This is review number three hundred and ninety six. This anime is part of the Summer 2016 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Rewrite, and it’s a thirteen episode anime about some stuff. Actually, it’s about a lot of stuff and perhaps too many stuff. This review is long, so let’s just read on.
The anime follows Koutarou Tennouji as he spends his time with the occult club. Along with five girls, he spends some fun moments in the club. It doesn’t last though, because everyone has a secret. Even Koutarou has a secret, and this leads to the club being torn apart. Soon the rest of humanity is killed off to save the Earth.
Taking the Pants Off
I took a little detour from my usual review schedule. I usually review six current anime while I tackle the 2014 lineup. I’ve been talking way too much to this blogger named IzanaginoOkami, and he always mentions Rewrite. He’s an avid visual novel player, so I wanted to check out the anime and consult with him about the progress of the VN. I’ve never had accessible knowledge of the original source while I watch the anime adaptation, so I wanted to see how it works out. I lined up all my questions, and helpful Izanagi answered each and every one of them. It’s a unique experience, since you kinda understand where the anime went wrong. I’m a guy exposed to so much mediocre sh*t, and I wanted to see how others experienced the same anime. It’s a different take from my tired and cynical approach to anime, and I had a good time with this cute little experiment. Anyways, this is a Visual Novel anime and I have a rule when it comes to approaching shows like this. Thirty percent. Every VN adaptation you’ll watch has thirty percent of being good. That’s a score of 3 out of 10. That’s the standard most VN anime will give you, and it’s for good reason. As Izanagi said, when you play the game, you spend hours and hours with the characters. In the anime, the four hour or more run time doesn’t really justify anything. So all the good experiences of the visual novel game can never be adapted to an anime, and the best we can get is a “good enough” adaptation. A summary of the game, a four hour runtime that just features fan service or a more stable adaptation with each route covering a good amount of episodes. Rewrite took a different direction though. It tried to do an original story covering the entirety of the game, and there’s actually a good reason for that.
This visual novel is insanely ambitious. For developer Key’s ninth game, they really wanted to go all out. They wanted a really unique game to signal what goes beyond moving forward for them. While Rewrite embodies some of Key’s typical game elements, it also went wild with featuring so many sh*t. It had guns and sword battles, magicians and summon monsters, fairies, an environmental message, weird dream sequences, rivaling faction groups, tragic family stories, blood and so many blood, and it’s wrapped around the familiar school setup with a fun club and many girls to have romantic exploits with. In other words, there is no f*cking way to really adapt this game. Aside from the convoluted overall story, the routes are also very different. Some can be mature, but other routes can be feel good ones. Depending on the heroine, the story unfolds in a very different manner. According to Izanagi, our hero’s action also changes in the different routes. In one route, he kills a girl but on another route, he turns into a tree. Good gawd, what the hell is going on here? This game is incredibly complex, but it’s also very smart since the varying degree of stories does eventually merge into one giant story. This means that there is one true linear story told among the scattered routes, and the anime aimed for that. It tried to capture everything about each route, and then tries to make sense of it all. I actually commend the anime for trying to bring everything together, but the end result still sucks. It’s still a mess of an adaptation, and it still doesn’t really break the thirty percent standard. The pacing is so erratic, the content collapses on its own with so many exposition, and it eventually devolves into a wonderful clusterf*ck. With that being said, let’s take a look at the anime now.
The first episode is an hour long show introducing every character in the game. The anime is adapting the common route, a point in the game where the story is still linear, and it’s a directionless mess. The story isn’t really shaping up at this point, and it’s just an hour of our main character interacting with so many people. I’d give points for not just interacting with female characters though, and I’d also give points for the anime trying to soften the blow of the clusterf*ck of the later episodes. You see, the anime also took time to introduce the minor characters. Our hero, Koutarou Tennouji, would give equal time to talk with random characters as well. He talked to a teacher, a news reporter girl, a weird wooly mammoth dog hybrid, a bunch of dudes in a ramen stall, his badass classmate and, more importantly, Kagari. This is where the anime really took liberties with the stories. In the game, Kagari isn’t a main route. She wasn’t supposed to appear until you play the game and reach the Salvation arc. I call it the Salvation arc to keep this review easy to follow. Kagari’s appearance threw a wrench in the pacing though, because the anime is constantly telling the audience to keep eyes on her. Flashbacks would be about her, she’d have lengthy scenes of disturbing Koutarou at night to nibble on his arm, and just general teasing of her mysterious role in the anime. Instead of gathering affection points from the five main routes, Kagari serves as a distraction. In fact, the romance between Koutarou and any of the main routes is never established. Instead, we focus on other thing. Anyways, Koutarou just talks to a bunch of people until the status quo is settled in the second episode.
So here’s the status quo of the anime. Please note that this is not the main premise. It’s just the starting status quo, and I guess it’s the common route’s story. Koutarou joins the occult club, along with the main girls, and his ultimate goal is to prove the supernatural exists. By doing so, he gets to fondle the occult club president’s boobs. That’s it. So the following episodes would just focus on Koutarou singling out the main girls, and talking to them until we enter one of the routes. We have an adorable eye patched girl in this anime named Shizuru, and Koutarou discovers that little twin tailed magic actually has a secret to hide. We discover the surface of her route, and it soon becomes clear that the anime will dedicate one main route per episode. They’re going to boil down hours of gameplay into one episode, and I’m fine with that. Sure enough, the episode after eye patch girl is another route focusing on another girl. So I actually figured the anime out. After five episodes, it’s clear how the show will behave moving forward. Since we have five main girls, it means that three more episodes will focus on the rest of the cast. It’s possible that they’d even build up the finale for Kagari’s original route or something. Maybe throw a beach episode or some more fluff down the line. See, my long time wasted on reviewing subpar VN anime hasn’t betrayed me yet. But oh noes, nothing is ever that simple.
When we reach episode seven, the second half of the anime, we have officially entered the Salvation arc and sh*t hits the fan at this point. After a fluff episode of debunking supernatural occurrences around them, the story got grim when the news reporter girl introduced in the first episode goes missing. The last person she talked to just happens to be our hero, Koutarou. The status quo has been broken, and the anime shifts gears at this point. A simple mystery about a missing girl would be easy to follow, but the status quo has been broken once more to reveal the main gist of the Salvation arc. This is where the anime turned into a giant clusterf*ck. So the new status quo is that there are two groups fighting over a “key”. The Guardian and the Gaia group both want to save the world. For one group, I forget who, they plan to preserve resources and save the Earth. For the other, they want to eliminate mankind to save the Earth. Two of the girls in the occult club happen to be a member of Guardian though, while two more girls belong to Gaia. They are destined to kill one another, and the beautiful times they had in the club is now a long distant memory. Koutarou is caught in the middle, and he now has to act carefully if he wants to save everyone. With the club gone though, there is only one girl to focus on now: Kagari. The new status quo focuses on Koutarou being with Kagari, while the rest of the girls try to kill each other.
To illustrate how drastic the status quo shifted in a span of episodes, we have Shizuru pictured below as a cute student sleeping under a tree. It’s an image of pure moe, and we should preserve it in glass.
When the status quo changed though, Shizuru is now a gun toting badass wearing a long cape while also rocking her underage legs. This, too, should be preserved in glass.
Holy sh*t. How exactly do you go from a cutely paced anime to an extremely different tone in such a short time?! You can only be in awe at how erratic the anime behaves, and it only gets worse from here. Before we move on though, let’s first establish the main premise of the anime, or the game for that matter. As Izanagi said, every route is unique. Even though each route happens in a linear time, with the Salvation arc happening in each story, the cast never really interacts with one another. Even girls belonging to the same group never really affect the story of another. The routes are all closed off, and that’s because the player is getting cute and romantic with each main girl. The main premise covers the event of the common route leading to the Salvation arc, where every character does their own thing. Depending on the route, Koutarou is also doing a different thing. Remember, he turned into a tree in one of them. After finishing one route, the game ends and then you have to finish all five routes to finally unlock different story arcs: the Moon and Terra. This is where the overall story starts to make sense, but that also means that the individual routes are intentionally confusing on their own. Nothing makes sense until you unlock the basic buffer for all this sh*t. This means that the anime is adapting an intentional mess. With stories branching out into their own extremes, the anime tries to pull everything together and the end result is an even bigger mess. This time, the mess is one giant unintentional clusterf*ck though.
Anyways, the status quo changes once more when it’s revealed that the fifth girl in the club also has her own secret. She’s not aligned with Guardian or Gaia, but she has an important role of her own. Koutarou and Kagari shacks up with her, and we slowly understand what the hell is going on. I’ll just spoil it here, and forgive me for doing so. Kagari is apparently the “key” that both organization wants. She has the power to judge mankind or something, and she can also save the world. Upon discovering where they are hiding though, both organizations would now confront each other in a race to obtain the key. Koutarou is, once again, caught in the middle as he tries to fend off anyone that wants Kagari dead. This leads to a lot of sh*t that doesn’t make sense. We have a girl with Saint powers, summoned monsters fighting hunters, a butler turning into a dragon, one of the bad guys saving Koutarou with his T-rex, a showdown with another butler Koutarou met in the first few episodes, the world approaching Armageddon, and there’s also a big tree or something. This convoluted event really only leads to one thing: Kagari, the key, finally handing down her judgement. This big event apparently also happens in the game, so the bittersweet yet confusingly brain dead ending is actually the big crescendo for the Moon and Terra arcs. The entire thing is a build up for another season. Izanagi mentions that this is actually a more linear story, so it does answer everything this clusterf*ck of a season established. There are a lot of them, so I guess watching the second season is a must.
Despite the awful adaptation, I actually like this anime. I know how most VN anime behaves, and Rewrite just feels different. I’m not sure if it’s the game’s appeal permeating the anime, but the story is pretty good. Sure, it doesn’t compare to the rich experience of the game but I just love the effort of trying to bring everything together. Stories that are basically oil and water are forced to be together in this anime. The focus on the different characters is a nice touch, and I also love how the first two episodes introduced the minor characters. This is smart, because they all randomly popped up in the messy second half. While the romance is absent and the impact of each route is diluted, I still like this messy adaptation. Don’t get me wrong though, the anime is absolutely awful but I just appreciate the effort put behind trying to bring the different stories together. This is really weird though, because the show doesn’t really have a lot of positives in it. In fact, even the animation turned sh*t towards the middle of the show. The characters are bad, the action is bad, the exposition is greatly mishandled and it doesn’t really capture the beauty of the game. It was directionless, but so many things happen as well that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. I can’t defend this anime, and I certainly don’t want people to see it, but I still admire the effort put behind the story. The writers really tried to make something decent out of this failed attempt of an adaptation, and I admire them for that.
This anime had so many wasted potential though. The main gist of the game is presented, but I just wished they tackled it in a different manner. Since the game is confusing by itself, they should’ve really just gone the Amagami route and feature three episodes per route. I think it’s enough to capture the romance between the characters, and also feature how intentionally messy the Salvation arc turns out to be. Izanagi made a good point though when he said the thirteen episode run is a mistake. Rewrite should’ve run for twenty four episodes, and that’s actually a good enough leg room to work out the anime’s attempt at the story. Then again, I’m pretty sure it’d still suck though. The episode length can’t really cover the insane amount of exposition and character details of the game. There’s just too many of them, and the constant shifting of the status quo is also very hard to properly tell. Longer episodes would give us time to appreciate the other routes though, because I really did want to see what the other girls’ stories are about. The anime clumsily mixed the remaining three routes into the big Salvation arc, and it felt like wasted potential. Kotori’s pathetic attempt to save her family, Chihaya’s relationship with her butler and Akane’s super depressing life should’ve been given their own special episode. They all look so good, and it definitely makes me want to play the game.
Characters are all decent. They’re not really bad, because a great focus of the episodes is on them, but they just aren’t properly fleshed out. It’s one of the effects of a limited adaptation. You can’t really get good characters when you focus on so many things. The anime did feature some of their cute sides, and this does help in enjoying the show. Sometimes, the story would get overwhelming but the light fluff between the characters would brighten things up a bit. Their interaction and their relationship with Koutarou help in better digesting this anime. I guess the anime gave us a glimpse of how awesome the characters are in the game, so I hope the characters are inviting enough to make you want to play the game. I’d play it just for Kagari, to be honest. I love her voice, and I was honestly surprised to know KanaHana voiced her. How talented is this woman?!! Kagari is also one of the better represented characters here, since the anime does give a significant amount of time focusing on her. She also doesn’t drastically change roles in the show, unlike the rest of the cast. She remains a mysterious entity from the first episode until the last time we see her. The cute stuff about her and coffee is really just another way to enjoy her character. I do wish they kept her enigmatic though, since she was a curious figure in the game. Still, she has a decent progression in the anime as you spend a good amount of time figuring her out. It’s a shame the rest of the cast isn’t properly presented like her.
Koutarou is a pretty decent character, and I like how he has a character arc of his own. He is all over the place though, since his different roles in the various routes converge into one character. I’m just bummed his rewrite ability is never really properly explained. I think the anime does explain it over time, but we never get a long exposition dump explaining how his powers work. It’s just mentioned that he can turn into a monster if he overuse it. With the lack of explanation, the powers just feel like useless clutter and even a Deus Ex Machina in some episodes. Maybe they’ll explain it more properly in the second season, so who knows. As the standard hero of a VN game, he does lack a personality. He is intuitive, but also cautious. He is caring, but also aggressive. He is a friend, but he is also a lover. He likes his normal life, but he seeks out events that’ll destroy it. He’s a mixed bag of everything, and I guess it does resemble his actions in the various routes. I’m curious as to how he turns into a tree, actually. The funny thing about Koutarou though is that he says “what is going on?” five times in the anime, as many as the sudden shift of status quo. If you want to see this anime, prepare yourselves when he utters those lines because the anime turns wild afterwards.
The last 8bit anime I’ve seen is Tokyo Ravens, so that’s something. I’ve seen them try to adapt a VN before, but this might be the first time they bagged a high profile one. They did a messy job at adapting the game, but I don’t really expect much from a VN adaptation. They’re a decent studio, releasing two or three titles a year and I think they’re in a good spot right now. I’m bummed that their animation quality has significantly dipped though, and Rewrite had a lot of awful episodes in terms of animation quality. I’ll rant about that below. Anyways, I think they’re picking up steam right now in 2017 so I do hope they keep rolling on. I heard good things about the second season of Rewrite, so I can’t wait to try it. Motoki Tanaka directed this anime, and he did a bad job at it. Fight scenes aren’t good, cute moments aren’t punctuated properly and the transition from normal scenes to bloody scenes aren’t done right. He gave us a pretty soul-less adaptation dependent on the script and nothing else. He doesn’t establish scenes properly, and he just lacked vision to direct anime. He directed Kiniro Mosaic, and he is a key animator before this. Sadly, his experience doesn’t really translate in this show. Two people wrote the script for this anime. Takahashi Aoshima has basically done a lot of script for marshmallow shows, and Tatsuya Takahashi has series compose shows like Eromanga-sensei and To Heart. They don’t look like a bunch that can really handle the clusterf*ck of this game, but I really commend them for trying. It’s clearly a bad script, but the effort is there.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty good. Key designs are really interesting, and this is one aspect of the VN that I’m actually glad the anime captured. The uniform design is my favorite. The male and female uniforms look really great. I love the familiar male uniforms, because it reminds me of the ones in Clannad. The female uniforms are wonderful with all the beautiful frills and laces. The pink color is nice, and it reminds me of how flashy the uniforms are in most VN anime. I remember a list of best school uniforms, and I think eight of them came from VN adapted shows. Anyways, the character designs are pretty decent. It doesn’t stand out as much, but they’re good enough to capture the personality of the characters. I think eye patch girl is a little over designed though, but VN has the liberties to go all out like that. In the anime, the character design isn’t given that much care and the vibrant colors of the VN don’t translate well in the show. The VN design isn’t really that great to begin with though. They look like they’re created in flash, and I think Key is just sticking to their familiar clunky style at this point. Most of the screenshots I see of the game has awkward face designs, but the bodies are pretty good. I think the design becomes a bit more impressive when the characters shed their uniforms, but I can’t say much for the anime. The character design isn’t one of the strongest aspects of the show. The stock colors look amateur, and it isn’t really as graceful as you’d expect from a VN anime. Design looks awful, mainly because of the horrible animation.
The first episode’s animation is probably the best, and it captures the VN to a tee. The beautiful colors, the vibrant designs and the feel of the anime matches the game but quality declines sharply afterwards. Look at this sh*t:
Layer one is the girl, layer two is the water and I guess the background is just stock computer animated graphics. It looks so horrible. The shadow is off, the way she interacts with the background is bad and her entire pose is just off. The director first did key animations before handling a full show, and yet he doesn’t know how to properly do a scene. In the second half, it’s just badly rendered backgrounds and the characters are awkwardly placed on top. The anime also short cut a lot of movements, so certain scenes had just the characters head awkwardly attached to the bodies. I’m fine with the mouth being the only thing that moves, but sometimes you’ll see the head in another layer completely off from the body it’s supposed to be in. This is stupidly amateur, and it feels like production was incredibly rushed. The CG is awful, and you can tell it’s not properly placed in the scene. The CG quality reminds me of early 2000s stuff where the technology isn’t caught up yet. It has caught up now though, so this is just lazy animation at its worst. The fight scenes are also horrible. Body posture is off, and the characters don’t really clash so it just looks bad. For some reason the quality dipped and I don’t really understand why. They put so much effort in the first few episodes, and then they just gave up. This isn’t the 8bit that I know. They animated a show about a creepy guy and his talking dolls much better than this, so I can’t believe they’d be this lazy. Consistency is also something this anime lacks. Look at this:
What the hell happened to this guy? He just turned sideways and all hell broke loose. I don’t approve of this. I don’t like studios giving high quality animation at the start, and then dip the quality later on. It only makes them look bad. I’m fine with a bad animation from the get go, but this practice of tricking the audience to invest in your garbage by putting perfume in it is just insulting. If 8bit continues this, I doubt they’d last long in the industry. I hope this is a rare occurrence, and I hope to gawd the second season isn’t like this.
The anime’s OP has two OP. The first one is “Philosophyz” by Runa Mizutani. This is the same OP as the VN, and it has a nice ring to it. The lyrics confuses me, but mostly because of the opening sequence. The song is a standard one about chasing life or something. Anyways, the OP sequence is distracting. It plays like a VN OP sequence, and it features all the characters in a flashy montage. It also reminds me of some of the KyoAni-Key anime from way back, so that’s a nice touch. It follows Koutarou going to school, but shifts to feature the messy storyline that’ll befall the anime later on. I think the last shot of Koutarou all alone is a tease to the ending and a reference to the later arcs though. The second OP is “End of the World” by Anri Kumaki. It’s a decent song about being with the one you love as the world ends. It’s a nice reference to the Salvation arc, and the OP does change when Salvation was in full gears. I like Anri’s voice, and she does give the song a nice vibe. The OP sequence is wild. It doesn’t feel like the anime you watched before. It features all the characters during Salvation, and a few teases of how it goes down. They summarized some of the confusing bits, but I do like the last shot of Kagari looking at the moon. Once again, it’s another jab at the impending Moon arc.
The anime had a lot of ED. The two special route episodes had their own unique song, and the anime would alternate two different songs as the ED songs. The last episode also had its own different soundtrack. I’ll focus on the most played EDs, but you should definitely check out the rest. Some of the one off songs are sung by Nagi Yanagi, so check them out. Anyways, the first ED is “Sasayaka na Hajimari” by Runa Mizutani.I love this song and it’s mostly because of how well arranged it is. The lyrics are a bit lost on me too. It’s about facing the future together, hand in hand, but I just love how graceful the song is. Runa has a wonderful voice, and it’s the sole energy giving life to the song. The pace starts slow, picks up in the chorus and then wonderfully ends with Runa’s voice just saying the final lines in a hauntingly beautiful way. The ED sequence features all the main girls, and I think it also mentions Salvation or something. I can’t be sure, but it’s just the girls looking all cute. It’s a decent sequence, but the animation is pretty bothersome. The second ED is “Word of Dawn” by Aoi Tada. This is another great song, and it tells of a story of someone remembering someone they love as time goes by. It’s a lovely song, and it reminds me of Kagari’s story a bit. She’s also in the ED sequence just holding the moon for some reason. It’s like the creators are crying out that they no longer want to do this anime, and they just want to do the Moon arc instead. It’s pretty funny when you think of it like that.
5/10 “It’s a giant mess, with some good potential, but it ultimately amounts to just a confusing experience.”
Did this anime break the thirty percent standard rule I have for VN anime? Nope. A score of five means that the anime is bad, but it has some good moments here and there. What the hell do you expect? The adaptation is a giant mess, and it is a mess from the very beginning. The VN itself is just too complex to work in an anime format. I do hope the anime redeems itself with its second season, but I’m not expecting much. The show is hard to follow, it’s directionless, the characters the bad, and the animation gradually turns to sh*t. The light fluff moments are good, but it’s not enough to subject yourself to such a clusterf*ck of an adaptation. This anime is a mistake, and I do not recommend it.