REVIEW: ‘High-Rise Invasion’ is Hit or Miss

Reading Time: 3 minutes

High Rise Invasion

Content Warning: High-Rise Invasion and this review talks about sexual assault

I’m a sucker for anime based around survival games. From Battle Royale to GANTZ and Alice in Borderlandthis is a very specific genre that I’m drawn to. So, High-Rise Invasion, Netflix’s latest Original Anime, was right up my alley—or at least I thought it was. High-Rise Invasion is the anime adaptation of the manga of the same name written by mangaka Tsuina Miura, illustrated by Takahiro Oba, and published in English by Seven Seas. The series is animated by studio Zero-G, known for their work on My Roommate is a Cat. A shonen series, the anime falls into common tropes of anime written for that demographic, for better or worse.

If you’re unfamiliar, High-Rise Invasion is all about a game to get the players closer to god—in simplest of terms. In it, high school student Yuri Honjô finds herself lost in an “abnormal space” where countless skyscrapers are connected by suspension bridges and “masked figures” mercilessly slaughter their confused and fleeing victims based on a set of conditions tied to their unique masks. With all exits blocked, doors leading to a 26-story drop, and a complete unfamiliarity with the world, Yuri tries to survive the game and ultimately aims to be reunited with her brother, Rika Honjô, in order to escape.

Overall, High-Rise Invasion is standard survival game fanfare. It uses absurd kills, a quirky concept (killers in masks doing the bidding of an unseen force that they believe is God), and, of course, a pair of characters that become increasingly capable as the series goes on. The first two of these points come together. The way the Masks carry out their orders to execute the unmasked is all connected to who they were before. Those connections provide a hard set of rules by which they have to operate. This allows the series to introduce the cast of antagonists that can carry out absurd kills. My favorite of which is the Baseball Mask, a Mask in a baseball uniform who throws cannonballs at high speed—taking off a part of a character’s head at one point. But, he’s easily taken on by Rika when he’s forced into playing a game with Rika’s hammer.

This concept works well and keeps the series visually interesting with studio Zero-G’s animation knocking high octane action sequences out of the park. That said, the animation fails its female characters, especially those with large breasts. It’s not because they have large breasts, but because their character designs look awkward and unbalanced. Now, I’m not opposed to anime boobs, in fact, one of my favorite female characters in the genre is Faye Valentine, but the way that Zero-G has animated these women is just unsettling.

Now, this is a shonen, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised by fanservice. And to be honest, I like fanservice a lot of the time, especially when the series knows the absurdity of it and uses it in a way that doesn’t detract from the story. But High-Rise Invasion is filled to the brim with fanservice. While the large breasts and the dominatrix-esque antagonist aren’t inherently problematic, the way the series implements them is a problem. While our lead Yuri and her newly found friend Mayuko Nise are high school girls, with the uniforms to boot, the others around them include men much older than them.

This is of course used to show the men being predatory towards the girls. While some of it is just cringey and uncomfortable dialogue, one incident in the beginning of the series leaves one character sexually assaulted with her clothes ripped off of her, leaving her bra exposed for the episodes after.  One time, I could have rolled my eyes, but the incessant need to have male characters aim to harm the girls with a sexual weight behind them—even if it is a Mask looking to harm them—is what makes the series hard to watch.

Outside of those issues, High-Rise Invasion has a narrative that overall lands even if it’s a little convoluted. The way the series breaks down the rules of the game is confusing, but it finds its footing by giving the audience action that delivers. Plus, our main characters, Yuri and Rika are good protagonists. They grow and learn about the world and their sibling relationship is one of the only grounding forces of the series. That said, my favorite character is Sniper Mask, a Mask who is slowly remembering who he is and is able to disobey the mask’s orders. But I can’t explain more about the character without revealing some of the series larger twists.

Overall, High-Rise Invasion is going to be hit or miss. If you can embrace fanservice and overlook cringe, then this will be a phenomenal watch. But if any of that makes you uncomfortable, this is one to skip. That said, the series has big Alice in Borderland vibes that are sure to keep you entertained if you do press play.

High-Rise Invasion is available exclusively on Netflix.

High Rise Invasion
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Overall, High-Rise Invasion is going to be hit or miss. If you can embrace fanservice and overlook cringe, then this will be a phenomenal watch. But if any of that makes you uncomfortable, this is one to skip. That said, the series has big Alice in Borderland vibes that are sure to keep you entertained if you do press play.