Urashima, an island far from the mainland. The people who live there lead carefree lives. But five years ago, the island's three great families suffered a series of misfortunes and succumbed to suspicion. The people of the island cut off all contact with the mainland and began a slow decline. The key to saving the island lies in three girls who belong to the three families. But they are bound by old traditions, and are conflicted. On that island, a lone man washes ashore. The man claims to be from the future, and he begins a solitary struggle to change the island's fate. (Source: ANN)
Ever wondered what would be like to wake up and have no memories about yourself? Island takes this traditional trope but instead of translating it into a survival tale, it turns it into a story about rediscovery. It’s a series based on a visual novel but I confess to say that it’s very questionable in terms of presentation. Looking at the show made me wonder how such a simple premise descended into an abomination.
The simple premise of Island honestly made me curious about the show at first. Taking place on this island known as “Urashima”, it gives the impression of a setting of isolation. It’s away from cities, civilizations, and the social problems that we have to deal in our everyday lives. In fact, the first few episodes really makes it clear that the islanders there live in a carefree way. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that there’s more than meets the eye about the story’s mystery. A big part of the show is trying to sell its suspenseful plot by connecting the past with the present.
Before I actually get into the juicy part of the show, it’s noticeable that Island underwent some changes before the actual premiere. From my understanding, there was dispute over the script so what we see on TV may not be what was originally planned. I have not played the visual novel (even though it’s available now in both Japanese and English) so I came into the show as a fresh newbie. Still, a show like this felt more like a niche designed to target the specific audience. In this case, it’s aimed at people who enjoys the feeling of a dramatic adventure. And to be honest, that’s a tough pill to swallow. The first few episodes flirted with relationships between the main cast. Meanwhile, the story suffers pacing issues from the very start as each episode constantly bounces between cheesy comedy and dramatic sequences. Then, there’s the mystery that tries to carry the plot. What we get instead is more of a wish-fulfillment love story that doesn’t know what it’s trying to do. There’s a lot of pitfalls that hardly puts emphasis on the story. This is evidenced with the sex jokes, ineffective writing, and in general, lack of care in the characterization.
Speaking of characters, Setsuna Sanzenkai is what I like to describe as a blank piece of paper. You try to write down facts about him and there’s really nothing. That’s because the guy has a mysterious past but in reality, his personality is just as empty. Through his interactions with the main cast, he doesn’t stand out any more than they do. It doesn’t help that his dialogues sounds robotic and often lacks enthuaism. The main cast consists of three girls – Rinne, Karen, and Sara. Each of them seems to have some sort of connection with Setsuna as evidenced through various flashbacks. The show also dedicates a decent amount of screen time by using montages to enhance their relationships. Unfortunately, it fails to cook up any meaningful relationship between Setsuna and these girls. There’s too much generalization on the girls’ personalities and much less on their development. Even Rinne, the girl that Setsuna spends the most time with suffers from this. Sure, there is background storytelling that makes it clear he and Rinne knows more about each other than meets the eye. However, it’s the type of relationship that adheres to wish-fulfillment. These characters are not larger than life and in fact, you can find them in just about any eroge visual novel. It’s a shame really since they look charming on the surface.
So is there anything worth watching about the show? To be honest, it’s really comes down to the decision on what you’ll find attractive or not. The comedy is blatantly inauthentic with poor timing between the characters’ dialogues. While the show had potential for its mystery elements, it really doesn’t get the ride going until quite later on. In other words, this anime will test your patience. I’ve honestly struggled to stay awake when watching Island and this show felt like it would be better if you played the game.
Perhaps there’s some redeeming quality about the show when it comes to the technical quality. I have to admit, Island does look well designed in terms of its setting. It’s able to convince me of the cultural differences between itself and the outside world. The idea of isolationism also looks credible with the relaxing atmosphere and being away from urban cities. Characters all look like they live the carefree life with their simple clothing and moderate technology. There’s also quite an abundance of fanservice that may sometimes feel uncomfortable. Because let’s face it, some of the girls in the show looks like kids. You be the judge but it’s hard to deny their physical appearances.
On the other hand, Front Wing was able to create this series with a very relaxing and atmospheric music. While the montage songs can sound a bit generic, they are also appealing by itself if you just listen to them. Unfortunately, the show definitely takes a step back when it comes to voice acting. I already mentioned Setsuna but his voice really sounds like a cog in a machine when he opens his mouth. The female characters’ voices doesn’t sound any better and often too high pitched to take to heart.
I’m glad this show is only 1 cour because any more than that would feel like a chore. To be able to attract an audience towards this show takes more than just a creative setting. The premise had some potential but it’s weathered down by its ineffective plot and one dimensional characters. Perhaps if I watch this without thinking too much, it would’ve been a better experience. The fact is, Island is just another example of a poor story with a budget that it doesn’t deserve.