EVIL OR LIVE – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: In this modern society, a new kind of “illness” is striking young boys and girls; Loneliness, disbelief and outrage push this generation to get more or more attached to Internet and technologies. The experts called those symptom “Net Addiction”. To prevent that, a certain Rehabilitation Facility has been set up to “Lead the young man back to the right path”. Enrolled to treat his addiction, Hibiki had no idea that this Rehabilitation Facility is nothing more than a prison. In this place where it’s not permitted to escape, how will Hibiki challenge despair in this hell? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: While King’s Game may be entirely self-aware with its B-movie persona, Evil or Live is a more natural train wreck. Everything from its animation to its writing leaves much to be desired. This shoddy production is only masked through the most superficial means, making use of a cinematic letter box framing, darkening and old footage blemish effects to try and artificially craft a more moody atmosphere where the animation utterly fails to do so.
Linny: Despite all that, this is a show that will still hurt the eyes of both picky audiences and even those who can usually turn a blind eye to poor animation. There are so many moments where character movement screams of lazy/cheap animation as they jog in place or their faces and bodies often receive the minimum of definition.
Tom: Evil or Live is focused on Hibiki, our meek yet crafty lead, as he’s forced to try and survive this hellish internet obsession reform school that’s both brutal and bleak. Hibiki isn’t an easy character to get a handle on. He starts out thoroughly unlikable, so wrapped up in his gaming addiction that he’s an absolute train wreck as he’s confronted with the grim reality that his mother abandoned him to this oppressive institution. But Hibiki quickly, and unrealistically, flips to a more crafty persona, able to thwart more powerful students with a surprise athletic ability previously unmentioned or seen. Of course he’ll double back on this character shift multiple times, making him difficult to root for or truly connect with. In fact, most characters are like this, constantly shifting to conniving villainous personas as they double cross everyone in their path, one minute showing great drive and cunning, and the next powerless before someone else who’s turned out to be a true adversary. It’s an absolute mess that doesn’t even hold up to the most minimal of scrutiny.
Linny: Initially Evil or Live seemed self-aware of how ridiculous its content is and seemed to be dialing it up consciously in an effort to almost come off as a spoof or a dark comedy. A perfect example is how Hibiki keeps hoping out loud that he has found himself in another world when he first wakes up in the unfamiliar disciplinary institution, making a clear reference to the popular trend of ‘Isekai’ tales in anime. He says it out loud often enough that it feels like the show is doing it on purpose rather than expecting us to seriously believe our hero could be that genuinely deluded or moronic. Even some of the more sexual content in the early parts of the show receives a dose of hilarity as evidenced in the scene where a female character, Shirori is told to sleep with Hibiki in exchange for access to a cellphone, which ends with her being so disgusted by the act that she ends up throwing up into his mouth and thus, then causing them both to throw up. There are several more comedic moments scattered throughout the show, which have me convinced that Evil or Live really wants to be enjoyed as an oddball dark comedy. However, closer to the midpoint, the show seems to have shifted a lot more of its focus on the struggle for power within the school and all kinds of alliances formed or broken, which could prove disappointing for those really enjoying the sillier content.
Tom: Those first two episodes, addressing internet addiction, a bizarre sense of comedy, and such left me feeling hopeful that the series knew it was ‘trash,’ much as King’s Game does. A quick, ridiculous story to make you laugh and shake your head before you’re back onto the rest of your day. But Evil or Live starts to take itself too seriously, painting this battle for contraband cell phones as a struggle of life or death. For a series that billed itself as a thriller/horror, it’s anything but. It’s instead a comedy of errors, with writing that entirely fits the already painfully shoddy animation production that frequently can’t match dialogue with the lip flaps. In that sense the series offers an endearing, so bad it’s good, charm that makes it difficult to look away. But at other times Evil or Live lacks that element, instead becoming dull and painful to watch.
Linny: Autumn 2017 truly feels like the season of B grade entertainment as we have 3 separate anime that are best enjoyed by those who appreciate the sheer ridiculousness and so bad, it’s good style of B movies. Evil or Live certainly deserves to be labelled as one. However, because of the fact that a lot of anime wiki type sites have it tagged as a thriller or horror, it’s bound to disappoint anyone who picks it up expecting a serious tale of such nature. If you enjoy laughing at really bad animation and like the sound of an over the top story about trying to wean teens off the internet using cruel physical training with occasional doses of dark or weird comedy, Evil or Live may still be your cup of tea. Otherwise, steer clear.
Tom: Unlike King’s Game Evil or Live isn’t able to maintain that B-movie shlock charm, delving deep into ‘just plain bad’ territory. There are times however, when it gets so bad, so ridiculous, that it feels almost impossible to look away, and it’s those moments that keep me coming back. Unlike King’s Game, I can’t possibly continue to give Evil or Live my recommendation, but I think it has similar merit to the awful, but much beloved, Ed Wood films of old, made with a passion entirely disconnected from conventional quality and appreciation.
EVIL OR LIVE is available for streaming via Crunchyroll