WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episodes 1 and 2 of The World Ends With You: The Animation, now streaming on Funimation.
The World Ends With You: The Animation began airing this April, much to the delight of the series' devoted fans. Based on the 2007 Nintendo DS game of the same name, the anime had all it needed to become a hit thanks to the critically acclaimed story, aesthetic and soundtrack of its source material. Much like previously successful game-to-anime adaptations like Steins;Gate and the Fate series, it could have become a popular show in its own right and drawn newcomers to the game.
Unfortunately, though the anime has its strong points, it's badly hampered by the speed at which it rushes through its own story. It seems likely that, rather than being given the chance to stand on its own, the anime is meant to promote the upcoming game NEO: The World Ends With You.
The anime is only slated for 12 episodes as of now, and it's looking like the studio intends to cover the entire story in that tiny amount of time. The original game follows Neku Sakuraba as he plays through three weeks of the deadly "Reaper's Game" in an attempt to win resurrection -- since, as it turns out, all the players are dead people hoping to win a second chance at life. Each day that passes in the game is treated as its own sort of episode, with a mission Neku and his partner have to complete, as well as secret bonus missions players can unlock after they've finished the game once.
In order to squeeze those three weeks of story into 12 episodes, the anime speeds through events at a breakneck pace. It eliminates many of the character interactions that give the game its charm and doesn't take the time to properly develop the personalities of its cast. Episode 1 covered three days' worth of game content, which could have easily taken up three episodes by themselves. Episode 2 is barely any better, covering the next two days of Neku's struggle to survive the Reaper's Game. The anime has succeeded in staying on track to finish in 12 episodes, but it's come at a cost.
Yet, despite the unfortunate pacing, there are still glimmers of what made the original game great to be seen here. The overall aesthetic is an eye-catching mixture of Tetsuya Nomura's signature art style and Shibuya pop culture. Fashion, graffiti and urban individuality are all recurring motifs that make the visuals distinct from your run-of-the-mill anime.
The music is no less unique either -- the original game's developers devoted significant attention to the soundtrack, as it took up a quarter of the game's total media, and those songs carry over to the anime. A catchy blend of pop, hip hop, rock and electronica make up the sound environment of the anime's Shibuya setting.
The anime may not be what The World Ends With You fans hoped for, but at the very least they can enjoy the remixes and new songs it's adding to the original soundtrack, and enjoy the next game in the series when it releases in July.