Final Impressions: W’z

Despite its title and ostensible DJ theme, W’z is actually – for some baffling reason – a Hand Shakers sequel. The 2017 original revolved around hand-holding duos battling each other with weapons called Nimrods in an attempt to meet God. As interesting (and odd) as the set-up was, its first episode was marred by a restless 3D camera, eye-aching CGI, a dreary protagonist and the clumsy inclusion of a BDSM Hand Shakers pair. The decision to drop the show immediately back then was an easy one.

W’z isn’t as offensive, but it being better than Hand Shakers is faint praise. It takes place 10 years later, with a new main character called Yukiya. He’s an aspiring DJ who “thinks” he’s 14, and a special sort of Hand Shaker. He can enter the alternate dimension of Ziggurat by holding hands with anyone, and is also capable of transporting fairly large objects between realms. Of course, he’s not the only one aware of this power, and he soon attracts the attention of other Hand Shakers. Fortunately, he’s a pretty capable fighter, and most of the original cast are there to help him out. That includes the previously mentioned BDSM pair, who – surprise! – are his adoptive parents.

The premise of other Hand Shakers seeking out Yukiya for his power suggests a thrilling action show. In actuality, W’z is laid-back and confused about its own direction. Despite the fact that Yukiya is hunted by two dedicated Hand Shaker pairs, the first half carries a relaxed and almost slice-of-life-like atmosphere. That’s still somewhat enjoyable, but it’s much harder to appreciate the second half’s unwelcome attempt at character drama. The second half also answers some mysteries and plot threads that are brought up earlier, but the resolutions feel like impromptu decisions. Don’t expect much from the action either, as the fights are merely passable.

Some of these plot threads are related to Hand Shakers, and W’z sees the return of most of its cast. Despite a lack of familiarity with most of them, the returning characters present a genuine sense of camaraderie that makes it fun to watch. Particularly amusing are the couple of bits involving Koyori, the previous female protagonist, fawning over former male protagonist Tazuna. Tazuna himself has a decent amount of screentime in W’z and gets to participate in some fights, but he mostly remains a side character.

It would’ve nice if the old cast got to play an even bigger part. Alas, the show dedicates more screen time to Yukiya’s friend, Haruka, even though she is the least interesting character. She exists only to fulfill the childhood friend role and constantly worry about Yukiya-related things. The two’s relationship woes play an important part in the second half, which is an issue as they were never compelling to begin with. In contrast, the two Hand Shaker pairs that serve as the primary antagonists for the first half offer more engaging relationships, although this applies more to the bubbly Senri and reserved Hana. Heck, even the main villain’s relationship with his butler is far more interesting than the main pair’s, and the former only become prominent towards the end of the show.

Like Haruka, Yukiya worries a lot too – about his DJ aspirations, his unwanted power, and his fear that the Hand Shakers issue will put Haruka in danger. His struggles, although they are clearer than Haruka’s, aren’t exactly engaging either. But he proves to be likeable enough, thanks in part to his bashful side. It’s hard to complain about anything whenever the boy blushes. His relationship with his adoptive parents is also rather pleasant to watch.

On the other hand, W’z’s visuals aren’t always a pleasant sight. The CGI is imperfect, and is notably atrocious in the tenth episode. Some of the female characters sport eyes that are frighteningly large even by anime standards. But the most frequent offender is the color.  The stylized visuals bring to mind GoHand’s previous projects like K and Mardock Scramble, but the execution is much poorer here. The backgrounds are sometimes drenched in too much blue, orange or some other color, creating sights that are abominable to the eye. Meanwhile, Ziggurat’s wild kaleidoscopes feel unpleasantly excessive, but their presence is almost missed later on when the alternate dimension starts to look inexplicably drab.

W’z’s best-looking scenes – ones which are legitimately appealing – are those that settle for a sharp but more restrained presentation. The second half has more of these. Typically, however, a W’z scene is an uneasy union of color, a colorful contradiction between visual restraint and sloppy overindulgence. Still, for all its visual faults, W’z is anything but dull to look at. The prologue sequence in particular is stylish, and is accompanied by arguably the best track in the show.

The soundtrack, while not nearly as offensive as the visuals, is also a pretty big disappointment as a whole. It’s sad enough that the DJ aspect feels mostly irrelevant, but what makes it worse is that Yukiya has only one remix track that is nowhere near as good as every character thinks. There are about three truly good tracks in the show, including the original version of said remix, Espalemit, and their existence makes W’z somewhat more appreciable. The other tracks are largely unnoticeable and unimpressive.

Although a Hand Shakers sequel was a surprise to begin with, audiences are (hopefully) spared from any further continuations as everything reaches a resolution by the end of W’z. This would certainly be a relief, but in truth, W’z isn’t as detestable as its myriad of flaws suggest. In fact, that is perhaps its biggest shortcoming: its lack of memorability, regardless of whether it is derived from positive, negative or unique traits. Although a somewhat interesting existence, W’z will likely be forgotten by most before long – assuming many knew of it in the first place.

A.k.a. STARfisher. Likes the Monogatari series, and wishes that A Silent Voice won an Oscar. Also plays video games and Warhammer 40k. Now trying to familiarize himself with sakuga and anime production while self-learning Japanese.
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