Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > C3: Cube x Cursed x Curious Episodes 1, 2, and 3 – Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

C3: Cube x Cursed x Curious Episodes 1, 2, and 3 – Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

For reasons I might explain in a later post, I made a pledge to myself to cover every series debuting this season, with the exception of obvious kid stuff and Hunter x Hunter. (I’ll let other people have a flame war over whether I just repeated myself.) That did not get me out of reviewing C3, even though it was a show I didn’t even want to waste my time watching. The basic outline sounded suspiciously similar to last season’s The Dark Rabbit has Seven Lives: a contemporary fantasy harem show whose pretensions to horror would be promptly deflated by harem antics and absurd amounts of panty flashing.

I was not wrong about the harem problem, or about the fanservice. Where I was wrong was in thinking that these elements would overwhelm the show, keeping it from succeeding at the darker content inherent in the show’s premise. Because, when C3 decides it does want to be serious, it pulls that off far better than it has any right to.

C3 also has far better animation than it has any right to have. I'll discuss that further on in the review

You wouldn’t know that C3 is going to be serious at all from the first episode. Sure, the basic concept—that cursed objects eventually become sentient and seek to have the curses that define them removed—has a hint of danger attached to it, but the sentience thing also means that these objects can take on the forms of teenage girls, which at first seems to be the only point. It’s just another way of putting supernaturally empowered beauties around the protagonist.

Haruaki Yachi, that protagonist, is immune to curses, for some halfbaked reason I don’t feel the need to repeat, so his father often sends him such items as reform projects. This time, he’s stuck with Fear in Cube, a former torture device that gained sentience and grew a guilty conscience over the people she murdered and the masters her curse drove insane.

For reference, the human form of a medieval torture device is a long haired, flat-chested tsundere (with a fang). Who would have guessed?

Again, dark premise, fanservice-heavy application: Fear starts off the episode in the nude, and even after getting dressed flashes her panties at regular intervals (she’s not the only one). She’s the classic clueless-about-the-ways-of-humanity girl, with arrogant tsundere and complete klutz thrown in to round out the various moe traits that make up her personality. She even has a big busted and jealous rival in Konoha Muramasa to counterbalance her small figure and smaller chest.

After watching the first episode, which consisted of Fear being introduced and then going from moe clutz trope to moe clutz trope, I was just plain fed up of the entire affair. Watching Fear destroy Haruaki’s house in an attempt to clean it wasn’t funny, wasn’t endearing, wasn’t anything but an overdone form of characterization taken to an extreme.

Fear's idea of cleaning is to violently shove everything into a closet. Needless to say, she breaks basically everything

But, I diligently pressed on through the second episode, as Fear started attending Haruaki’s high school (why must they always be in high school?) and met the rest of the obligatory quirky cast. Then, halfway through the episode, a member of an organization dedicated to destroying cursed objects like Fear shows up, and everything explodes.

I don’t just mean that we finally get a fight scene. The full extent of Fear’s bloody history, only hinted at before, is laid bare. Fear herself winds up going psychotic during the fight, demonstrating how dangerous she really is. And the guilt and fear Fear herself has comes to the fore, both during and after the confrontation, as she attacks Haruaki and a few other minor characters in her madness, before pulling herself together just enough to run away in shame.

It's only a small concession, but at least C3 gives up a fully competent protagonist rather than a weakling whose only role is to be protected by the women around him. Of course, that sword is Konoha in her original form, so it's an open question of how skilled he really is

Of course, Haruaki manages to get through to her, saving her from a post-battle suicide attempt and convincing her to come back with him. And of course Konoha also moves in to keep an eye on her romantic rival, thus showing the show isn’t going to stray too far from its harem roots, or take those harem roots and do anything original or unique with them.

But the promise of more dark tidings ahead, and the knowledge that, when it wants to, C3 can make those work, is remarkably encouraging. I want to call particular attention to the work of director Shin Oonuma, a protege of Akiyuki Shinbou. (Oonuma was also the director of ef.) This isn’t a Shaft production, but it sure feels like it, with the normal (and quite impressive) animation being broken up with regular shifts in animation, reflecting the mood of the scenes.

If you look closely, you can see that Fear's flashbacks are contained within the outline of her walking form. It's just one of Oonuma's preferred tricks for this series.

At its best, C3 is reminiscent of another Shaft production, Bakemonogatari. That also featured a male protagonist who helped women with supernatural afflictions, and also indulged a little too much in harem tropes and general fanservice. C3 isn’t always at its best, however, and even when it is, it doesn’t have the strong writing and general sense of originality the permeated the older work. Bakemonogatari never wasted an episode on nothing but trite and ineffective titillation either, while I think C3 has spent close to half its screen time in the first three episodes doing just that.

That’s I’m comparing this series to Bakemonogatari at all, though, shows that C3 isn’t a complete waste of time and money. Yes, it spends far too much of its time on fanservice and worn-out character tropes to be one of the best shows this season—probably too much to even qualify as a good show. But if it plays its cards right, it could at least turn out to be an interesting show. And I never would have predicted even that.

If the third episode hadn't ended on this scene, I'd be even more enthusiastic about the show. I suppose I should be thankful that it's willing to admit that, drama aside, it will still be trashy and pointless whenever it can get away with it

You can watch these episodes here, here, and here.

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