2021 is looking to be a good year for anime. We have great continuations of current anime coming out, such as Dr. Stone: Stone Wars, new anime titles like SK8 the Infinity, and even remakes like Shaman King. The winter season started strong, or so I thought until I watched Ex-Arm.
Ex-Arm was an anime that I was looking forward to seeing. It has several manga adaptations, a novel, and now an anime licensed by Crunchyroll. Initially, the story of Ex-Arm was made in 2011 as a manga and ended in 2013. The premise is what got me excited about the anime. The anime is about Akira Natsume, a wiz at diagnosing electrical devices but has an extreme fear of electronic devices. At some point, Akira dies, and many years later, a law enforcement officer and their android partner get a hold of a Super AI only to find out that the AI is Akira Natsume and the AI device is his brain.
Now that sounds like a pretty sweet setup, especially if you are into science-fiction, cyberpunk type anime. However, after watching only 5 minutes of the first episode, I could not bear to watch any more. The animation was terrible. I won't sugarcoat it for you; it was awful. The potentially good story was instantly ruined by amateur animation. That anime reminded me of old flash animations I watched on New Grounds way back in the late 90s, early 2000s. To say it was an abomination is an understatement. Now I am not digging into Roosterteeth or RWBY in any way, but if you have seen the very first episode of RWBY, that animation was more polished and well put together than Ex-Arm.
Let's break down some points of what made the animation terrible. First, it was trying to be a more realistic CGI anime. Most of the time in the anime industry, CGI has more follies than success. It can be tough to meld realistic CGI into an anime and have the outcome be good. Remember the Berserk 2016 anime? If you have seen that, then you know what I am talking about.
Second, trying to meld 3D with 2D. I think you should never combine both styles into an anime. It can throw off the show's pacing and balance, and it also makes for very odd displacements. Overall, if the animation is terrible, it can make or break an anime series, and it did in this case.
What caused this to be such a debacle in the first place? We need to look at a few factors. I think first and foremost is the experience of the director. I don't believe the director has any good animation experience, and that goes double for the animation team involved in the making of Ex-Arm. The animation department lacks the expertise that needs to be addressed if the studio hopes to recover from this atrocity.
Next, we have to blame quality control and upper management for pushing this anime out. Did they think this would be considered possible by any means? Suppose the higher-ups, investors, etc., have any experience with anime and animation quality. In that case, they should have known this would not be a good anime with general audiences, let alone with experienced anime audiences. Check and balances need to be in place to garner success for any anime and animation studio.
Lastly, let's look at Crunchyroll itself. Initially, this was set to release in July 2020 but was pushed back due to the pandemic. This would have been the perfect time for Crunchyroll to re-evaluate the anime. I think time got the better of Crunchyroll and the studio, and they rushed the anime to completion for the Winter 2021 season premiers. I feel that Crunchyroll's recent acquisition into Sony played a role in this in that Crunchyroll wanted to show that Sony's money was well spent in buying them up. The upper staff probably excited Ex-Arm, and things just escalated from there.
Crunchyroll, the animation studio, and the director can only move up from this experience. If they figure out the mistakes made throughout the process, this won't happen again. If this does happen again, then you can expect to see anime fans lose respect for not only Crunchyroll but also the animation studio as well.