WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 2 of EX-ARM, now streaming on Crunchyroll.
EX-ARM, 2021's early contender for worst anime of the year, has come under fire for what appears to be censorship of a same-sex kiss. However, after closer examination from fans on Twitter, it might have become apparent that what happened wasn't censorship, but simply poor animation.
EX-ARM is already one of the most controversial shows of the Winter 2021 anime season. However, with this new scene, it might very well rank as one of the most absurd failures in recent memory. Why was it that the animators might have decided not to animate a simple kiss scene?
Why Did EX-ARM Hide Two Girls Kissing?
EX-ARM is a Crunchyroll Original Anime. The cyberpunk anime tells the story of Akira, a boy who dies in an accident only to be brought back to life 16 years later as an advanced AI by the cyberpunk police of 2030. In the second episode, the android Alma is kissed by officer Minami Uenozono. As their lips touch, a brilliant nova of light hides their faces. This happens on both the Japanese TV broadcast and Crunchyroll's international stream.
Fans were quick to compare this scene to the same scene from EX-ARM's manga, in which this kiss is shown clearly and unobscured, leading many viewers to criticize the show for supposed homophobia. But though it appears the anime adaptation deemed the idea of two women kissing as being too indecent for broadcast, others offer an alternative explanation.
So.... Ex-Arm a new anime adaption based on a manga with the same name censored the same sex kiss scene between two girls but in the original manga there was no censored scene? @Crunchyroll need to come out with an explaining asap since they are crunchyroll originals pic.twitter.com/5sfFrLeyYv— ach (@chasdesu) January 19, 2021
EX-ARM Isn't Homophobic - It's Just Cheap
As other Twitter users suggest, the likely reality of what happened is far more on-brand for EX-ARM at this point. In 3D animation, models are rigged to move in certain ways. While more points of articulation result in characters moving in more organic ways, many animators cut corners by only rigging certain parts of their character models.
EX-ARM's animators cut a lot of corners by reducing the amount of articulation given to their facial animation. Whenever characters speak, their bottom jaw moves but their lips remain frozen in place. This results in a profoundly uncanny effect, in which faces remain stuck and lifeless no matter the situation. That minor characters don't even receive 3D models at all but are instead hand-drawn only draws attention to how frozen the 3D models' faces look.
An uncomfortably plausible theory: they just didn't want to bother animating the kiss https://t.co/0jRD5mAxU4— New Year New Lauren (@laureninspace) January 19, 2021
It might be easy to blame Crunchyroll for this error, but it's just the distributor. The blame for this lies with the animation studio behind EX-ARM, Visual Flight. EX-ARM is its first anime production. Director Yoshikatsu Kimura has directing live-action movies and television but has directed animation before.
When Alma and Minami kissed, their lips would most likely have been unable to move at all. That close, their noses might've even clipped through one another, resulting in an incredibly ridiculous sequence in which two lifeless mannequin models shove their faces up against one another. As a result, the flash of light serves to conceal the fact their models are inflexible and the animation is cheap.
EX-ARM is a Contender For Worst Anime of the Year
This unintentionally homophobic-seeming piece of poor animation is yet another criticism levied against EX-ARM. At the time of writing, EX-ARM has a 2.25 out of 10 rating on MyAnimeList, based on 6,968 votes. This makes it not only the lowest-rated anime of the season but one of the lowest-rated of all time.
The series has some of the worst CGI in all of anime, uglier than even 2016's Berserk, and its inability to animate human affection is just one of the many reasons why EX-ARM has become a disaster.