Holding hands is an important human interaction. As children, our parents hold our hand to guide and protect us. Later in life, we hold the hand of our lovers as a sign of our affection and the bond between us. As we grow old, holding hands becomes a source of comfort. When we watch Hand Shakers, we hold hands in the hope that it might fend off the nausea caused by the violent camera movements and terrible CG of this abomination of an anime.
Over recent years, animation studio GoHands have made a name for themselves with their own particular style of anime, with lots of visual filters to saturate and give a unique look to their shows. At times it's worked well - Mardock Scramble's bizarre future fitted their aesthetic, K had something to be said for its Instagram-filtered visuals, and Coppelion... well, let's not talk about that one.
Even compared to those series, Hand Shakers is on another level. Another level of Hell, that is. Right from the off, I really can't overstate how ugly this series looks, right the way down to the atrocious font used for its opening credits that you'd expect to see from a Geocities hosted web page in the mid-1990s. It only gets worse when the series proper kicks off however, demonstrating a complete lack of any kind of coherent art direction. The series looks like the production staff assembled every filter, visual effect and CG asset amassed by the studio, then threw every single one of them into every single scene to create a literally dizzying mess that has no rhyme, reason or logic to it.
Things only get worse when the time comes for some dynamic camera work - our view of events lurching around like a drunkard trying to record a night out via Periscope, only with more swaying, tilting and swinging the camera around. It's literally nauseating - which is a perfect fit for the series, as combine the messy visuals with the terrible camera work and Hand Shakers looks like someone has vomited onto the screen after eating too many Skittles. You can almost taste the rainbow, but that's because you just threw up in your mouth a little.
Into the midst of all this, you might be able to squint and peer through this mess of bad CG and overblown post-processing to find the actual characters. I wouldn't bother though - they all sit somewhere between bland and ugly on the spectrum, and mostly look as if they've been borrowed from an entirely different series and simply dropped into the kaleidoscopic nightmare that has become their new existence. In motion, these characters also tend to veer off model when things get busy (well, busier) to offer a suitable filling to the show's visual turd sandwich.
We don't normally start a review by talking about the visual aspects of a series, but I'd like to think the reason we've broken with tradition here is clear. If it isn't clear - and if those images up top aren't helping to punctuate my point, as the show admittedly looks far, far worse in motion - then let me spell it out for you. Hand Shakers might be the worst-looking TV anime series ever produced. There. I said it.
This is where I'd like to say "if you can push on and learn to cope with the impenetrable visuals, you'll find a story that's well worth your time". But I can't say that, because it would be a lie, as Hand Shakers' narrative is also garbage of the highest order. Milquetoast protagonist Tazuna has a penchant for fixing things (I swear this series wants to be Fate/stay Night), and one day happens upon a sleeping girl name Koyori. Upon awakening, an instant bond between the pair form, making them the latest pair of titular Hand Shakers - partners who must hold hands to summon weapons, and fight against other pairings to achieve their dreams. Oh, and in Koyori's case she'll probably die if she and Tazuna stop holding hands for too long.
I'm sure you could make a decent enough action-drama series out of this setup, but Hand Shakers isn't it. Instead, it borrows all of the tropes it can for both its characters and plot, leaving it feeling like a trashy light novel but without any kind of charm to allow it pull even that off. Dialogue is either stilted or terrible, as a sign of the kind of lazy writing which seeps into every pore of the show thus far as it leans on fan service or dull and poorly executed action scenes (or, in episode five, a shoe-horned in attempt to sell you a trading card game). There are one or two little glimpses of comedy that work throughout these first five episodes, although even these pale to the number of gags that fall flat.
The only real positive I'd throw in Hand Shakers' direction is that I quite like the soundtrack, although even this leans very heavily on the very similar OST used to better effect by another GoHands production in the form of K. Given everything else we've discussed thus far, I suppose "watch Hand Shakers with your eyes closed" might be a sage piece of advice.
It's been a long time since I've watched an anime quite as atrocious as Hand Shakers - it's rare to find a series that is so obnoxiously bad both inwardly and outwardly without anything that you can grab onto as a potential redeeming feature. For a while I genuinely pondered whether Hand Shakers was some kind of satirical commentary on how digital effects are killing anime, but that would be to imbue the series with credit that it simply doesn't deserve. Instead, what we have here is an artless, ill-conceived series entirely bereft of craft in either story or visuals. Who'd have thought we'd see 2017's worst anime before January was out?
You can watch Hand Shakers in streaming form on Crunchyroll. Don't, though.