One of the more underappreciated gems of the Nintendo DS library was The World Ends with You, which has thankfully enjoyed a loyal following and cult-like status among some in the gaming community. A JRPG co-developed by Square Enix and Jupiter, the game is renowned for its kick-ass soundtrack, memorable characters and setting, and clever implementation of RPG mechanics – all combined into an experience that supported a relatively underpowered system. Although the series stood stagnant for many years outside the odd platform port and a cameo appearance in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, last year, more than a decade after the first game’s release, it received not only a fully-fledged sequel but an anime adaptation. Today, we focus on the latter… The World Ends with You the Animation.
To be upfront, I was very excited to hear that The World Ends with You the Animation was greenlit. The series has always been a personal go-to whenever I felt like some mindless grinding, jamming to some music, or had a long three-hour flight I needed to pass the time on. But that feeling turned to apprehension quickly… how would they adapt the game’s narrative – essentially segmented into 21 mini-chapters – into a cohesive story without feeling too rushed or sacrificing some elements for others? Surprisingly, the writing team did better than expected. Whilst the anime will not trump the original game as the ‘definitive experience’, the pacing was enjoyable enough that seasoned veterans and newcomers alike could enjoy the story without feeling bogged down. Furthermore, the experience is enriched by a few amendments to the plot – nothing substantial – but slightly changing events worked much better with pacing, while not setting the story on a separate path.
The easy highlight of The World Ends with You the Animation was how it took the game’s visual style and adapted it into an anime world. The level of detail that goes into each character and environment design was impressive and left the viewer immersed in the anime-recreation of Shibuya. A combination of 2D and 3D elements, especially in battle sequences, was also appealing and for the most part worked well, even if it felt like the design team appeared to be holding back rather than a little more ambitious with some combat animations. Keeping in line with the narrative elements, because of the versatility of animated characters over the original game’s character sprites, they evoked the demeanour and personality of each character really well – both in the light-hearted, and more sombre moments.
Containing a mix of original, remixed and brand new tracks, The World Ends with You the Animation offers plenty of good background music and sound effects for the ears, with a selection of tracks for every type of scene. With the (re)appearance of the game’s many catching battle themes, expect a few earworms to stick with you for a while if you are a newcomer. What was a shame, however, was that the dubbed version only featured one returning English voice actor, Andrew Kishino as Koki “Lollipops” Kariya. Everyone else was recast, and while the new cast do a great job at their respective characters, for long-time fans it can be a little disjointed. Especially since the original voice cast was retained for NEO: The World Ends with You only last year, it would have been nice for Funimation to go the extra mile as they did with Bayonetta: Bloody Fate and go the extra mile and retain them.
The World Ends with You the Animation is a solidly built video game to anime adaptation, that goes the extra mile to retain a similar narrative and audiovisual experience. While not the definitive experience for any newcomers looking to jump directly into NEO: The World Ends with You (Also given it misses the Nintendo Switch exclusive chapter linking the two), for fans and newcomers alike, it is a fun 12-episode series to pass the time with.
The World Ends with You is now available to stream dubbed or subbed officially on CrunchyRoll, or available to purchase separately on Blu-ray via Funimation (North America) or Madman Entertainment (Australia and New Zealand).