Triage X is irrefutably a bad anime series. What’s disappointing about the series is that it can’t seem to decide which kind of bad anime it is. Had it set its sights on merely being a bad action anime, or a bad fanservice anime, it may have achieved that special kind of badness that’s intermittently entertaining. Instead, Triage X lurches from sub-genre to sub-genre without rhyme or reason, swiftly squandering flashes of potential for it to attain so-bad-it’s-good status.
If we are to judge a show by its opening seconds, then the first episode of Triage X makes its intentions unashamedly clear with a slow pan across huge breasts bulging out of a barely-there bikini. While the show soon tilts from fanservice into action – as secret organisation “Black Label” explosively infiltrates a crime lord’s den in the interests of summary execution – the generic plot and patchwork character development suggests the series’ real priority is T & A.
There’s certainly no evidence that the show’s creators want you to invest in their storyline as anything beyond a slim excuse for busty, underdressed ladies. Black Label are tasked with excising ‘cancerous’ influences from their city (read: straight up murdering bad guys on the orders of a mysterious Dr Mochizuki). The series is resolutely disinterested in the mechanics or morality of that; the bad guys are cartoonishly evil, meaning that our heroes’ violence is apparently fully justified. The plotting is unmistakably off-kilter; for example, a police officer stumbles on the aforementioned crime lord’s son torturing someone and makes no comment upon it … and then it turns out that police officer is supposed to be a good guy? Bizarre.
The first and second episode indicate that the animators’ priorities are on stuffing as many boobs into the frame as possible, with an extended shower scene taking up much of the first episode and an onsen scene featuring prominently in the final minutes of episode two. This goes some way towards explaining – and, depending on your priorities, forgiving – the ropey storytelling. And, look, for the right audience, that’s going to be sufficient. The contributions of co-director Akio Takami, who tends to design busty female characters with enough meat on their bones to not look like silicon-enhanced Barbie dolls, at least sets the series apart from its fanservice peers.
But Triage X just can’t decide what it is. As the series continues – over a meagre ten episodes, largely broken up in two episode narrative chunks – the frequency and intensity of the fanservice dips sharply, as the show starts to take its (ridiculous) setting more seriously. It’s an inexplicable choice; using fanservice as a hook to entice otaku audiences makes sense if the series has a real story to tell, but Triage X’s story of terrorists and corruption is utterly generic in both conception and execution. The piecemeal focusing on different characters might have worked with more episodes, but as is, shifting from character to character only makes their designs less distinct.
As an action anime, Triage X is an unambiguous failure. There’s an occasionally admirable bit of animation, but its tied up in a network of underdeveloped characters, overdeveloped breasts and incoherent politics. So I suppose it makes some kind of sense that the tenth and final episode – not counting the OVA – makes a spectacular and ridiculous return to fanservice. Having concluded episode nine with a cliffhanger, the show resolves to brush the narrative specifics away by having the entire female cast get naked and summarise the offscreen events that resolved the overarching storyline. And, no, I’m not kidding. You get the sense that the budget was too low to accommodate animating both an elaborate action sequence and an onsen sequence, and they simply opted for the latter.
The thing is, I’m sure there’s an audience who’d appreciate the pulpy incoherency of Triage X’s action storyline (though I am, quite definitively, not part of that audience). Equally, there’s certainly an audience who’d, uh, ‘appreciate’ the series’ detours into softcore animated pornography. But the inconsistent combination of the two isn’t satisfying anybody. Ironically, Triage X just can’t manage to prioritise.