Content Warnings: Fanservice; NSFW screenshots.
What’s it about? Ever since a track disaster two years ago, Hiro has been escaping from reality into video games. When a store clerk sweettalks him into buying the 10-year-old VR game Kiwame rather than the latest franchise hit, he finds himself immersed in a title dedicated to total realism—and very quickly learns why games are no longer made that way.
“That isn’t even a well-drawn ass!” I howled at my computer screen as the booty-centric closing credits of Full Dive rolled. Which may give you an idea of where I ended up on this one.
It’s not that the whole episode is a waste of time, although in some ways that’s more frustrating than if it was a complete ball of incompetence. It’s just that some pretty novel ideas are buried in a sea of titties and tonal inconsistency.
While the current market is glutted with VRMMO titles, Full Dive does alright for itself by appealing to viewers exhausted by the current popularity of “realism” in big-budget video games. Kiwame is basically the extreme endpoint of having to watch the same three-second animation every time you pick up game in Red Dead Redemption or fall off a mountain because it started raining halfway up in Breath of the Wild, and that’s solid material for a comedy. It even got a few #relatable chuckles out me, like when Hiro balks on tossing out the game he was conned into buying because, well, it did cost $100.
But once Hiro actually gets into the game world—which only compromises the last five minutes or so of the episode—the show doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself. At first things slowly escalate from comedy to horror as Hiro’s increasing frustration with the game’s pain mechanics end in him accidentally killing his “best friend,” to the horror of the other NPC.
But moments after that, the grieving sister is framed like an angry tsundere chasing Hiro through the town, two steps removed from “Yakety Sax,” and it makes it much harder to take the stakes seriously. It doesn’t help that the question of why Hiro doesn’t just start a new save hangs over the whole thing, though it’ll likely be answered in the next episode (I wouldn’t be surprised if the show mined some jokes out of Hiro finding new ways to ruin his file.)
And then there’s the fanservice. I was willing to grit my teeth through the ogling shots of shop clerk Reona’s back-breaking bazongers since she’s explicitly hitting on Hiro so that someone else will play the dead MMO she’s into. But then immediately after that, Hiro comes home and walks in on who I assume is his sister in her underwear, the camera fixed on her ass before Hiro awkwardly apologizes and closes the door. It doesn’t even bother with a justification, with a bad joke, with anything. It just stops the plot for nearly a full minute to make sure the audience can see the goods on every girl in the episode.
And then it has the nerve to throw in those closing credits with the most unappealingly drawn asses—some of them serving as our first glimpses of the characters—and shove that in my face like that’s anything! The audassity! The unmitigated un-assed gall!
What I’m saying is that I doubt these teenage girls are going to have much role in the story beyond T&A and supporting Hiro’s journey. I also remain staunchly of the position that if a show wants to be primarily about fanservice, it probably shouldn’t pretend it has an actual plot where we’re meant to care about the characters and their moral dilemmas.
So for those who find themselves intrigued at the concept of characters entering a fully immersive VR game and struggling with scripted events going off the rails, commentary on the industry, and female characters it gives a shit about: I’m just going to recommend that you watch eXistenZ instead.