Studio: Visual Flight
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
When Crunchyroll announced they were going to be involved in the development of an adaptation of sci-fi manga, Ex-Arm it felt like a good move. Crunchyroll, like Netflix, has started to delve into the anime production side of things themselves in recent years, which can only mean good things, right? Not in this case, unfortunately. Alarm bells began to sound almost straight away for people after the first trailer of the Ex-Arm anime released, people noticing the clunky CGI animation and predicting this would be a subpar release. The first episode only confirms the shoddy production values, unfortunately, making what should have been a serious narrative, just come across as plain comedy. The fact that at the time of this article’s writing, the anime is currently sitting at an abysmal 2.34 score on MyAnimeList, only further adds insult to injury.
The premise of the show centres around teenager Akira Natsume, living in 2014 who we only see briefly enough to know he’s something of an odd duck compared to his brother and school friends before he’s promptly run over. Fast Forward to 2030, and he now exists only as a brain in a box, but apparently is considered an ‘Ex-Arm’ – a technological device and superweapon hotly pursued by people around the world. He’s picked up by a policewoman and her android partner, Alma, and what follows is a series of confusing action sequences, with Akira learning to harness his new power as an Ex-Arm.
Sadly, the narrative and characters themselves are very bland and unoriginal – I didn’t really care for any of the characters at all, and whilst a lot happened in the 20 minutes run time, it felt more like one set piece after another rather than actually explaining anything. The cliffhanger ending offered some hints at actual depth to the story, but there was little content enough prior to suggesting it really has the originality to back it up. By the end of the episode, I didn’t feel invested or wanted to know what would happen next – the opening showed a large number of characters but none of them really intrigued me. I personally liked the opening song but the visuals for it were very underwhelming.
Let’s talk about the main flaw that makes this anime fall apart – the animation. It’s bad enough that the use of CGI is poorly done, with action scenes just looking like ridiculous set pieces with very little real tension or excitement to them. It’s actually distracting how bad it looks, with body movements and anatomy not consistent at all. To make things all the more confusing, the CGI seems to only be used for specific characters which gives the weird uncanny valley feeling when you see a CGI person, walking next to a 2d traditionally animated one in the same scene. It feels cheap and doesn’t make any sense in the context – if only the androids received the CGI treatment, that would be acceptable perhaps as there would be some logic behind it but there seems to be no pattern between who receives the CGI treatment and who doesn’t. Alma comes off the worst for this, mainly due to her amount of screentime as she’s the primary action lead here, but even the side characters just look plain dreadful – mouths flapping at random, the shadows and colours just looked flat and washed out.
All in all, Ex-Arm comes across as a very clumsy anime with ideas of grandeur that it simply is unable to pull off. Perhaps with a better handle on the animation, it could be a decent enough series, but in its current state, there is simply nothing to recommend here.
Ex-Arm Episode 1
Ex-Arm unfortunate animation style and lacklustre story make this anime more of a comedy to watch than the exciting action sci-fi it clearly thinks it is.