Anime Sunday: First Impressions of 'Mecha-Ude' (Pilot Episode - 2019)
In other words, I'm being judgemental but also somehow reserving judgement at the same time for now.
Reina Scully is a YouTuber who I find endearing for her "kawaii" personality and love of anime. I enjoy watching her videos about Japanese culture every now and again; when I found out recently that she had helped to produce the pilot episode for a Kickstarter project called Mecha-Ude, I naturally got curious and decided to check it out.
I am absolutely terrible at watching any television show, regardless of what it is and how many episodes it has, because I just haven't learned to commit in spite of my affinity toward competently paced character arcs and cleverly hidden revelations. It is my hope to curb that attitude with more "first impressions" posts and series discussions than ever before.
Of course, there's no better time to start my unpredictable streak than the present. Time to enter the fray and surprise the TV community with a mechanical fist of my own.
Mecha-Ude (Mechanical Arms) is an anime currently in its production stage about people who literally cannot live without their sentient mechanical arms in a futuristic Japanese setting. We've got our protagonist Hikaru, who doubts his own abilities and really just wants to play video games all day, and his friend Aki, his guardian who's apparently purposed for Tsundere jokes. Hikaru's arm is of interest to some wacky-haired, scholarly-looking types, and his ability to rise in moments of adversity only builds their intrigue that much stronger.
Being a shounen-based anime, Mecha-Ude naturally falls into some of the same tropes we see in other popular anime, including action-oriented scenarios and the placement of a central male hero. Obviously, this isn't a bad thing in and of itself, and there are plenty of shows that still manage to amalgamate innovative concepts and developments with these tags.
But I still can't help feel as though the character of Aki is a step backward in some way. She's yet another one of those token "strong, badass female characters" who needs to prove herself to a bunch of mockers while having no personality or interests outside of her stern devotion to Hikaru's safety. To make matters worse, her robot arms come out from under her short skirt when preparing to fight. That's not fascinating; that's an excuse for fan service.
Those of who you've read my post about Rouge the Bat know I have no issue with provocatively designed characters. The problem is that Aki is clearly checking boxes here. We're not talking about someone like Bayonetta who actually had a lot of thought invested into her appearance in addition to the rest of her character profile; this is a simple character who's really only there to fuel the protagonist's development and doesn't have a personal reason to be the way she is that we know of. Besides, she doesn't strike me as the type to flaunt herself.
Thus, I wouldn't mind that design aspect—hell, I wouldn't even mind the attitude—if it didn't have that reminiscence or at least had some more substance to it that was intentional and not just something slapped on for the sake of formality.
Hikaru is an infinitely more interesting individual, what with his relatability and risky run-ins with opportunities to grow as a character. He's struggling to have more control over his combat skills, sure, but a lot of it has to do with him needing to overcome his insecurities.
We've all been there; the second we start doubting ourselves, that's what shows in our efforts. But it gives him—and us—a greater motivation to stand up for what we believe in and to not take things for granted.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that he isn't just meant to be some comedic clutz, though the banter between him and his arm is fun and even sweet.
I'm not a fan of the art style—everyone just looks perpetually sleep-deprived and ready to chomp your head off—but the animation is nevertheless fluid for the most part against the CG and the colours are easy on the eyes.
I acknowledge that I am being fairly harsh toward something that can't realistically develop a whole lot in just over twenty minutes of an entire series, but I'm still unsure if I want to follow it closely enough to provide a full review somewhere down the line.
Admittedly, I'm curious about why these people depend on their arms so much to live and what makes Hikaru's in particular so special, so if there's eventually enough material to go off of I might change my mind later.
In the meantime, if you're interested and got a little more than twenty minutes to kill, you can find both the English-subbed and English-dubbed version of the episode for a limited time on Scully's YouTube channel.