Ex-Arm: an unfathomable, incomprehensible failure
Anchor Staff Writer
If you are an anime fan, casual or otherwise, you’ve heard about this show in passing or through the internet as of late. You may have noticed that it does not have a single good review anywhere. And for the most part, I’ve tried my best to avoid this show up until this past spring. Of course, the cards weren’t in my favor as a friend invited me on Discord to watch all 12 episodes of Ex-Arm with a few others.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought.
IT WAS A WHOLE LOT WORSE.
First off, Ex-Arm is an anime adaptation of a 2015 Science fiction cyberpunk manga created by Shinya Komi. The manga ended in 2019, consisting of 14 volumes. It also spawned a sequel series, which only ran for two volumes before cancelling this past February, in the middle of the show’s airing. Gee, I wonder why?!
Beforehand, the very first trailer was massively panned to hell and back, making it the most cringeworthy upload on YouTube. The only thing we had to anticipate was dread and disappointment. The animation is so atrocious, it makes Berserk 2016 look like an academy award winning masterpiece. The director had no experience working on anime (he's only done live action) and the animation "studio" was primarily known for video game modeling and environments. It's arguably the main reason why this looked as awful as it did.
Additionally, the choice of music for the show’s opening is just…bewildering. Instead of getting something strong and brooding like Inner Universe by Origa for Ghost in the Shell, we’re given a high-energy alternative rock song “Rise Again” by AIRFLIP. It’s a catchy song, of course, but the auditory dissonance just gives you a mood whiplash every episode. The song would fit right at home with a typical shounen anime like Naruto or Fairy Tail, but it does not fit Ex-Arm at all as a cyberpunk anime. In fact, when I watched this with my friends, I came up with a running joke whenever the opening came on:
“Hello, Hello? More like, HELL NO, HELL NO!”
And the story. My god, the story…
It’s riddled and muddled with a chaotic cliché storm of tropes and plot points that were used better in other anime. The young protagonist is in high school, envies the older brother, wants to get a girlfriend, gets killed by a truck and sent to a brand-new world (a popular concept in recent anime known as Isekai). In this new world, he is reincarnated as a machine and helps a ragtag team of heroes fight crime. The plot isn’t nearly as original as it wants to be, but the cyberpunk setting becomes a saving grace of sorts, being the only interesting thing in this whole show. Since this is 12 episodes long, you would think that they would have enough to tell a decent story. Also, you’d hope it wouldn’t waste your time. Sadly, Ex-arm is more than happy to oblige.
The anime shamelessly jumbles, cuts, and adds-on various story elements, making the plot of the show an incoherent mess throughout 12 episodes. Most of these important events are even mentioned in passing, being sent straight into the void, never to be heard from again. The most extreme case of this is the cursed final episode. The massively anticipated climatic battle, which was built for 3 episodes, is about to commence.
….Only to flash forward to the aftermath. No joke. The writers took the coward’s way out and robbed us of an eventful last battle, providing us a garbage pile worth of exposition. Yes, you read this right. They told you what happened rather than showing it, because clearly that’s what counts for good storytelling nowadays!
Even in the sound department, there are moments where the anime fumbles. Several action scenes, where music in the background is necessary, are barren of any music. The only thing to be heard are the characters making awkward breathing and panting noises, and in at least one episode, there are no sound effects at all. No music, no fighting grunts, no punches landing, no breathing. Nothing but pure silence. You’d be forgiven if you thought something was wrong with your computer, but it was a deliberate choice. Not only did it kill the moment, but it was rather disturbing.
My verdict? Stay away from this show. Far, far, far away. It’s not worth your sanity or your time. Find something better to invest in. I don’t care what it is. Just watch anything but this. You can thank me later.