I haven’t thought about The World Ends With You in any major capacity in years. Years! I haven’t revisited Square Enix’s fashion and pop music-themed urban RPG since it was a new game for the Nintendo DS.
More than ten years later, now there’s an anime. While my memories of the game aren’t super solid, based on The World Ends With You’s first episode it seems like more hardcore fans will be having a great time.
The World Ends With You Episode One Review
Moment to moment, The World Ends With You looks like someone took the key art advertising Tetsuya Nomura’s work and brought animation directly to it. This show is drawn like I remember the whole vibe looking, from the oddly-proportioned and brightly-colored characters to the thick, black outlines making those colors explode from the screen.
There’s CGI thrown into the mix, particularly in the “Noise” enemies and several more complicated shots in fight scenes. It has that framey look that CGI in anime TV series tend to have, but the tradeoff for that is a lot of dynamic camera movement that make the fights fun to look at.
When characters like protagonist Neku are CGI, it’s typically because the character is doing something super impressive, and the blending between the color shades for the modeling and the drawn art is impressively smooth. It’s a good-looking show, and that’s important since the source material is so dang stylish.
The real banner moment of the episode is when a vocal music track from the original game, the famous “Calling,” composed by Takeharu Ishimoto (who is also credited for work on the show) and performed by Leah. If nothing else about The World Ends With You endures, the soundtrack certainly does.
So inserting it right in the middle of the episode during a big moment was pretty sick.
In general, this first episode was pretty fast-paced, wasting little time on filling space and introducing several characters alongside the “rules.” This lines up with the game, as Neku is your prototypical amnesiac JRPG hero as we learn what’s going on along with him.
Things will get more complicated as the story goes on, but all the introductory exposition was easy to follow. The characters are also introduced well, giving the viewer insight into who they are without leaning on obvious tropes or one-dimensional personality traits.
The first episode really feels like a straight-up, faithful adaptation of the original World Ends With You story. Even the fight scenes do a great job emulating the game’s bizarre, dual character combat system in a way that’s comfortably woven into the choreography.
As far as using the anime as a springboard into upcoming sequel NEO: The World Ends With You as either a refresher or entry, I think either use case could definitely work well. It’s a totally solid and engaging first episode, and I’m definitely looking forward to next week.