Shichisei no Subaru

Title:Shichisei no Subaru
Seven Senses of the Re'Union
Keywords: , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Lerche
OMORI Nichika
Six years ago Haruto Amo was part of a team of elementary school video gamers, known as 'Subaru', that enjoyed great success within the sword & sorcery MMORPG 'Union'. Union was a demanding game and when a person was 'killed' within it he or she was locked out of it permanently afterwards. At Haruto's urging, Subaru undertook a dangerous quest and his team mate Asahi--who was priceless due to her ability to foresee the future--was killed. Then, almost simultaneously, Asahi died in the real world as well due to heart failure. This was apparently just a strange coincidence, but Haruto felt responsible nevertheless. He didn't touch the game afterwards, but now a couple of friends have begged him into helping them out in Re'Union, the latest incarnation. And, while playing, he makes an amazing discovery: Asahi--or at least her avatar--is alive and well within the game.

12 episodes
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Unevaluated Stretch [series:3555#628]
(11 episodes watched):

Okay, this is more like it--a show whose first episode ends with a fascinating question that I absolutely must know the answer to. This is the sort of stuff that I will most certainly not have forgotten when episode two comes around. Another show about what's possible when two worlds, the real-life one and the virtual one, interact. Initially I was put off by the modest character designs and the unlikely situation where elementary school age children are running roughshod over older players, and feared that this might be little more than a poor man's SAO. But with time a number of intriguing hints are dropped about possible issues to come; like, what is this 'sense' that a person must have to play this game? Is the Pleroma corporation up to something? Does the girl with pink hair secretly love Haruto? I liked the touch where one member of Subaru apparently is a foreigner; I wonder why that detail was included. And, of course, how in the world is Asahi still alive within the game, when she was most definitely killed at one point? Shichisei doesn't have 'Quality!' written all over it, but this is looking like a fun show, and when a show is fun it is hard to go wrong.

I was afraid that episode two might quickly dispense with the intriguing question of how Asahi is still alive within the game and turn to simple-minded nonsense, but to my relief it didn't. The characters don't exactly summon every ounce of brainpower they have to figure out what's going on, but they make an effort. They went far enough--like the interesting theory that the reason Asahi cannot log out is because she no longer has a real-world body to 'return' to. That made ideas like 'could this game be programmed to duplicate the mind of anyone who dies while playing?' occur to me. On the other hand, I felt the other guilds trying very hard to recruit Asahi was a diversion from the main matter, but oh well. Haruto somehow loses his 'sense', which makes him little more than a beginner within the game that he was once an expert at; but he soon regains it and why the loss (or the concept of Sense to begin with) was included at all is not clear. The tone here is somewhat more silly than SAO, but I will not complain too much since it seems to be an original lost-in-virtual-reality show. Actually, everyone but Asahi can log out whenever they please, which is sort of original in an ironic way.

The basic question seems to be, what in the world is Asahi nowadays? Has her mind been exactly duplicated even though her body is dead? One by one, the former members of Subaru meet her and draw their own conclusions (I wonder, has anyone dared to tell her that she died in the real-world, and therefore can never 'log out'?). Asahi suggests that Subaru be reactivated and the old friends who have gone their own ways get together once again. I wished that exactly what was important and what wasn't would be made a bit more clear, but I was still enjoying the show. Indeed, it is my favorite anime of the season and the first one I watch each week.

Hints are dropped here and there regarding what's really going on; for example, Asahi experiences a brief flash of memory (maybe) regarding what she's been doing in the six years since her character was supposedly killed. I pray that a truly intriguing story really is coming together (it is too soon and this show is too imperfect to be sure) and I won't end up disappointed. Every time a scene is devoted to the various guilds competing to capture Asahi I get anxious that solving the mystery behind her might wind up as a secondary concern and these power plays might become the primary one. I worry because the mystery seems infinitely more fascinating and entertaining than the stereotypical fighting among these proud and arrogant organizations. I wish they would just get out of the way and let the story progress. Maybe there is more to the guilds than there seems to be at first sight, but so far I'm not sensing it.

Actually, one of the guilds is led by Todoroki, a former Subaru member. He has figured out that Asahi cannot log out of the game, which makes her vulnerable to kidnapping within it, and he thinks he knows what's best for her. This is an interesting twist, what with his willingness to basically give up his own real-world life for her sake, but again I feel that not enough of the potential is being exploited because too much attention is being paid to power plays and whatnot. 'Good but not great' seems like a fairly accurate encapsulation of both this twist and this show as a whole. This is a show which seems to ooze potential, yet it repeatedly fails to make the most of it. At any rate, the Guilds arc seems to be over after six episodes and we can only guess where the story will go next. Another hint is dropped that the Pleroma corporation is somehow using the game and its players to develop some sort of highly valuable product without the players' permission. Maybe they duplicate players' minds in order to create artificial intelligence, and the scheme would have gone unnoticed if it weren't for Asahi. The very fact that I can wonder what's going on is indicative that, for all its flaws, this remains an entertaining show.

Again, this strikes me as a not brilliant but fun show. I wish it would delve deeper into matters like what exactly Asahi has become, what the Pleroma corporation is up to, Todoroki's willingness to spend his life in a virtual world, etc. It seems highly reluctant to do that, but the characters are likeable, the jokes are OK, and there's enough to the story to keep me interested. The real-world meeting between three Subaru members was in episode seven was modestly intriguing. One thing that worries me a little is Todoroki's feeling that Asahi has a real-world body somewhere after all--that seems like a cop-out. There is one female character in the OP sequence who has yet to appear, and she seems to be a real-world person since she is wearing the game goggles--could she be the 'body' Todoroki was referring to? But how in the world would that be explained?

In episode eight the show suddenly gets serious about explaining Asahi's existence; it almost seemed like it went from moving at the speed of a snail to taking off like a drag racer. The trick seems to be that this is a matter of infinite different ways the future could potentially work out, sort of like in Steins;Gate. And somehow Asahi's ability to foresee the future was actually an ability to see different ways things might work out, and choose the best one. I won't pretend that I completely understood it, but it made some sense and was intriguing--more intriguing, at least, than all that nonsense with the guilds. It was a good deal more far-out than explanations like 'maybe the game system has duplicated Asahi's mind', which were the best ones I could come up with previously. The question immediately arises, 'how in the world could anybody find a way of doing this'? Even in the real world, it's unclear if this is a matter of science or sorcery. I should probably re-watch this episode a second time. I did rewatch episode one, and noticed that just before the incident in which Asahi is rediscovered, something funny happens, possibly a switch from one timeline to another.

If Asahi can (unconsciously) choose which timeline the future will follow, why did she choose one in which she dies of heart failure? That's a bigger deal than what happens in a video game, isn't it?

One by one, the original members of Subaru are located. the last one is Nozomi, and it turns out that Gnosis (a shadowy arm of Pleroma?) was looking for her as well. Given how this show is seldom unquestionably brilliant, I sometimes found myself wondering why it was as much fun as it was. Perhaps we've gotten to know Asahi and Haruto and the others well enough that we absolutely must have a happy ending for them. It just goes to show how important it is for those telling a story to create an intriguing question for which we viewers need an answer (even if the answer sometimes seems unfocused and short of what it might have been). I'd rather have a half-assed answer to a good question than vice-versa--which is what most anime seem to give us.

I thought the way the problem with Nozomi was resolved in episode 11 was pretty neat. It wasn't all that surprising, but it made sense and it worked. Again, a step towards a happy ending for everyone. Then there's the main issue of the series, Gnosis--what is it really up to? Does that make sense as well?

Last updated Saturday, September 22 2018. Created Friday, July 27 2018.

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