What’s it about? Tazuna understands machines and can fix anything from cars to electronics. Visiting a university professor to fix something as a favour, he finds the professor’s room empty with a mysterious hospital room adjoining his office. Drawn to the hospital room, he finds a girl lying in a bed who wakes up and takes his hand. Her name is Koyori, and if he doesn’t keep hold of her hand she will die – easier said than done when they’re being chased by people attacking them with magical, destructive powers.
The Hand Shakers story is all scaffolding to prop up the premise: a teenage boy must keep hold of a pretty young girl’s hand at all times. At all times. The next episode preview hints at the real appeal of the show, which is this teenager holding a little girl’s hand while she changes clothes or showers.
Not put off yet? She reminds him of his younger sister, Musubi, who died some time before. She probably isn’t actually his sister, but this is another valiant anime attempt to have its incest cake and eat it. They’re not really related, they just look and act and view each other like brother and sister! Right.
There’s a lot about this show that’s ridiculous, but I need to mention the class president’s breasts. These breasts remind me of the moment in The 40-Year-Old Virgin where everyone figures out he’s never been with a naked woman when he describes boobs so badly. These breasts frequently look like water balloons containing eels fighting desperately to escape their airless grave. These breasts move beyond ‘not completely natural’ into ‘completely unnatural’, designed to be appreciated only by those who have never witnessed a breast in action.
The image above shows the class president nodding along to music, apparently with such force that she can distort gravity and will her breasts up to her chin. Did I mention she seems to have a thing for Tazuna? If there is a reveal that her breasts are actually mechanical and malfunctioning and she wants Tazuna to fix them, I swear I will pick this show back up and watch it to the end.
Now let’s talk about Break, the guy who drags a woman around on chains that she apparently produces through pain-induced arousal? I wasn’t entirely clear on this bit and it probably doesn’t matter. Anyway, after many more incidents of this man stomping a woman in the crotch than I personally am comfortable with (the optimal number of such incidents being ZERO) he encourages her to let him hear her voice. She has been moaning this entire time, sounds which could be pleasure and/or pain, but on that encouragement arches her back and cries out, “I’m going!”
This is a literal translation. For the unaware, “going” is to orgasm in Japanese as “coming” is in English. This isn’t ambiguous; this moment is deliberately designed to look like pain-induced orgasm. However, I don’t think you get to treat a woman with violence and then throw in an orgasmic response as proof that this show’s sexual violence against women is okay, actually. BDSM relationships are about trust, not violence, and we never see this woman as a person at all, let alone one who trusts her partner to tie her up with chains and stomp her in the crotch.
There is one moment where we see them hold hands, but by this time we’ve been told to reframe hand-holding as an obligation which can bring great power increases, so it’s hard to view that as evidence of affection between them. I’m open to the possibility that people in BDSM communities might view this scene differently to me, but I also can’t imagine there’s anyone particularly pleased to see a much misunderstood kink represented in this way.
If we give this show far more benefit of the doubt than it deserves and assume it is frontloading the most sexualised aspects of its premise, this show could go to some interesting places. There is significant overlap with Twin Star Exorcists, which I love, and I could be easily won over by Tazuna and Koyori covering some of the same ground as Rokuro and Benio at their best.
Yes, the hand-holding thing has the potential to be problematic, but Twin Star Exorcists has similar issues and I don’t hate that. Their problematic plot points have yielded some really beautiful moments of grounded, human connection as equals under the weight of mystical obligation, which has (for me) outweighed their worst uses. All I’m saying is that the Hand Shakers premise is not inherently a lost cause, assuming they get the whole “awkward teenagers being awkward and naked together” thing out of their system in the second episode.
However, what Twin Star Exorcists doesn’t have is a female character designed purely to be stomped in the crotch, and that may be my dealbreaker for this one.