「 すばらしきこのせかい」 (Subarashiki Kono Sekai)
“It’s a Wonderful World”
For the final episode of Subarashiki Kono Sekai, Neku finally reaches the finish line as the Reaper’s Game is effectively dissolved. But as adversity rears its head with the identity of the Composer being far more shocking than he would’ve thought, Neku will have to realize that restoring the lives of him and his friends isn’t a matter of brute strength, but rather a matter of the heart.
The last episode was cheesy in all the right ways. After going through the grueling struggles of the game, it would make sense that the final test Neku had to take was to show Joshua the compassion that he thought Shibuya lacked. As a result, you have a more forgiving ending where Neku is able to meet up with all of his resurrected friends, partners, and fellow townspeople. It was all very cute and fluffy, but sometimes you need a good happy ending, especially for Neku, who’s been traumatized into starting to see those around him in a kinder light.
It was interesting to see the bait-and-switch happen as Kitajini was less of a puppet master and more of a concerned reaper who took it upon himself to spearhead the Reaper’s Game as his one solution to save Shibuya. The parallels between him and Joshua are also fascinating considering that, even though Kitajini would have ideally been on Neku’s side, he shares Joshua’s disgust with the people of Shibuya, and merely having them fall under his command would be preferable to erasing the town altogether.
Similarly, they did well to make Joshua a unique character for being a lot more lenient than he comes off. The anime might have made it easier to be wary of Joshua even before we knew he was the Composer, but his character is complicated in how quickly he’ll play both sides. His distaste for the cold attitudes of some of Shibuya’s occupants pushes him to want to erase the city but seeing Neku grow from his experiences as his partner helped to chip away at this cynicism.
Seeing him more than happy to give Neku the outcome he was hoping for was interesting because of how much it resonated with him that Neku was able to let go of his selfishness to the point of throwing down his gun and trusting Joshua to make a sound decision. Even though Joshua relishes at the amount of power he has to make Neku do his bidding, Neku grew on him to the point that his snap judgment to throw down his gun felt like it should be the right decision for Joshua to see that the people of Shibuya have the capacity to express the same kind of compassion Neku has.
Subarashiki Kono Sekai is one of those video games that felt like it’d make for the perfect anime. With its expressive anime art style, rebellious characters, stylish action, and vibrant personality, it would’ve been an absolute dream to have this anime announced and premiered in the late 2000s or early 2010s. But having its release leading up to the release of NEO: The World Ends with You explains much of why this anime adaptation feels more like a well-put-together summary of the first game than an encapsulation of what makes The World Ends With You such a cool, unique game.
Rather than having its flaws be any odd additions, the largest flaw of the anime is what is excluded. Most of the game’s quirkiness is stricken from the record as we lose out on the details that made Shibuya a character in itself throughout the game. Similarly, we lost any depiction of Tin Pin Slammer, the mini-game where Neku can use collectible pins as tops to knock into another rival’s pin. Much of the dialogue isn’t as peppered up with the game’s campiness either, but the one glaring omission is Minamimoto reciting pi before his ultimate attack.
The one character that suffers the most from the summary-heavy narrative of the anime is Neku himself. In the anime, we’re supposed to assume that Neku needed an attitude adjustment, but it just looks mean that everyone thinks that of Neku because his anime counterpart is quick to be sympathetic by Episode 03. There are so many instances throughout the series where I’ve said “we see how far Neku has come,” but there’s no indicator that Neku had anything more severe than an avoidant mood.
Because of this, it’s less rewarding or impactful to see Neku start to get in touch with his emotions as time goes on. Meanwhile, the video game makes it clear that Neku is a jerk who is uncooperative and frankly unlikeable until he starts to internalize why feels so concerned about his allies. It might have spared us from an unpleasant Neku for most of the series, but it was just hard to buy that Neku needed to change his attitude when his emotions in the anime are just as expressive as Beat or Shiki. It also comes as no surprise that Joshua ends up backstabbing Neku a number of times because the anime gives his nefarious side away far too easily while it dials down his catty yet charming personality from the game.
But in a way, the hyper-condensed summary format is a wise decision because it doesn’t allow the story a chance to go off the beaten path. The events of the story having the main focus in the anime also give urgency to Neku’s missions as it doesn’t give him room to breathe before the next Noise horde or Reaper interaction is around the corner. Above all else, it ends up being a nice recap if you wanted to jog your memory on the events of the first game. With the sequel coming out next month, it’s a valuable adaptation to have on hand to get you prepped up to see some of the returning characters.
To its credit, Subarashiki Kono Sekai the Animation has something that any video game adaptation would dream of; an art style that does justice to the source material. It’s impressive that the show managed to replicate the artwork of the video game, and then make it look even better in action. Usually, there’s a compromise in cheaper game adaptations, but aside from some of the Noise or Reaper bosses, none of the animation feels out-of-place from the HD editions of The World Ends with You.
Again, it might not have some of the bells and whistles that encapsulate the cool or quirky personality of The World Ends with You, but it’s not a half-bad breakdown of what makes The World Ends with You an engaging action game with a heartfelt narrative about cherishing what’s around you.