Can delusional protagonists ever serve an interesting purpose?
How much does absolute originality determine the merits of fiction?
Or why, indeed, would you want to give Revisions a chance?
In essence, I believe this series can be reasonably entertaining as the more or less straightforward sci-fi tale of five teenagers suddenly being transported into a barren future, where the entire population of Shibuya also needs to survive and adapt to these new conditions. Likewise, the show focuses on a fairly interesting thematic exploration about the concept of destiny within a context where time travel is possible. All of this is portrayed in a rather succinct manner without much room for filler or distractions. If you can manage to latch onto either of these main aspects, you might want to check out Revisions.
Having said that...there's a lot more to consider about the show in terms of its strengths and weaknesses in order to explain why, at least based on my experience, the series has enough value to compensate for any flaws.
On an introductory level, what will probably make or break the story of Revisions in the eyes of many viewers is the protagonist: Daisuke Dojima. Logically enough, the prospect of following a main character with a delusional and overbearing personality can often be a drag. I do not blame any individual viewers for finding this to be an issue, particularly early on.
Be that as it may, the story quickly establishes a very specific reason why Daisuke holds such questionable beliefs about heroism: a childhood prediction about his destiny. It's not an entirely senseless ideal. And yet, right from the start, the show also signals to the audience that Daisuke's behavior is a problem in reality. Adults and teenagers alike hold him in greater or lesser degrees of contempt. Revisions is not interested in merely patting this young man on the back and giving him a free pass.
To put it another way, instead of portraying the protagonist's so-called "hero syndrome" in isolation, much of the story deals with how his delusional behavior affects other people and the world around him. In other words, there is plenty of skepticism built into the narrative regarding the true worth and meaning of the "destiny" that motivates Daisuke. Which, from my point of view, helped keep me invested in continuing to watch even when the protagonist was not behaving in a respectful or gentle manner.
In fact, I'd estimate over half of the storyline reflects an implicitly or explicitly cynical perspective towards his heroic ambitions and, more to the point, a harsh view of the original predictions behind it. What's ultimately more important for the writers of the show, in the long run, is not exactly what Daisuke thinks about himself as opposed to the reasons why he believed such a thing and their implications. This might seem like a subtle distinction, at a glance, but I'd argue it is a relevant one.
Without going into any detailed spoilers, the time-related angle ends up becoming increasingly relevant in order to illustrate this theme as the story develops. By the end of the narrative, the prediction that fueled Daisuke's destiny doesn't have quite the same meaning anymore. Furthermore, it also plays a role in determining the character development of certain additional individuals. Thus, while Revisions has been described as yet another work about heroism, which is an entirely understandable reaction, I do believe that emphasizing this too much would be a case of missing the forest for the trees.
On that note, this brings me to the setting of Revisions. Most of the series takes place within the limits of Shibuya, in addition to occasional trips to the surrounding future wasteland. Inside this unfamiliar environment, the narrative briefly addresses both the changing reactions of the general population as well as the internal power struggles between the remaining government officials.
In retrospect, I would argue the show was more interested in portraying the tensions between the youth and the ensuing leadership conflicts instead of fully exploring the former aspect, which was reflected in the allocation of running time. The direct ideological contrast between Chief Kuroiwa and Mayor Muta as rival authority figures might be essentially by the book, so to speak, but it was sufficient as a secondary framing device without replacing the core of the narrative. Once that element was no longer necessary, it faded into the background in an appropriate manner.
Naturally, we did get to see various scenes depicting a mix of chaos, impatience, improvisation, mood swings and tensions among the common people. Mind you, I do get the impression that this sort of process could have been handled more smoothly with additional episodes. As things stand, it's more lean and to the point rather than truly comprehensive. At times, it might feel like certain factions among the citizens are behaving in an irrational manner, but I would argue that is an ugly yet inevitable side of humanity. Contrary to what some of us might hope for, communities living in desperate times are susceptible to disorganization, gullibility and selfishness. You can find plenty of reasons for such responses. Therefore, those scenes are unfortunately brief yet still qualify as realistically written.
Moving on to the role played by the String Puppets, a term referring to the power suits that provide the mecha action content of Revisions...they're primarily a means to an end. Decent enough for the purposes of entertainment. As is common in the vast majority of mecha anime, this implies we will see teenagers piloting robots in order to fight, but I would argue this show did at least mention why that would be possible. One part of the explanation is purely technological in nature (their interface and the assistance provided by artificial intelligence) and, as confirmed a few episodes later, the other is connected to the time travel factor.
To be sure, I will readily admit that, on a structural level, Revisions is not aiming for raw originality. Of course, tales of teens fighting monsters or surviving during a crisis are not exactly new premises. Time travel has been a sci-fi storytelling staple for decades too. It would also be quite easy to make a list of seemingly major revelations around the halfway mark that may legitimately surprise the cast of characters but, at the same time, will surely seem commonplace in the eyes of any sufficiently experienced science fiction fan.
My own stance is that science fiction premises can only aspire to create the illusion, as opposed to the reality, of originality at this point in history. For example, think about some of your favorite sci-fi anime or television series from recent years. There's a very big chance that such works are either part of a pre-existing property or, failing that, effectively based on adapting or re-interpreting a story that has already been told before.
Even so...I would say the last couple of episodes of Revisions did employ one or two creative twists, thus arguably containing a more or less unexpected combination of elements when compared to the rest of the show. Mind you, I will acknowledge that these final events will not necessarily be to everyone's taste either. It seems easy enough to lose track of certain details, particularly if you have forgotten (or skipped) some tidbits of information that were only briefly referenced before.
Was there enough foreshadowing in order to properly connect the dots? I would say so, strictly speaking, but perhaps just barely in certain areas. Suffice to say that, while I do not give the narrative the highest possible marks and the writing could be more blatant than necessary during certain dramatic beats, I feel the story generally wrapped up the main themes in a satisfactory manner and left the principal characters in an alright state.
There is enough room left at the end for a sequel or spin-off, which I wouldn't be opposed to watching, but until that happens...the epilogue appears to be a purely symbolic gesture. For that matter, it might also be used as a plot point in the upcoming mobile game tie-in. Who can say?
As a final note....following in the footsteps of most fictional stories involving time travel, a series like Revisions cannot escape the emergence of potential paradoxes, especially when curious viewers attempt to reconstruct the entire temporal landscape. We do receive useful explanations about quantum brains and time manipulation mechanics, which are arbitrary by definition but should cover the main questions. However, they are not totally comprehensive. In retrospect, we didn't get to witness everything firsthand and so would need to make various extrapolations based on indirect data. Frankly, I do not believe this is the most important part of the experience, but those who are usually troubled by such concerns might want to relax.
While the cast of Revisions was suitable for the purposes of telling its storyline, there is a valid line of criticism regarding their moderate to limited depth. In short, much of the characterization remains within standard anime parameters and only a few members of the ensemble crew were significantly developed.
That said, I would also say they were usually properly written. Just not in the most granular or decompressed manner. Therefore, as far as anime teenagers are concerned, I would say these are not particularly offending examples.
We have already discussed "our hero" before, the annoying Daisuke Dojima. It is fair to say that many will find him absolutely intolerable but, as explained above, I believe his annoying personality feeds into a valid storytelling purpose. Truthfully, the reactions he generates among the rest of the cast also provide entertaining dynamics over time. Despite the expected expressions of dislike...I feel there is also the potential for a certain amount of relatability, especially among viewers who may have been at least slightly delusional during their childhood and thus recognize parts of Daisuke's overly intense personality. While he shrugs off most critics at first, certain key challenges do have a cumulative impact on Daisuke. Rather than becoming another person...one could argue that, by the end of the story, his worldview was successfully refocused.
Milo, the attractive young woman who set the original prediction in motion, remains calm and professional during the majority of the narrative. She's in the awkward role of needing to provide assistance to the Shibuya defenders against the Revisions yet still lacks enough power and is restricted by her duties. As much as she is connected to the time travel plotline, she may not be fully aware of the consequences of her actions or omissions. Milo tends to be more of an observer and a mentor, in practice, but she gradually starts to show a more genuine interest in the fate of these teenagers and her personality does shift as a result. Generally, this all works out. Having said this, I think she's the one character who would get the most out of any potential sequel to Revisions. What little we learned of Milo's past was interesting enough, but I had expected to see more interactions with her peers.
The Steiner twins, Gai and Lu, were close enough to a state of normalcy. They were usually skeptical of Daisuke's impulsive behavior and were generally dependable members of the Shibuya Defense team. Not especially colorful, either way, but they are effective as representatives of how rational people would (ideally) think and act under the circumstances. They do show a wider emotional range than initially expected, rather than simply copying each other, but they are not at the center of any great drama.
Keisaku mostly serves a supporting role as the protagonist's best friend with a slightly self-deprecating attitude and occasional mediator between Daisuke and other individuals, but they did find ways to connect him to the larger story. One was fairly dramatic yet relatively predictable and the other was actually more interesting. I'd consider it as slightly surprising or even amusing.
Mari, the shy would-be love interest, gets a couple of brief emotional sequences and deals with a certain ethical dilemma that viewers will either sympathize with or find to be too stereotypical. At the very least, I was content with the resolution of that issue. I wish they had figured out how to provide her with a more elaborate sub-plot, but I imagine it wasn't easy to do so with only 12 episodes.
Chief Kuroiwa and Mikio Dojima, Daisuke's uncle, were both decently useful as adults with a comparatively solid amount of logic and common sense. As you can imagine, they also happen to confront Daisuke in the process and are skeptical of his actions. While their total amount of screen time was limited, albeit for different reasons in each case, they were still necessary as sources of balance and directly intervened in a few of the major sequences. Overall, I wanted to see more of them.
On the antagonist side, Nicholas was arguably the single best character and had the most distinct personality among the Revisions organization. It sounds very strange to say that about someone who looks like a stuffed dog mascot, but it's true! Honestly, the 3D animation worked pretty well with his cartoony design and expressions. His use of English (or, to be accurate, Engrish) made for good amusement value too. Besides his whimsical attitude, Nicholas brought complications and complexity to the story. Which will likely be either liked or disliked by the audience, but I was clearly in favor of the results.
Chiharu and Mukyu, the other two named members of the Revisions faction, were more memorable (or infamous) due to their over-the-top designs than for anything else. Out of everyone else in this show, they looked the most like utterly stereotypical anime characters: a bunny girl and a maid. Yes, that all sounds weird and dissonant in this context.
On the one hand, those are openly stated to be digital devices for remote communication and not physical bodies. I guess it might even be partially meant as a blatant in-joke: in the far future, someone could have reached the odd conclusion that anime cosplay would be better received than formal wear during negotiation attempts with 20th century Japanese people. On the other hand, it is still an arbitrary decision that, at least in Chiharu's case, also appears to be little more than an excuse to have a small number of fanservice shots. Thankfully, that doesn't last too long.
Mayor Muta, ostensibly the top authority figure of Shibuya, is a spineless individual that exists to show the darker sides of government during a crisis. In a few words, he prefers to work in his own interest and will take the easy way out. Without input from an external structure and subjected to public pressure, Muta can be either foolish or dangerous. Which makes for a viable form of contrast with Chief Kuroiwa's more inclusive leadership style. I enjoyed seeing their discussions but, in the end, that doesn't really manage to make Muta a strong character.
For the record, I am not an expert on musical criticism and prefer to avoid the use of any complicated terminology.
As far as I can tell, the soundtrack of Revisions was neither exceptional nor an obstacle to my enjoyment. It seemed to supplement the action without any particular misfires. In short, standard stuff. I can also point out, however, that the opening theme was quite catchy and wasn't clashing with the animated sequence.
Not much of a surprise, but the voice performances were all professional and fitting for the respective characters.
At long last, we have come upon the real elephant left in the room!
Revisions was primarily animated through the use of 3D computer graphics. This single decision, I'd strongly suspect, will remain a handicap for the series even based on principle alone. While there have been rare exceptions that avoid the rule, it's unusual for 3D anime to find much of an audience among the most outspoken fans of traditional animation techniques. Truth be told, I can understand this. I prefer 2D animation myself and, yes, it's also the case that 3D movement can be either disorienting or just plain confusing to watch.
Keeping that in mind...I think the staff of Revisions has made a good attempt to implement 3D animation in a technically superior manner, compared to similar contemporary anime, but it also slips up from time to time. In other words, I'd label the results as above average 3DCG, rather than setting a high water mark. Sadly, this is not equal to Land of the Lustrous. How could it be? Then again, I don't think that was a strict obligation.
Multiple anime studios have worked on improving their 3D processes over the years. Outcomes vary and so do audience preferences on the subject. As someone who has been watching anime for many years, this is still a big step forward compared to what was happening less than a decade ago. I've had some issues with jarring 3D animation in the past that were either solved or at least minimized this time around. Thanks to the relatively simple character designs for most of the cast in Revisions, the facial expressions and body language are often easier to accept than what you'd expect from a 3DCG anime made for TV broadcasting and/or Netflix streaming.
During certain episodes, or long portions of them, I forgot that this was supposed to be a 3D anime and completely bought into the illusion. In fact, the 2D background art seemed to mesh rather well with the models too. That's a clear victory in my book. Unfortunately, not every single scene was successful at this. I can only imagine that certain sequences would have required extra manual modifications and they simply weren't done. Similarly, the framerate seemed to vary and it stood out as inconsistent at times.
On the bright side, I think Nicholas looked impressive in almost every scene. Furthermore, the action sequences with the String Puppets benefit from the use of 3D animation in order to arrange some good choreography. It probably wouldn't be too easy to animate these unorthodox power suits with 2D either. This isn't exactly a show with a high dose of mecha action, but what was there seemed to be competently handled on the technical front.
How about the lip-syncing then? By and large, even purely traditionally animated TV productions aren't really paying much attention to that in Japan. In other words, the anime industry is bad at this and many studios don't care. Compare the English language dubs to the original Japanese voice acting. Most of the time, you'll notice the dub directors and actors probably made more of a real effort to match the lip flaps than the VA crew in Japan. Given that underlying reality, I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary here.
Curiously enough, not every single character was a 3D model. It's worth addressing that there are a few flashback sequences featuring children in 2D animation. Odd, in retrospect, but I feel the transitions worked in the moment.
OVERALL: 7 /10
Personally speaking, I had a reasonably fun and enjoyable time watching Revisions.
In all honestly, I can tell several readers are probably taking a quick glance at this review right after looking at the lukewarm reception this anime has received thus far. Some will be confused by this contrast. That's quite understandable. It is not my task to convince everyone to like the series, but simply to present a case for further consideration.
Our media experiences will always be subjective. You've probably heard that before. Suffice to say that the distribution of different tastes, interests and pet-peeves will never stop coloring how we react to a story and its characters. Any analysis, positive or negative, is affected by this. Especially when, as in the case of Revisions, we are presented with a protagonist who isn't easy to like. As matter of fact, Daisuke Dojima is much easier to hate. Or, perhaps worse, he might be plain boring.
If nothing else, I have made an effort to expand on why that wasn't the case for me.
Speaking to my own tastes, I've found this series especially interesting as a fan of Infinite Ryvius, another sci-fi show made by the same director (Goro Taniguchi). Specifics aside, they are both shows that feature a group of annoying teenagers making bad choices in the middle of a crisis. I tend to find a certain fascination in the act of witnessing that sort of social conflictivity. Note that Revisions has a smaller-scale, feels relatively fast paced and doesn't have a lot of room to meander or dig deep inside certain topics, which is both a blessing and a curse, while Ryvius had the opportunity to explore a slower and more gradual progression.
Overall, it is fair to say Revisions is not brimming with great narrative freshness. Science fiction stories have used one or more of these ideas before. Nevertheless, I think this show is acceptable in terms of general technical execution and did present a slightly more unusual mix of factors than what I had originally expected. There is also something to be said about appealing to fans of a certain theme and making a show focusing on that, even if it happens to be less popular than the alternative.
Rather than expecting a truly novel masterpiece that will suddenly open my eyes to a new reality of storytelling, I believe this is good enough as an effective distraction. If this particular mix of elements appeals to you, then the experience might be worthwhile after all. If not, then you can and probably should move on to a more exceptional work. Take your time and think about it.