This was bad. Poorly conceived, poorly executed, and ugly. I never criticize a real effort to try something new and different, to try to move the world of anime into new territory. But this was not a good effort. The result is unappealing at best, atrocious at the worst. I don’t recommend spending your time on this show.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 0

These are the most ordinary character types. A typical male MC, and predictable female primary supporter, a sexualized female android, a geeky scientist girl, a stern but free-thinking commander, a gruff muscle guy, a mature but cute female officer, a pompous and overpowered antagonist, I could keep naming familiar types until I covered all the characters. It’s dismally ordinary.

Initially I thought there was potential. The main character was not sure of his past and had been reduced to a brain attached to a machine. It’s kind of silly, but I thought it could work. It’s unusual to have a main character that’s just a brain! But once this character’s physical representation kept reappearing as a stereotypical, diminutive male MC type (ethereal or otherwise), this whole plot element lost interest. It would have been much more interesting if Akira was only a voice until he manifested as the Ogre. As it is, it’s dumb.

Alma, the emotionless female robot, doesn’t have any pants. It’s dumb that she doesn’t have any pants. She even gets an updated outfit out of nowhere in the middle of the series, and she still doesn’t have any pants. It’s borderline idiotic. And another robot speaking in a monotone voice? What is this, the ten thousandth iteration? It’s bad.

Should I rail against the introduction of the computer AI Yggdrasil? How about that shamelessly lame choice for her name? The fact that the author only introduced this character to add a loli female, something that had mercifully been absent to that point? Should I fume about the second android? She’s clad with another android stereotype, protect-my-master-even-though-he’s-a-decaying-corpse-because-that’s-my-programming.

Speaking of androids and stereotypes, the author pays homage to Star Trek: The Next Generation with Kondo, who’s general appearance and visor over his eyes remind us of Geordi La Forge from that show. Or, maybe I’m giving the author too much credit by saying “homage.” But “plagiarism” has such a harsh sound to it.

Have I mentioned the females are overtly sexualized? It’s bad enough on Alma. It’s really bad on Chikage. I don’t think any female character escapes this aspect. Even Yggdrasil clings to Akira, uttering the fateful phrase “onii-sama!”

If I went on it’d be depressing, because I’d just be beating up one character after another for being badly stereotypical and uninteresting. You get the idea. These characters rely on stereotypes alone, and they have little to distinguish themselves in any way. I gave them a zero for a reason. This was the most minimal effort in character design I’ve seen to date.

Artwork

Rating: 1

The only thing that distinguishes this anime as not completely and appallingly ordinary is the artwork. This studio tried to do something new in the world of anime with this CGI artwork. That being said, that’s the only thing I don’t fault the artwork for. Other than being unique, it’s horrifically bad.

The biggest reason I watched this show initially was because the artwork was different. I wanted to see what it’d be like. For one thing, it looked a lot like a certain controversial CGI animation that I’ll bring up in the Overall section below. But also, the opening was fun, and featured this mysterious Ogre creature. I thought it looked interesting, so I went with it.

But after that, it was all downhill. The action was terrible, down to the choreography itself. The animation in action and everywhere else was abysmal. The character designs were atrocious and were executed terribly. What was the worst part, you ask? The horrible facial design and execution. Particularly with the females. Most parts of the face in anime are motionless, but it’s in the drawing techniques and the animation of the face that helps us see life and emotion in characters’ faces anyway. All of that is gone here. You have an attempt at large anime eyes on the girls, but they never move or change in the slightest. You can understand this on Alma since she’s not supposed to have emotions. But you can’t understand it on Minami, who’s vocal intonations never match her facial expressions. Remember those memes with Darth Vader that show his face for all his different emotions? Of course it never changes because of his mask. That’s how Minami’s face is. And all the girls’ faces for that matter.

Their moments were extremely stiff. Walking, simply arm motion, head turning, not to mention fighting, were very unnatural and slow. CGI continues to struggle in this area where traditional techniques succeed. And traditional techniques don’t accurately recreate human movements either, but they create something that’s recognizably human. CGI efforts at recreating human motion continue to result in something so unnatural that it’s distracting to watch.

Beyond animation, the coloring was displeasing. If I had to name this color palette, I’d call it Dystopian Blasé. Reddish, greenish, grayish, no real white, no real black, just blah. The only place you see these colors together in nature is in compost piles.

One thing I found hilarious was the handful of characters near the end of the show that were drawn with more traditional anime methods. They clearly didn’t look like CGI. I’m not qualified to say whether they were or not, but if I had to guess I’d say they were drawn in a more familiar anime way, whether by hand or with a program. And they are terrible. Their movements are subpar by anime standards. It looked amateurish, to pile on the rest of my disgust at that point.

It was all very bad. Any interest I initially had in the artwork was dead by episode 6 or so. It wasn’t going to get any better, and it probably got worse. I’ll cease my barrage there.

Story

Rating: 0

Maybe this too was interesting in the beginning. It felt dystopian, as we slowly unraveled the mystery behind the devolution of mankind into this weird floating city of a thing. But it became extremely hard to follow, and I don’t think it actually made any sense in the end. Whatever threads were present in the initial parts of the story, they didn’t seem to last to the end. Instead, they were replaced with predictable snippets of story that just conveniently added to the action at hand. 

I won’t even go on about it. It’s too convoluted and lost to even deal with. The only consistent thread is that of the Ex-Arm devices, and even their use, origin, and creation is unclear. At times they seem all-powerful, at times they disappear and we don’t seem overly concerned about it. They can pretty much be whatever the storyteller wants them to be at the moment, and that’s the worst use of a plot device. 

But everything else is even more convenient, and completely momentary. And it’s completely uninteresting. Maybe during the first few episodes the mystery has your attention, but as those are explained away or simply lost and forgotten, all curiosity disappears and we’re left just getting through each episode. It’s a mess.

The kissing thing between Alma and Minami was stupid. It felt forced, adding yuri sexualization for the hell of it. I have no idea why they’d introduce it except to further unnecessarily sexualize this show. “Hey, let’s add two girls kissing! People always love that! That’ll get people interested!” That’s the best my imagination can do for the authors’ inner thoughts. And I’ll thank them to not quibble about my lack of imagination.

The geeky scientist (also overly sexualized) Alisa turning into the former Doctor Whoever at the end was a backbreaker. Or, like another backbreaker. My back gave out officially when we introduced a second brain that morphed into a city-sized cable blob. I’ll spare you any other gory details on these repeated injuries.

It was bad.

Overall: 1

The rating of 1 is for even attempting to be original. I can’t bring myself to rate it zero for that reason alone. But that’s the only place I see any effort for this show.

I don’t have a section on dialogue, so I usually put that here. Does the Hawk have one final positive thing to say about this otherwise terrible anime? Nope. The dialogue is even worse than the animation. It makes you cringe how bad it is sometimes. Enough of that.

So I’m gonna put it out there and say I like RWBY. It’s very controversial, and lots of interesting and relevant discussion about it swirls around the world of anime. One of those discussions revolves around its CGI designs. The only reason I bring this up is because both it and Ex-Arm tried to do the same thing, but one succeeded (eventually) and the other crashed and burned. One became unique and it’s own fixture, the other became a poor attempt to recreate the wheel. RWBY’s artwork felt horrible initially. The characters couldn’t walk, their faces were lacking in emotion, and their hands looked really weird. But to their credit at Rooster Teeth, they straightened these kinks out. But they had one thing going for them in the artwork realm that cannot be overlooked. Their fight sequences were fantastic. And they are to this day, as that series trails on as I write this (March 2021).

Ex-Arm tries to use similar CGI styling, but fails both in the ways RWBY initially did and in the areas where it succeeded. Nothing stands out to me for Ex-Arm like it did for RWBY, apart from how bad it is. If I compared the two and pointed to one thing that makes this difference, it’s probably simply the artistic effort. The people behind RWBY loved what they were trying to do and believed in it, as trite as that may sound. Ex-Arm feels lost and unmotivated, lacking in vision and effort. 

I saw a review for Ex-Arm on MAL that referenced a scene from the movie Jurassic Park, where one of the characters essentially notes that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I thought how appropriate that seemed for this show. Someone thought they could do this, so why not go ahead? The result, for whatever reason, was a boring, uncreative, bland, and ugly aberration in the world of anime. 

Seriously.

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