Review/discussion about: Rewrite
“Rewrite” is a word that I am intimately familiar with.
I cannot tell you how many times I have rewritten paragraphs within my reviews. Entire sentences. Even singular words. Each instance of rewriting getting me one step closer to a piece that I feel comfortable sharing. One that I can be proud of and say, “Yes. This looks good.”
It’s never perfect because there is always something that can be rewritten. But what matters is going through that process in the first place.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe Rewrite got the memo.
Rewrite kicks off in dark fashion. Tennouji Kotarou, a high-school boy, dies in his dream at the hands of some ribbon-twirling girl. While he fears whatever curse has been laid upon him, he does his best to live a fun-filled, worthwhile life with his other friends of the Occult Club. But, when strange happenings and sinister plans surface, he finds that his curse is the least of his worries.
Discussing Rewrite now is difficult. Not due to the complexity of the material itself, for, arguably, what Rewrite presents is not. But instead due to where the story concluded. It technically gave a complete story but, perhaps obviously, not a full one.
As was seen, Rewrite’s season finishes with basically what visual novels deem a bad end. For everything pretty much went wrong: all the characters died, and vegetation engulfed the world. Kagari’s final scene, where she witnesses this timeline fizzle out alongside hundreds of other timelines that have existed or are existing, also backs this scenario up.
But, as can easily be looked up (and given that the second season is currently airing at the time of this writing), this series is a split-cour. And, presumably, the second half will contain the same cast, continue the plot, and uphold the overall major ideas.
To put it differently, Rewrite has much more to tell – and hopefully a more cheerful ending to get to.
This season, then, acts as a primer of sorts. It introduces the important cast members (so that it won’t have to later), it provides the overall dilemma (Kagari’s role as the key to salvation or destruction), and it gives some insight into its more important themes (like environmentalism and that life is better with friends).
Unfortunately, the anime fails on almost all accounts.
When introducing the cast and, indeed, whenever Kotarou interacted with any of them, it felt entirely too much like its visual-novel source. One after another, Kotarou talks with the girls in a singular manner to meet some hidden quota, removing the naturalness of the events themselves.
This awkward event handling goes away come the middle of the season. For, what replaces the school and the introductions is the meat of the plot. Guardian defeating the monsters that Gaia summons. The lingering doomsday prophecy. Separation of the Occult Club.
Transitioning from the predominantly slice-of-life fun to the drama-heavy plot was made possible by the show’s smaller hints about the characters’ powers and the gradual reveal of the not-so-imaginary occult instances.
What the anime transitions towards, though, is not the most engaging. Despite the title of the anime, Kotarou’s ability does not play too important of a role, diminishing his impact on the overall narrative to that of just the guy who jokes about wanting to grope Akane’s boobs and who hides away from the whole fray within a forested region for far too long. It also does not help that both Guardian and Gaia are hardly explored let alone clash to any major degree.
To its credit, Gaia’s evil plan at least makes some sense. Rather than wanting to eradicate all of humanity just because, they feel this route will keep the Earth from destruction at the hands of its most impactful enemy: humans.
Which leads into one of Rewrite’s themes: environmentalism. Although, using the word “theme” may be a bit too strong since, on a large scale, the anime does not fully explore this idea. The setting is that of a city where cleaner energy takes precedence, and, as was discussed, the anchor to the whole plot relies on protecting the Earth and its bounty. But the show doesn’t target climate change, the effects of abusing resource collections, or even the importance of vegetation in general. To put it differently, it’s more a small surface detail for the story rather than a prominent, nuanced motif.
It’s other major theme – life is better with friends – is one that Rewrite more actively pursues (when compared to the environmentalism). Kotarou finding solace in the Occult Club, their eventual breakup fragmenting his life, his reliving of those happier times with Kagari, and the eventual reunion they (almost all) have at Kotori’s hideaway.
This thread is well-meant, and it gives the anime’s narrative better footing. Sadly, it does not firmly plant its feet due to the weakness of its foundation While the Occult Club is a place where Kotarou and the girls hang out and enjoy life together, the anime has a tough time making said togetherness worthwhile.
That is, they do not feel like a tightknit group of friends because the events therein do not give them that chance. They chase after a critter, but the highlight is Kotarou grabbing Lucia’s butt and a secretary lady using a fishing pole. They scour a forest, but the odd discoveries and the eventual dive into the heavier drama take over. They conduct a series of investigations into the occult (with fruitless results), but these are gone through so quickly that they mean very little in the long run.
All this says nothing about a few awkward plot points (Chihaya not immediately giving Kotarou the super-important letter that Akane addressed to him), the weak action sequences (Midou and Lucia’s duel is about the only memorable one but, even then, just barely), and the anime’s avoidance of showing more of the final scenes (Lucia squaring off against and killing Touka, Chihaya fighting alongside the monstrous Sakuya).
The continuation may turn it around, but, for now, this season simply doesn’t work.
Rewrite’s character designs are quite nice. The frilly, pink-and-red dresses that the ladies wear are both cute and detailed. Each girl has her own set of accessories: Shizuru’s eyepatch, Lucia’s white gloves, and so on. And the slightly older style for their faces – large eyes, squarer heads – don’t take anything away but rather adds to their overall charm.
Artistically, the anime does about as well as it can within its setting. The school isn’t too interesting, and same goes for some of its other more mundane spots like Kotarou’s house or the local town. It can have its moments, though, like in the clubroom with its furniture and bookcases.
However, given its focus on environmental impacts, the various nature shots are a welcome inclusion. The lush forests, the greenery encasing flowers, and the immense overgrowth that eventually consumes the world are where the anime is at its prettiest.
To be fair, the anime has a strong use of lighting regardless of the location. The school’s hallways casting shadows from the windows or Kotori’s hideaway basked in moonlight give Rewrite a lot in the way of nuance where it normally does not have much.
The CG works against the show, though. It’s used rather sparingly, but Gaia’s dinosaur monsters and Kotori’s woodland defenders stick out too much from the surrounding art to be much else besides distracting. Although, admittedly, those defenders do have an interesting green-energy effect from their designs.
Actual animation remains consistent throughout the season. Earlier episodes hold up rather well during its slice-of-life segments such as Lucia reacting to Touka (their teacher and her commander) blowing cool air on her ear or Kotarou running away from an evil demon dog. A lot of sitting and speaking goes on, but, even during these scenes, reactions to the situations and other comedic bits give the anime the chance to show off some movement.
Later episodes aren’t as strong animation-wise, but they do include a lot more action. Shizuru riding her motorcycle, Lucia dueling Midou, and Kotarou struggling against the flying plant-like beast are just a few of the many examples where the cast do more than just eat snacks in the clubroom.
Kagari’s ribbon manipulation (her makeshift crane, her slapping) are also worth noting. Her ribbons are almost always doing something, giving her character and the scenes in which she exists a nice amount of dynamism.
As it was with the story, Rewrite’s split-cour nature and, more importantly, this season’s outcome (the “bad end”) makes it tough to talk about Kotarou and the other girls. The anime still has more to tell, but it still provided character-focused content worth discussing.
Most notable are Shizuru and Lucia. Unlike everyone else, they get their own episode – which can be looked at in one of two ways.
The first is with appreciation. The anime understandably wants (and needs) to showcase a lot of its important plot points, but it does not have a whole lot of time in which to do so. So, when the anime squeezes their entire backstory, development, and importance into a single episode, it’s more about giving them the attention they deserve (and likewise need) rather than worrying about the execution. In other words, it’s nice that the audience got something.
The second is with question. Their dilemmas are poorly explained through large amounts of exposition. Pacing has no place. Some development occurs but lacks impact. Yes, the audience learns why Shizuru always wears an eyepatch or Lucia always wears gloves, but the events themselves are not handled with the best of care. The show gives them to the audience and that’s that.
Of the two approaches, the second is the more arguable since not a whole lot happens with Shizuru and Lucia after these episodes (especially Shizuru). Lucia goes to help Kotarou and the others, saying “What could possibly take priority over protecting my friends?!” An indication of how she has changed her lonely self from before. But that’s about it. As for Shizuru, she eventually abandons her spot within Guardian, but it comes as too little, too late after being sidelined for so long.
Rewrite handles Kotori’s character differently, but the conclusion is roughly the same. Arguably worse.
She likes sleep, money, and the great outdoors. Extra emphasis for the last one on the list since she eventually reveals her druidic nature. Unlike Shizuru and Lucia, she receives a miniscule amount of backstory. One scene about how she turned down Kotarou’s love confession (meaning the meta childhood-friend curse continues), and one scene about how her parents died in a car accident (which led to her druid powers). The latter unable to support the drama that their second deaths (through their reanimated bodies) bring.
Rumored to be a powerful witch, Akane “leads” their occult club – but mostly just plays her online FPS. She apparently skips class as much as she wants but still moves on to the next grade level, indicating some level of power or influence of a hierarchical nature (which is later proven true when her family connections are revealed).
Her breasts are a (joking) motivation for Kotarou to investigate the otherworldly happenings presented to them. But, normally, she’s indifferent to the whole occult thing, often lazing about whenever Kotarou brings them all on yet another failed outing.
Akane (with Chihaya) inevitably parts with the group once her Gaia affiliation comes to light. Although she does not seem too keen on following their ways, for the prospect of her mind melding with the other saints that preceded her and thereby losing herself, as well as the annihilation of the whole Earth, does not strike her as exactly favorable.
Unfortunately, she does lose, succumbing to her undue fate and ultimately leading everyone to their demise. To put it differently, this season establishes and shows what happens when she isn’t saved. Hopefully, come the next season, Kotarou and crew flip that fate, but, for now, her role as the puppet worked well enough.
Not much can be said about Chihaya, for Rewrite gives her next to nothing thrown her way besides her introduction and the occasional joke. It’s not a major problem right now since the anime chose to focus on Shizuru and Lucia and, to some extent, Kotori and Akane. Meaning, they must delve into Chihaya’s character more in the follow-up season – lest she end up as worthless when viewing the bigger picture.
This leaves Kotarou. As the main protagonist of this tale, he’s the one that brings the other girls together. He does so for their sake but mostly for himself; he wants a place where he can feel comfortable and have fun with what little youth they have left to spend. For he has always felt like an outsider of sorts just like Yoshino and the girls.
As such, he forms a friendly relationship with them thanks to his kindhearted personality. Lucia beats him up, Shizuru eats lunch with him, Kotori teases him, Chihaya gets familiarized with this new place through him, and Akane looks down on him. All playful and silly.
But, as is shown, intrigue is afoot. His rewrite ability (what the anime is supposedly named after) is something he keeps hidden and uses to permanently alter his person. Actual occult occurrences appear from time to time. And an odd ghost nightly nibbles on his arm.
The intrigue eventually forces the group to split, and, in doing so, leaves Kotarou by himself. Coincidentally, Kagari, the nibbling ghost, begins to follow him around like a regular person. His friendship with her reminds him of the fun he had in the club with the other girls, making him long for those peaceful times once again.
While helping Kagari discover herself, he meets up with Kotori for the first time since the group split. She reaffirms the end goal of the war between Guardian and Gaia (saving the world) and explains in further detail that Kagari is the “Key,” a physical manifestation of the Earth that is (appropriately enough) the key to said war.
Kotarou chooses to protect Kagari, doing what he can to train with his new Wolverine-energy claw so that he can avoid the problems he encountered in the past. While not much of it is shown beyond Sakuya tutoring him and him punching the air, he slowly improves his fighting prowess. All the while, Lucia and Chihaya reappear, giving Kotarou that feeling of comfort and fun that he felt at the beginning of the season.
Once everything starts to fall apart, he does his best to fight Midou but must run away instead. And, during his fight with Sougen, he loses even after overclocking with his rewrite power. That is, despite all the training he went through, it didn’t amount to much of anything. An odd writing decision but perhaps a necessary one, considering the bad end achieved.
To this end, twisted magic, from the ribbon planted within his arm and the echoing song that pierces the air, consume him, turning half of him into foliage. Yet he still gets to make the final choice: kill Kagari and save everyone from death, or save Kagari and doom everyone to nonexistence. It’s a callback to the philosophical question he answered on the questionnaire in the beginning of the season.
“You have power, and are discontent with this world. Tell me, do you wish to change this world? Or do you wish to change yourself?”
Kotarou originally answered, “I don’t know.” His choice to save Kagari seems as though he now would select changing the world, but it’s hard to know whether that’s the case since the continuation still looms. Because, given that his answer forms the crux of his character, answering it now would mean the end of his development.
Overall, Kotarou is not a horrible character. He does what he can for Kotori and the others, he trains himself over time, and he still has that lingering question to answer. He’s not a very strong character either, considering his minimal influence and the lack of focus on him as a person. Still, he’s better than the rest of the cast, and he has that second season to hopefully pick up the slack.
Much of the music within Rewrite does not have the kick required to be meaningful.
Take its opening tracks. The first one has some solid guitar playing in the beginning as well as a semi-mysterious vibe during its middle section. But, by the halfway point, the piece picks up without saying much or feeling as though it matters. The second OP is the same. Besides the background vocalists and the ending, its pop-rock composition, like that of the first OP, does not hold up as anything special.
Same goes for the original soundtrack. The mysterious track that gets played at the very beginning of episode one and the relaxing flute piece are small standouts, but, in general, the OST sticks to more pop-rock and lots of piano. They simply do not do much beyond sounding right for the scene.
The main ending track at least comes off as more thoughtful. The drums slightly overpower it, but the bassline near the start, a more whimsical approach (violin, piano, chimes, water-droplet-like sound-effects), the dip in the middle, more background vocalists, and the trailing whispers craft a pretty, hopeful piece that fits Rewrite’s intentions.
The anime also has a handful of other EDs such as “Koibumi” and “Sunbright” which play only once (respectively in episode four which is Shizuru’s episode and episode five which is Lucia’s episode.) These have the same level of impact as the OPs and the OST. That is to say, almost none whatsoever.
Voice acting ends up all right. Masakazu Morita as Kotarou is playful when speaking with everyone around him (especially Yoshino). Saya Shinomiya as Chihaya takes part in her first major anime role. And same goes for Risa Akari as Lucia whose growl exudes her personality well.
But a negative shout-out does go to Kana Hanazawa as Kagari. Her occasional “screams” near the end of the season were odd and unfitting, taking away from the scenes rather than adding to the drama.
I liked this one more so in the first half than the second half for two main reasons.
One, the slice-of-life direction. Kotarou “saving” Tomoko from the trash, Lucia’s tsundere tendencies, and Shizuru having a dream with jumbled dialogue were fun scenes. Nothing amazing, but I was smiling and chuckling.
Contrast that with the second half which prioritizes the drama and the action more. I didn’t care for Akane’s plight within Gaia, and Shizuru fighting against monsters with her dual knives didn’t interest me. In fact, my favorite moments from the second half were slice-of-life ones again. Kagari yelling “Adios!” as Kotarou runs away with her under his arm and Sakuya basically dying because Kagari belittles his exquisite coffee were much more entertaining to me than the main dish.
Two, the higher character density. Despite how strange the presentation of the events is due to the Kotarou-interacts-with-them-one-at-a-time format, it was still fun to see the show switch between them now and again. Kagari is a cute character that fills the void, but, without the others around as much, it just wasn’t as fun.
Now, I understand that the narrative needed to separate them almost completely. But, on a personal level, when they’re replaced by a lame Fogo-wielding villain and odd plots involving a wheelchair-bound, on-her-deathbed woman who listens to some creepy choir, I can’t say I agree with the decision.
Rewrite fails to begin in the right way. The story cannot nail its different elements. Many of the characters are not treated with care. And the music does not contribute much to the scenes in which it plays. Hopefully this season’s continuation was given the rewrite memo several times over.
Story: Terrible, while the continuation will provide more details, VN-esque interactions, the unengaging plot, and the poor attempt at a friend-based theme make this first season too problematic
Animation: Fine, nice character designs, okay artistic direction, and okay actual animation
Characters: Fine, Shizuru and Lucia are rushed, and Kotori is mishandled, but Akane plays the role of puppet, and Kotarou at least has a few experiences along the way
Sound: Bad, bad OPs, bad EDs, bad OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, slice-of-life moments were fun, but not much else was
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3