Waking up in a strange bedroom in a dream world, teenager Haruto Tsukishiro finds a strange app on his phone. When he activates the program, an odd woman appears and tries to drag him to her realm. Luckily, a mysterious, white-haired girl severs their connection and helps him escape, revealing that the woman is a witch; however, their conversation is cut short. As Haruto enters the realm again, he meets an anthropomorphic, talking cat named Katsumi Kanzaki. While the witch's minions pursue them, the white-haired girl opens a door for them to escape.
After their ordeal, Haruto describes their savior—which only he can see—and Katsumi, the leading authority on dream world research, realizes that she must be "Lily," a being that resurfaces repeatedly across multiple dreamscapes. Hoping to leave the dream world through a blue door, they enter the witch's realm once again. Finding themselves in peril, Lily reveals the truth to Haruto: witches suffer from "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome," a coma-like sleep state induced by torment in their real world lives. Thus, they cannot wake until they are defeated in the dream world.
After finally defeating the witch and locating the blue door, Haruto and Katsumi say their farewells, promising to meet up in the real world. However, when Haruto exits through the door he awakens in the dream world bedroom once more. Seeking answers, Haruto and Katsumi try to uncover the mysteries of the witches, Lily, and Haruto's own inability to leave the dream world.
When I saw the first episode of 18if it felt like the show would turn out just like how I predicted when I first saw it. Terrible. But outside of that episode, there was a strong episodic story that lurked deep in it.
18if used multiple directors and it used them well. Each episode had its own style to it and its own way of expressing itself. Interesting ideas were brought out in each of these episodes and they all had a good message to say about people. At its heart, 18if is about accepting the things that happen in life and getting over the
things that bring us down. As each girl has a different affliction there is a different moral that one can learn from each character. While the morals may be obvious I think the way that 18if communicates them can be quite powerful. The show does a good job of getting me to care about what is happening to the character even if I have no reason to care about them in the long run. Some of these episodes were very impressive, the best of the lot being Episode 7. Even if you're not that big into this show just check out Episode 7, I imagine that you can watch it stand alone and it's really worth it. It's very impressive and if it was on its own I'd give it a 9/10.
The characters are pretty good for what they are. They aren't deep but that's because they're only the focus for one episode. They don't need to be deep and they each portray their message well without it being too preachy (for the most part). The art and sound are really good when in the individualistic style but the art suffers when outside of it. Still, it always feels and sounds distinct and I think that is a plus.
In fact, that is something I could say about 18if as a whole. While it doesn't always stick its landing, it's at least always reaching out for something to grasp. And personally, I enjoy it when shows try to do creative and interesting things even if they don't succeed. And 18if certainly does try. And sometimes it succeeds. Other times it falls on its face, but more often it leaves something that is enjoyable and unique although not spectacular.
And that's good enough for me. The big hits balance out the flops and overall it's something that I enjoy and can appricate but far from the deep meaningful work it could have been. Overall I think it's worth it for those better episodes and the unique things it does. There really isn't anything like it.
People say 18if is like a box of chocolates: there are both good and bad parts and you won't know which one it is until you try. While I agree, I would rather compare it to an expensive box of luxury chocolates: all the flavours are exotic combinations, with ones such as broccoli-mango or truffle-chili. Initially you are turned off because you can't imagine these crazy combinations can possibly be good, but once you try some it becomes clear that they taste much better than they sound. Of course, there will always be some you dislike, but overall it's undeniable that a lot of well-placed
effort and experience has been put into them, and that they're certainly worth the expensive price. (Not that the price part applies to this anime.)
18if is a mostly episodic series, where each¹ episode is directed by a different director. The first 10 episodes are fully episodic; you can watch them in any order if you want, or skip episodes you don't like. The last three episodes consist of a short continuous arc that explains questions raised during the first 10 episodes. Note that if you skipped episodes before, you won't understand the references to these specific episodes.
The premise for the episodic episodes is as follows: In every episode there is a different witch, representing a real-world person with Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, and Haruto and Katsumi have to help the witch get back to the real world. In addition, every episode (more or less) showcases some kind of real-world issue that serves as a theme for the episode — ranging from classic themes such as the idol industry to obscure ones such as Cambodian history. I thought all of these stories were quite interesting, but given the nature of the show there will probably be ones you won't like.
Apart from the director of each episode, there is also Kouji Morimoto — known for staff roles in Majo no Takkyuubin/Kiki's Delivery Service and Akira, for example — as the co-director in every episode². This combination leads to the anime being overall very well directed, despite the fact that the episodic directors tend to be relatively obscure.
The music in the show is overall very good too; of particular note is the OP song which I would consider excellent, combined with the unique OP visuals. The ED is different each episode, with the songs being of varying quality. The ED visuals are usually just simple credit rolls with flashbacks to the episode, over varying backgrounds, but the rest of the show's visuals are engaging enough that a flashy ED animation doesn't feel necessary.
The animation quality is hit-and-miss, but it's always at least alright, with some episodes being exceptionally well animated (episode 7 comes to mind). I haven't played the source game, but the anime is strange enough that if someone told me this was adapted from a puzzle game I would just assume they're joking, so I wouldn't expect it to be a very close adaptation. If you've played the game and got a similar feel as what I'm describing, then you probably know what you're in for.
Overall it's difficult to give the show one single score because it varies so much, but I enjoyed it enough that I feel a 9 is adequate, and there are certainly some 10 elements in my opinion.
¹: Episodes 1 and 2 were directed by the same director, but otherwise this applies.
²: One episode was exclusively directed by him.
Growing up is never easy, we all have our struggles along the way. Knowing that it will all be worth it eventually is what gives us the courage to persevere to adulthood.
18if tells the stories of multiple teenagers struggling with real-world problems in a very abstract fashion. Emotional turmoil is depicted through young women struggling to find happiness in the life they've been given; whether it be bullying, the weight of parental expectations, ostracizing, etcetera. These stories are played to resonate with the audience across 13 episodes, with varying degrees of success. The times it succeeds are rare but worthwhile indeed; even if as a
full package it does not come together into a cohesive whole.
Each episode of 18if has a different director and focuses on different themes; some of them are better than others but overall the show is superb at nothing and is frequently mediocre. Occasionally the art style might change from episode to episode, but it never reaches a good level of quality that could be compared to other episodic shows. If I had to label it with a genre I'd say it's a Drama, Horror, and Psychological; from time to time 18if dabbles in Romance, which felt uncomfortable to watch because each episode the protagonist tries to woo the new lady introduced.
I understand that 18if is a multimedia project, but I'm writing my review solely based on the content of the 13 episode animated series. The content that fills those episodes is severely lacking so I can imagine the additional content expands the universe and further develops its characters.
The plot revolves around Haruto, a mysterious young man, and his struggle to save young women afflicted by "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome". The disease is brought on by severe emotional stress and it makes the afflicted person falls into a coma; once in the coma, the person can create an idyllic dream world as a method of escape from the harshness of reality. The concept is an interesting one indeed, the dream worlds sometimes were impressive in how they were able to describe what the afflicted character desired from life but didn't have in the real world. Only about half of the episodes develop the characters through the worlds they create, the other half just try to weird you out as much as possible with little to no development on the characters.
It felt like most of the directors didn't work together to write 18if's story cohesively, but instead, they vied to make the most memorable episode.
For example; one of the better episodes takes inspiration from the genre classic "A Nightmare on Elm Street", Haruto delves into the subconscious of a girl who was mentally scarred by a horrific crime committed against her and she now kills criminals out of anger by invading their dreams. They may not have explained why she was able to kill people through her dreams, but that didn't bother me because the episode achieved its goal at deconstructing a character in an unusual way.
On the flip side, there was a stink bomb of an episode where Haruto awakens in a world that resembles a children's storybook, visually and narratively, the episode has almost no relation to the main show other than the main character's name was still Haruto. There were a few episodes like this that felt like a viscous self-indulgence of a single director who appeared to have little interest in the show's narrative, which is sad considering some of the other directors put a lot of work into making episodes that contribute to the story.
The source of 18if's most perceivable issues is the fact that there is little connecting each episode until the finale. The first eleven episodes seem to be written individually from one another, so don't expect to feel much plot or character progression until the last two episodes. When the ending comes it revisits the major characters and recaps narrative highpoints in a way that I believe was meant to be satisfying… but it honestly just highlighted how messy and disjointed the story, tone, and characters are.
The R+ rating comes from the conflict with the dreamers, the violence was sometimes gory; as a side note, there is a bit of profanity in episode 9 that is meant to be comedic but comes off as repulsive, thankfully it only happens just the one time.
The script is usually passable, but occasionally it is so bad that it conveys a totally misguided message to the viewer. An example of this issue is in one of the more standard episodes that follow an ice skater who is pressured by her parents to succeed as a performer. The pressure she is faced with causes her to become afflicted by Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, once in a coma she creates a world where she can be a normal girl and live life without her harsh parents, which feels like an interesting and relatable escape for a suffering person. The episode is solid up until the end when Haruto arrives and tells her to go back to being an ice skater because it is her "destiny", which was appalling considering this concept betrayed the entire message of the episode and it went against her wishes.
Most episodes weren't ruined by confused writing like that one was, but the few that were misguided definitely stand out as an example of how to ruin a good short story.
Most of the segments were tropy, with predictable scenarios and archetypical characters, but I was able to forgive this aspect easily because each episode brought a new theme to the table.
Even though the story is episodic there are three consistently present characters; they are Haruto, Haruto's guide/mentor a scientist who appears as a cat dressed like a detective in the dream world, and Lily, a girl who's only part of the story is to be a deus ex machina in the dream world. Sadly, the three leads rarely got development.
The most interesting character of the three was the scientist who searches for a cure to the "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome" for his afflicted sister. I rooted for the scientist more than the protagonist because he had actually had a motivation to be a part of the conflict; whereas Haruto was impossible to identify with, becoming a completely blank slate at the start of each episode.
As I said before, the visuals vary from episode to episode but they never are at the point which I would call above average. The music is for the most part standard. A bewildering opening starts off every episode and it does a good job at preparing you for the demented scenarios that will inevitably ensue. It has a really unusual EDM style song that I liked quite a bit but I can understand if someone wouldn't appreciate its funky style. Each episode has different outro credits and none of them are outstanding.
Taken in bite-sized chunks I could imagine someone finding a great deal of enjoyment in this series. However, I’m reviewing it as a whole completed product and it, for the most part, failed to engage me.
Final Score: 5/10
When I reflect on the time I spent watching 18if I remember the good moments more than the bad ones. While it's a mixed experience for sure, I definitely think the turnout leans slightly more to the positive side.
[*Contains little to no spoilers*]
I don't usually write reviews, but this time I kinda ended up having commentaries for every episode, so I thought might as well post them here.
First off, the opening and the always-different endings were really fitting and good. I'm not usually a person that gives bonus points for a good soundtrack, but this time the soundtrack was either so good, or the rest was so bad that I think the OST is the best part about the whole anime. Heck, I discovered this anime from listening (and loving) to the ending of the seventh episode called "Too late" by Nene, Inori
Rating this was a pain, since there were different directors and this anime was really "artsy" to me. So my rating is going to be the average of all my ratings for each eipsode combined:
1st ep: 5/10. It's the intro right?
2nd ep: 6.5/10 Damn, nasty follow up. I usually hate splatter but this time it's necessary for the build up. MC seems to get influenced by the girls dreams "vibes". (Or maybe the directors give a shit about some consistency in his "personality"? I don't know.)
3rd ep: 6/10 Decent at least, but at least a complete opposite of the 2nd episode. Maybe it was good, but a bit too clichéd overall.
4th ep: 3/10 What seemed so promising at first ended as absolute garbage. What a shame. It's still a big problem in our society, so they had a solid base to build on. But all that build up so that MC can say 2 sentences and it's all over. I don't expect smart dialogues like Bakemonogatari or something, but please, "Ganbaru-zou" a bit more, will you? Jeez.
5th ep: 7.5/10 That one was good! I mean, everything was pretty OKish, I wish they didn't give part of the end so early in the middle away. Loved the end. Good shock.
6th ep: 2.5/10 Again, even worse than episode 3, they have that (clichéd) but real base theme and do this really cool semi-climax (in the bathroom, that scene, I don't want to spoil, don't even know someone would read this garbage I'm writing here, jeez that's a big ass sentence to fit in parentheses) but they totally ruin the whole thing midway. As if they switched the director to his 7 y.o. son. F.
7th ep: 8/10 Beautiful. Super cool animation. Nice story. Beautiful sleeping beauty. Emotional and truly a fitting "dream". Such a cool end, revealing the stuff and atmosphere in the hospital. THAT ENDING. I LOVE.
8th ep: 7/10 Pretty good. Felt somewhat realistic. We finally get to know about the MC. About time.
9th ep: 3.5/10 OKish base theme, but execution was utter trash.
10th ep: 5/10 They really ran out of money that episode. Jeez, that animation was pretty much at most 3 different pictures a second. Also I don't know if that episode was a bit too smart or a bit too stupid for me.
11th ep: 4.5/10 And I even counted in the bonus points for this weird, cool ending song.
12th ep: 4.5/10 To be honest, I didn't think 18if would give a proper connection to everything that happened. I wanted to know what's the thing about the MC. I don't know how I feel about that "dream in a dream" thing though. Somemight call it creative.
13th ep: 5/10 But the point I want to get to is, I don't know but in the end it really feels like those anime that show that Japan love Christianty (or at least parts of the bible), so much that they need to always rip some loose pieces out of these stories and fuse them into their own. It could end well, but this time I didn't in my opinion. I consider the whole story to be mediocre to even bad.
I would recommend this to someone who cares about a fitting soundtrack and is used to watch weird stuff. If I would have to describe 18if in one sentence, though:
"All the budget went into lavish 3D affects and good music."
Overall (average rating of all the single episode ratings): 5/10 (Wow, who'd've guessed)
I apologize for this crappy "review". It isn't really a proper one.