Anime doesn’t have to be light and inspiring. It can also be dark and grim and play with morality in ways that make the viewer question the hero. We’ve seen many of these anime, especially when it comes to death games. But, it’s not unlikely that a death game anime will stray from a compelling path head into a weird twisted territory that may just be too awkward and problematic to keep it going. Future Diary did this and KamiErabi GOD.app does too, especially with extremely young leads.
A 3D animated anime from YOKO TARO, the legendary video game director and writer, KamiErabi GOD.app is directed by Hiroyuki Seshita and features composition and script from JIN, with character design by Atsushi Seshita, and animation from UNEND. Smack in the middle of the saturated death game genre KamiErabi GOD.app puts high schoolers (who are illustrated to look way younger) in a fight to claim divinity. The anime is centered on Goro Ono (Kazuki Ura), a high schooler with a big crush on Honoka Sawa (Sara Matsumoto) and is best friends with Yutaka Akitsu (Shulchi Uchida). Using their unique powers, the high schoolers compete against each other to claim the title of “God.” But with different people pulled in, each brawl becomes more vicious than the last, alliances are formed, and betrayals are inevitable.
I try hard not to compare series to others, but after KamiErabi God.app’s three-episode premiere, this is one that captures a similar concept to Future Diary and even holds many of its flaws. Replicating some of the large sweeping issues with a young cast, the first episode in the KamiErabi GOD.app premiere pushes boundaries for shock and is worse for it.
The episode features the characters watching adult movies and Goro dropping trow. If I wasn’t committed to reviewing this series I would have exited it right then and there. Young characters being put in adult situations can be compelling, especially in the death game genre, but when you put them into sexualized situations, you wind up repeating the sins of anime past and showcasing how stunted the narrative is in shock and some of the worst tropes the medium has to offer.
While that only happens in the first episode and the other two of the 90-minute premiere are more straightforward in action and death game hijinks that mostly work, washing that bad taste out of my brain is a feat that no amount of action can fix.
From a hero’s perspective, the original idea in KamiErabi in terms of protagonist development is the fact that Goro’s powers come with a cost. Instead of being allowed to become overpowered with no ramifications, Goro is able to have immediate access to his full spectrum of powers, including saving the dead…only to use them, he has to face karma. He trades his good karma for bad, having the bad luck equivalent to the power used, changing his life for the worst.
Once a kid with a loving mother, Goro has to sacrifice his happy household for one that is abusive and his reputation for one where people call him filth and push him tot he side of the street. It’s an interesting twist that should narratively cause our lead to think about how and when to use his powers, and with a large spend immediately off the bat in Episode 1, well, it’s interesting to see what the future will hold.
From an animated perspective, KamiErabi is mostly 3D generated, with 2D backgrounds allowing for interesting compositing choices that actually make the series extremely visually engaging. The highlight of this is the final climactic fight of KamiErabi GOD.app’s premiere in Episode 3, which manages to use the blend of two-dimensional and three-dimensional effectively. To judge the animation on its own elements outside a narrative that is too unwieldy to move toward one conclusion, UNEND sells you on the idea of this animation style well, knowing when to mix in elements of different animation styles for dramatic effect.
While the characters designs are questionable, especially with how young every single character looks and how that youth is paired with adult choices for the girls of the series, overall, it’s interesting enough to keep you invested. Plus there is a nod to The Shining, which definitely gets a smile from horror fans who may step into the anime.
A frustrating watch that’s capable of delivering some intense action, the KamiErabi GOD.app premiere feels too twisted in all the wrong ways. Crafting mysterious connections and fights in the death game is one area where UNEND succeeds in the series, but with the main ramification for Goro using his power being immediate karmic retribution, the narrative of the series is already feeling too unsteady. KamiErabi GOD.app may be able to draw in some people, especially those looking for something edgy making an attempt to be transgressive, but for those who know the death game genre in and out, this is one take that doesn’t currently have the legs to stand apart from others that have come before.
KamiErabi GOD.app Episodes 1-3
KamiErabi GOD.app may be for some people, especially those looking for something edgy making an attempt to be transgressive, but for those who know the death game genre in and out, this is one take that doesn’t currently have the legs to stand apart from others that have come before.