Wow, I actually thought that was a really, really good first episode. This isn’t even my kind of show – this one is allabout tone and mood, and I much prefer stories about characters I’m meant to empathize with. But man did it ever convey that tone well.
I don’t have a traditional writeup for this one, because frankly I only downloaded it out of morbid curiosity after reading all the responses here. I didn’t like the manga at all – from what I read, I thought it was pretty much mean-spirited for the sake of being mean-spirited, and didn’t have much of a point. But this – the direction was fantastic, way ahead of the curve for anime, with lots of well-chosen shots and little perspective tricks. That droning music was perfect. Incredibly slow, dread-building pacing across this, which works perfectly for conveying that something’s-not-quite-right feeling. And I honestly thought the rotoscoping was perfect for this kind of show – it results in a kind of uncomfortably intimate distortion of real-life features, which works in a show that’s gonna be covering a whole lot of uncomfortable intimacy, and the only actual weakness was the semi-choppiness, which also kind of works fine with this sort of creeping-horror mood piece. I think rotoscoping results in almost uniformly semi-grotesque characters, and thus choosing a story about people engaging in the most grotesque baseness of their nature was perfect. That said, I honestly didn’t think the characters came off as hideous or anything, and that single frame people keep referencing was far from indicative of how the visual style actually panned out – it’s the equivalent of basing SAO’s artstyle on this one. Plus the actual background art was uniformly beautiful.
That was kind of tiring and uncomfortable to watch, honestly, but that’s exactly what it was going for.