What They Say:
Haunted by career assessments and his lack of a real plan for the future, Buntarou’s days are occupied by his part time job and lazing around with his friends. But when his aloof classmate Saiyuki asks him out, he has no clue he’s about to get the most random career counseling session ever. Completely certain that creating a lucrative bishoujo game would set Buntarou on the path to success, Saiyuki challenges him to go beyond this wasteland of a world.
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
Any time a visual novel gets turned into an animated series, I tend to sign up for it. I mean, not only do I thoroughly enjoy the medium, but it intrigues me to see how a director and studio can condense a good thirty hours of material into like…four. Sometimes the outcome is great. However, sometimes it gets a little messy. But that’s fine. It’s cool. I can look past messy to a certain degree. I mean, all anime has its flaws. Well, okay, not all anime — but you get the point.
Girls Beyond The Wasteland, if you couldn’t guess by now, is based on Minato Soft’s visual novel of the same title. The impressive part of this lies in the fact that the game came out several months into 2015 (March, to be exact) and was animated less than a year later, premiering in January of 2016. Woah, that fast? It’s got to be good then, right? Meeeeeehh, we’ll see. This all-ages anime series comes to us from the director, Takuya Sato, who is also behind titles like “Say I Love You” and even one of my all time favorites, “Steins;Gate”. Now, this series is literally nothing like either of those two. Instead of witnessing things like forced, incompatible romance or time traveling bananas, we instead get to follow the life of Buntarou Houjou as he is roped into writing a visual novel of his own by some pretty girl (Sayuki Kuroda) who looks like Kuroyukihime from Accel World.
So right from the start, we already have an interesting plot in terms of the whole visual novel thing. The amount of VN related material in anime is lacking when you consider just how close the two things really are to one another. It’s like how that one family member never shows up at family reunions and so people never even really mention him apart from, “Oh, where’s Dan?” You know what I’m saying? Anyway, it’s clear that Buntarou is a dependable guy right out of the gate. The dude has a job, he’s a leader when it comes to group activities, and he even rescued a cat from a tree (I think. I might be just making that up in my mind based on his personality). The one thing to note about Buntarou, however, is that he isn’t really sure what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Up until now, he’s just kind of…existed.
From this point on, things proceed exactly the way you’d expect them to. The rookie game developers struggle with completing their tasks in an orderly fashion, overcome their problems through hard work and friendship, and then more problems of similar nature arise. But when it is revealed that Kuroda has had an ulterior motive this entire time (No, I won’t tell you what it is), the team disassembles and must figure out a new way to move forward in life. That is until Buntarou kicks it into superhero gear and gets the band back together. If this school had a football team, I would bet you money that Buntarou would be the quarterback. This dude is literally too dependable. I hate him. Also, the two cutest girls in the series have a crush on him and I just want to punch him in his stupid, dependable mouth. Ugh.
So, we have all these building blocks that should — if executed correctly, lay out the foundation for what could be an excellent series. We have lovable characters, an interesting story, various plot checkpoints in terms of drama, Kana Hanazawa, etc. However, something was still missing. I was literally NEVER excited to watch this show. I never in the past three months thought, “Wow! I Can’t wait to see what happens next in Girls Beyond The Wasteland!” Instead, each episode would end I would just think, “Okay, that’s fine” and then forget about it. Plus, the fact that the series streamed exclusively on Hulu made it seem like more of a chore than anything. But why? There were so many things that could have made this show the next Saekano (One of my favorites from 2015 — similar story, just much better) but none of them were able to come together and actually make something. Maybe it was just the elitist in me subconsciously telling myself that if a show’s artwork isn’t great, the show itself can’t be great. Which is untrue — I mean, look at Lain. But maybe, it was more of a culmination of so many things just being “Okay”.
Character development was just okay — Buntarou was incredibly static and any development his character was actually supposed to have just seemed unnecessary and forced. The comedy was very hit or miss most of the time, usually ending on “miss”. The artwork, as I mentioned before, was rather undetailed and just flat out boring. Even the characters themselves, apart from Yuuka, were boring and unoriginal. In fact, everything was just so okay that I tried to justify telling myself that I really liked the series because, in all honesty, any problems it had could be overlooked when I diverted my attention to other departments. But, here’s the thing, when you wind up having to persuade yourself that you like a show, something is clearly going wrong. I was able to figure that halfway through the series before finally coming to terms with how I didn’t really love it and that it was just normal. There’s really nothing about this series that something else hasn’t already done better.
Oh and don’t even get me started on the whole Bunta x Yuuka thing because that’s an entirely different issue.
Girls Beyond The Wasteland has many of the pieces that could normally shape an interesting, exciting series but fails to put them together in a timely manner. In fact, it fails to put them together at all. If you’re looking for a school-life comedy with a lovable cast and an enjoyable story, there are literally hundreds of other shows out there that do it better than this one. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it (Despite all of my complaints). It’s just so average that it’s really hard to try and get people hyped up for it. I will say, though, for fans of visual novels and bishoujo-game culture, you can definitely get something out of this. Just…don’t try and force yourself.
Streamed By: The Anime Network, Hulu