Beloved video games are no stranger to getting adapted for television, whether it be live action or anime form. Depending on the adaptation it can be faithfully done while providing an introduction into a video game some have never played before, or it can be a major letdown for those who have played the game and have been hoping the adaptation would further enhance what they experienced from the game. For The World Ends With You: The Animation it wasn’t the most exciting adaptation of a video game like I thought it would be.
Just like the original 2007 Nintendo DS game, The World Ends With You: The Animation follows Neku Sakuraba who dies and wakes up in the Underground version of Shibuya, and is unwittingly forced to participate in a seven day Reapers’ Game for a chance to be brought back to life. Neku is joined by Shiki, Beat, Rhyme, and Joshua who team up to defeat the Noise, complete tasks, and avoid permanent erasure from the UG if they don’t stay one step ahead of this twisted, purgatorial Shibuya.
The first episode of the anime initially shows some promise with the use of the video game’s original artwork and incorporating some of the game’s familiar and catchy music during the fight scenes. As you get further into the show, the entire storyline of The World Ends With You starts feeling extremely rushed and condensed to hit upon the major plot points that occur throughout the video game. At 12 episodes for the anime that’s not enough time to cover the story’s three week time period Neku and the gang spend in the UG. The anime misses out on a lot of character development, especially for Neku who changes and grows later in the story.
There are so many characters thrown at you all at once and if you never played the game before, you’re more likely to struggle with keeping tabs on the who’s who of key players and reapers that make up The World Ends With You. And that’s a shame because one of the reasons the game is very well loved by fans is because of the interesting characters you’re introduced to, and how much Neku is transformed by the core friendships he has with Shiki, Beat, and Rhyme. Even the goals and motivations of the Reapers themselves are just as intriguing to learn about the more you progress with the story.
To have most of that characterization and development largely glossed over or cut in the interest of saving time is a huge loss. For the casual anime watcher who has never touched the game before, they’re not going to understand why The World Ends With You was such a huge hit with gamers at the time it was released.
Despite knowing what had happened in The World Ends With You, because I did play the game all those years ago, my investment in watching the anime began to wane little by little until I was simply watching it for the sake of finishing it and to get hit with the occasional wave of nostalgia.
I always did think The World Ends With You would make a good anime because the game practically plays like one anyway, but not if the anime was going to wind up being a poor adaptation of a truly fantastic video game. Maybe if The World Ends With You: The Animation had been adapted in the same way Steins;Gate was it could have been a thrilling way to revisit the story of the game. Unfortunately, fans of TWEWY would be better off replaying the game and skipping the anime entirely.
Reviewer Rating: 5/10