Warning: There might (?) be spoilers in this. I tried to avoid them, but better to be cautious. If you played the game, though, you should be safe.
Decided last minute to catch up to Subarashiki Kono Sekai The Animation, or The World Ends with You. If you read my spring anime post, you’ll remember that I had loved the game, and was hoping for a good adaptation. Typically, adaptations based on games are a mixed bag, and it would have been devastating to mess up this one.
Well, fear not, for the anime did admirably. It delivered pretty much exactly what I was looking for: a largely unchanged narrative and some nice nods to the game. Was everything perfect? No, but it did handle things well that couldn’t be translated directly between mediums. Let’s look at a few specifics.
Much like in the game, you’re thrust right into the middle of it. The opening of the first episode almost feels identical to what happens at the start of the game, and we’re introduced to Shiki and the partner system. It kind of glazes over the nature of needing a partner in much the same way as the game, so I can’t fault it. Actually, I applaud it for not trying to fabricate something.
The combat is also handled well for what it was. As a game, the combat system is very unique, basically a parallel process system where you’re doing two different things on two different screens. It took quite a bit to really get used to it, and I certainly never mastered it. I kind of just handled Neku, and then mashed buttons so his partner didn’t die… But we’re not here to talk about my pathetic gaming skills.
Now, obviously, translating that to a watched medium would be challenging, if not straight up impossible. It was one thing I was most curious about, how they’d handle it (that, and if they’d make some unnecessary changes to the story). They did probably the most logical thing: taking the focus away from the combat. Fights in the anime were quick, with a bit of spectacle to show Neku getting new powers. We’re not explicitly told that he has new pins to unlock said powers, so that could be misconstrued by those who haven’t played the game. After these brief fights, we move on to the meat of the series, that being the story. I can’t think of a better way to handle the combat system aside from de-emphasizing it, so points for that (I always preferred a story-focus anyway). Only downside was the CGI in the fight scenes, which I’m not a big fan of. The rest of the time, we get to enjoy the beautiful art style that the game utilized, so I’ll live with it.
It was also nice that they included the tandem attack combos that the game had featured. It linked into the main theme as well, so it’s good that they kept it. My only complaint about it, however… They made it look WAAAAAAYYYY too easy. Like, I managed to unlock it maybe a couple times, but they just used it at will… I’m not alone in thinking this, right? Right? … Okay, let’s get off my lack of skills again.
Another great nod to players and fans was the music. We had several tracks from the game injected into the anime, and it was like a blast from the past. I remember changing zones repeatedly until I got to the track “Calling”. Not sure why I like it so much, but it was great to hear it again. Speaking honestly, I listened to this on loop while writing this…
The opening and ending tracks were on point as well. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the opening song, it did fit the aesthetic of the series perfectly. The ending song, however, I really liked. I listened to it fully every episode. It really gets you excited to go to the next episode. Glad I waited a bit so I could partially binge at least.
Let’s talk about the important part here: the story. How well was it adapted? How was it, independently? Well……… It was excellent. I really have no complaints on that front.
On its own, disregarding the game, the plot is stellar. It does feel a bit rushed, especially in the first game, but I think that’s more of a factor of adaptation. A lot of the game time is spent walking around fighting noise. That, in turn, extends the time for each arc, where as the anime bypasses much of the combat (which I still hold was the right move). Unfortunately, it does result in a bit of a disconnect from the side characters, resulting in a lack of caring from the viewer. Definitely a downside for anyone new to the series. That being said, the actual story is awesome. Especially for a loner like myself, Neku’s story really resonated with me. Being a loner gets lonely, you know?
We also have the other characters’ stories, which, while brief, are touching none the less. We’re basically dealing with death, and there’s always tragic tales that accompany it. Gave me some Ballad of a Shinigami vibes (though I honestly have only read the light novel version, not sure if the anime retains those feels). This is especially true for Beat and Rhyme. Always good to have some feels mixed into a story, even if slightly watered down due to pacing.
As a fan of the game, though, my worry was how well the story would be adapted. I hate when they change things just for the sake of changing them (looking at you, Doom… Ugh, why do western game adaptations always drop the ball?). If the rest of this post was any indication, I think it did fantastically. It felt almost one-to-one at every point. I will say, I didn’t get a chance to replay the game before writing this, but I could only think of a few things that seemed out of place. Let me know in the comments if I’m wrong.
I was thrilled that they kept this anime as accurate to the source as it was. There was something heartwarming about Shiki being Neku’s fee the second time around. The relationships with the other characters were also fantastic, and seemed to hold to the game as well, though a bit more hurried. So, even if my memory betrays me, the character interactions and the theme of the game hold well, so I give it a passing grade as a game adaptation.
Overall, this was what I wanted to see. An accurate adaptation, no shenanigans with trying to fit the combat to the medium, good characters, and an overall solid series. It’s clearly based on a game, and it doesn’t really hide it with how the combat is animated, which is the right move. It could have a bit of a weak effect on people who didn’t play the game, but you could argue that’s not the target audience. Even so, the plot has plenty of twists and turns to keep new viewers invested. I’d definitely recommend this to a friend if they wanted to know what the game’s story was about but didn’t have the time to play the game. As a fan, it was everything I hoped for. While it suffered from some of the issues that comes with game adaptations, it retained enough to make me satisfied and gave us plenty of nods with the music and art (also loved to see Shiki’s voice actress, Hachimine Anna, reprise her role!). If every game adaptation was at this level, many gamers would be pretty happy.
Let me know what you thought of the series, and please let me know if there was something out of place in the series. See you all in the next post.