Hand Shakers and W’z

Whenever not just one or a few anime reviewers, but all of the critics insist a series completely bombs, cannot be redeemed in any way, I take it as an invitation to check it out. To my mind, the old “confederacy of dunces” is at it again. It would be too easy to blame entertainment media gatekeepers, prone to first person “royal” plural pronouncements that decide what “we” like or hate, because the problem is also the two-bit, aspiring streamer critics—or to be more anime, amateurs who hope you’ll offer your 100-yen and turn the gacha handle, pressing the donate button on their sidebar. You’ve seen them: guys, usually obese, who start their videos with five seconds focused on themselves in silence, perhaps to let their sheer negativity sink in, giving viewers a moment to buckle down for a few minutes of witty hot takes they hope will propel them to influence.

I give, I give; one commonly cited “worst anime of all time”, Hametsu no Mars, is indeed bad (and has surprising overlaps with the “worst film of all time”, Planet 9 from Outer Space), but even it has its redeeming fanservice (and is too inept to be really insidious and purposefully rotten, like critic’s choices Gurren Lagann and Madoka Magica). But often, as these critics high and low walk the path they hope leads to renown and easier money, they trample something really beautiful. Like a colorful beetle someone might thoughtlessly swat, but to an entomologist’s examination is a rarity, a treat to see, some hated-on anime prove worth a closer look, and prove their value only to viewers not always looking to detract, or drop at a moment’s disapproval. Hand Shakers, a 13-episode series made by GoHands airing in 2017, and immediately panned and added to my mental watch list, combines a friendly, sympathetic cast with an unusual animation style, especially during battle scenes, that really adds to the excitement and action. The plot and conventions have a lot in common with favorites that many otakus have seen and appreciate, but with a unique place for handholding that, o you kind of heart, gentle-souled anime fans out there, I think you’ll love.

Hand Shakers surely lost some viewers from the start by opening with preview scenes from later fights, setting a confused monologue to some of its shakiest camera work. Soon we get views of crowds in downtown Osaka, often with a fish-eyed perspective that proves a favorite quirk, and then arrive at an area high school. Student Tazuna Tatatsuki, despite a weak and boyish appearance, is a natural Mr. Fixit, widely called on to repair machinery as delicate as a wristwatch or as large as an automobile, to an extent his friend, Class President and series Tarot enthusiast Lily Hojo, finds obsessive. Undeterred, after school he makes yet another stop at a university lab for another repair, and walks in on a light-pastel-to-white-haired girl in an intensive care bed, apparently comatose. Memories of Tazuna’s little sister Musumu, whose hand he held until her last breath, rush back, and he goes to her bedside.

In a stunning moment, her eyes open! As she reaches for Tazuna’s hand and grasps his finger, the world around changes, colorful moving patterns on the walls betokening entry into another dimension! A disembodied voice addresses him:

“You who received the revelation of Babel. You who will overcome many battles and trials... You who received the Revelation. You who would challenge me. Yes, you, the Hand Shaker...”

and our overwhelmed lead passes out.

On awakening, the exciteable professor who called on him, Makihara-sensei, also welcomes him to his role as Hand Shaker. Thankfully, the academic is in the right field to deliver exposition, having devoted years to the study of Hand Shakers! Selected by a being believed to be God, Hand Shakers fight in pairs within a parallel dimension called Ziggurat. When two pairs of Hand Shakers hold hands within a certain distance, t