to influence production in that way and while their efforts could influence the anime industry in a positive way (what with the buzz and views these originals have been getting), so far their actions have not improved the industry or the remuneration for animators and hard-working; perhaps in due time.

      1. I’ve never said that both are genre mixing, yes, B is and AICO isn’t, but trope mixing? Both are. You can’t just move a story line by stacking tropes unto each other, because in the end your audience will have zero intrest in or care for any of the characters in the show. They become completely fake, like some sort of simulations and not people. It’s not new, every season Japs release these shows, I am only dissapointed that Netflix decided that these shows are what they need to fund, whenever they influenced the production or chipped in at the later stages, because this will set a certain low standard for the broader audiences.
        Can you honestly say you want to introduce people to anime through these shows? I honestly can’t.

      2. @Wutisdis So where is the incongruence in A.I.C.O’s tropes? I just want to understand how a show like AICO stacks its tropes in a poor way and what these tropes are.


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