Qualidea Code Review
Warning: The following review may contain spoilers of the show Qualidea Code. If you wish not to know some plot details, or simply don't wish to find out what happens in the series, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched the show. Or you know, you can continue to read, since you don't care about spoilers.
Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:
In the end, the plot and how the show looked with PVs had me thinking I should give this series a go, since some people were immediately dismissing it as too stereotypical. Though there were a few cliches that have been seen time and time again in LN adaptations (sci-fi/fantasy setting involving characters with magical powers), there was no school setting, and get this: NO HAREM TO BE SEEN (even if there's 4 females in the main cast)! So, as the months passed, I was definitely setting my eyes on the prize, being ready to see exactly what Qualidea Code would offer.
What was offered managed to be a mix of what I did and did not expect. On the one hand, you have a interesting story coupled with a well-executed twist that didn't dawn on me until it was revealed (even though I sensed there was something off), some great character development and a couple sprinklings of growth that had a few of my opinions shifting a bit when it came to the leads, an amazing OST that easily gives the show more life, plus my overall enthusiasm as episodes were coming out, and the fact I did eventually find out more information as the anime progressed.
On the other, this show wasn't nearly perfect. The story isn't the most consistent, being incredibly shaky in the beginning when it comes to character development and balancing exactly what's going on, then providing a bit too much information towards the end. There's also the iconic TV animation that immediately goes down in history as one of the worst efforts I have ever seen for an anime series (and this is from a good studio too), with that being the series's main downfall. It probably would have been a bit better had the animation actually had some quality.
How bad is it? Well, let's not get to that now. I don't want any of you to immediately start cringing at the beginning of the review, right? I thought as much.
Let's start off with what exactly happens in this show:
In a future Japan, humans are at war with mysterious beings known as the Unknown. When Japan was attacked by these creatures one day, the adults decided to put their children into cold sleep (a term that'd probably work as well would be elongated hibernation) so they would remain unharmed from the attacks and survive. A few decades later, some of these children developed supernatural powers that are known as World that can assist in the battle against the Unknown, and are primary defense in the cities of Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Chiba.
The story basically follows our six leads, Ichiya Suzaku and Canaria Utara, the representatives from Tokyo, Mahime Tenkawa and Hotaru Rindo, the heads of Kanagawa, and the Chigusa siblings, the older brother Kasumi, and the younger sister Asuha, the defense leaders of Chiba, and their fight against the increasingly powerful Unknown emerging from the Tokyo bay gate. As their opponents become stronger to the point where some of the cast goes MIA, a new truth is revealed about the world the teens live in, and the extent of it could change their perception on who they trust/care about to those they consider enemies. The stakes couldn't be higher as the last four episodes begin, with the main question being, "Which world is the one we perceive as real?"
Though it does take Qualidea Code a bit of time to finally get its story gears cranking, it still is a very interesting watch to see some hidden truths become uncovered and opinions of characters changing a bit or a lot. The last four episodes are probably the most engaging and interesting episodes out of the twelve, since almost everything has now been revealed to the ones left standing, and it goes in a direction I didn't even expect when I first started this show. Information I was also curious about since the beginning of QC/hints I was curious for follow up on were also revealed towards the end, so patience in that regard was also rewarded for me.
That still doesn't mean Qualidea Code has its struggles though. Its story in the beginning definitely reminded me of Divine Gate's handbook, since some more interesting things were skipped over/not even glanced upon in favor for things I didn't consider to be as important. For example, in Episode 2, when the main six have to fight an Unknown in Umihotaru Bay, the writers decide to bring out the swimsuits for an underwater fight for no other reason other than to say, "Gorgeous characters, I choose you!"
(I think I'm the only one who found this kind of hilarious considering the hot spring scene in the 3rd episode of B-Project (which aired the same day as this episode did, but I digress))
Granted, it's not entirely bad, considering we got some battle action out of it (though not as strong as Episode 1's was), but when you decide to bring out your characters in their bathing suits in the beginning of the series, you're going to make viewers believe you've run out of ideas this soon into the show. I honestly didn't mind it as much, because hey, this is the first time I've seen swimming briefs in an anime. What fun!
Towards the end, like I've mentioned before, everything does become clearer, but there are a few info-dumps here and there, and characters are randomly plucked into the situation without having a real purpose of being there other than convenience. But other than that, Qualidea Code still has a very interesting story, coupled with a few reveals that, again, I didn't expect from this show at all, and ones that were hinted at, but didn't dawn on me until the grand openings of them. The finale was probably the best episode of the series, since it wrapped everything up incredibly well, and was also entertaining to boot. It wasn't perfect (for reasons I'll explain later), but I still ended up really liking it.
Hell, re-watching some of the show before doing this review was incredibly weird, considering most of it was pre-plot twist reveal, and I saw parts of it in a different light. I wonder if that's going to be the same once I re-watch the masterpiece that I consider to be Death Parade? Time will tell for that.
Regardless, I say it's time to move to the character section now:
Each character in Qualidea Code has a different aspect to their personality all of the writers manage to pull off well (each writer wrote for four episodes. Specifically for the arcs of their LN characters, but also episodes outside of that). Some of them have some great development, while others stand on more shaky ground. Regardless, each of them is memorable in their own unique way, and whether that's good or bad is purely up to you.
Why don't we start off with Ichiya? I think that'll do just fine:
Ichiya is the head of Tokyo, and is most known for his incredibly arrogant personality. He looks down on several of the Tokyo students for not being as capable as he is, and casually insults the rest of the heads and subheads (mainly Kasumi). But he respects the adults who lead over them, as he thinks they're a big reason as to why they can fight on their own now with powers. He is able to control and manipulate gravity with his World, which takes the form of a black and gold plate on his left arm.
Known for being obsessive about where he's ranked (which doesn't really matter in the long term, but he's ranked 4th overall out of the three cities), Ichiya is a complete perfectionist, always charging into battle head-first and wanting to prove he's all the world needs to fight the Unknown threat. Canaria, his sub-head and childhood friend-ish, is the only one who seems to know him the most, but even he sometimes treats her coldly. Those feelings eventually start changing as the series goes on to something more (though it's most definitely more romantic on Canaria's side).
But when you actually get down to it, Ichiya might not be so bad. On occasion, he is able to suck up his impulsiveness, plus ask for help from the other city leaders when he needs it, especially when Canaria gets severely injured in Episode 3 and he feels like he can't fight on his own, considering how distressed he is. As the series goes on, he does become a little less important (whether on accident or purpose, it's not really clear), but he still has that drive inside him to become stronger, so one day he doesn't have to rely on Canaria as much and be able to fight on his own.
However, there's really only one way to put this: Ichiya is an asshole.
That may be pretty harsh, but it's honestly the truth. Not only is he incredibly rude, brash, and straight-up unbearable at points, he basically tells Canaria if her nickname of endearment, Icchan, goes past the leaders, she can go kill herself. That's in Episode 1. Nice guy, isn't he?
His motives in battle are also incredibly contradictory, He claims he's all the people need to face off against the Unknowns, yet he relies on Canaria too often. There's a point in time where Ichiya ponders this in Episode 3, but this doesn't really dawn on him as strongly until after Canaria gets hurt. He then does a complete 180 for the next episode, which was beyond strange, but at the same time, I thought he could become a better character from there.
But he really didn't. That character development gets snuffed out faster than any candle. Instead, he mopes for about an episode due to Canaria's disappearance, and then decides that since the one he fought for is gone, WHO NEEDS THIS WORLD? So he plans on destroying it, because, you know, that's logical.
Then, the writers basically forget about him for the next 2 episodes (even though he does pop up in one scene in Episode 8) before he becomes relevant again. Granted, his character does get slightly better, but it's nowhere near the actual sympathy I found for him in Episode 3 and the beginning of Episode 4. For a main character, having this flimsy development doesn't work in a show like this, and I honestly wished it was more consistent than it ended up being, because Ichiya could have been a good character.
But in the end, he really isn't. And that's a shame, considering he's the main male one.
Moving on now to Canaria:
Canaria is the sub-head of Tokyo, and is Ichiya's childhood friend. Though she is technically a year older than him, she woke up a year later from cold sleep, which makes them both the same age. She's a bit ditzy and spazy, referring to Ichiya as Icchan, and incredibly optimistic about everything. Compared to some of the other students at the schools, she doesn't have the ability to fly, so she has to be placed on a platform or on someone else's back so she can effectively travel.
Aside from her romantic feelings towards Ichiya, Canaria just wants everyone to get along and smile together, even though most of the characters just clash based on their personalities alone. Her World allows students currently in battle to either become stronger or recover from injuries, enabling them to kick more Unkonwn ass. It's probably the most iconic thing out of the series, and it's easy to see why. Time to Go is a pretty epic insert song.
At first, I wasn't really keen on Canaria. A few things about her personality kind of grated on me, and I didn't like that she was treated as the fanservice bait character in the first few episodes. But after she goes MIA and reappears, I managed to grow on her and her optimism. Canaria is just always positive, smiling, good-natured, and has a nice heart, and it's always refreshing to see a character in an anime have that much positive energy. Also, some of her interactions with Ichiya are kind of adorable.
I do wish I didn't learn to appreciate Canaria until after she up and left until Episode 9, but in the end, I did end up liking her mainly because of how sunny and bright she is. Granted, more character development would have been nice, but hey, she's not too bad in the end. The writers could have made her a fanservice character for forever, so I'm happy they didn't.
Kanagawa will be up next, first off with Maihime:
The head of Kanagawa, Maihime is also known as Hime by her childhood friend Hotaru. She is incredibly childish yet enthusiastic, typically charging head-on into battle with her huge sword and going overboard with her attacks (which typically don't end well, as she ends up destroying the Aqua Line, Japan's main source of defense, in Episode 1). Out of the group, Maihime's World powers are the strongest, granting her god-like ability she sometimes has no control over.
Maihime is typically wearing a giant trench coat which is from her grandfather's service in the military, and she wears it to honor him. Despite her bundles of enthusiasm, there are moments where it cracks, especially after Canaria disappears and Ichiya claims the others only view her as a number and nothing more, which deeply hurts her. Despite that, she is determined on the battlefield to showcase her true strength, and to protect the ones she hold most dear to her (mainly Hotaru).
Out of all of the characters in this series, Maihime is my favorite. I love her incredible bound of enthusiasm, and how much entertainment she brings to Qualidea Code. Aside from her antics in battle (both funny and serious), her dialogue is always either incredibly funny or sweet, and she brings so much life into this show that wasn't here already by this snarky bunch.
Plus, I really liked the focus put on her in Episodes 5 and 6 that helped flesh her out. Seeing more of her range of emotions other than happy-go-lucky made her grow on me more, and seeing her crying broke me (not psychically, but internally) because of how shocking it was. A typically enthusiastic character bursting into tears? WHUT. THE. HELL?
When she disappears for two episodes, her presence was greatly missed by me, and I was so happy when she returned. Let's be real here; there was NEVER going to be a more entertaining character in this show other than Maihime. I mean, who can forget this:
I'm going to jump over to Hotaru now:
Hotaru is the sub-head of Kanagawa, as well as Maihime's childhood friend before cold sleep. Reunited under rocky circumstances, their friendship is now stronger than ever, which leads to moments of Hotaru freaking out when she isn't near Maihime for a certain amount of time, making her out to be the big sister figure of her superior (or lover, if some lines are any indication).
Aside from making it her duty to protect Maihime, Hotaru is typically no nonsense and stoic, shutting down any argument that sprouts up between Ichiya and Kasumi, and fighting to the utmost of her ability. She typically wields a katana, and her World powers allow her to hit anything within her line of sight, such as a large abundance of Unknown.
Hotaru is actually a pretty good character. Her devotion to Maihime is pretty cute, their interactions for the most part are actually quite good (except for one line in Episode 3), and her skills in battle are something I wouldn't want to mess with. Who'd want to end up as bloody bits from a quick slice of a katana? Not me.
There are a couple of scenes in particular during Episode 2 when the six are split into groups of two, and Hotaru is paired up with the two boys, being away from Maihime for a good chunk of time as they help with the repair efforts with the Aqua Line Maihime accidentally destroyed. Seeing Hotaru in a state of near panic of not being near her leader was actually pretty funny, and their reunion was first established by Hotaru's fast walking to Maihime during a lunch break to tickle her. It's pretty funny and adorable.
I think the main reason why I like Hotaru is that her devotion to Maihime isn't her only character trait, despite it being her main one. There's a strong girl in there regardless, and while I do wish I could have seen more of that, I still liked what I got.
Last but not least for our city heads, we have Chiba and the Chigusa siblings, starting off with Asuha:
Asuha is Kasumi's younger sister, and the head of Chigusa due to the fact that she ranks above her brother in terms of overall power. Despite her typical lad-back attitude, she can get very excited in battle, especially if she has her twin pistols with her. Her World allows her to control how certain objects move in her line of sight.
Her relationship with her brother is pretty typical. Though she typically acts cold or stone dead to him, she still really cares for Kasumi (I'm pretty sure in the sibling sense unless others convince me otherwise), and wouldn't like to see him get hurt and all the stuff that knits brother and sister together like that.
Out of the main cast, Asuha doesn't get a lot of development. Aside from knowing she doesn't get along with some characters, her relationship with her brother is the most explored in terms of her character. While some people think it's pretty much built up to hint incest and it's pretty icky, I wouldn't go that far. While it depends on who writes for them, I do think Kasumi and Asuha's bond as brother and sister doesn't go too far in making it look like there's SO much more to them, other than saying how much they want to protect each other and Asuha's occasional blushing. I think that's pretty much the extent of how "romantic" their relationship goes. This isn't a Yosuga no Sora situation, all right (and I don't plan on watching that show, mind you)?
Plus, they're basically the same character with their cynicism and lax attitude, so watching them interact each other is hilarious.
Time to talk about the bro now:
Kasumi is the older sibling of the two by a couple of years, but is ranked lower due to the fact that he's lazy and doesn't really care about the ranking system in any way, being the sub-head of Chiba for that reason. Aside from being in constant IDGAF mode, Kasumi is incredibly cynical and typically gets into spats with Ichiya due to their similar attitudes, though Ichiya is a little more optimistic. But he's also pretty perceptive, as well as smart, considering when some of the other characters begin disappearing, he immediately notices signs that the leadership is completely off, and asks Asuha for assistance when he is asked to come to a meeting where one big announcement is waiting for him.
Outside of his personality, Kasumi's weapon of choice is a sniper rifle, which he is actually quite good at using, and his World power is very akin to a bat's, being echolocation, which allows him to hunt targets via sound. This is prominently on display in Episode 2, where he's able to hunt down an Unknown in the water that's near his sister.
At first, I wasn't exactly sure what to think of Kasumi. You can easily tell Wataru Watari had involvement with his character, considering how cynical he is much like Hachiman from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, but I was mainly curious to see how he has going to be developed. As the show goes on, he does become more interesting, especially when he puts effort into putting his thinking cap on and notices things are not what they seem. He's also at points an effective fighter in battle, and while he may not have the best teamwork skills, he does eventually make a decent effort when school troops can't show up.
Plus, his dialogue is incredibly hilarious with all the good qualities of our highly esteemed pessimist (again, Hachiman), and how Kasumi interacts with his sister can be pretty funny in itself despite wanting to protect her since she's still young and kind of innocent.
Other characters in this anime include Gutoku Asanagi, Airi Yunami, and Mahiru Ookuni, who are regional management officers of the South Kanto Bay Defense Organization, Aoi Yaegaki, a part of the student administration for all three schools and a student from Kanagawa, Zakuro Otonashi and Ginko Sajihara, who are also students at Kanagawa, Kosuke Hashibiro, a student from Tokyo who has an obvious crush on Canaria, and Yu Chigusa (also known as Johannes), Asuha and Kasumi's mother believed to be dead, who is actually alive and still kicking.
The animation for this series was produced by A-1 Pictures, who are also known for their work on Fairy Tail, Black Butler, and Uta no Prince Sama.
As I'm pretty sure I've mentioned in the last few reviews I've done where A-1 was in charge of animation, their overall quality took a nosedive last year. Gakusen Toshi Asterisk helped stabilize it, but I noticed the second cour had more misses compared to how smooth and polished the first cour looked, so I was a little bit worried to see how this was go. After all, the PV's looked fine, and the show looked like it would have a lot of care put into it.
In the beginning, there's only a few minor issues in terms of quality, but Qualidea Code still was a good production. It's Episode 4 where things take a significant dip, as the broadcast version's final attack was more bright white light transitions than an actual final blow. Then we had an actual good looking episode for 5, and then it plummets in Episode 6.
Hold on to your hats, folks, since we can only go downhill from here!
Even with decent episodes sprinkled into the mix, there's no denying the second half of Qualidea Code is an absolute hot mess in terms of animation quality. Off-modeling and still frames are frequent, along with incredibly lazy repeated frames, and shots where you can hear something going on but it's not shown. I'm not exactly sure what happened, whether it'd be that A-1 had time constraints, blew all of their money on the B-Project end cards, got their less experienced staff to work on this, or just simply didn't care. In the end, the production comes across as disgustingly cheap and honestly amateur, and it isn't something a well-known and respected studio should be producing in 2016.
Qualidea Code's animation easily reminds me of the six episodes I sat through for the Togainu no Chi anime adaptation, and that came out 6 years ago. But A-1 basically makes the same mistakes there as they do here, what with frequent off-modeling and just simply dry animation that doesn't stick the landing. But I think QC slightly edges out TnC mainly because the former has a more attractive art style. But it doesn't excuse the fact that both productions are horrid. I even decided to watch the final battle for the latter show, and that was a trip in itself with how bad it was. Let's not forget the horrid censoring (yes, QC has one instance of this)!
Yeah, should I mention A-1's best new project this year was the Shelter music video? And in terms of series, it was the mini series of Naantsu no Taizai?
Seriously A-1, you need to get your s**t together, because even the new Uta Pri season doesn't look that hot.
The score for this series was composed by Taku Iwasaki, who is also known for his contributions towards Soul Eater, Jormungand, and Bungo Stray Dogs.
Hands down, I think this is one of my favorite anime scores of all time. It doesn't mainly have to do with the fact that there's a lot of electronic elements (although that's always appreciated), but rather the fact that this entire score just fits incredibly well with this series. Considering QC takes place in the future, having the majority of the pieces be electronic and more "modern" compared to Iwasaki's other works I've heard is a genius move. There's of course time for more emotional pieces that rely on strings and stripped back instrumentation, but the tracks that play during battles are easily more recognizable and about a thousand times more epic.
Easily the most known piece/insert song is Time to Go, Canaria's song she sings during battles (she also has two more that are each played once in the anime). It has some great production along with some lovely vocals from her seiyuu, Yui Ishikawa. The song is basically a pump-up anthem for everyone to keep on fighting and not give up. After all, it's time to "show their bravery" when facing an opponent.
He he. You gotta love the song references/puns.
Another good thing is that Taku Iwasaki does some experimentation here, and it manages to work out well for him in the end. Compared to some of his other work I've heard, with Jormungand's incredibly diverse setlist, along with Bungo Stray Dogs's fusion of both old and new styles for its tracks, this will definitely stay in my mind as my favorite work from him, along with being one of the most memorable scores I have heard in any series I have watched.
Also, I know I haven't mentioned this in any review for a while now, but all of the openings and endings of this show are epic and lovely. You all should definitely listen to them.
The voice acting isn't as lovely as the score, but it's still nice. Aoi Yuki's growth as a seiyuu is again noticeable as Maihime. as she has another strong emotional range, while Yuma Uchida does a complete 180 on his voice from Yabuki from Asterisk, instead opting for a more laid-back approach with a huskier voice that perfectly fits Kasumi's character. There are also other great performances, but a couple didn't really stand out for me or honestly kind of irritated me (Sora Amamiya at points as Aoi until her voice dropped). As a whole, it's good, but I've heard better elsewhere.
Highlights include Soma Saito, Yui Ishikawa, Aoi Yuki, Ayaka Fukuuhara, Chika Anzai, Yuma Uchida, Mamiko Noto, Sayaka Ohara, Shiori Izawa, and Mai Nakahara.
If the animation for this show wasn't as bad as it was, my enjoyment for this series would have been slightly higher albeit its problems. But I still did like the show and was looking forward to a new episode every week. I managed to become incredibly invested in this show way more than I thought I would, which was pretty surprising. I have to thank an interesting direction and awesome score for that!
But beyond that, I still think this show was pretty good, although not one of my top favorites. Though I'm going to ask everyone to wait until this show gets licensed in the US so it can come out here with better animation, I still think this would be a good show for anyone interested in the sci-fi genre, people who need an epic OST to inspire their battle mode, need a watch for a cold or rainy day, or if you want to watch the bad TV animation, you can just see how bad it is.
Oh, and remember: when times get rough, just smile!
Why thank you Canaria for that unexpected announcement. Also, that advice could actually work for a lot of people. I'll consider it the next time I'm feeling down.
Interesting story; took a turn I didn't expect.
Most characters are good.
Good voice acting.
Actually quite enjoyable at parts.
Story takes a bit to get focused.
Character development is pretty wonky in some cases.
Awful animation for TV broadcast/simulcast.