This was another impulse purchase on DVD at a very reasonable sale price, and I didn’t have much idea what I was buying. Halfway through the series, I still didn’t have much idea what I had bought. This one is confusing, to say the least. The first few episodes throw an astonishing amount of characters into the mix, and it’s not like you can just latch onto a couple of important ones because they all seem to be of roughly equal significance to the story. It doesn’t help that a few of the characters look very similar, but eventually I figured out pretty much who everybody was. It’s just odd to be watching what appears to be about four different anime series all thrown together. There is a reason for that, but this is an anime that demands concentration.
There are three… no sorry four… no sorry five main settings for the action. OK, I’m probably missing some. Takashi Haneda is a schoolboy who gets the most interesting storyline. There’s the usual will-they-won’t-they boyfriend/girlfriend stuff, a fairly well-worn idea where the girl needs the boy to pretend to be her boyfriend, and then falls for him. The interesting thing about Takashi is that he keeps losing consciousness from the real world and then finds himself in a (very clichéd) fantasy world called Gredaguard.
We also get scenes set in a bar, the most misogynistic part of this fanservice-heavy anime. The main character is Shusuke Chitose, who works in the bar but also doubles up as a reporter and book reviewer. There is a slow-burn of a story between Shusuke and his co-worker Hiyoko, who is a novelist who has to put up with being criticised by one of her friends, and has her confidence built by a positive review from Shusuke.
The third of the three principle locations are the streets of a big city, where Hayato Narita (nicknamed “Drac”, because he only turns up at night) chats to a food stall worker and gets involved in gang battles. The highlight of this segment is a trio from the Yanagihara Flame Birds gang who are quite amusing, particularly “LR2001”, who speaks only in rap. Another character of note is a young girl called Alice who wears a gothic outfit and has a crush on Drac. You will probably either love her or hate her, depending on your tolerance for the kind of fanservice that treads the line of good taste in regards to the age of the girl, and whether you appreciate that kind of humour or find it disturbing.
Scenes set in the fantasy world of Gredaguard eventually form the fourth main location, and the fifth is basically a framing device to move between segments, with a child flicking through channels on a television and listening to a rather entertaining radio broadcast from “DJ Condor”. As you can see, there is a huge amount to take in, considering the series length of just 12 episodes (and an OVA), and I haven’t even mentioned half of the main characters.
Having established so many characters and settings, which all gradually start to intertwine, it seems odd that the series spends most of the time failing to focus on moving the stories on much and instead spends a lot of the time on lazy fanservice. It is done in a humorous way, which I don’t mind too much, but when it’s happening at the expense of telling the story then it’s a problem. This is one of those series that packs in as many panty shots as they can, with plenty of nudity, and a scene in the eighth episode that really pushes the boundaries, with Takashi being cured of poisoning in an explicit manner. The nudity is at times anatomically vague, as if the animators had never seen exactly what they were trying to draw, or perhaps were trying to avoid the attentions of the censors.
I’m not prudish and really don’t have any objection to fanservice, however explicit. I can’t really see a good reason to deny people being able to watch animated boobs if they want to, but the problem here is the extent to which it damages a potentially excellent story. If you feel like giving up on this series, just make sure you watch the penultimate episode, to see what this show could have been. The fanservice is abandoned in favour of telling a good story, explaining how the different segments intersect, and there’s actually a really good show here, hidden away behind the close-ups of underwear. After about 10 episodes of comedy and fanservice, most of the actual story is packed into one episode, and it’s a great 25 minutes of anime, with the proviso that this one isn’t going to win any awards for the standard of the animation. I know that must sound like damning with faint praise, and so-be-it, but it’s just frustrating that there’s such an interesting idea that is largely rushed through in one episode. The final episode is a self-indulgent but rather nice trawl through the different characters and settings, bringing them all together in a way, and then there’s an OVA episode which is simply about getting all the girls naked and squirting shampoo at each other in a hot spring, and if the connotations of the term “adult-ish” form a line you think anime shouldn’t cross, you’ll want to stop at the 12th episode and leave the OVA well alone.
One thing I can say for this series is that I never got bored. If you don’t like one or two of the characters, they are rarely going to be on the screen for long before some others take centre stage. The other side of that coin is how frustrating it can be when an entertaining character disappears from the action for a while, or a story strand is dropped and only picked up several episodes later.
There is quite an interesting genre clash going on here, and if you like a bit of lowbrow humour with an interesting and complex story bubbling away, while not being easily offended, this is a series that has it’s moments. Unfortunately, though, We Without Wings never quite manages to take flight. RP
If you would like to read more about We Without Wings, I wrote a “Fanservice Debate” article, giving my first impressions of episode one, before I had figured out what on Earth this series was about: The Fanservice Debate: We Without Wings Episode 1