We Without Wings is twelve episodes of pure befuddlement. An animated adaptation of the visual novel, the series follows the lives of several twenty-somethings as they experience the sights and sounds of yuletide in the city of Yanagihara. Three characters emerge as masters of their own unique vignettes, their exploits told in piecemeal fashion through a series of quick cuts from one vignette to another, as though the viewer is being subjected to the channel surfing of an unknown third party. This seems like a fun storytelling device at first, as it gives each character equal screen time within an episode. However, the fast pace in which the story is delivered, combined with annoying characters and sex jokes, results in frustration.
Taking the spotlight in this slice-of-life comedy are three unsuspecting young men. First, there’s Takashi Haneda, a timid high schooler who transports himself to and from a mystical fantasy realm called Gretaguard, where he serves as the kingdom’s illustrious knight and chief protector. These transitions are marked by serious coughing fits, a hint that there is something greater to these unassuming flights of fancy. Shusuke Chitose is a freelance journalist and book reviewer who supplements his income by working at a local coffee shop/maid cafe called Alexander. He is a perverted soul who, with the aid of his like-minded boss, is always on the lookout for sexy girls. The final protagonist is Hayato Narita, nicknamed “Drac,” a “fixer” who spends his nights helping people solve various problems. He tries to help a young girl with a fetish for men in construction uniforms locate her stolen bike, only to find himself struggling to mediate a gang war. We are led to believe that these three characters have nothing to do with each other—in fact, there are no episodes in which Haneda, Chitose, and Narita are seen together. Though the final episode ties everything together in an interesting fashion, the viewer’s patience will be tested long before the conclusion is reached.
We Without Wings collapses under the weight of its own absurdity. Characters and their relationships to one another are introduced with so little care that I felt it was necessary to play the original game to understand them. Frequent scene switches, coupled with the randomness of the events that make up each vignette, make for difficult first-time viewing because nothing makes a great deal of sense. When the show manages to spare a moment for plot development, it is brief and too mysterious for its own good. An early episode hints at what is really going on, but the true revelation is saved until the very end. To its credit, the ending does answer the mountain of questions I had saved up, but by then I didn’t really care anymore.
We Without Wings is degraded by an overabundance of vapid sexual “humor,” in which bare breasts and panty shots are intended to overcome its unoriginality. Suggestive poses and clever camera angles frequently provide up-skirt shots that elicit a tawdry thrill, but serve no real purpose. Women are treated like objects to be ogled, fondled, and humiliated. The antics to which the heroines are subjected are laughed off as jokes, whether the women initiate them or not. There are many examples: a boy pulls off a waitress’ underwear in public because he didn’t like the pattern of the garment; a going-away celebration for a group of girlfriends quickly turns into a breast measuring contest and fondling party; and a day at the pool features an all-girl “chicken fight” wherein the contestant who pulls off the most bikini tops is the winner.
The series also takes opportunities to push its 17+ rating as often as possible. During one of Haneda’s trips to Gretaguard, an attack by the enemy has left him poisoned. To cure him, a sorceress modeled after a girl from his school strips naked and sexually stimulates him until the act reaches its inevitable conclusion—with visible bodily fluids, no less. Riskier still is the sexualization of a young child in Narita’s storyline: a foreign transfer student who doesn’t look older than age twelve delights in her immense sexual curiosity and attraction to Narita. Wearing Lolita outfits, she is partial to lifting up her skirt to show off scandalous underwear that no child her age has any reason to wear, even in a cartoon. Narita keeps telling her to stop behaving in such a way, but this only appears to encourage her.
There is little value to be found in We Without Wings. The impact of the story’s conclusion is lessened by dating sim fluff and plagued by fanservice that is cheap, unfulfilling, and uninspired. The show’s humor relies on placing female characters in uncomfortable situations and its jokes call on questionable homosexual and African-American stereotypes. If you must watch this show, switch to the original Japanese language track and spare yourself the pain of a gang member’s terrible dubbed rhymes.
We Without Wings asks far too much of the viewer. Take away the main story and all that’s left is a generic hypersexualized comedy that is easily forgotten.
We Without Wings, Season 1
directed by Shinji Ushiro
300 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, DVD/Blu-ray Combo Set
Company Age Rating: 17+