Revelations are made and two high school students face an uncertain world – together.
What They Say:
Fighting for the chance to confront God is hard enough, but high school student and genius mechanic Tazuna has it tougher than most. When he happens to hold hands with a girl in a lab, the two form the contract of Hand Shakers—couples who must fight in otherworldly battles to have a wish granted by God. There’s just one catch: Tazuna’s partner, Koyori, will die if she lets go of his hand.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language track gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show has a good mix of action and dialogue throughout it that keeps it moving and playing well across the forward soundstage for both language tracks. The English mix gets the boost and while that doesn’t translate to a lot of action to the rear channels it does provide for some good moments. There’s a lot of directionality across the forward soundstage with some decent impact in various action moments and it gives that some real life. Dialogue is a lot simpler overall with a lot of it fairly quiet so it comes across clean and clear no matter the level. Both language tracks have plenty to offer and they’re both free of problems such as dropouts and distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format with the OVA on the second as well. Animated by GoHands, the show has a very distinctive look as one expects from the studio and the encoding captures it very well. There’s such vibrant colors and detail to it all that really shines through beautifully with a clean and solid look and no breakup or noise to be had amid it. Some of the panning sequences stutter in the source but that’s simply how it’s animated. I’m still mixed on whether I like this style – and the heavy faux rotoscoping stuff early on just took me out of it all the more – but the animation just reminds me of those puffy stickers you used to be able to get in the 70’s and early 80’s and apply to background pages. They work together but there’s just a surreal kind of feeling when it comes to the layering of character animation and background animation.
The packaging for this show brings us a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the four discs that covers both formats and has an o-card that replicates the case artwork. The o-card definitely looks just enough better than the case itself with the better print and color quality for the characters but not by much since it’s just a big mess of characters together against an indistinct background. Nothing about it excites or even really tells you much about the show. The back cover uses a decent key visual of the two leads together while the left has a slim summary of the premise and a breakdown of the episodes and extras included. The shots from the show add some decent color to it all while the technical grid breaks down everything clearly in an easy to read fashion for both formats. While there are no inserts included the reverse side goes for a soft white background with the logo on the left panel and a cute picture of Koyori on the right.
The menu design for this release keeps things simple with a static menu for both discs that features a nice piece of key artwork of Tazuna and Koyori together with his weapon extended. It’s set against an indistinct background that doesn’t really help to set the mood or tone and the logo takes up a decent bit of real estate as well with its awkward look and separation between the words. The navigation menu along the bottom is at least a little creative in being done in white but having grey cogs along the left side of it that interconnect and touch on some of the shows style. The navigation itself is simple but easy to use and move about in as both the main menu and as the pop-up menu.
The extras for this release bring us the standard in that we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. We also get a preview for the OVA episode and the OVA episode itself included here, which is a full-length OVA that plays to a foundational/background direction that at the end of the series simply didn’t do much for me.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series from GoHands, Hand Shakers landed in the winter 2018 season with a twelve episode run and also got an OVA later that summer, all of which is included here. GoHands comes up with some interesting projects to work with that I tend to find awkwardly executed and largely an exploration of style over substance but with a divisive style. I actually like a lot of what they do here once you get past the first episode with all the weird camera movement elements that felt like faux-rotoscoping because there’s a lot of detail to it, some really neat designs to the characters, and the backgrounds just have something about how they’re presented in this form that makes me want to see even more of it. Unfortunately, the story itself is one that’s just more of the same old thing when it comes to high school kids with powers.
Taking place in an otherwise familiar modern day world, we’re introduced to high school student Tazuna. He’s got all the hallmarks of your average male character with a nice quirk in that he’s very skilled at repairing mechanical and electronic devices for people, which makes him someone good to know since he’s very friendly and easy to get along with. That skill has him fairly well known at this point and he ends up going to a university facility where he’s asked to do a repair request there that changes his life. While going through he discovers a young woman (that looks like a pre-teen girl) in the hospital side of things and he can’t help but to touch her hands, which leads to a catalyst moment that binds the two of them together. With a little help from Makihara, the professor that works at the facility, we learn just how deep this bond now is.
With the name Koyori revealed for the girl, Makihara has it set for the first two weeks of the series that the two of them most hold hands constantly as Tazuna is essentially recharging her battery so she can function. She knows nothing of anything and that means awkward scenes once Makihara sets her up at Tazuna’s home where he helps her bathe, dress, and so forth. Even eating is kept simple for awhile because she’s been asleep/dormant for so long. What Makihara reveals is that Tazuna and Koyori are able to tap into the Ziggurat, an empty world like the real world where various teams of people like them fight. What he and Koyori are is called Hand Shakers, which is no surprise at all considering the title. The two have to build their trust together and Tazuna has to learn about the weapon he can generate in this strange Ziggurat world in order to hold off those that are trying to take them down.
Now, there is ostensibly some reason for all of this happening that leads to some decent battles along the way and a greater sense of importance toward the end but it’s all fairly empty when you get down to it. Very little of that resonates and you’re left with more just enjoying two different things at very different levels. The first is the visual quality of the show which has some really striking designs (even if everyone is far more childlike than they should be for high school students) that make for some really appealing sequences to watch unfold. The color quality is just impressive and there’s something about the stylistic choices that GoHands uses that simply draws me in even if it feels like it’s all close to giving me a headache. I like it but it’s not something I can watch for hours on end in a row. It has such a rich near-theatrical kind of quality in a way but still has that disconnect between character animation and background animation that just gives it that Shrinky-Dink kind of feeling to it.
The other aspect of the show that makes it worthwhile is just the creativity of the characters and the action sequences. It goes big in a very busy way quite often and you get that early on when you meet one of the opposing teams that has the guy leading it and his girl is in chains and on all fours in her schoolgirl uniform. Yeah, it’s a terrible image in a lot of ways but the way it comes together works well as do some of the other teams that come up. The show may not make these really relatable characters (hell, we dip into idol territory here as well, which is just a drag on the show), but the visual designs for the way it handles the battles in the Ziggurat really does work well and it stands out against a lot of other shows because it isn’t just sticking to the familiar. GoHands has such a distinctive style with their original works that it can be divisive, and I kind of flake on it from time to time, but it is what makes a lot of this show work.
Hand Shakers suffers from being far too familiar and standard in what it does as it feels structured the same as a manga to anime adaptation – which it shouldn’t. Original works really need to find their own way and avoid that. There are a lot of questionable elements early on that are shuffled away as the hand holding side subsides (a cute bit ridiculous thing that’s not implemented well at all) and once it does that it falls even further down the path of the familiar. It’s certainly not bad and I really like the animation but I expected more out of an original work from GoHands and the team involved. What I got was something far too familiar. Funimation’s release is definitely solid with a good dub, some fun extras, and a clean presentation that will please fans that want to own the show.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 13 Go ago Go, Episode 13 Preview, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Trailers
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 20th, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.