In the year 20XX, Tazuna Takatsuki is caught up in the Hand Shakers event upon touching the hand of a comatose girl, Koyori Akutagawa, due to her uncanny resemblance to his late sister Musubu. From there, he's pulled into what is known as a "Ziggurat", and receives the "Revelation of Babel", is forced to take part in said Hand Shaker event wielding abilities known as "nimrods". Furthermore, after it was revealed that it was his hand that awoke her, Tazuna and Koyori now have to be in nearly constant physical contact, or she'll die.
Where do I even begin?!
I've often been flabbergasted with how bad some shows can get, and Hand Shakers is hardly the first show that has left me speechless and unsure how to start the review, but it is the first that has failed so spectacularly quick, and then gone on to keep that level of ineptitude the whole show through.
The concept isn't necessarily terrible. Shounen action shows that revolve around fighting has been anime's bread and butter for the longest time, and Hand Shakers's concept isn't necessarily any worse, at least not in theory. Pretentious naming aside -- I mean... "ziggurat"? "Revelation of Babel"? -- the idea of having two people pair up like this to provide each other not only powers, but also specific abilities would've made for a good idea for a game. Perhaps.
I once said about Gankutsuou that its art style was prone to give me headaches, partially because it was so busy, but mostly because the coloring and texture tended to shift in odd ways when character moved, or the scenery did. But wow, did Gankutsuou have nothing on the sheer retina-searing garishness of what this show tries to pass off as visuals. Hand Shakers is what happens when someone goes completely nuts on 3D software, and the results are liable to make you cry tears of blood. The show has its share of what might look like traditional cel animation, but it looks weirdly flat on background art that looks like it's been designed in 3D, as if we're looking at a time in videogames when 2D sprites were placed on 3D backgrounds. It's particularly apparent, because there is a lot of camera panning going on, and in scenes where lots of characters are present, almost everyone moves to some degree.
This isn't as good as it sounds, because the show is clearly trying to impress with its directing too -- well, I guess most shows would be, but rarely as desperately as this. The camera work is absurdly busy even during moments that should be more quiet and reflective; like how the show chooses to present us to the male lead. He is approached by the ludicrously busty class president, whom he hands over an MP3 player that he just repaired. She puts it on and proceeds to nod her head to the beat of the music, with her chest following suit. (To put it mildly.) The whole thing is shot from a low angle that makes her look like she's towering over him while at the same time, she's presented as a complete and utter airhead. The animation never reaches the levels of terrible that I saw in Bloodivores, but that's about as backhanded a compliment as I can give.
The topping of this visually unappealing cake comes in the absurd color sceme that Hand Shakers uses. The color sceme literally looks like it's taken from an old-fashioned CRT screen on its last legs and with its color tubes partially burned out. I know I made a comparison to Gankutsuou earlier, but the shows are nothing alike. For one thing, Gankutsuou never looked like it was filmed and developed with blacklights at all times. Even the CG looks awful -- or rather, especially the CG looks awful. The show literally starts with chains and explosions, the chains being of an almost mirror-like shine and the explosions looking like they're animated GIFs pasted on the background. Even if I'm trying to convince you to not give this show any of your time, I still dare you to at least look at the first couple of minutes. It's so bad!
Incidentally, "fixing things" is pretty much Tazuna's sole personality trait, aside from pointing out the surreality of having to hold the hand of a girl at almost all times and being a part of a fight he never really asked for. He isn't really unlike most milquetoast male leads, though he's also nearly a kid, so that makes it a bit less severe than if he had been an adult. We also get to meet his parents, who are a bunch of dimwits. (That, or they KNOW!) The reason for that assessment is that they take a little bit too easy to the idea of their son suddenly returning with a strange girl who is nevertheless awfully similar to their deceased daughter, while swallowing a quite frankly ludicrous story about her being from Brazil, as well as apparently just going with her being seemingly permanently attached to his left hand. Yeah, they're still children, basically, but even so....
Oh, and Koyori can't talk. She can understand people just fine, as well as try to gesture her intentions or even play well in fairly complicated card games with little training, but actually talking is out of the question for some oddball reason. While you could blame that on her coma to some degree, it still makes no sense that she couldn't at least write. Or text. Sign language? Anything? Nope, she will remain unable to communicate with anyone until the show says so. And if you're thinking it'll something she has to relearn, or that it takes a very special situation to give her those gifts of communication back, well... be prepared for disappointment, because it sort of just happens because she needs to say something right now! Well, right then. Or something.
It sounds awfully serious, but the show is quick to establish that while "God" make the Hand Shakers fight for some obscure wish, none of the fights are to the death, and any wounds the combatants receive in the Ziggurats heal quicker, even in the real world, for some reason. (And the ziggurats are some kind of alternate dimensions too, so said combatants don't have to worry about property damage, because those don't carry over back to the real world when the fight is over. Of course, for Tazuna and Koyori, the situation is quite different; if they lose, Koyori will die. None of their opponents know that, though, and all of them react in different ways when they find out (after they all lose, of course.) You might wonder why they don't tell their opponents before the fight, but I'll give the show that it doesn't make sense that they do. Why would their opponents believe that?
For the record, I don't really dislike any of the characters in Hand Shakers. A few of them might be awfully fetishy, while some of them has various annoying traits. The aforementioned busty class president with a bro-con complex shows up and is a Hand Shaker to absolutely nobody's surprise -- even those who hasn't already seen the webpage or read up on the show -- and together with her brother, who is in the show to shill a card game that may or may not be real.
The worst of them all is Kodama Awaza, a pop idol whose thing is spouting quotes from various presidents, thinkers, scientists and whatnot. Of course, I say "worst", but aside from that annoying habit, she isn't any less sweet than the others, and her story is.... sad, in a way, if also mortifyingly cliché. Humorously, her Hand Shaker partner just HAS to be a parody of Star Wars Kid, at least in design. While said parody might count as affectionate, I'm not quite sure showing up in this show counts as a compliment.
Well... mostly, anyway.
Despite its decent concept, Hand Shakers simply doesn't make any goddamned sense. Pretentious naming conventions aside, you'd think "fight battles, winner takes all" couldn't be made so damn complicated, but there we are. Not only will you not learn who this "God" is, nor what the deal with the Hand Shaker powers are either, other than "people receive them, have to fight". And while there is nothing structural about the ziggurats in Hand Shakers, it's not even as much a place you enter as one that slowly bleeds over the real world until you're completely immersed in it. You might think that sounds really cool in a rather Silent Hill-ish way, but let me remind you that this show looks terrible, and animates even more terribly. When GoHands were asked to blow some minds, I don't think they meant it quite this literally.
We DO get an explanation regarding Koyori, though; more specifically who and what she is. I'm not going to spoil here, of course, but it ties into another way the show makes absolutely no sense. Mostly, it's got to do with two characters that got introduced right out of the blue -- barring one of them appearing once or twice before that, just to make cryptic statements -- and who are presented first as one thing, and then their complete 180 selves when their arcs conclude. And then it leads itself up to a sequel that has yet to be made. Also, at first, Tazuna is the only one fighting, but Koyori also magically develops the ability to when she relearns how to talk, even though the powers aren't voice activated. I do wish I could talk about some of the later revelations too, but that would be me giving away this show's ending, whatever there is of one, and it is hard to take the information I get from this show seriously when it flip-flops on at least half of it.
For the record, and despite the rating I'm giving it, I do not hate this show. The characters are mostly pleasant -- yes, even the S&M couple you see at the very beginning turns out to be really nice people, because of course they are -- and our main couple do have a little bit of chemistry, dull as the two are, though there is still a bit of an undertone of her looking like his sister. (Spoiler: She's not really his sister, thankfully.) But trying to figure out what is going on is like untangling a gordian knot with boxing gloves on. And the gordian knot is punching you in the face with them, because that makes more sense than some of the revelations you'll get in Hand Shakers. Again, like I said: I do not hate this show. This is not ICE or Violence Jack, where I'd rather trepan my head, shove in some shaved ice and a straw, and then inviting the local zombies over for a serving of brain slushie. Hand Shakers do not awaken that kind of rage or despair in me. It should be so lucky.
That's mostly because, well... Hand Shakers is just so boring. Even beyond the fact that you know that Tazuna and Koyori can't lose -- or she'll die, which normally should bring some tension into the show itself -- the fights are just so dull. I said that the Hand Shakers's powers were varied, but that was probably me overselling it. Most of them fight with bladed weapons, even Tazuna. Yes, his powers are gears, basically, but only in that he uses a lot of gears to form shields or swords. Even the fight direction feels stale -- lots of yelling and rushing in, if not jumping up or down walls or over rooftops. It wouldn't be so bad if the show had something else to offer, but it doesn't. It's all bleeding hearts and bleeding eyes. Dear lord, my eyes. And instead of creating a bombastic ending where they go all out, the penultimate episode is basically a flashback episode for the two that dropped almost out of nowhere, and then the last episode settles with a fight that leads up to two 180's, as if the show admits to wasting all of our time. Nothing is learned, no hearts were moved and there might be a strong possibility that the show has done permanent damage to your eyes or your faith in interior decorating. Or both.
Disastrously bad. Glum, boring, pretentious and really, really ugly. And it doesn't even consider itself done yet. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Like most boring shounen shows, violence is... fairly serious, but nothing too excessive. There's also some mild fanservice that is more offputting because two of the ladies look like they've received breast expansions and are wearing wet clothes at all times. And the biggest of them are a huge bro-con.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Hand Shakers © 2017 GoHands
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