Original Run: January 11, 2021 - March 29, 2021 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Action, Science Fiction Based on the Series Created By: HiRock and Shinya Komi
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Ex-Arm. Reader discretion is advised.***
In the year 2020, Tokyo saw the worst terrorist attack in history. A culprit used one of the mysterious and highly illegal, Ex-Arms to obliterate half the city.
Ten years have passed since then.
In that time, the world has gone through a technological boom. While life has become easier than ever, it also means death and destruction can now occur at scales never before imaginable.
And the horror of the 2020 attacks might only have been round one.
Ex-Arm was one of those shows I could have written a review of halfway through watching it. Trust me; the vast slew of this series’ problems was evident from minute one. I only say “halfway through” because that was when the bafflement factor wore off.
You never get used to Ex-Arm; you only stop being impressed by how limited – and that is being extremely generous – it is.
I don’t like the idea of a show being so bad it’s good. A show can be so bad it’s entertaining, sure, but that’s no justification to excuse its faults.
In terms of qualities that genuinely shape a production – the story and the characters – Ex-Arm was quite horrible. On top of that, certain qualities transformed an already poor show into something – there’s no other word for it – unimaginable. More on that later, but I bet most of you know where I’m going.
In all truthfulness, there wasn’t anything Ex-Arm did well, not even in the credit-for-credit’s-sake sense. This series reached a point where anything even remotely competent did nothing; the ship had already sunk. Instead, elements of quality only heightened just how awful everything was. And this show did not need that sort of help.
That said, while I can only assume utter inexperience fueled this series’ production, Ex-Arm still managed secure professional voice actors. Look at the people who performed the three lead characters, Akira Natsume, Minami Uezono, and Alma; they are no amateurs.
The following is a small sample of past anime our leads voiced prominent roles in:
- Mr. Souma Saitou (Akira Natsume) – Akame ga Kill, Moriary the Patriot, DanMachi
- Ms. Mikako Komatsu (Minami Uezono) – Land of the Lustrious, Jujutsu Kaisen, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
- Ms. Akari Kitou (Alma) – Demon Slayer, Toilet-boun Hanako-kun
I’ll consider it a mark of the actors’ professionalism because no one overtly phoned in their performance. The voice cast gave a solid effort, which, frankly, why?
Had this series been a run-of-the-mill science fiction story, commending the acting would be much more powerful. Unfortunately, this was no run-of-the-mill science fiction story.
This was Ex-Arm, and for all the wrong reason, I won’t be forgetting this show for a long, long time.
Let’s get the bit no one really cares about out of the way first.
On its own, Ex-Arm’s story was overly simplistic, unoriginal, and by the end, incredibly dull. I’m not saying things were always not worth engaging with. Instead, the narrative failure that was this series wasn’t a foregone conclusion at the start.
Perhaps it was the decent voice acting, but in the first few episodes, Ex-Arm certainly wasn’t one of the worst things I have ever seen. For those of you who remember the 2020 mistake Gibiate, that series crashed in burn within minutes. Ex-Arm, at least, took an episode or two to get to that point.
It didn’t help that the dialogue was insufferably cheesy. This was another reason why I have to commend the actors’ dedication to their craft. Artistically, not a single member of the cast had to try as hard as they did. Hell, when everyone was delivering their lines, did they know what this show was turning into?
Did anyone have any idea what they had signed up to be a part of?
I would love to hear how Ex-Arm came to be a thing. What were the decisions that led this – all this – coming together? Someone had to have dirt on someone else because otherwise, who would look at this series and say, “Yes, I want to be a part of that?”
And, so, we’ve come to it. The animation; oh my god, the animation.
Now, a fundamental principle behind Anime Hajime is that a show’s animation, art style, and visuals will never be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. If a story is strong and characters are worth following, then a series can exist even as a slideshow.
However, the poorer an anime’s animation is, the sturdier everything else needs to be. For a slideshow format to actually work, the narrative needs to engrossing enough to cause me not to notice the presentation.
And in case you’re wondering, no, I have never seen a slideshow anime work. But I have seen a slideshow anime – 2019’s LadySpo.
In my entire time reviewing anime, I have come across some of the absolute worst of the worst. Therefore, I will admit that Ex-Arm was narratively better than the bottom of the barrel. Except even at the bottom, there is a consistency that simply did not exist in this show.
How many animators worked on this series? Was it just two guys who thought the other was a colossal prat and thus, needed to make them look like an idiot? I’m thinking so because there were two different didn’t art styles in Ex-Arm. There was either:
- Bubbly, oh-dear-lord-my-eyes-are-bleeding CGI
- Stiff, if-you-thought-we-had-a-low-budget-set-your-expectations-even-lower 2D character models
And I’m not saying Ex-Arm just had two styles in the show. Nor am I saying there were two styles in an episode, or a scene, or in a moment. Throughout this series, there were two different, laughably uncomplimentary styles in the same frame.
If anyone knows why that happened, please let me know in the comments; I am genuinely curious.
Under normal circumstances, I would have had a problem with the exposition in Ex-Arm; everyone had to explain everything. Except in this instance, the exposition was the only way I could follow what was going on.
Fights were impossible to keep track of; there was no sense of where everyone was or where they were going. A person could be doing flips and tricks on the other side of the room in one shot, then firing a gun side by side with their partner in the next.
Oh, and since I mentioned “flips and tricks,” you’re going to know when Ex-Arm thought it was pulling off the most badass move anime has ever seen. The slow-mo – THE SLOW-MO! The ineptitude would have been marvelous had its novelty not gotten old within the first two episodes.
Was it a budget issue? Were there production restraints I am not taking into consideration? What was going on when they were making Ex-Arm?
Yes, I know that it is a damn miracle for any anime to see a release date. The amount of work that has to go into a project is immense. So I don’t like to rag on something if it is the best a team can do.
Unfortunately, if this was the best Ex-Arm’s team could do, then someone needs to get fired.
Yeah, I knew what I was getting into when I started this series. I will not pretend this was a surprise.
This show is watchable for the first episode. You won’t find an ounce of entertainment with what is happening, but rather, how it is happening. Then, when you realize you have eleven more episodes to go, you’ll want to bash your head against the wall.
If you thought this review would go in a different direction, I’m sorry to have disappointed you.
Ex-Arm can be skipped.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Ex-Arm? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m Odyssey, and I’ll see you next time.