With blood all around, High Rise Invasion enters the anime game with glee for violence and fan service. But is the 12 episode series worth watching in the end?
What would you do when you find yourself stuck in a world of high-rise buildings with no way to the ground, and having to fight against masked creatures? How would you survive? What choices would you have to make just to get back home? These are the questions High Rise Invasion tries to answer. And the result is questionable at best.
The main character is Yuri Honjo, a high school girl who finds herself suddenly transported to the rooftop of a building. With no idea how she got there, she contacts her brother since he’s the only one she could reach. The brother Rika Honjo, helps fill in the details. Apparently, he has no idea what the place is. Only that he and Yuri are in another world entirely, and that masked people wanted to push them to “the edge of despair”. What this means, though, we get to see as Yuri witnesses another person get chased by a Mask, a masked person, until that person decides to jump off the building.
In horror, Yuri immediately realizes the rules of the world. Survival of the fittest. Anyone who can’t keep up will be slaughtered.
Now, this sounds like the perfect setup for the next run-away horror action show. Battle Royale, Btoom!, Alice in Borderland, and many more have played with the idea of a “survival game” where a higher power forces people to survive in a hellscape of their own control. High Rise Invasion plays by those exact same rules. If you’ve watched Alice in Borderland, expect the same thing here more or less, only with fewer game mechanics and more focus on survival. Specific rules, environments manipulated to make escape impossible, people surviving by murdering each other, etc. It’s all typical, and would usually make for an easy enough time since blood and violence with a bit of existential crisis in the script is something everyone loves to watch.
But High Rise Invasion is surprisingly unique to its colleagues. Because even with the most appealing set up in the world, it somehow manages to become a huge disappointment. A manga, so ripe with potential, is watered down into a strange and chaotic mess of jokes, blood, and panty fanservice that it’s even a wonder the story went anywhere. But the story that was there? It was a choice.
For one, the anime really swerves away from the manga. The first 20 chapters of the manga are dedicated to Yuri fighting for survival against just a few Masks. The focus was building up the moralty and character of Yuri, and is the beginning of how her humanity is being challenged by the world of High Rise. There was the thrill of the unknown as we’re slowly introduced to the masks that create the killer Mask people. We get to see the characters get scared and doubt and be driven to the brink of despair.
The show throws all of that out of the window for easy servings of blood and gore and screams. Within the first episode alone, they explain so much of what’s going on how the masks, rushes Yuri's moral conflict. There’s no thrilling development, no build-up, all the mystery is sucked out. The audience is repeatedly asked to feel for the conscious choices made by the characters to kill for survival. But there wasn’t even a proper buildup to that moral question. The show relies on small and poorly inserted lines of a script just to justify its attempt at catching sympathy for the deaths happening. But the characters are barely even written as humans, mostly just walking tropes that are closer to comedy characters than people trying to survive a thriller show. It’s just in-your-face blood with no sense of story or care for character. And it’s such a waste seeing as the original source material actually took some care to show more layers to its world, rather than just pretty girls with guns.
But at the same time, it suffers the same problems of the manga. The sudden insertion of the narratives of others with no care for pacing is annoying as it consistently breaks the pace of the show. While it gets better somewhat in later episodes, the show doesn’t really learn how to handle character backstories. Only one character has a backstory that’s actually well teased enough without ruining a scene. The rest are just too hastily written in.
And there’s even the weird pacing of the show. One moment it’s serious, but then it tries to insert a joke and be funny, even if the situation doesn’t call for it. It wanted to try and mix fun and wit to the whole survival aspect, but seems to have forgotten that a series that is all about questioning morality should have better-placed humor or less risk becoming insensitive and confusing. It undervalued the horror and thriller aspect and made the show seem like a weird comedy survival series that really didn’t know how to do either.
There’s also the choice of how they ended the episode. Story arcs didn’t end with the end of the episode, unlike how it normally happens. The show would suddenly end a story arc or thematic arc midway through the episode. In the middle of the episode, the audience would be suddenly dropped a climax or a resolution. It deceptively makes it look like that’s the end, but it’s not. It just keeps going until it reaches the end of the episode, and it ends it midway through the arc. It’s like being offered a meal, and then about to enjoy it when it’s suddenly taken from you. This happened IN ALL THE 12 EPISODES, and it left the entire thing feel like a broken chain of events instead of a cohesive series. It even feels like entire scenes were missing because moments would just suddenly end, or characters would be introduced with familiarity that the audience hadn’t even seen before. It’s all messy, like they tried to cram so many chapters into 12 episodes.
Another worrying thing about the show is the technical aspect. Whether it’s from over-worked and underpaid animators trying to keep up with high demands, or it’s just an animation studio’s poor decision, or maybe a director who didn’t know what they were working on, it’s obvious that those behind the series have NO IDEA how to make a proper enough animated show. There’s the blatant use of 3D that doesn’t blend well, nor does it try to be artsy with how obvious it is. There’s the animation style where all the characters look so flat and depthless. The choice of using 2D-3D mixed fight scenes were so bad because the way it was used with little finesse and made many of the fights feel low-budget. Like an attempt to be cool, but with no concept of how to do it. Everything felt tacky, unpolished, and poorly designed. No consideration to the smoothness of the animation either, relying heavily on cuts and ticks to keep things moving.
But the worst part is that, with all the changes made in the story and pacing, it seemed to have kept the manga’s bizarre fetishization of the women. There are multiple shots of highschool girl panties in situations that don’t call for panty shots. What’s the benefit of animating the underskirts of a highschool girl as she tries to run from a masked assailant trying to bash her head in? None. But the show indulges in showing as much ass and other sexual bits as possible. There’s even the blatant show of how female Masks, react with a sort of orgasmic pleasure in pleasing their master. And yes, even the men did it too, but the female Masks were animated with more gusto, more adorableness, more detail into showing them as sweet and submissive. Even a scene where a girl is being sexually assaulted is shown with too much detail. The show, just like the manga, relishes unnecessary sexualization. And combined with the previous problems stated before, makes the show a whole lot worse.
If ever you have a time you’re made to choose a series to watch out of boredom, watch this if you’re drunk and bored and have questionable standards.
Final show rating: 3/10