16Bit Sensation: Another Layer aired its first episode on October 5th, 2023 and is scheduled for thirteen episodes this season. The series adapts the 2016 web manga 16Bit Sensation and tells the story of a young illustrator employed at a video game company in Akihabara, Tokyo’s otaku district. Through an unexpected turn of events, she finds herself traveling back in time to Akihabara in the past.
Episode 1- “I Traveled Back in Time?!”
Konoha Akisato is an otaku who enjoys bishoujo games (visual novels that involve interacting with cute girls) and works at a studio where she illustrates background characters in games. Konoha believes that the gaming industry has lost its golden era, as game studios now prioritize short-sighted trends and the production of low-quality mobile games. Her current company even appears to create soulless games for the purpose of making quick profits.
In spite of these conditions, she never wavers in her determination to follow her passion of becoming a celebrated and beloved illustrator for a prestigious video game. We get a glimpse of a character she created for this very purpose once she makes her way home from work.
In episode one, we see Konoha enter her one bedroom studio apartment filled with anime and gaming merchandise. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this series is the abundance of references to other anime that we can discover throughout each episode, like the presence of Konoha’s Lycoris Recoil and Puella Magi Madoka Magica collectibles. We can tell in this scene just what kind of otaku Konoha is and how passionate she is about anime-styled art. I think a lot of us related to Konoha in this scene.
One of the most important scenes of the episode is when Konoha stumbles upon a hole-the-wall retro video game store in Akihabara. She becomes absolutely stunned at the low prices on highly sought-out games – one of them being Kanon, the famous visual novel from Key released in 1999. Konoha confronts the shopkeeper, an old and caring looking woman, about these shockingly low prices. Konoha finds herself pouring her heart out to the shopkeeper, expressing her deep passion for games and lamenting the fact that game companies in 2023 simply don’t create titles that capture the same magic they once did.
Konoha appreciates the old woman for lending an ear, and goes out to get her a gift as thanks. But upon returning to the retro shop, it’s mysteriously completely empty of games and of the shopkeeper. This is the first major mystery of 16Bit Sensation.
The second mystery happens after Konoha leaves a donut shop (an actual one you can go to on the Akihabara strip), and finds herself in a seemingly different world. The layout of Akihabara’s buildings and roads looks similar, but the district has been stripped of its anime otaku charm. Konoha runs down the street, and we are reminded of the scene from the first few minutes of the episode – Akihabara in the 1990’s . I appreciated the presentation of past Akihabara as it was showcased using a CRT visual filter and displayed in 4:3 video ratio. In the final moments of the episode, Konoha finds herself transported to the year 1992, where she is astounded to discover that Akihabara bears no resemblance to its futuristic counterpart in 2023.
We’ll have to wait and see how the situation unfolds in the next episode, but I’m already impressed by the first episode alone. I love anime with relatable characters with realistic and very human aspirations. The series is similar to ones like Oreimo, Genshiken, and Animegataris – all of which explore otaku culture in Japan. It captures the spirit of modern Akihabara, and I’m excited to take a peak into what 1990’s Akihabara may have been like through this anime.
I’m eager to prioritize this new work from animation studio Silver this fall. It has a likable and relatable main character in Konoha, an eccentric setting in Akihabara, and explores themes of modern games versus retro games. While you wait for episode two of 16Bit Sensation: Another Layer, check out our most anticipated Fall 2023 anime here.
Images via Crunchyroll
© Tamiki Wakagi / Misato Mitsumi / Kanroki (Aqua Plus) / 16bit Sensation AL PROJECT