Earlier this month, YouTuber Reina Scully released the pilot episode of Mecha Ude, or Mechanical Arms, on her channel. It’s a Kickstarter project that dates back to 2016, and revolves around people with special mechanical arms attached to them. I watched the subbed version, which will only be available until June 10, and found it to be pretty good.

I will admit however that Mecha Ude’s story is pretty standard fare with little to no surprises. There’s an organization of good guys with a hideout, and a bad guy in search of something called the Trigger Arm. On the good guys’ side we have the perpetually pissed-looking Aki Murasame, who guards reluctant protagonist Hikaru Amatsuga, or more specifically his Mecha Ude, Alma, who the good guys deem to be important. Aki is initially scornful of Hikaru, whom she perceives as weak and helpless.

The Mecha Ude are sentient mechanical arms that require human hosts. The beginning of the pilot episode shows that they emerge from marks on their humans’ bodies. In addition, if a Mecha Ude is extracted, their host eventually dies while the Mecha Ude regresses into cubes. There’s not a whole lot that is revealed regarding the Mecha Ude’s background, but the official website explains that they are in fact beings from another dimension.

Image source: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/776779891/mecha-ude-japanese-animation

The pilot episode primarily functions as an introduction to the characters and story, as well as a showcase for the action. It also establishes the consequences of having a Mecha Ude extraction. However, the purpose and the name of Aki’s organization, along with the importance of the Trigger Arm, go unexplained. I guess just having a bunch of exposition wouldn’t make for an interesting pilot, but without it, the overall experience feels a little weird. Nonetheless, it’s not impossible to follow the proceedings and the main thrust of the story is clear enough.

The selling point is ostensibly the Mecha Ude action, but I wasn’t overly impressed by them. Everyone, especially the badass Aki, looks cool when they’re standing with their Mecha Ude, but the choreography seems a bit lacking. I suspect that the issue lies in the awkward locations of the Mecha Ude: Alma sticks out from Hikaru’s back, while Aki’s Mecha Ude emerge from under her skirt. The Mecha Ude aren’t exactly long either, and Aki’s are very bulky on top of that. While there’s a very brief sequence which shows off Aki’s acrobatic mobility, the choreography feels limited by the placement and design of these mechanical arms. The main villain is an exception, because his Mecha Ude isn’t constrained by length or bulk and is a lot more flexible in its capabilities.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the pilot a lot. The story is an unsurprising affair, and the action is serviceable instead of great, but this is compensated with nice character designs, a brisk pace, and a sense of fun. The latter is owed to the main characters, Hikaru, Alma, and Aki, whose personalities and interactions are easily the best part of the anime.

Despite being a mechanical arm, Alma is surprisingly expressive. He’s like a combination of an enthusiastic partner and a supportive but embarrassing dad. His lines are often funny, and there’s a highly amusing and quirky scene where Alma gives chase to an enemy while Hikaru flails helplessly with each jump. Hikaru himself is less interesting than the supporting cast, which isn’t unusual, but that allows him to juxtapose well with Alma.

While Alma gives off a restless, happy-go-lucky vibe, Hikaru’s protector Aki is serious and, as mentioned earlier, looks perpetually angry and annoyed. It’s a look that makes her feel simultaneously fierce and endearing. Her Mecha Ude, Dex and Sinis, serve her happily and address her as “Aki-sama”. Unlike Alma who stands out as a character, Dex and Sinis get fewer lines and function more as extensions of Aki, with their red and menacing colors complementing Aki’s tough vibe.

The villain’s personality is less interesting, but the main trio’s interactions are compelling enough that Mecha Ude could work as pure slice-of-life comedy, albeit one involving talking mechanical arms. I mentioned earlier that the action is just serviceable, but I found them eye-catching thanks to the Mecha Ude CGI. They blend in pretty well with the 2D parts, and their animations range from acceptable CGI to pretty darn smooth. There are areas where the pilot looks a little unpolished or, for a lack of better words, indie, but I didn’t find them to be big deal-breakers. The art-style is attractive enough and is somewhat reminiscent of Director Okamoto’s 2012 short, 11:08.

Image source: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/776779891/mecha-ude-japanese-animation

At the end of the pilot, Hikaru manages to earn some begrudging respect from a still-disgruntled-looking Aki, who goes on to be a bit of a tsundere. It’s another unsurprising development, but it’s hard to complain when Aki’s subsequent attempt to sew Hikaru’s hoodie results in Alma being comically stabbed with a needle. Mecha Ude doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but the character dynamics and humor are well done and elevate the experience. Scully revealed in another video that she’s involved in producing Mecha Ude, and that the staff is trying to get the series greenlit. I hope they succeed, because the characters in this anime are a fun bunch to be with.

A.k.a. STARfisher. Self-learning Japanese.
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