Five people and a cat discover themselves in a prison, with the power cut, no guards ... and no exit. Where are they? And what are they doing there? And what is the significance of the numbers on their uniforms?
Just when I thought the Japanese market had given up on single episode OVAs, one of them pops up on my Anime Network radar, and surprise surprise, it's a 2011 vintage. Voila! Instant review!
Of course, one could be forgiven for having at least a bit of trepidation before diving in - a lot of those one-shots back in the late 80s and early 90s were pretty darn bad, made on the cheap, with poor writing and worse animation. Five Numbers! thankfully isn't like that - there are some good ideas here and there and there are a few scenes where the art looks pretty nice - but it's also got a few flaws that really limit how much of an impact it really has as a feature.
With a run time so short, it's really hard to discuss the plot without spoiling anything, but even within 25 minutes I did find a couple of plot elements that either didn't make sense or simply weren't touched upon in a truly sufficient manner. You do get a sense of why most of the cast is where they are, with a couple of blatant exceptions, but it seems like there really out to have been a simpler solution to the overarcing problem this feature tackles (safe to say that I'm not actually talking about our classic "locked room" scenario which is at least played with nicely here). Dai Sato has a pretty good resume behind him including Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and certainly knows how to write "exciting" material, but with such a limited time to create an entire world, he and first-time director Hiroaki Ando (as well as pseudonymous Sunrise storywriting crew "Hajime Yadate") let a couple of plot holes slip through. It's almost as if they needed just five more minutes to wrap everything up to perfection.
From what I can tell, Ando is more of a CG guy than a straight-up director, and it shows: the 3D graphics really look good here. Unfortunately, the transition between the character art and the backgrounds isn't seamless; character movement often looks clunky and unnatural, possibly the least skilled aspect of this whole feature. I do like the slightly sketchy, loose character designs, though. And speaking of the characters themselves, they're primarily there to facilitate the plot: you would be hard-pressed to mistake this for a character piece.
The really bad news is that, without really spoiling anything, I can basically say there won't be any more of this beyond the twenty-five minutes we do get. That's kind of a shame, because just when the characters start to get interesting, and just when the setting begins to make sense, the party's over, and we're listening to a rather pleasantly ironic ending song sung in Japanese-accented Italian, of all things. Huh.
Five Numbers! is kind of a curiosity: a one-shot OVA in a time of 13-episode TV series, and a somewhat hard SF feature in a time of relentless fan service. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a failed experiment, but the nuance and detail needed to really stand out just isn't here, and there is a certain finality that precludes us from ever continuing with the story. What we do find here is a bit of hope that the creators may come up with something really cool in the future.
While at times a bit slipshod, Five Numbers! feels tonally like a short story in a SF anthology - it has some intriguing ideas but is over far too soon. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: There is little explicit content, but the ending has unpleasant implications that may scare younger audiences. One act of threatened violence upon another character that is averted.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming, subbed from The Anime Network
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Five Numbers! © 2011 Five Numbers! Production Committee
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