Unpopular Opinion: Qualidea Code

Qualidea Code is one the most fascinating anime I’ve seen in several years.  Normally when I say that about a show I consider that as a positive, however in Qualidea Code’s case it’s a rather neutral description.  If you’ve seen any of Qualidea Code you’re probably wondering what the fuck I’m talking about.  Episode one was thoroughly generic, to the point that even the names and appearances of the invading enemies were uncreative as fuck.  In addition the  visuals were subpar at best, so I thinks it’s a pretty safe bet to say that this show didn’t attract too many fans.  So I assume the question on everyone’s mind is “how is this at all fascinating?”  There will be spoilers ahead.

Well for starters if you’ve seen the entire show, then you know the premise is actually a bit of a bait and switch.  It starts looking like another post-apocalyptic humans vs monsters story like Attack on Titan, except this time the titans are spaceships and the humans have superpowers.  The big twist is that the dumbass high school kids haven’t been fighting aliens at all, instead the aliens were the one that took the children out of cold sleep and using some kind of microchip, overwrote how the human brain perceives information, which means the all the generic “alien” ships the kids kept blowing up were actually unmanned drones sent by the local remnants of the human race to attack the actual aliens and rescue the kids.  That concept itself is actually not a bad one and while the reveal was obvious as fuck by the time Suzaku, who is ostensibly the main guy but kind of not at the same time, found out it was still a cool concept and the execution was decent.  The only thing that really undercut the reveal was the OP, because Canaria is literally the first thing you see in the OP and that would be weird if the show genuinely killed her off before the halfway point of its run.  So that was a case of poor planning but otherwise the big reveal was not too bad, especially since literally the stupidest character in the show figured it out first, which incidentally was much cooler than the actual reveal with Suzaku.  All that said I don’t think this twist was what really made this a fascinating show, it just added to the real meat of what made this show unusual.

What impressed the most about Qualidea Code was what the show did with its characters.  The actual characters themselves range from mildly interesting to outright awful, but many of the roles and archetypes we see all the time in anime were mixed up and changed around.  I discussed this before, but it definitely merits an update.  For starters I think it’s interesting that Suzaku, who again is ostensibly the main guy, is neither the strongest character nor does he ever become the strongest.  This is almost stupidly rare for anime in general and it’s an especially nice touch because Suzaku is such an ass and so obsessed with power levels and rank, at least when he isn’t obsessing over Canaria.  Speaking of Canaria I’m glad that she’s as important as she is.  I think Support-type characters (not support characters but characters with a support skill set like healing, buffing, etc.) have started gaining more relevance after years of hiding in the shadows of OP leads, and Canaria is a good example of that.  Even though she has literally no offensive powers, she’s ranked 10 out of hundreds of superpowered kids because her ability to buff everyone is so good.  And of course she is the key to victory in the final battle though in that case all she’s doing is singing. None of these things are a particularly big deal but they are nice touches.

Continuing onto the other characters I think one of the more interesting things to note is Suzaku’s rival, Kasumi, and how he kind of fucks with everything.  At first he seems like a clear case of as YouTuber Digibro puts it “the overdog posing as underdog trope” wherein a character’s strength is not recognized by the system and he’s actually the strongest guy around even though no else realizes that.  Because despite his near bottom level rank Kasumi seems to have no problems killing the “aliens” and in some ways he’s better at it than his higher ranked allies because of his skill and precision as opposed to raw power.  However it quickly becomes apparent that he’s legitimately weak, he has no heightened physical abilities like being able to hold his breath underwater for 15 minutes for example.  This presents an interesting dichotomy in that Kasumi can swap between being a genuine underdog, and assuming he has good positioning, an overdog.  Moreover there’s a good case to be made that Kasumi, not Suzaku is the main character.  After Canaria “dies” (ie is captured by humans and freed from brainwashing) Suzaku becomes a husk and does nothing outside of lash out at people and Unknown until he recovers.  During this time Kasumi takes center stage and he uncovers the truth behind their situation, tricks the first genuine alien into revealing it’s hand and indirectly kills it.  He also has lot more character interaction than Suzaku ever had during this span of time and after all the main characters are freed from the brainwashing, Kasumi continues to play a leading role in the final fight against the Unknown.

However my favorite two characters are Hotaru and Maihime.  For starters they are the top two fighters in the entire show, which is great.  It’s rare enough for a girl to be the strongest character in any given show where both men and women have some kind of special powers.  So for both of the top two to be women is so rare that it sort of deserves to be appreciated for that alone.  Of the two Hotaru is definitely the less unique, she pretty clearly follows the serious, smart girl archetype and her only quirk is how she gets a withdrawal of sorts if she’s away from Maihime too long.  She does however have the outright best fanservice scene in the show, a positive for me, and she does get one episode mostly dedicated to her alone and how she takes charge of things.  Maihime on the other hand is one of the weirdest characters I’ve seen in a while on the conceptual level.

She clearly falls into the genki (energetic and usually dumb) girl archetype however that’s not all there is to her.  Maihime’s values are very much in line with a typical shounen hero, she cares about people, she leads and fights for the greater good of her comrades and she’s also really really dumb.  But unlike a shounen hero, who generally starts at the bottom and eventually becomes the best, Maihime is the best from very beginning and no one else ever even gets close to her.  And I’m not just taking about rank, though the fact that she doesn’t give a fuck about rank and is ranked number 1 and regularly interacts with the rank obsessed Suzaku is fun.  In episode two when everyone goes for a swim Hotaru, the second ranked fighter, can hold her breath underwater for about 15 minutes, and Maihime can hold her breath underwater for 3 hours.  If we assume the length of time underwater is proportional to power level, then Maihime is about 12 times stronger than her closest competition.  Even if assume the breathing isn’t connected, Hotaru regularly kills squadrons of enemies whereas Maihime wipes out entire armies or giant flagships and never appears tired.  All of this is to say that Maihime is not a typical kind of character especially for a girl, most of her closest equivalents are in fact shounen heroes, so while she is limited because of the general low quality of the show, I think she represents an interesting idea and a potential way to break out of or change the archetype molds that so many characters are trapped in.

The final point of interest is pretty minor but I do think it’s a cool idea.  The aliens of Qualidea Code are called Unknown, which I initially wrote off as the least creative placeholder name for an alien race to ever make it into a published product.  Now it is still an uncreative name but at least it sort of fits.  The whole conceit of the alien invasion was that the Unknown can’t reproduce organically, so they invade other worlds and steal and modify their babies into new Unknown to increase their population (or something along those lines, the show brought the idea up so fast that it wasn’t expressed too clearly).  And the line that got me into this idea is when Airi, the pinked haired woman and final boss of the Unknown invasion on Earth, said that the Unknown have drawn offspring from so many other races that they don’t even know what they used to be anymore, that they really are Unknown.  And while the line itself is a little corny, I think how she delivered lent it quite a bit of impact and communicated how she felt about the Unknown without her actually explaining her feelings.  And as a concept, a race that has gone to such lengths to survive that it no longer knows what it used to be is pretty damn cool and very rare, the only other example I can think of off the top of my head is Suisei no Gargantia (a show I like much more than Qualidea Code).

All of that said I would not recommend Qualidea Code to anyone.  It’s visually unimpressive, the character interactions generally suck, the combat is uninteresting and there’s so much crap crammed into the last episode that a lot of it has no impact and/or just feels like an asspull.  The only episode worth watching was episode two because it was the swimsuit episode (and Hotaru totally won the swimsuit contest) and it was where the only OST I remember first popped up.  Episode eleven is ok too, because Kasumi’s mom is the actual Best Girl in the show and she fires the biggest gun in the show that episode.  But while Qualidea Code as a show is pretty shit, it has a lot of good ideas with regards to character archetypes and character dynamics.  Character archetypes and dynamics are some of the most codified aspects of any given anime genre, and they can get incredibly stale.  So seeing a show, even a bad one, challenge the status quo and do something different is encouraging and I would encourage any creative reading this to likewise think about creating characters that break out of the common storytelling templates we see so much of.  That’s it really, the show is bad even if the ideas it has are good, kind of like how a good premise doesn’t automatically mean that the show will actually be good, and I’ve nothing else to say.  Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.

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2 thoughts on “Unpopular Opinion: Qualidea Code

  1. I didn’t get beyond episode 1 but having read a lot of reviews on this series I am going to have to marathon it at some point because even if it is executed poorly I really feel it will be an interesting viewing experience (not necessarily good). Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    • Thanks for reading. To be honest I don’t think the viewing experience was that bad, though some stupid lines and jokes got ran into the ground, because I was interested in the unusual character roles. But I’d avoid this one if that doesn’t interest you and especially if bad visuals bother you, this show can look pretty shit sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

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