I am not a huge mecha fan, in fact, I can honestly say there are two maybe three mecha series that have managed to hold my interest for longer than a few episodes. So, I wasn’t chomping at the bit for Winter 2019’s revisions, the brain child of veteran director Goro Taniguchi. Of course, this wasn’t Taniguchi’s first foray into the mecha genre, he’s been associated with a number of critically acclaimed mecha series since the early 90’s and it’s safe to say that he brings his years of experience with him into this sci-fi epic.
revisions has a lot going on in its rather short, 12 episode run, equal parts human drama and sci-fi adventure, the series draws from a lot of preexisting anime tropes, while also bringing with it a few unique ideas. The series follows high schooler, Daisuke Doujima, a guy who is convinced that he is god’s greatest gift to mankind. After being rescued from an attempted kidnapping as a child, he was told by his rescuer that he was destined to save the world. With these words in his heart, Daisuke spent the better part of his life preparing to do just that, his years of “training” pay off when he, his friends, and the entire city of Shibuya are mysteriously transported from present day (2017) to the year 2388. The future is a veritable wasteland, populated by beings known as Revisions who use monstrous mecha abominations to terrorize the inhabitants of Shibuya, their only hope is the secretive organization AHRV and their agent, Milo, a mysterious young woman from the future who shares a strong resemblance to someone from Daisuke’s past. She arms Daisuke and his friends with their own mecha, String Puppets, the only things capable of taking down the Revisions and protecting the people of Shibuya. Now, Daisuke and his friends must defeat the Revisions if they have any hope of returning to the past, or they’ll risk staying in the future forever.
Goro Taniguchi is no stranger to success, his critically acclaimed Code Geass franchise has met with overwhelming mass appeal since its debut in 2006, with audiences and critics praising the series’ complex characters and themes as some of its strongest attributes. So, its safe to say that revisions has some pretty big shoes to fill, but if you go into this expecting it to be the next Code Geass, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. revisions has its own story to tell and while it does fumble at times with balancing its various plot points, the series is a pretty entertaining watch… if not a little convoluted at times. The main premise is pretty simple: the people of Shibuya are displaced in time 300 years into the future and must figure out how to get back to their rightful time.
We’re dropped headfirst into the action, alongside Daisuke and the rest of Shibuya, we learn things with them, and it helps build this sense of camaraderie the characters, because we are just as in the dark as they are. Each new revelation brings us that much closer to the truth, while also casting doubt on things we thought we had all figured out. What little information about the future and the Revisions we do get come through the filter of Milo and the AHRV, which we know almost nothing about. revisions operates in shades of grey, at any given moment a character you thought was a “good guy” could have their motivations questioned. There are times when the people of Shibuya are the “bad guys”, like the city’s mayor, Muto, who constantly acting in his own self interests, even if it means sacrificing a few people to the Revisions. And Daisuke and the members of the SDS constantly make selfish decisions that put themselves and the people of Shibuya in danger. Hell, even the Revisions aren’t completely unsympathetic, even if their methods are horrifying, they’re just trying to survive. Each and every character has their own motivations and revisions does a great job of showing just how multifaceted the characters are.
That said, I will wholeheartedly admit that I absolutely hated Daisuke Doujima for the first eight episodes of the series, his bloated ego and self righteous hero complex are arguably some of the worst parts of the series in the beginning. He is the embodiment of every negative shounen protagonist trope ever created and it is just as terrible as you’re imagining. I wasn’t kidding when I said he thinks he’s God’s greatest gift to mankind, his ego gets in his way more often and not and I’m not gonna lie, he’s a protagonist you’ll actively root against. I think I got more joy out of watching him fail in those first few episodes than I did seeing him actually succeed. But, if you can manage to get through the first eight episodes, Daisuke does a complete 180, and becomes a much more sympathetic and genuine leader.
The other characters are not nearly as frustrating as Daisuke (thank God) and it’s kind of amusing to see them try and work around Daisuke and his ego. Keisaku, Daisuke’s best friend and the king of damage control is the glue that holds the team together. He is my favorite character in the entire series, and he deserves so much more credit than he got. Keisaku, always rises to the occasion, with his upbeat personality and level head, he is the perfect foil to Daisuke. The second guy on the team, Gai, is constantly at odds with Daisuke which serves as much of the internal conflict in the team. He is the only person to check Daisuke’s authority, stepping in on a number of occasions as team leader when Daisuke is… indisposed.
There are two female members of the SDS and, I really feel like there were a lot of missed opportunities here. Both Lu and Marimari were relegated to secondary characters for most of the series, either they’re the cheerleaders of the group or they’re off on some unimportant “mission” that doesn’t even warrant any screen time. We see them pilot String Puppets just like the guys, but, not nearly as often as Daisuke, Gai, and Keisaku, and it makes them feel kind of far removed from the action. Especially Marimari, who we see actively avoiding fighting. She’s more prone to crying and/or clinging to someone else for support and I get it, she like the rest of the team is just a teenager. She’s not a fighter, she hasn’t prepared for this like Daisuke, so her portrayal is realistic, but, I still wish she’d had a bit more backbone.
On the other side of the spectrum is Milo, who serves as the series’s battle maiden, and almost singlehandedly makes up for the shortcomings of the other female characters. Not only does she kick ass, but she outshines most of the other characters in every scene she’s in, there is just the air of mystery about her that makes her by far one of the more interesting characters in the series. However, she spends most of her time babysitting Daisuke or serving as a walking exposition dump.
I’m usually a fan of binge watching anime, since I like to work my way through a series without having to wait a week between new episodes. However, being able to watch a series in one sitting lessens the impact of some of the bigger reveals, because we aren’t given the chance to really marinate on anything. But, in this case it works well given the high stakes world of revisions. Everything is happening so fast that there isn’t always time for the characters to really think things through, inaction is just as dangerous as making a mistake, which is a prospect characters are faced with quite a few times in the series. revisions doesn’t hold back the punches, showing early on just what is at stake if the characters fail. In the very first episode alone a lot of characters die at the hands of the Revisions and as the series progresses the death toll only gets higher. But, what I really like about revisions is that sense that anyone could potentially end up on the chopping block, even the main cast.
But, what really makes revisions stand out for me is that the series doesn’t just focus on the conflict with the Revisions, it also looks at the greater ramifications of the “Shibuya Drift” incident. From the political instability to the breakdown of social order to the very real lack of resources. It’s reminiscent of the horror manga, The Drifting Classroom in that we see just how much the people of Shibuya have to adapt to survive in the future. It’s not like the protagonists are the only ones transported to the future, it’s an entire city and there are existing social and political systems in place that come with that and it’s nice to see that being addressed. They form committees, they ration off resources, they attempt to negotiate with the Revisions, there’s this whole political undercurrent that makes the series feel more real.
In the vein of realism, revisions is entirely animated in CG, and it is pretty hit or miss. I’m not a fan of the overuse of CG animation in anime, but, it’s quickly becoming the norm. When done right, CG animation can enhance a series, giving the animation a more fluid stylized look and feel. However, when it’s done wrong, it completely detracts from an otherwise solid story. revisions leans closer to the latter, I will readily admit that I am not a fan of the use of CG in revisons, in fact, the art style was almost enough to make me want to drop the series. It’s clunky and unnatural during the slower slice of life scenes early on in the series, it especially fails at capturing natural human movement, so some of the characters look robotic and twitchy early on. However, in its defense, the CG works well during the mecha battles and the more action heavy scenes later on in the series. I eventually got over my hangups about the CG, and whether that’s because the animation got better or I just got used to it is one of the great mysteries of the world (I’m leaning towards the latter).
While I hated the CG, I did love the music. The opening theme ‘Wagamama de Gomakasanaide’ by Japanese alternative rock band The Oral Cigarettes embodies the chaotic energy of the series. With its energetic vocals and rock heavy instrumentals the opening is a bit of an adrenaline rush. The ending theme takes things in the complete opposite direction, Weaver’s ‘Curtain Call’ is a much softer tune, that feels like something you’d find at the end of a drama series and it is my absolute favorite of the two songs. Weaver specifically wrote this song for the series and it is absolutely perfect.
I’ve never considered myself a fan of mecha anime, but, I am a lover of good stories and revisions tells a really solid story. It’s a sci-fi epic that sweeps you up in the chaos and confusion of its setting and while it flounders a bit in the beginning, revisions manages to pull it together in the end while still leaving room for new chapters in the future. There is this underlying message of hope that permeates the entire narrative, no matter how bleak things get, you truly believe that everything will turn out for the best and that really resonated with me. revisions isn’t the best anime in the world, but I really enjoyed the series and I recommend giving it a watch if you have the chance. The whole series is on Netflix and I can think of worst ways to kill a few hours. Daisuke can be a bit grating at times, but, if you stick it out till the end, you won’t be disappointed.