18if – Anime Preview
Synopsis: After going to sleep like normal, Haruto Tsukishiro wakes up to discover something unbelievable—he’s stuck in dream world! Here, witches plague the dreamscape and are more than dreamy figments—they’re the trapped souls of young women who’ve rejected reality and are afflicted by the “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome.” As he searches for a way out, Haruto will face the witches and their terrifying powers. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: 18if boasts a whimsical, abstract art style designed to evoke the crazy dream world of its scenario. Trouble is that art style doesn’t feel unique enough, as if it’s instead pieced together from various interpretations of the dream world from other media and anime. This isn’t aided by frequent dimming, used in Japanese censorship, constantly pulling you from the events on screen as action gets flashy and the visuals are forcefully darkened.
Linny: The fun part of 18if is it’s subconscious/dream world setting, giving the story and animation freedom to be creative and experimental. But this becomes a double edged sword in the case of 18if. What could be extremely intriguing to some could be downright awful to others due to the sheer drastic nature of the animation and plot. Everything is beyond the ordinary and firmly in the land of whimsy and insanity. While the concept of someone entering the subconscious of others in order to save them from their self induced comas could be interesting, the way it plays out here feels rather shallow and mean. Both persons involved in the process come off as jerks in their own right and ultimately leave you feeling ambivalent.
Tom: 18if throws its audience in the deep end. It doesn’t bother to ease us into the scenario, or introduce its characters. We hit the ground running and unfortunately not in the good way. Nothing feels terribly engaging about this world. Part of the trouble might be 18if game origins. It’s part of an expanding franchise that began with a mobile game and while the anime has additional creative designs going for it, which I’ll address later, this origin seems to be hindering the production, as it perhaps assumes familiarity with the characters and story that just isn’t available for Western audiences.
Linny: It doesn’t come as a surprise that 18if starts off very confusing given its rather far flung and fantastical premise. There’s a fine line between confusing to be enticing and just plain confusing. 18if does not toe that line well. If you are already finding yourself struggling to follow along or stay invested, 18if does little to establish its plot, events and characters, meaning it demands your attention remains glued to the screen every second of the episode. And if that feels like too high a demand within the first 10 minutes, you might want to consider abandoning ship.
Tom: A big problem is a lack of introduction for our hero Haruto Tsukishiro. While we do, sort of, get to know him over the course of the episode, Haruto’s motivations and backstory remain entirely unexplored. Instead the episode pushes a tragic backstory for its villain of the week that ultimately feels hamfisted and forced. An entirely unrealistic, anime trope ridden interpretation of bullying that only further distances my interest.
Linny: Considering how much time we spend with Haruto, it’s disappointing how little we know about him at the end of the episode. All we know is that he keeps his cool mainly because he keeps dismissing everything as a dream EVEN after someone warns him that if you die in the dream world, you could die for real. It honestly made him come off as an apathetic bystander rather than the hero of the story. And like Tom said, our villain of the episode comes off with a cliche tragic backstory and, in some parts, seems to be a bit of a psychopath, making me wonder if there’s really such an urgent need to save her.
Tom: Not only is 18if based off a mobile game and part of what seems to be an expanding franchise, but it’s also meant to be a pseudo-anthology. Each episode is by a different director and will offer their own take/realization of this world. But what’s here in this first episode feels uninteresting and it’s doubtful I’ll be returning to the world of 18if to see what else it has to offer.
Linny: I could recommend 18if to someone who’s seeking an experimental plot and animation style in their anime watchlist but even then I have a million caveats about the actual story and characters. Any appeal 18if could have is on the shallowest level for now. Its main plot and characters come off completely unimpressive and uninspired making it an easy pass for everyone else.