High-Rise Invasion continues the anime tradition of anime B-horror schlock, not unlike Highschool of the Dead. Part survival game, part silly action spectacle, Steve and Jean-Karlo debate the merits of this serial killer pantyfest with a dash of acrophobia.
This series is streaming on Netflix
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Okay, Jean-Karlo, our collective descent into Netflix Hell marches ever intrepid, ever onward. While the Nick-Squared team got to cover a colorful spinoff of one of the most beloved franchises ever bestowed on our fine subculture of choice, we've got, uh, this series I'd literally never heard of until last week when we got this assignment.
Geez, don't sound so excited! I'm with you tho, lol. Like, my first exposure to anything High-Rise Invasion was this exact splash image, which, if I had to guess based on looks alone—and if I were being very kind—I'd date it as recent as 2011.
And having been down this road with Netflix Original Anime many, many times before, I was steeling myself for another merciless 12 episode slog through the ol' trash fire. Not the best first impression.
Yeah, I can agree: High-Rise Invasion did not make the best first impression. It didn't even leave what I'd call a good impression when I finished it. But I will give it this: it left an impression, and not just on the pavement.
Basically it's a good old-fashioned death game setup. People are mysteriously teleported to a city full of—you guessed it—high rises connected by rope bridges with no way down except the extremely permanent way. There are creepy killers in masks trying to drive non-masked people to suicide, and the protagonists are fighting for their lives within this bloody skyscape, and so on and so forth. We know the drill.
Except here's the thing: I loved this show. Oh my god, did I love it.
I didn't quite have that reaction. I definitely hated this show when I started watching it, but I eventually became indifferent to me. It was not unlike chewing at a sore in my mouth, not pleasant but not something I care enough to stop doing.
I guess part of it is because the show starts right out of the gate with someone attempting to sexually assault protagonist Yuri at gunpoint (which I won't share here because this ain't that kind of column). And while she manages to get away relatively unharmed, I guess I kinda held this show's propensity for showing women in peril/harm against it.
That scene is definitely my least favorite part, and the fact that it happens so early into the premiere means I absolutely can't blame anyone for being put off by it. The series never really returns to that kind of graphic threat, thankfully, though it remains tasteless throughout, no doubt.
And I genuinely did go into High-Rise with about as bad an attitude as you can get. But somewhere along the way, something clicked, and bizarrely enough, I think it started to happen in the scene just prior to the aforementioned awful one. I have a video embedded in my tweet here, because you really need the full audiovisual experience to understand:
the fucking carnival ride of emotions elicited by these 20 seconds of High-Rise Invasion is the hardest i've laughed at anything all week pic.twitter.com/68IrqWGFpk— [email protected]égg time (@vestenet) March 5, 2021
This is just a perfect 20 seconds of anime. The incredulity at the katana. The blank reactions from both the pusher and pushee. The motormouthed monologue by the guy falling. The torrential explosion of blood upon impact. And the completely blasé "He's dead." I was dumbstruck with laughter.
Look, I'm a simple guy. If you're gonna try to rope me in, I guess a woman in uniform is the way to go. But hyperviolence just kinda turns me off.
Oh I'm all for ridiculous gorefests, but I do still have standards. That said, I don't know if I'll be able to properly explain myself here. High-Rise Invasion eventually starts talking a lot about people's brain wavelengths, and it might just be that my own wavelength happened to match up with the show's. But for my money, this is the kind of over-the-top grindhouse garbage I wanna see if I have to dig my way through the dump.
I'm gonna have to agree. Ten years ago, when stuff like Gantz was more popular, I shied away because that just isn't my bag. That, and it was annoying to deal with folks who insisted that Gantz was totally smart, maaaaaaan. Considering how much lower the bar has sunk in the years since, yeah, this is the kind of garbage fire I'm willing to put up with. Again: if you have to make me sit through this kind of show, High-Rise Invasion did a good job of incentivizing me.
I think a big thing that helps a lot is how our protagonist Yuri almost immediately turns into a hard-ass action hero and never looks back.
Halfway through episode 1 and she's already raring to shoot someone.
That's something that bugged me, actually! Yuri constantly vacillates between being a helpless babe in the woods and being hardcore. And it'd be one thing if this was a gradual change, but she just randomly goes from airhead to warhead in no time flat. "Get you a girl who can do both," I guess.
Is she a believable character? Hell no. Is that dichotomy very funny to me? Hell yes. And for the most part, her goofy side is contained to character interactions. When it comes to the fight scenes, she's surprisingly resourceful—if a little too trigger-happy.
And eventually she takes it upon herself to spearhead a rescue attempt for her kidnapped brother, which is a nice inversion of the usual gender roles. NOT that I'm calling High-Rise Invasion a feminist masterpiece, because lmaooooo.
That's not gonna stop some folks from insisting this show totally passes the Bechdel Test or whatever. But yeah, after the forced stripping in the first episode Yuri simply doesn't let herself be victimized, which feels okay. High-Rise Invasion had a ton of opportunities to be way grossed, which it didn't take. It just really preoccupied itself with panty shots and various states of undress.
Honestly, the panty shots work for me because they are so shameless and there are so many of them. It just kinda turned into another ridiculous facet of the show that heightened the comedy for me. Like, Yuri gets her skirt slashed by a maid in episode 1, and from then on we can see the side of her underwear in pretty much every scene up to and including the finale. I wouldn't call that admirable, but it's certainly dedication.
Similarly, Mayuko gets her shirt slashed pretty early on by a wannabe Wolverine, and from that point forward she's just walking around everywhere jugs out. And absolutely nobody ever comments on it.
Yeah, Mayuko. So, when she's introduced, she's just another "kill or be killed"-type. But I guess meeting Yuri made her turn over a new leaf, so they became "friends".
Once again, full credit to a show giving us Girlfriends™️ instead of another bland potato.
Oh yeah, High-Rise Invasion is about wlw: women who love weapons.
Also they're gay.
Things get a little more complicated when Kuon appears; her deal isn't quite expanded upon, but she has access to a railgun somewhere in the city. She just does, okay? She's not bright, but she's trying to help. And she has a railgun.
A pretty big railgun.
Once Kuon shows up, we start learning that this whole thing is a game to create God, somehow. The masks reprogram people's brains to unlock special powers, and certain masks can make people "closer to God," which means they can command Angel Masks and presumably fight amongst themselves for eventual divine supremacy. It's very stupid, and I dig it.
Like, the mask roles are determined by what expression the mask has. That's so exquisitely dumb.
Gotta give the show credit, the image of a bunch of weird people in plainclothes trying to kill you while wearing a goofy mask is an image that sticks in your mind. Look at this individual, cosplaying Raidou Kuzunoha!
Yeah that's another legit good thing about High-Rise! Every villain mask ends up with their own gimmick based on their prior lives, and the show runs with that to delightfully absurd degrees. Were you a baseball player? Now you get to pitch cannonballs straight through dudes' craniums!
And the show uses these "rules" to come up with equally fun solutions.
Sadly, I have to inform our readers this scene does not end with him returning a line drive straight back at the pitcher's nads.
For the record: Hammer Baseball Batman is Rika, Yuri's older brother. The crux of this show is Yuri and her girlfriend trying to get back together with Rika and his band of survivors in order to try and plan an offensive against the rulers of the city. But there's one more wrinkle in this tapestry: the elusive Sniper Mask!
At first, I thought Sniper Mask would turn out to be Rika, but the truth is a bit more muddled: he's a friend of Rika's, and a close one. We don't know the full extend of their relationship, just that they were very good buddies. Sniper Mask's, er, mask would make him a murderous lunatic, but it's damaged so he has a degree of control over his actions. He's fun to see, and I guess I'm a sucker for bolt-action rifles...
Sniper Mask rules because he goes from this mysterious and menacing villain to a surly babysitter. It's perfectly endearing character development.
He's also moe as heck.
Also, Kuon fancies him a lot. It's cute, seeing his exterior melt as he spends time around her.
Kuon is basically our resident het disaster here to balance out the huge lesbian disaster that is Mayuko.
Try as she might, though, she can't hold a candle to Mayuko, who spends the entirety of her time in Yuri's company blushing awkwardly and professing her love via internal monologue.
There are also TWO distinct scenes of Yuri coming to Mayuko's rescue, where Mayuko recognizes her first by the sight of her underwear. THAT is the level of sublime genius High-Rise Invasion is operating on.
You learn a lot about people when you're going through a death game. Like the kind of underwear they have on.
Oh my god that reminds me of yet another buckwild thing. So Mayuko ends up with a computer program in her brain that manifests in her mind's eye as a copy of herself (long story). Anyway, for some unfathomable reason, the anime decides to not only show us both of their panties at the same time, but reveals that they are actually wearing DIFFERENT colored striped panties. I can't even begin to wrap my tiny brain around the huge mind it takes to come up with different underwear for your Ghost in the Shell.
Speaking of Big Brain Acts
The guy currently suffocating himself within a mother's bosom is Mamoru, our antagonist. He's your garden-variety Eugenicist, who thinks that the weak should bla-bla-bla, you know the drill. And yeah, Kusakabe there is an actual mom, which puts her about three notches up on my list.
Also, can't the MILF be an eugenicist for once? Just asking, because that would be a wilder twist than Undercut McEdgelord up there.
My favorite part of this is that Mamoru starts to soliloquize while motorboating her mammaries. Just another part of this show that came out of nowhere and stunned me with its audacity. I also like how Kusakabe and Swimmer Mask look like an AU Noi and Shin from Dorohedoro. Never a bad thing to be reminded of.
Otherwise, though, Mamoru feels like too rote a villain for the rest of the narrative, and I think the back half of the season loses a bit of steam when it starts to focus on him as the current adversary. Which is a shame because we have the perfect evil genius right here:
Like, couldn't you have just established that Yuri had a morbid streak from the get-go? Plenty of girls are unironically into that "yandere" shtick these days... But I digress. Yeah, Mamoru is the pits as an antagonist, which is a shame when his entire entourage overshadows him. Like this dude, Great Angel.
He's a riot in the dub, where his actor puts a lot of effort into making sure his performance veers from "bombastic lunatic" to "goofy", and I have to say: for being this show's biggest threat, he's some of the most fun I've had watching this series.
Hell yesssss. Great Angel is the "final boss" of the season, and every bit the campy tokusatsu-flavored bad guy the heroes deserve.
The kind of guy who vocalizes "afterimage" when he uses an afterimage.
The kind of guy who can fire a bullet with his bare hands.
The kind of guy who loves pizza, even when it's cold.
The kind of guy who's kind of a weenis until his kill phrase is engaged.
That's right, don't despair, my short kings. Just a few magic words, and you too might be able to become a weird spandex-clad Adonis.
Even the show knows he's too important to kill off: the season finale ends with Yuri reprogramming him to work for her. So once Season 2 comes around, we'll have him to look forward to.
And we BETTER get a season 2. The plot isn't anywhere near over, and I need more of this caliber of trash in my life ASAP. I also just legit like most of these characters and wanna see more of them, esp. the murder girlfriends.
I'm also looking at my image folder, and there are so many other wonderfully ridiculous scenes I could highlight, but I want to restrain myself from giving away too much. I do genuinely, with my heart of hearts, recommend this High-Rise Invasion (to the right audience, of course). It's the apex of the tasteless grindhouse schlock Netflix has been wont to throw at us. And I'm not an expert in much, but thanks to this column, I am for sure an expert in Netflix anime schlock.
I can't say I'm holding my breath for more High-Rise Invasion--like I said, I walked away largely indifferent to it. I've seen worse, but I've seen better. Do I want more Military MILF? Yeah, that'd be nice. But I'd still watch a lot of other stuff before I watch more than High-Rise Invasion.
Yep, it's not for everyone! But I know there are some weirdos out there who will get a kick out of this series, and I wish you all some very happy dumpster diving.
Join us next season! Hey Kusakabe, let the folks at home know what we can look forward to!
Murder, and upskirts.