BS reviews is a series where Edy and I look for the unseen genius in anime that have not been widely recognized by the public. Today, we will be talking about the deep hidden meanings and excellence of Ex-arm, a widely unknown anime from 2021.
To say that Ex-arm is good would be understatement. It is an extremely polished, well made anime about sexy anime robots and hacking. There’s very cool action scenes where there is CG and 2d animation blended in very naturally together. It makes for an extremely unique atmosphere that i’ve never seen before, and I really appreciate the work that must have gone into this.
First the story. Ex-arm takes place in 2030 in Tokyo where criminals and police fight for extraordinary weapons known as Ex-arm. And our main character, brain-man, who was living a great normal life, suddenly wakes up in 2030 to find himself as an ex-arm. From the first episode, the only episode that we watched, it was clear what the author was going for. A futuristic story with dark and gritty battles between police and criminals — a gripping story like Psycho-Pass. We are here to tell you today that Ex-arm has surpassed Psycho-pass providing intrigue with a gripping story, amazing voice acting, and a barrage of high quality camera movements to give the audience the best possible experience one can get from anime.
Many animation studios spend lots of time trying to make their anime look as ‘good’ as possible, like studio Kyoto animation. However, this is just not effective. When I see Koe no Katachi, I see complete artistic failure. Look at those hand animations. It’s so well made that I feel physically sick watching it, just imagining how much money that would have cost. However, when I see Ex-arm, I feel inspired. Such uniqueness where we can clearly see that artistic direction was made a bigger priority than a big budget and ‘high quality animation.’ Just imagine what the anime world would look like today if people took bigger risks and creative liberties like Ex-arm. Really makes you think.
That being said, there are some voice actors like Kito Akari that feel really wasted in Ex-arm. Ex-arm is all about breaking conventions and therefore I do not think that a good voice actor was a fit for this anime, and instead it may have been more effective to ask a homeless person on the street to do some ad-libs and use those instead. Not only would that further decrease the production costs, (potentially leading to a season 2), but it would also emphasize the incredible atmosphere of Ex-arm. But maybe the point for Ex-arm’s VA casting is for it to stick out like a sore thumb. It’s symbolism of the current society for how even a masterpiece like Ex-arm cannot be perfect due to limitations brought on by higher management that demand ‘high quality,’ ignoring the creative genius of the author. The more you think about Ex-arm, the more you realize how deep it is and how much thought was put into it by the director and creative team.
My favorite part of ex-arm definitely has to be the action sequences. This anime hired Yoshikatsu Kimura, a director that has never worked on anime before. However, it isn’t as though Kimura never had any experience with directing; before this, he was primarily a live action director. And much of his skills from live action directing shows here.
One of the parts I like to point out is the camera work. Anime usually doesn’t move the camera outside of a slight shaky cam in their action sequences. This is usually because they are doing this to save budget. Of course, unlike live action where you create this simply by moving the camera during filming, animation requires you to draw all the frames one by one. Having camera movement on top of the normal character movement makes it a nightmare for animators. However, with Ex-arm being CG, Kimura takes advantage of the medium. In the action sequences he follows the characters along with their movements. Through this movement, the scene looks extremely messy, making us feel almost sick. This naturally presents to the audience the hectic and adrenaline high moments that come from such exciting action sequences. With this, we are able to feel each punch like we have been punched ourselves to the guts.
The color palette is rather beautiful as well. We get one scene in the start of the anime with inverted colors. I thought this was an incredibly clever choice to present the off putting nature of the destruction that brain guy is making to the world. The shock of the event that it provides us is cleverly used in this scene to make it as shocking as possible. Other than that, the color palette is strange for us to look at. There is this weird tint of green with off putting lines over the CG characters. This is a genius choice which allows us to feel how bewildered Brain Guy is suddenly being reborn in the future without the body that he was once familiar with.
The absolute ingenuousness of Ex-arm can be seen when looking at any panel of the manga. As you will be able to notice from the above photo, the Ex-arm manga is actually normal. Thus all of the excellent cinematography and pacing present in the Anime is completely original. Digibro once said that K-On and The Godfather are both examples of mediocre pieces of work being adapted into masterpieces from the excellent Directors. While this may be true, I disagree. This is because Ex-arm is really good, and the manga doesn’t look that funny.
Ultimately, Ex-arm is about the chains of society limiting the potential of human creativity. It’s a gripping story with lots of symbolism and visual metaphors about the boundless abilities of humans that will never be achieved because of social norms. The color scheme is so good, the gray shows how gray modern life is and the other colors show how Ex-arm is the ‘other anime’ that people should be watching.
To see the true genius of Ex-arm, all you need to do is look at the MAL page.
Do you see it?
From Joanne Sacred Scribes, (Shortened as JSS, in other words Just Simply Shocked [at how good Ex-arm is]), 296 is the angel number for courage. Of course it is. After all, courage is the biggest emotion we should be receiving from Ex-arm. That such anime with production quality can be so masterfully crafted, without any fancy budget like Kyoto Animation of Japan, Kyoto.