Season aired: Summer 2019
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Mystery, Psychological, Supernatural
Thoughts: I struggled with gathering my thoughts for The Ones Within. On one hand, I genuinely enjoyed the characters and bonds they built with each other. On the other hand, I did not enjoy the plot and found quite a bit of holes that will likely never be answered as I doubt the anime will receive a second season.
The Ones Within unites a group of hardcore gamers together the best way possible – kidnapping eight of them, dropping them off on a random island, and force them to participate in “games” that are livestreamed to the world. These gamers are kept under guard by a mysterious man who wears an alpaca mask, and they cannot ever leave the island or the “game” until they reach a certain amount of views on their livestreaming channel. While each character has his or her own niche in the games, they still share several similarities: none of them really seem to be in a hurry to go home and they all seem to have some kind of quirk related to the game genre they like to play.
The premise is, without a doubt, interesting, and once again, the characters are quite endearing. In fact, for the first time ever, I found myself liking a yandere, which is an archetype that I typically despise. While she never loses her extreme stalker tendencies of the main character, Akatsuki, she is also incredibly clever, a huge flirt, and works well with other members in the group. She might be the first yandere I’ve ever met who obsesses over her crush yet still manages to form bonds with other people around her.
The anime also caught me off guard with the lack of romance. Aside from the comedic, obsessive behavior of the yandere, all the characters form bonds of friendship. Even better, the bonds of friendship felt realistic, and the reason why I never truly gave up on this anime was to continue to watch these friendships develop. Anya, a boy who likes to pick fights, quickly becomes best friends with Akatsuki. Zak, a quiet boy who wears a mask, becomes a mother hen to the entire group but mostly to Onigasaki, who acts like the rebellious teenager despite being one of the oldest in the group. The three girls are all incredibly close to each other, though the yandere takes quite a liking to the tsundere. Everyone’s personalities genuinely work well together, and in the end, I think the characters enjoyed being kidnapped as they found new friends to be around.
Unfortunately, a lot of other things don’t make sense. First, we don’t get to see every characters’ backstories, and, as a result, doesn’t really explain why some these characters aren’t trying to escape from the island, which anyone would expect to be the logical thing to do.
Second, the games that the characters that the characters play in have bizarre real life consequences. Instead of people dressed in costumes or virtual monsters participating in the games, there are literal ghosts, demons, and shapeshifting monsters chasing down and harming the victims. In one such level, a demon breaks Akatsuki’s arm that forced him to sit out from the next game. In turn, that makes absolutely no sense because the anime gives no indication that the games based in the real world have fantastical or supernatural elements.
Third, the games never made me feel any sort of actual risk. Whenever a character’s life is actually in danger, the alpaca wearing game master always steps in and bails them out. Without an actual conflict hanging over these characters’ heads, I couldn’t truly invest myself in a story that supposedly centers on mystery and psychological thrills.
With plot in such disarray, the remaining production does nothing to help. Even though the soundtrack is good, I’ve yet to hear a soundtrack in anime that detracts the overall experience. The animation, on the other hand, fluctuates heavily between stylized art and terrible drops in animation quality, which brings attention to an already floundering story even more.
In the end, I can only lament on the potential lost for this anime. It has a solid start with its excellent characters and relationships between all of them, but with plot as such a weak point in a mystery genre series, The Ones Within really couldn’t have gone anywhere.
Voice acting: 7.5
FINAL SCORE: 67