A lot has been said about 3D anime projects and it’s hard to argue with its pitfalls. Just compare Ghibli’s latest lifeless movies to the brilliance of something like Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away; there’s no contest. I’m not going to be a snobby “back in my day” reviewer here, as some 3D animation is absolutely stunning (hello, Love, Death & Robots) but at times these projects just feel…dated.
Technology has advanced to such a degree now where videogames are fighting for near-realism in graphics. Because of this, 3D animation is lagging behind and it seriously shows in recent projects which feel dated before they’ve even hit a streaming platform.
So why am I saying all this? Well, it’s important to note because Exception is a fully 3D animated project and while the story is pretty good here, the animation and graphic quality is a mixed bag at best and is likely to turn many people away.
That’s a real shame because there’s definitely promise here, and the story has shades of 2018’s Nightflyers, mixed in with the existential questions explored in Westworld, along with a pretty enticing mystery, rolled into a pacey and palpable horror/thriller hybrid.
There’s some impressive thought provoking discussions in here too about what it means to be human, and these challenging concepts easily help Exception shine.
The story is pretty straightforward but it takes on extra layers of depth as the episodes tick by. The gist of it is that humanity has been driven from Earth and forced to repopulate somewhere else. Members of a scouting team are sent out to search for a planet suitable for terraforming, and have set their sights on Planet X-10.
The crew, copies of their original humans created through a biological 3D printer, emerge from “the Womb” to complete their mission. Unfortunately, one among them comes out misprinted and deformed, becoming animalist and threatening the whole project. Will the team manage to stop this monster? Or will they all die in the dark recesses of space?
It’s an intriguing premise and it’s helped along by a distinct and diverse range of characters. Lewis is our Misprinted creature, Mack is the steely, warrior-type onboard, Oscar is the tank, with big muscles and a level-head, while Patty and Nina make up the numbers with an equal dash of charisma and brilliance.
These characters do have a decent amount of backstory to them, and as the episodes progress, we learn a lot more about their motivations and what’s driving them to be onboard.
Episode 6 throws up a delightful little twist too which completely changes the game, and from here the rest of the series quickens the pace, topped off by an enjoyable final chapter that wraps up this story without leaving everything on a massive cliffhanger. While that may sound like a light spoiler, it’s worth noting because if you want to experience the story and aren’t sold on the animation, that may just be enough to pique your interest.
As mentioned above, the 3D animation is a massive hindrance. There are parts that actually look quite good but other times, the scenes are just not great to look at. Some scenes are super saturated and stand out like a sore thumb, while others feature character models that are weirdly lit against the backdrops. Now, I tested this across four different devices; a tablet, laptop, desktop PC and a large TV, and all four had the same result.
Animation-wise, characters look pretty janky while moving, and honestly there are better graphics in PS3 games, which is concerning, to say the least.
If you can look past that though, there’s actually a pretty decent sci-fi anime at the heart of this. The story progresses nicely, there’s some well-worked twists and the ideas are actually pretty thought provoking.
The 3D animation is still going to be a point of contention for many though, and it’ll be interesting to see the numbers for those who tap out before the season is done. If you’re willing to make an exception (pun absolutely intended) for the animation, then Netflix’s latest sci-fi thriller certainly has enough in the tank to sink your teeth into.