As much as I am disgusted with the increasing regularity of vapid and masturbatory male-fantasy fanservice employed in more and more anime these days (especially those that spawn from visual/light novel adaptations), I don’t think it is automatically bad. Rather, it has the potential to be sexy, fun, and exciting. Rarely is that ever the case. Indeed, what you usually get is dumb, unrealistic, and demeaning to women, replacing any hope of true eroticism with face-palming juvenile indulgences*. As it turns out, that is precisely what plagues We, Without Wings, another victim of the can’t-make-up-its-mind club.
Unfortunately, the show wants to be the conductor on the Fanservice Express, even at one point venturing into an outright hentai sex scene, none of which helps or adds anything useful to the show. It’s all a vapid distraction from the better story it also wants to tell. You wouldn’t ever know it from the promotional images, previews, or hell even the first few episodes, but the story behind We, Without Wings is not merely fluff to prop up the main focus (re: boobs and panties). It displays a real attempt at a threaded narrative about identity between seemingly disparate characters and places and even throws in some swords-and-sorcery-style fantasy for good measure. That last bit, especially, could have easily been a transparent appeal to a wider audience without really serving the plot, but instead manages, in the end, to weave itself in even if it feels out of place for quite awhile — hell, damn near till the last few episodes.
Our story involves several wildly different male characters and places as they interact with friends and girls and so on. Each seems to overlap not at all except at some very peculiar junctures, which serves to set up the primary mystery. Everything else feels kind of episodic, almost pointless slice-of-life vignettes, but I assure you things do eventually coalesce in a not-so-terribly executed way. I’ll say now that if you’ve ever played the game Killer 7, you will probably have a huge advantage in figuring out what’s going on over everybody else, especially with the “channel changing” thing that is almost certainly an homage to the game.
But you’ll be forgiven if you never make it that far or you fail to appreciate what it is attempting to do with the plot, because the whole ensemble is coated in a thick, pungent layer of the dumbest fanservice I’ve seen in ages (okay, the one episode I sat through of Girls High just might have been dumber). There’s maids, tripping, cat costumes, and a whole host of other random choices from the grab-bag of moé/ecchi clichés. At one point they even “accidentally” squirt condiments on each other. At one point they for no apparent reason play Twister in their underwear. And in another they wear skimpy bunny costumes for the purposes of breaking the fourth wall. In fact, that wall gets broken a lot, with nary a wink even. It’s like they don’t even care. But then in another minute they’ll go back to having a mostly serious story, with the relationship of one of the guys and a young female writer whom he is reviewing her work for a magazine, or the grizzled yet deep-down kindhearted guy helping the obnoxious little sister of an acquaintance find her lost bicycle despite getting mixed up in a gang war.
I admit, it’s difficult to muster up any sympathy for anything, the characters or the proceedings, when the show is so inconsistent in theme. It seems like it wants you to be okay with one minute slapstick-silly fanservice and another minute heartfelt budding romance or tense gun shootout. But, no, it doesn’t really work. The goofy and retarded parts undermine the story it does have. By the end, there are a ton of loose ends that don’t get answered or resolved but it does address the primary intrigue of the overlapping threaded stories in a good enough way. I actually applaud its ability to at least finish what it started, and as I said before the story underneath wasn’t too bad, clever even at times… a little. But it’s so hard to focus on it with all of the atrocious distractions that purport to be, one has to assume, part of the appeal. Well, they aren’t; they ruin what could have been a pretty decent little story with some not-terrible characters. Instead, we get a mix of pretty good buried underneath pandering puerile garbage and worn-out weak attempts at moé-ness. To say that I was disappointed is an understatement. You can find a lot better uses of your anime watching time, but if you’re willing to put up with all of the annoying parts there is some genuine good to be found. I’m just not sure it’s worth the trouble.
As of this writing, you can watch We, Without Wings for free on Crunchyroll.
* I’m not saying one cannot or should not like such juvenile indulgences, so long as we’re honest about what it is. Don’t try to tell me it is sexy or erotic, because it’s not. You may like it, even so, and that’s fine. There’s a lot of difficult to describe aspects to moé and yet I find myself to generally regard it as a guilty pleasure. But I try to be forthright about what it is, even if I say I liked it. My goal in these reviews is to be extremely biased but fair.