Posted by SuperMario on 2 October 2017 with categories: 18if, Anime Reviews, Reviews by SuperMario

Allow me to skip over the last episode coverage for this full review of 18if, since I was too underwhelmed by the finale to have anything concrete except pointing out how messy the ending was. The first thing you need to know about 18if is that it’s a multimedia project (along with a mobile game and VR game), which can probably signal you about the overall quality of the anime version. The concept that each episode our main character Haruto will need to save a Witch of the week – make her confronting with her dark and learn more about herself – in a dream world could lead to interesting places. Here’s the main catch for 18if: each episode is handled by different directors with different animation styles AKA the directors’ own take to the world of 18if. This format results in 18if as an inconsistent show by design. The quality of each episode is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you gonna get. That unpredictability in plot, the surreal nature of dream world and the diversity in animation styles are what I was personally looking for coming to 18if. For the most part, 18if stays true to itself, albeit below-average. The ending, however, tries hard to connect the dots and runs out of its steam fast with confusing tone, weak writing and nonsensical message.

For one thing that 18if does quite consistency despite its format, it’s that the show explores the real-world issues of multiple teenage girls in a dreamy surreal fashion. These girls have a nervous breakdown and struggle to find happiness in the real world, thus succumb to the dream world in the form of Sleeping Beauty Disease where they can do whatever they like, most of the time destructively. Those issues range from the pressure of being idol, bullying or even witnessing their family members murdered. They don’t often succeed on bringing the girls’ negative emotions to light, but their personal issues work as an emotional core for each passing episode. In addition, Haruto’s job is to confront those witches and only casually does he have some chemistry with the girls. In some episodes he only serves as a witness to watch the story unfolds.

Its episodic nature, where different directors handle different episode, is what 18if’s most unique factor. You can see the styles change in the character designs of Haruto. Most notably, in episode 7 the show hits the mark in full force with its European-influence aesthetic and tells a beautiful children story about the broken friendship that would be right at home with the classic works like The Little Prince. The genres and the tones change randomly as well as in one of the episode, 18if went full horror, other time it became an arthouse animation-showcase and at times it’s just flat out goofy. The quality of each episode also ranges from plain bad, “WTF did I just watch” to really great. As of now, I’d only recommend a handful of episodes instead of suggesting a whole package. Although possess a wide range of animation style, judging the show as a whole, the episode doesn’t add up much to the grand picture. There are no set rules (like in episode 4 the girl’s still fully awake despite the rules imply that all of them having Sleeping Beauty syndrome), there’s no deeper implication to takeaway after each episode (like episode 2 shows us that the dream world can affect the real world, which ends up being wasted). Each episode hardly connects to each other except for the main cast and the trouble climax. Since nothing adds up at all, most of them fall flat on their faces.

The main leads – consist of Haruto, his mysterious sister Lily and his mentor the anthropomorphic cat – don’t develop at all despite appearing in all episodes. Haruto, in particular, changes his personality from each passing episode in accordance with the Witch and frankly that makes it hard to get invested in him. There are some attempts, however, to give Haruto a backstory but the end result is so absurd it can’t be taken seriously (Adam and Eve nonsense). I’m personally all in for having a proper closure and it’s always welcomed to see those girls back for action but18if further loses its sparks when it tries to close up the arc with a very patch-up jobs of writing: unnecessary new characters (the new doctor, the Cult Leader), Eve the main antagonist that has no personality whatsoever and the tone is messy and disjoined. It hurts as well that the closing arc is one of the weakest in term of productions. The budget for the show wasn’t that much and it shows; you can argue the lack of consistent character designs and even the frame rates are all artistic choice, but more often than not the show looks poorly done and uninspiring. The dream world doesn’t receive a good treatment either, since it functions like a setting for Haruto saving the girls, with the only consistent rule is “Anything can happen in the dream world” – which is why it’s messy and all over the place.

In the end, 18if is an intriguing mess. It attempts to do something different by trying out variety of genres and styles. This concept sounds good on paper but only a handful of episodes succeed at bringing something new on the table (I’d recommend you sample episode 7, 10, 2, 3 in that order), the rest is below the line. After 13 episodes, 18if still struggles to find a right tone for itself, result in tonal wreck that never quite sure if it wants to take itself seriously. Ultimately, when you consider if 18if can leave any lasting impact, the answer is a resounding “No” – it lacks the punchline, lacks the sparks to become something special.

“Fun quiz: Can you spot out the missing Witch?”

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