Netflix keeps investing in anime as one of its pillars regarding content. The medium has proven time and time again that it can and will deliver fantastic stories through the realm of animation. In this opportunity, the project we are talking about must be one of the most interesting in the Netflix library. We are talking about Exception, a CGI anime that combines the minds of some of Japan’s most illustrious and famous artists. The result is a story that feels exciting and different in contrast to everything else released in the anime sphere.
Exception’s main selling point is that it brings together a number of veteran Japanese artists and hopes that by combining their talents, something magical can happen. The series is directed by Yuzo Sato, a veteran animator who has worked on many famous shows, from Monster to Pokémon and even classic anime films such as Ninja Scroll. Meanwhile, the series’ story is being written by Otsuichi, one of Japan’s most famous and talented writers in the realm of fantasy and horror.
The dream team also brings the talented Ryuchi Sakamoto to the composer’s seat. The composer is one of the most respected musicians in Japan. His music has even appeared in big Hollywood motion pictures, and he even won an Oscar Academy Award for his work in The Last Emperor. Last but not least, the dream team is completed by the inclusion of Yoshitaka Amano, a painter, illustrator, and character designer for many franchises whose work is more often connected with the Final Fantasy series.
It is Yoshitaka Amano’s inclusion in the roster, the one that makes Exception more than just another science fiction tale. For many decades, fans have asked for Amano’s art to be translated into animation. However, the artist’s style is so particular that only a couple of films have managed to be recreated faithfully and with success. One of those few films that managed to do it was the classic Angel’s Egg. A short movie that mixed Amano’s style with a lot of mysticism and religion, creating one of the most fascinating tales in animation.
Exception might not reach the heights of something like Angel’s Egg in the animation department, but that sense of mystery and uniqueness that can only be felt thanks to Amano’s style is still there. Angel’s Egg was a creation from the 80s, a piece of work made by hand-drawn animation, and that kind of work is something that still cannot be recreated by computers. Exception is a full CGI production and one that doesn’t seem to have the budget of something like Arcane, so while the art style is unique, the animation as such is particularly lacking.
The details in the character models and the environments are very limited. You can feel that the time and budget allocated for a production like this weren’t particularly large. This is a shame because, with the right amount of time and proper budget, Exception could stand out not only as a good story but as a magnificent piece of art in its own right. The final product is inconsistent, as not all departments are able to reach their maximum potential, and yet, the series doesn’t lack intrigue or fascinating ideas.
Otsuichi has won many awards during his career as a writer, so his talent is not put into question. He has nothing to prove with Exception. He is just doing his job, and his job has been very well done. Exception’s story is very solid, offering a particular and exciting take on the classic space colonization story. What begins as a very normal tale keeps evolving into something darker and more intriguing. The darkness of the tale makes it a particularly well-suited story for the Halloween season, but be warned; this is not a simple slasher. This is a show about ideas.
Sakamoto’s score also manages to shine in each episode. As the story progresses, the characters are thrown into more dangerous situations and more complicated dilemmas, and the music enhances these moments beautifully. Seeing this quality of music on a TV show is really exciting. More often than not, TV show scores are only used sparingly, and the musical cues are mostly used to create tension or accentuate a couple of moments here and there. Sakamoto’s score is not one of those, and the anime is only better for it.
So, maybe Exception doesn’t translate Amano’s magnificent style to the screen in the best possible way. However, as you watch the episodes, you begin to forget the lacking of the animation department, and your brain starts to realize that the final result is something you have never seen in anime. The plot and characters are the strongest points of the series, and you will root for or hate them easily on the journey. It is fine to have fan service anime and battle mangas that are only there to entertain, but the medium also has space for more daring stories like this one.
Exception isn’t the exception to the rule that nothing is perfect. But that only means it is good, really good, in fact, and you should give it a chance if you are in the mood for something more daring and exciting than your run-of-the-mill anime.