Troupe-y Trash or Something More?
Up for review today is Island an anime from the Summer 2018 lineup that had a roller coaster 12 episodes. This was a show that a lot of people dropped early in around the three episode mark as a result to there being, “too many” loli characters and a seemingly uninteresting plot. Were folks right about that or did this show have more to offer than it may have first appeared to?
Unsurprisingly, Island is based on a visual novel of the same title that originally released in April, 2016. It eventually got a US release on Steam this year as the show was running, which is pretty cool if that interests you. It follows Setsuna, a man who washes up on a somewhat mysterious island without any real knowledge of who he is or why he’s there, except he does remember one thing: he needs to kill someone.
From here Setsuna meets a cast of girls that include typical high school girl Karen (along with her 3 friends), the shrine maiden Sara, and a more puzzling character, Rinne. He ends up helping all the girls out all while falling for Rinne in the process. Eventually Setsuna figures out what he was meant to do, but by then, it may just be too late.
That’s the basic plot of the show. Eventually things get pretty wild with time travel and stuff but I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own if you choose to watch it. While I can see why a lot of people dropped this show I think they were a little bit quick in doing so.
Island makes a horrible mistake of being just a bit too serious when it shouldn’t and a bit too goofy when it ought not to in the first few episodes. This problem persists up until about episode 4 or 5 where this series really begins to earnestly tell its story. The result is a few early episodes that are frankly a bit too fanservice heavy at the wrong moments and a plot that is difficult to really get invested in. However, I’m a bit easy to please and was interested by the promise of some sci-fi shenanigans, so I stuck with it.
Part of what made these first few episodes easy to stick with was a Twitter account (unfortunately I didn’t think to write the name down in advance so sorry for no link) that was sharing information about the show. Some of that was showing off how the island in Island was actually modeled after real places. That made spotting some of that stuff really fun for me. It’s always cool to see an anime do that.
Early episodes still offered fun and some intrigue but it wasn’t until episode five that I was fully invested and engaged with the show. This episode is a slightly emotional one that deserves credit for how well it handled itself. Island took great care to give the subject matter in the episode the proper treatment with very interruptions that were not ill-placed.
From here the show only became more interesting. The plot really kicks into gear, stakes get pretty high, and you start getting some much needed answers. It’s the kind of thing that can be best described as a wild ride. Not all of this was good, but the overall experience was a good one.
There was a time-skip portion of Island that felt a bit weak only because you aren’t there very long. It reminded me a lot of Air but in this case it was not even close to that terrible. Interesting ideas in this section but just not quite enough time for execution. This does have its own (spoilers if you click this) OP and title card, for what is essentially its own mini series, which results in a change in the normal OP later when returning to the original cast.
At one point, and this is somewhat of a spoiler, Setsuna even has sex with someone! Like on screen, not just sort of implied, which is wild. For a TV anime, and especially for a VN adaptation, this was really surprising for me. Now let me say that this scene was tasteful and contextualized, but a lot of people had major problems with it.
The issue here is that Setsuna is like 20 something (it’s never officially stated) and the girl he sleeps with is only 13. While not as vocal as some instances of this, the internet once again rallied to call people who enjoyed this show, and this moment, to be deplorable pedophiles. There were a lot more nasty comments about this and the show but we’ll leave it at that.
I already stated, but the show is very tasteful about this scene and it is given context. When I say this, I mean that this isn’t portrayed as a sexy scene that people should be getting off on, but rather an incredibly emotional moment between two characters. It’s framed in a way to get you to care about this relationship and it achieves that.
I’m so sick of this lolicon debate that the anime world simply won’t stop bringing up. This level of portrayal is not more than you’d get in a Western adaptation of Game of Thrones which just baffles me. I’d even argue that the latter series is more distasteful than not.
My point being that watching media that has a moment like this in it doesn’t make you a pedophile. Enjoying it doesn’t either, nor does rooting for the characters. Even if you did get some added pleasure from this scene, I don’t care. Who am I to police your thoughts on a drawing? This opens a whole can of worms with the VN, which I imagine is only MORE than what the anime has but that is considered a product of much higher value so it is ok because?
To disregard a piece of media because it could make you uncomfortable is stupid and dangerous. Exploring these ideas in a safe space, such as animation, is totally normal and healthy. Just like how a lot of film and TV explore murders and other horrible crimes; they are interesting from a thought perspective. They aren’t telling me to go out and do those things. Sorry I got off on a tangent a bit but seriously, this loli thing needs to die.
Where was I? That’s right, I was meaning to get at that this moment was interesting to see. Normally relationships don’t progress further than a kiss or hand holding. We all know that’s how anime babies are really born.
Circling back to the story of Island now, the time travel thing was interesting. I never knew exactly when each part of the show was supposed to take place, so I dubbed the entire thing, “The Past-Future” because it was so nebulous. Turns out that I hit the nail on the head.
The show hints that time is on a constant cyclical loop but unfortunately doesn’t get much time to explain that. This is perhaps the worst part of the plot just because it is casually brought up and then dropped. However, the real story has to do with Setsuna and Rinne so I’m glad that got to be the focal point instead of trying to explain the science here (which, really, would probably have made the show worse).
There’s a nice, “twist” at the end (I saw it coming but) that felt a tad rushed but otherwise nice. I learned from people who have played the VN that they actually expanded on that here in the anime leading to some original scenes that added a lot. It’s rare to see fans of the visual novel praise an anime for taking, what many would consider, a bold risk, with original content that expands the ending of the story.
Some minor things of note that I didn’t really have a lot to say on. The animation generally looked really nice, and when it needed to, could even look great. Music was very enjoyable, probably my second favorite of the season. The insert song that was used a lot with Rinne was very enjoyable. Lastly, I wanted to mention how one scene in particular had me laughing at how bad it was. It’s when Rinne is explaining what happened with her dad to Setsuna. The way that scene was framed really undercut it in a hilarious way.
Ultimately Island offered a bit more than it looked like it was going to. I originally got in for things like spotting landmarks and watching how this crazy show would go, but ended up staying because the story was genuinely engaging. If you were someone who dropped the show early on and what I talked about sounded interesting, I’d encourage you to go and give this another shot.
What were your thoughts on Island? Did you give up on it early or watch it all the way through? Will you be giving it a second chance if you did drop it? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you’d like to support my content, hit that button below please. And, as always, thanks for reading!