Anime originals. Creating original anime has the crippling fault of being the only source in existence, meaning, if the anime doesn’t fulfill everything it needs to do in order to complete a story by its own merits, it can and will fail stupendously because the story will have nothing else to fall back on should the anime fail. So, with a name as ridiculous as ‘Hand Shakers’, it’s not hard to see how GoHand’s (how fitting) original show flopped so hard.
Takatsuki Tazuna is a boy in high school who acts as a handyman to anyone who needs help. Any device that’s broken, he can fix in a jiffy. One day, while arriving in a place to help someone named Makihara on a job, he finds a sleeping bedridden girl who’s hooked up to life support. Reaching down to grab her hand, the girl suddenly awakens and the two are then thrusted into a battle with a weird S/M couple without any word or warning.
Hand Shakers according to the show, are a pair of individuals who ‘charge’ their power by holding hands. When two pairs of Hand Shakers are within a 1 km radius within each other, the two pairs are forced into battle in a place known as the ‘Ziggurat’, where they use powers and weapons known as ‘Nimrods’ to fight each other. The pair who wins gets to keep being Hand Shakers while the pair who lost loses their power entirely and are out of the game. It’s said that the last remaining pair of Hand Shakers will be able to meet God and fulfill whatever wish that the pair so desires.
Despite having a tournament style plot that to some extent, has potential, the idea of having holding hands be a key aspect of the whole series is personally, a laughable way of trying to be unique. Though it may be ridiculous, that is not the thing that makes this show a laughingstock and a crying shame. The biggest problem with Hand Shakers is the overindulgence of style over substance. The show primarily focuses on our two main characters fighting various pairs of Hand Shakers (5 to be exact) and inching their way closer to meeting/challenging god in order to fulfill their wish. The problem is, the two don’t really have a wish. In fact, our pair of protagonists only have any form of motivation to continue forward once more than half of the episodes are over. As such, the story is stuck in this loop of characters just dealing with problems as they go along without any character motivation moving them along aside from just getting to the end.
Due to the nature of how the Hand Shakers work, each pair has their own reason for fighting. The problem is, the show reveals the motivations for each pair so late in each respective mini-arc that by the time it’s over and done, there’s no reason to care for them. In fact, the show doesn’t even give you a hint as to what each respective pairs’ problems are until after their defeated, then dump all of the info via backstory and monologue onto you expecting to care for them after they’ve been defeated and their struggle no longer matters in the series. This kind of writing is what kills the series, and it persists through every pair of opponents that our main characters meet.
As far as positives go, Episode 11 stands as the series’s high point. The episode gives us much needed backstory to the whole situation of the series, and actually gives the audience a reason to care about what’s going on. But yet again, the flaw of “too little, too late” rears its ugly head, as by the time the show makes it to this point, the audience has little reason to give a damn because everything thus far has gone so picture perfect and the end result is extremely predictable. The ending also has a confusing set of circumstances that honestly don’t even make any sense. I feel like GoHands just threw whatever they wanted at the end because the ending does not make any sense at all. There’s no definitive conclusion, there’re things in there that were never shown before, and we don’t even get to meet God. You bastards.
Overall, Hand Shakers’ story is an example of wasted potential, as the idea of reaching God had a variety of directions that the show could go. But because Hand Shakers was too focused on style over substance, the story became a bland piece of work that only served to move the characters from one fight to another. The show doesn’t try to do anything new, and the characters all having skin-deep motivations gave the audience no reason to care for anything in this show.
+/- Episode 11 arguably the best episode (though that’s not saying much)
– Show gives no reason to care about anything
– Style over substance
– Forced character motivations
As the show gives almost no reason to care about the characters and their stories, the cast is filled with characters that in sense, feel like either they don’t want to be there, or that do only care to do so for about an episode or two.
Takatsuki Tazuna is the main protagonist in Hand Shakers, and his character is about as colorful as the white his hair becomes when he’s fighting. It’s difficult to describe his character because Tazuna virtually doesn’t have a personality to call his own. The show makes it feel like the only thing he’s good for is protecting the girl he finds named Koyori. When he does finally get some semblance of reason to fight in the series, the end reason becomes “We’re together”, which is one of the laziest reasons to ever tack onto a character. If you separate him from his little girlfriend, there’s almost nothing to say about him.
Then there’s Akutagawa Koyori, Hand Shakers’s little doll. As expected of the partner of our bland protagonist, Koyori does…actually nothing. The majority of the series has her be this stiff, emotionless figure that only at the end, does something useful. In cases like these, the caretaker (Tazuna) is supposed to make up for the character that does nothing (Koyori) by fulfilling a both roles and making up for both of them by having character traits and a personality that can encompass both of them so they don’t feel like a hindrance to the overall story. But when your protagonists both have nothing to them, the end result ends up becoming nothing as well. (0 + 0 doesn’t equal anything other than 0) I don’t blame Koyori for having nothing to do with the story, as it makes sense in the show’s context, but her being a natural hindrance while her partner is an unintentional failure in the same sense of contributing nothing only furthers why the story’s content is bad.
Then we have the rest of the cast, made entirely up of other Hand Shakers that our pair of protagonists encounter (and one tutorial guy who basically does all of the info dumping). As mentioned before, all of these Hand Shakers have forced character motivations that are only told at the end of their arc, which by then, we have no reason to care for them because it’s already painfully obvious what’s going to happen if the first two episodes are any indication. Not only that, but each pair has their own unique dynamic which seems to be the only character trait they have. This ‘character trait’ of theirs gets repeated over and over and over and over again throughout each of their arcs, and persists even after their time in the spotlight is over. This gave me less of a reason to give a damn about them because their repeated behaviors irritated me to the point of not caring even more than I already didn’t.
– Bland main protagonists
– Annoying and equally bland side characters
Despite how poorly GoHands managed to screw up on Hand Shaker’s story and characters, thankfully, the concept of ‘style over substance’ was consistent throughout all parts of the show. Made with a strange combination of CG done in a handdrawn artstyle, Hand Shakers bears a unique style where everything is fluid like handdrawn animation, yet is done in a way that can only be executed by computer graphics. This artstyle has its ups and downs, but largely gives the series a very unique look.
The art is split into two different aspects. Fights, and normal everyday scenes. For both of these styles, the colors that’re used are blindingly bright to the point that it becomes a little hard to discern colors, yet still plays to the series’s strengths. The everyday scenes are detailed and actually quite nice to look at, though these scenes are the less intensive parts of the show. The actual kicker to all of this are the fight scenes. Due to the nature of devoting almost solely on computer graphics, the show has a lot of effects during the battle, a great deal of fluidity, and manages to use its bright and vibrant artstyle to its advantage to make everything look like a moving palette. The problem is, the fights are a little too fluid sometimes. During fights, the show likes to use a variety of nauseating camera angles while the characters are moving which make it both hard for the audience to see and understand what’s going on. I personally felt a little sick watching my screen with some of the fights with just how much was going on. Despite that, the art is still a genuinely good aspect of the show.
+ Aesthetically pleasing
+ Managed to make CG look good
+/- Bright colors (sometimes too bright)
+/- Fluid fight scenes (Warning: May cause nausea)
In terms of sound, Hand Shakers also has a surprisingly good OST. “One Hand Message“, its opening, has an energetic rock beat that, while isn’t the most memorable song to exist, has positive merits that compliment the wild action that the show exhibits. Its ending, “Yume Miru Ame” on the other hand is a more somber piece that personally I wasn’t a fan of. The notes are far too screechy for a supposedly somber piece, and I couldn’t stand listening to it.
Beyond that, Hand Shakers also has a notable array of BGM that’s worth noting. Battle music like “Dust Trail“, more emotional pieces like “Aism“, and others utilize a lot of piano and synthesized piano to create music that not only fits with the show, but puts weight on the fight scenes and other moments that they’re used in. They give the illusion that the characters are actually doing something meaningful, and while they may not have been too effective as I still didn’t care for anyone by the end, these tracks are genuinely good and actually nice to listen to.
+ Great tracks
– ED is less than stellar
I went into Hand Shakers not knowing what to expect. Sure the title was ridiculous, but I’ve watched more ridiculous things before. But when I started, I realized that this show was going to end up being a mistake. By the end, I just did not care. Hand Shakers was so devoid of meaningful content or anything for me to give a damn. It’s not bad enough for me to loathe this show and spit on it for everything that it stands for, but the show gave me so little reason to care about ANYTHING that was happening on-screen that the overall experience just felt like a waste of time.
Did I enjoy this anime?
I actually really like some of the Nimrod designs; especially the intricacy of Tazuna’s gear sword. The use of CG was well done and gave the show a layer of detail that I greatly appreciated. The show’s aesthetics and soundtrack are by far the best parts of the show and create a good amount of nice-looking still images and nice music to listen to.
What didn’t I like about this anime?
The only thing I was truly irritated by was the character ‘quirks’. Each of the Hand Shakers have their own quirk (be it fawning over your younger brother, yes that’s in here, or reciting off quotes of famous people like you’re a goddamn scholar every other line) that made me care about them even less than I already did. Not only that, but the show repeats these various quirks, and it gets quite annoying.
Would I recommend this anime?
This anime is honestly not worth your time. Despite its good art and decent soundtrack, the lack of story and proper characters makes this show an experience not worth having. If anything, I’d suggest just googling images of Hand Shakers so you can appreciate GoHands’s work on the show’s look, and finding the tracks of the show so you can listen to how good the music is. Beyond that, Hand Shakers isn’t worth the investment.