Dimension W ‒ Episode 6

Dimension W looks like it’s settling into a series of two-part procedural episodes, ala the first half of Psycho-Pass and a handful of other action series. While the last one was a fairly inspired ghost story, this one indulges in some clumsy and overlong setup for a Battle Royale scenario. At least I think that’s where it’s going – it’s hard to tell what else Kyouma and Mira going to an island fight meetup as arranged by an exoticized African prince character could possibly mean.

Prince Salva-Enna-Tibesti, CEO of the famous robotics company Islera, has arrived in Japan on business with New Tesla. While publicly a hunky playboy, his private face reveals a conceited prick with devious intentions for his visit. Those plans are derailed, however, when his Japanophilic little brother, Prince Lwai, runs off on his own. Of course, Lwai runs into Kyouma, who’s begrudgingly obligated to give the child a tour of local Japanese Things. Following some slice of life antics, Lwai is returned to Islera. But later that night, Coil Madame Mary’s champion combat robot gets wrecked by a mysterious invader – Lwai. At the same time, Prince Salva has a chat with Claire, the lady in charge of the local 47th Coil. They foreshadow a bunch of vague stuff about “Shidou Yurizaki’s legacy,” a disaster on Easter Island, and Salva’s proclivities as a warmonger. It’s all very ominous and nonspecific. Meanwhile, Lwai leaves behind a note commanding people to go to Easter Island. This is a big deal since that’s the site of Kyouma’s tragic backstory, but he still decides to go.

The hints at Kyouma’s backstory we get are sadly generic. He had a girlfriend who died, and he’s obviously super hung up on her, despite repeated proclamations that The Past Cannot Be Retrieved and He Has To Move On. The ghost lake incident has made him consider the possibility that she’s still around in another timeline. By the end of the episode, he proclaims that he will Get Back What He Has Lost, which bodes ill for his mental health as well as the sanctity of the space-time continuum. He was also an amnesiac for a while, but I’m not sure how that affects anything. The Mysterious Girlfriend’s sister is still around as an anchor to her memory/Kyouma’s implied replacement flame. I’m glad she’s here, if only to detract from the possibility of a Mira/Kyouma romance. Either way, the much-needed effort to characterize Kyouma has so far proved disappointing. It doesn’t help that the show has caught a serious case of Characters State Their Development Aloud To Themselves-itis.

Writing-wise, Dimension W‘s biggest problem continues to be the repartee between its two leads. They’ve just had very few interactions at all. I don’t think there have been any developments in how they relate to one another since the third episode, and even that one was frustratingly opaque. Kyouma’s feelings towards Mira still seem to be limited to resentment and indifference. Rather than softening up, he’s gotten even meaner to her, telling her to go away and even punching her in the last episode. (This also makes his continued willingness to serve as her guardian increasingly inexplicable. If it’s just because Mary asked him to, then between this and Lwai, he’s starting to seem like an enormous pushover for no reason.) The show is not building a sense of camaraderie between these two. This might make sense of it were doing something atypical for the genre – say, building towards a status quo where they’re enemies rather than friends – but Dimension W has otherwise been so generic in its storytelling that I doubt it will play such a strange hand. This feels like a genuine mistake of character development. Oh well.

This episode even introduces a new, likely disposable character to take over the “irritating child who Kyouma begrudgingly becomes attached to” role. C’mon, Dimension W, that needed to be Mira like three episodes ago. You don’t have time to waste. Also, please let Kyouma express an emotion other than stone-faced indifference. The generic hints of a dead woman in his past would’ve been much more tolerable if there were at least some pathos, but he continues to have the emotional range of a brick wall.

The direction remains clumsy. I gave them the benefit of the doubt for a while, but I’ve finally decided that those cut-out background jump cuts are irritating as all hell. They’re used to poor effect here, not as punch lines to jokes, but as an attempt to highlight cool, sexy, or otherwise tense moments. The effect fails because impact shots like those usually benefit more from visual context. For example, the brief moment of action between Mary’s robot and Lwai would have been much more effective if the shots made use of the background to create cool compositions. I mean, speed lines exist for a reason. They create a sense of dynamism when you can’t afford to show the real thing through animation. In this case, isolating the characters just destroys their sense of movement and interaction. Another instance occurred when Salva used some sort of power to bind/arouse his assistant, Lashithi. She appears in a cut-out shot to emphasize how her body contorts. I could see this shot being more informative or even sexy if it included evocative elements from its environment – for example, the implication that she’s being caged by the car, or even a reminder of Salva’s gaze. These cutouts are a needless restriction of film’s expressive power. My eyes also keep getting bored every time one of them comes up. When the viewer is asking “okay when is this over” in the middle of something that lasts five seconds at most, something has gone wrong. With its art design and action-adventure premise, Dimension W had the potential to be visually exciting. But the direction – while making an effort to be distinct – has consistently dropped the ball.

Six episodes in and I’m confident in saying that Dimension W is nowhere near as good as it could have been, but also nowhere near as bad. Of all possible outcomes, we ended up somewhere in the middle. The show isn’t currently exciting me, but it still remains interesting, at least from the perspective of critical dissection. There’s still plenty for opportunity for the show to improve – or get worse, if it wants to go that way. Dimension W remains mostly potential, both positive and negative, and that in itself can feel disappointing now that we’re already at the halfway mark.

It’s time to address the elephant in the room: Dimension W has already been announced to appear on Toonami. In fact, it premieres in less than two weeks, on February 27th. While I’m certainly convinced that it could be better, I also think that it’s a good fit for US television. It’s very much a safe bet, relying on visual and narrative tropes that have proved successful in previous imported anime (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Outlaw Star, Trigun, Ghost in the Shell, etc.). Dimension W is a calculated bet on Funimation‘s part, and I suspect that it will do fine. Getting on Toonami wasn’t a matter of if, but when. I’m glad that a company is trying to produce interesting anime for a primarily Western audience, even if they can’t all be experimental masterpieces like Space Dandy. While the jury’s still out on whether Dimension W will be good, I’m confident in calling it good enough.

Grade: B-

Dimension W is currently streaming on Funimation.

Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.