On one hand, I’m annoyed that GoHands decided that a ‘Hand Shakers’ sequel was the natural progression of things their company should go for despite just how poor that show was. But on the other hand, their OST is still fire, so I somehow still can’t be mad.
When two people have a fervent wish, they become ‘Hand Shakers’, battlers who wield weapons call Nimrods (god I wish i was kidding) and fight other Hand Shakers in the world known as the ‘Ziggurat’ in an attempt to get their wish granted by God. Set roughly 14 or so years after the original Hand Shakers, our story now features Yukiya, a boy born in the Ziggurat with the irregular ability to bring anyone into the other world if he so much as touches another person on accident.
I just want to ask, “WHY IS THERE A SEQUEL?” Having watched the original, I can safely say that that Hand Shakers was such a narrative mess that I’m genuinely surprised that W’z even exists to try and save the series instead of just leaving the whole thing forgotten like a bad dream. Weirdly enough, at least in the narrative sense, this show does redeem the entire story of this series to a somewhat respectable degree.
Instead of slice of life filler clogging up a majority of the plot with a protagonist that didn’t know what to do with his life aside from dragging around his voiceless, living doll of a girlfriend because letting go of her hand would mean the end of her existence, W’z follows Yukiya’s plight to try and find meaning and worth in the power he sees as a curse while still following a rough (nearly identical) outline similar to its predecessor where Yukiya comes into contact with other Hand Shakers with unique quirks and fighting them to ensure that he doesn’t lose his powers. Because of this, it actually feels like there’re some personal stakes for Yukiya, and that the guy actually has a bit of a personality to him since aside from DJ’ing, he seems to have inner turmoil regarding these powers that early on, he regards as something unsightly rather than useful. Good, but faulty when compared to the rest of the story.
While Yukiya’s story is most definitely the forefront of the series this time around, for the most part, W’z feels like it’s meant to be a ‘throwback’ to the original Hand Shakers, as if to constantly remind the viewer of its predecessor, the quirks of its ‘deep’ cast since Tazuna and literally everyone he beat the crap out of are now all buddy buddy, and just how great of a sequel this is supposed to be because it ties that with this. This is made more obvious by the fact that all of the new characters introduced this time have the exact same kind of ‘quirky gimmick’ that made up the original cast, making everyone new feel like just more added tropes instead of legitimately interesting characters that I want to give a shit about, as well as giving us a final arc that in the long run, doesn’t really make all that much sense due to the fact that the motivations for the antagonist is muddy, contrived, and don’t really make all that much sense. Seriously, why is this dude mad at our MC? I’ve watched the entire show and I still don’t know.
Because of all of these factors W’z, while somewhat narratively superior to its predecessor because it actually seems like it has and sticks to a story for once, still falls flat on many of the same reasons that made Hand Shakers a terrible show in the first place. It tries a few new things, but not enough to make it feel all that different from Hand Shakers, all the while constantly reminding us that Hand Shakers was a show they made and that they’re (apparently) proud of.
Yukiya, being the nephew of the series’s previous heroine (believe me, it’s better hearing his origin now rather than watching the show 11 episodes in), is known as an ‘irregular’ Hand Shaker being able to enter the Ziggurat with anyone at any time so long as he touches them with his special hands, as well as bring in and take out whatever he wants at will. Due to the irregularity of his existence, his personal conflict with coming to terms with this strange powers of his is the crux of his personality and what makes W’z at least minutely superior to its predecessor. The show takes time to make Yukiya feel like his character at least somewhat matters, and that in and of itself is already a huge step for the series considering what was going on last time with two characters that existed together for reasons.
The rest of the new cast unfortunately isn’t blessed with the same treatment. His female counterpart Haruka spends the majority of the series talking about her ‘positive’ mentality as she’s always looking at things with a positive outlook before getting upset over some stupid reason midway through the series. (I don’t get it either.) Similarly, the series’s four new pairs of Hand Shakers feature all some kind of gimmick, two of which are somewhat plot relevant due to having been in a similar situation to Yukiya in the past, while the other two basically have their gimmick be boiled down to “We’re gay” and or something about mountains. Come on, you can do better than that, and that isn’t even a fucking gimmick. The whole cards schtick in the original was a gimmick. Their sexuality? Not a gimmick.
And because neither this show nor I can stop bludgeoning the audience with the fact that this show’s a Hand Shakers sequel, here’s pretty much every fucking character that appeared in the original series. Admittedly there is some good to this, as both Break and Bind, two characters who had significance for a grand total of 1 episode in the original have their roles significantly fleshed out as Yukiya’s foster parents even if the quality of their role is dubious at best. But beyond that though, there’s not really much reason to these old characters showing up besides obvious plot devices, attempted ‘nostalgia’ since everyone gets a chance to use their old shit again, and afterstories to tell the anticipating audience who’s banging who, which given some of the pairings, is extremely, extremely awkward, and borderline creepy depending on who you’re referring to. (Believe me, learning about the ramifications of Yukiya’s birth was NOT fun.)
Despite Hand Shakers having nauseating visuals due to the fact that the flat characters were moving around in a 3-D space, the vibrancy of the color palette in addition to the animation’s fluidity during the show’s fight scenes were definitely THE defining moments even if it was most times difficult to watch without straining the eyes. It gave Hand Shakers at least something worth talking about and at least made the series aesthetically interesting with some great choice scenes for computer backgrounds if you were so inclined.
W’z however is a major, major downgrade. Comparatively, the show just doesn’t feel AS vibrant as its predecessor, having a slightly muted color scheme that isn’t as bright. While that’s actually a more welcome change, it feels like the quality of the art overall just isn’t on-par with what Hand Shakers had. More than that, the fight scenes in W’z are drastically less exciting, dynamic, and fluid, with only one fight near the end being the standout moment in the show, which strangely enough, doesn’t come nearly as close to being as visually interesting as what Tazuna was able to pull off during his time in the spotlight since Yukiya for the most part just stands around and swings his sword without doing any gliding, fancy moves, what have you. It helps that the show no longer is murder on the eyes because of how fast and how much everything is moving, but the drawback of that has the blocking of the characters basically just standing there with weapon in hand instead of constantly surfing down buildings, gliding along grass, or standing on buildings commanding chains, cards, giant shurikens, etc.
Likewise to the art, the OP and ED for W’z just…isn’t all that interesting. Both Ryouhei Takenaka’s “Reason” and Fuki’s “Kamisama wa Kitto” are more instrumental pieces that don’t have any of the flair that I expected from a series that prides itself on the DJ thematic because Yukiya not only has a mix table, but spends the entire series wearing headphones around his neck. All the time.
Luckily because GoHands loves putting its priorities in the wrong place, the OST for W’z is almost on par with the OST from its predecessor. Sporting more dulcet tones with a DJ thematic because Yukiya, many of its songs like “Espalemit” and “Deep Inside” stand out and really make the overall sound of the show a lot better than it really ought to be. It’s the one aspect of this entire series I give its due credit because this fucking OST is so much better than it has any right to be and is the one thing that I think is worth talking about in this series.
Honestly, I’m still hung up over the fact that GoHands decided that a Hand Shakers sequel was the right course of action for the company, and not to just make a different show in the same style featuring DJ boy that isn’t connected to some god-like world hopping power. Like, Hand Shakers is so negatively rated and so generally panned that I highly doubt the series made any kind of return on the ludicrous amount of CG and action fluidity that they put into the show in order to make it at least stylistically interesting despite how garbage the story was. It’s probably the reason why the overall aesthetic of W’z just seems like a less pretty looking downgrade to how Hand Shakers is and why the characters also just don’t move around a lot or have the busty girls feature a little jiggle any time they heave their body around. (Because yes, that was a thing that happened.)
Narratively, W’z is vaguely superior to its predecessor for having a better protagonist and story that seems to have SOME merit up until the end where they reveal that he’s the nephew of the previous heroine (because that was a loose end that needed to be tied up) and begin the whole ending arc against an antagonist that doesn’t make any sense both in motive and just in general concept.
But because the show consistently tries to shove Hand Shakers down your throat with constant, constant reminders on telling you that “This is a sequel” and “Hand Shakers was a good idea, we promise, just look at how happy everyone is”, I find W’z to overall be on par if not slightly inferior to its predecessor because at least in Hand Shakers, you can see some interesting animation and vibrant colors. Here, the fights suck to watch, and if you want the half decent character moments, you’re going to have to sits through so much horribly spoken Engrish and ‘quirky’ dialogue that it’s just not worth it in the end because so many of the show’s characters are just not that interesting and are typically swept to the side because they’re not important to the story anymore.
My recommendation for W’z is pretty much the same as Hand Shakers: Just listen to the OST. The OST is without a doubt the only objectively good aspect of this series with my only regret about it being that it doesn’t belong to a show that’s equally good. While the story is undoubtedly slightly better, I can’t in good conscience recommend it as not only does context for Hand Shakers play some part in this story, leading an almost near requirement to watch the original before this one, but because it reminds me so much of it that I got really annoyed just from the fact that this show just had no chance to be anything else. I just hope they don’t make a threequel. No one wants that. Please don’t do it, GoHands.