When I watch an anime adaptation, if I compare it to the manga, I often do it because I’m either trying to figure out the thought process behind adaptational choices, or evaluating how different mediums (and creatives) approach the same story. Discussions that begin and end with a simple “this is different from the manga (which makes it bad)” doesn’t really interest me, nor do I believe they are productive in any way.
Still, when I approach a show with a complex subject matter–especially one based on a critically claimed work by an author that already has a classic under her belt–, I do hope that I can walk away from it with more than just a “well, I suppose I was entertained.”
A basic summary of 7 seeds: an unknown number of years after a meteorite strikes the earth, 5 groups of people–most of them teenagers– try to survive in the treacherous new lands of post-apocalyptic Japan. It ran from 2001 to 2017 and it’s by Yumi Tamura, who English speakers might recognize for her previous (licensed) shojo epic Basara, or for her short shojo series Chicago.
Curiously enough, 7 seeds is both shojo and josei: it started serialization in Betsucomi, and then moved to josei magazine Flowers. I’ve seen 7 seeds being considered a spiritual, more mature successor of Basara, but it unfortunately remains unlicensed at the time of this writing.
The Netflix show
I’ve been looking forward to the 7 seeds anime adaptation from the moment it was announced, if only because it meant another acclaimed work that came out of women’s magazines has the chance to reach broader audiences–which is always welcomed. When the poster and the characters designs were released though, I adjusted my expectations accordingly–I didn’t particularly like the overall aesthetic, and while Yumi Tamura’s designs certainly have their weaknesses, they could’ve been translated into the (presumably modernized) look they were aiming for a lot better.
Actually, plenty of things could have been better. From the beginning of the show, the character animation can often get rough, sometimes in the kind of way that makes dramatic scenes come off as unintentionally funny. Perhaps too many scenes are either awkwardly executed or weirdly underwhelming, and at times, there’s an actual dissonance between the soundtrack and voice acting and the visual execution of what’s happening.
There are structural choices that do feel reasonable enough for a tv show, even if they sacrifice mystery and intensity: we get an idea of most of the players we can expect to follow, with a very general idea of some relationships or personalities from the start.
The show comes pretty close to feeling inspired a couple of times: “the future” receives us with dangerous, suffocating reds, warning us about what’s to come. In the relative absence of danger, when someone’s about to die, deathly and otherworldly purples foreshadow it, and when wishing for death, the framing makes it seem like the character is grabbing the color. Framing also makes the characters look incredibly small against their new, unknown world, and in those quiet moments, the camera angles convey the disquieting feeling that they’re being observed.
I can also say that the color palettes in general and the backgrounds were interesting enough, and I was mostly entertained–or at least, engaged enough to keep watching–even if sometimes it was at the show’s expense.
I was prepared to have 7 seeds watering my blogging crops for a while, but alas, the story was way too condensed to fully savor it. I like fast pacing, and I have seen adaptations lacking here and there for the sake of fitting into their allotted time still managing to, at the very least, do worthwhile things. But this show gets to the point that sometimes, I felt like I was merely watching the summary of a situation.
For a good primer of the manga, I’ll redirect you to Tia Kalla’s review for Women Write About Comics. I can say this much though: the show could have been vastly improved if it spent more time focusing on developing the characters and their connections, and leaning into the mentioned horror genre elements with more strength, rather than simply trying to cram in as many events as possible and call it a day.
Sure, a lot of things happen, but beyond constantly questioning whatever the fuck is wrong with humanity, the stories often left me feeling way colder than they should. Well, with the exception of wolf boy’s backstory, but then again I am weak against stories that feature loneliness and the connection between people and their loyal animal companions.
We get to see the extreme (and extremely sick) lengths human will go to ensure their survival, and it brushes on what kind of motivation could get you going in the face of, frankly speaking, pretty fucked circumstances. The things that are shown–like child abuse, and the disposal of people actually chosen for survival when things get ugly–provide plenty to get pissed and uneasy about, but I was also uneasy about certain aspects of the story that are, for whatever reason, left unsaid.
With the premise stating that the government chooses young, healthy, attractive and fertile people for survival, it’s hard to ignore what’s heavily implied but completely ignored by the story. Under these requirements, clearly the elderly wouldn’t be chosen, but what really picks my attention are the other specifications. People who aren’t “attractive” wouldn’t be chosen, but because beauty it’s such a subjective thing, I’m assuming this is guided by conventional, even conservative beauty standards, like which kind of body types are “acceptable.”
People who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, who aren’t able-bodied and who cannot conceive would be among the first to be left for dead as well. Hell, people who have to use glasses have no hope for survival. Anyone who isn’t 100% healthy and able-bodied, and who’s outside of traditional standards of beauty and cis-hetero ideals of relationships and family, is simply just not considered as worth saving by the government. That’s a fucking lot of people who are being left out! And there are so many things that says!
There’s a group of “rejected” chosen ones as kind of a wild card, but while they aren’t as “outstanding” as the others, they still pretty much conform to the requirements. I could argue that there could be a queer reading of Ango and Shigeru’s relationship, but that’s such a miserable road to go down to given the circumstances. It’s also not enough to really dispute that, outside of pretty surface-level aspects like the eyesight problem, the story never actually question just who are automatically labeled as expendable, because it never really dares to contemplate that these people exist.
It’s not like it’s the first story with this massive blind spot, or this willful ignorance. Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll be the last, and I suppose it’s not “obliged” to remedy this. But not doing so certainly makes a story of this nature and the questions that it does asks far poorer as a result.
Assault & harassment
I’m aware this is a weird place to end the post on, but it’s worth mentioning, if only as warnings. Trigger warning: discussion of attempted rape. Also spoilers, I guess.
There’s a teacher that can only be labeled as a goddamn predator. Among all the terrible teachers, he’s the one that we see succumb as a direct result of the students taking revenge, so there’s that. There is however a character who start harassing women “as a joke” or for whatever asshole reason he had. He jumps to sympathetic character status while still being unable to stop bothering one of the girls, and without ever really addressing this, which leaves me wondering how earned it is.
Towards the end of the show, there’s a scene of attempted rape. If you really look for it, the scene is presented as the act of a mentally fragile male character, who tries to assert power by dominating and breaking their victim, and the atmosphere is certainly dark. Regrettably, it’s also the product of either a sloppy production, questionable direction, or both.
I mean… It has a sequence where the way the characters move actually had me wondering if it’s an instance of unfortunately bad animation or if it’s perhaps a deliberate choice to make us think of forced penetration without actually showing forced penetration? Okay. Let’s stop here for a moment. Sigh.
I have a hard time offering much insight into whatever the adaptation is actually going for visually in this scene beyond a tentative “what the fuck.” You have a resilient and stubborn girl trying to fight off his attacker (who assaults not one but two girls!) with anger and defiance, even when she’s terrified–or especially because she’s terrified–and the best idea you have to convey that is with the longest shot being the one of the attacker sitting over her lower back while she struggles to break free, showing her exposed underwear?
What’s even the point of that shot? Showing that she can’t get him off of her because of the way he’s restraining her with his whole weight? Surely that could have been done with a quick shot, focusing your long pause somewhere more sensible to convey the anger and desperation in her fight? Is the movement just meant to convey struggle while being the unfortunate product of the mentioned show’s sloppiness? Or is all that there because it indeed wants us to think of forced penet–why???
To be fair, while the sequence there is whatever the fuck it is, the writing itself does have enough to paint a more sensible picture. Regrettably, the show ends before any of that can be addressed in a bitch of an unsatisfactory cliffhanger.
With all that being said, if Netflix does release a second part, I might check at least the first episode out of curiosity, if only to see if the production values have improved. I care too much about older shojo adaptations–especially the unusual adaptations–not to. What can I say–it is both my passion and my burden.
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