And we’re back, baby! External factors such as vaccinations and shifting workloads made the past two weeks of The World Ends With You recaps get kicked down the road. But I’m back on the anime saddle, and as we get closer to the arrival of The World Ends With You: NEO, we gotta catch up!
The neat thing is these two episodes, Reapers and Cat, pair together quite well. A new Reaper’s Game has started, and it seems like Neku is starting from square one. But a new character emerges as Neku’s new partner, and his appearance leads to this game getting a lot more complicated. From Neku’s recovering memories to infighting within the Reaper ranks, The World Ends With You has skated well beyond the narrative building blocks.
As we said previously, this set of episodes has almost felt like a restart, besides the obvious and crucial context of how Neku got where he is. We zip by the rules this time, as a mysterious character (Joshua) appears and thrusts himself into Neku’s new partner role. And from there, we learn that things aren’t going so smoothly this time, for anyone involved.
Some of this episode gives us some fairly mundane world-building, such as the Reaper decals making certain shops available to the Reaper’s Game participants. RPGs gotta have shops, y’know. More important are the twists to the rules already established. Players aren’t supposed to be able to scan each other, yet something goes down when Neku grabs Josh’s shoulder. We learn two Game events back to back is nearly unheard of, and we also learn the beings running the show aren’t the well-oiled machine we saw them as before.
Sho Minamimoto is the new GM, and he’s the total opposite of the last final boss. He’s unhinged, loud, and bent on taking as many people down as fast as possible. He’s also the “SO ZETTA SLOW” meme guy, if you were around on the internet when TWEWY was new.
So what we have here is not only a step back from Neku, but a significant tonal shift that helps drive home the point. The stakes here are higher. There’s more going on than meets the eye, and the obstacles are drastically more dangerous and less predictable than before.
And of course, the big twist at the end is perhaps the clearest and most brutal example of why TWEWY is largely about the joys and pains that come with trusting people.
If Reapers was about the script being flipped, Cat is about the background players causing those disruptions. Can the Reaper’s Game be manipulated on either side of the playing field? Looks like it.
The biggest lore dump we get here concerns technology and how it intersects with the Underground. Josh is seemingly able to use his phone to manipulate the game in small ways, and Neku soon gets to dip into the Reaper’s Game Bootleg scene as well.
As this is happening, Neku slowly starts to let his guard down as Josh seems to be showing more and more of his cards. So far the explanations behind Josh’s strange behavior have been beneficial to Neku, so maybe this new partnership can work out after all.
Meanwhile, things are not going well for the Reapers. Sho has seemingly vanished, not running challenges for two days. At the same time, players are still being eliminated, and Sho keeps building those weird Tetsuo: The Iron Man tower things everywhere.
A strange subspecies of Noise, called Taboo Noise, appears and really throws things off by attacking Reapers and players alike. The two lower-ranking Reapers we’ve been hearing from for a while are now fighting Noise themselves, and it becomes more and more clear the holes in this macabre challenge are starting to show.
That’s where the title drop hits. A character in the show straight-up says, “The World Ends With You,” while talking to Neku about perspective. If you can’t be open minded past yourself, the world may as well end at the tip of your nose. And here we are seeing the Reaper’s Game, with its set of hard rules Neku and Shiki had to follow so closely, starting to unravel due to external agendas.
And Neku has to get through it. And Josh, strange as he is, has shown to be dependable. Perhaps, Neku figures, trusting his new partner will be a lot more fruitful than losing himself to worry. And for a moment it seems like he’s right.
That is, until we learn how Neku got here in the first place.
As I mentioned earlier, the pros and cons of trusting people seems to be the central theme here. The World Ends With You is about considering perspectives other than your own, and seeking understanding beyond what you can see in order to find the trust you need to succeed. And Cat shows us just how difficult that is.
Until next time! Next time being later this week, probably!