Image Source: レイヤードストーリーズ ゼロ公式 on Twitter

What if a little device on your ear could turn the entire reality you see into a digital wonderland where only the limits are your imagination? You’d want to experiment, I’m sure. But when some misuse this system, there has to be someone to stop them. That’s where the protagonists of this multimedia franchise come in.

First, let’s explain just what “Project Layered” is. Project Layered is a multimedia project owned by Bandai Namco Entertainment, but has a multitude of companies participating in it, such as CyberConnect2 of .hack// fame, who are credited with planning and the original concept. Also involved are Scenario Workshop Gekko, who are in charge of the story, and Polygon Pictures (Knights of Sidonia, Blame!) in charge of producing the anime. The anime itself will stream within the upcoming LayereD Stories 0 smartphone app that is developed by DRECOM. The first episode is available now for free on YouTube, although there are no subtitles available.

The project is sort of a “public participation” one. Before the airing of the anime, Project Layered held auditions for illustrators to provide illustrations for the protagonists of the project alongside open voice actor auditions. They even had an open audition for the vocalist of the opening theme song.

The story of the anime takes place in 2037 in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Thanks to a technology called “LayereD,” the citizens of the world are able to actually see the internet thanks to a device clipped to their ear. You can do anything in this “layer” of reality (Get it?)—whether that be post your illustrations on buildings or transform yourself into a magical girl. You can even get assistance from an ARK, a “magical” avatar with artificial intelligence, who can also be used for digital battles against other avatars. It’s kind of like having a Persona from the Persona franchise.

Image Source: レイヤードストーリーズ ゼロ公式 on Twitter

Everyone is able to see what you’ve posted in this layer of digital technology that blankets itself over the real world. However, just like a site like YouTube or Twitter, users can flag your content if they find it unpleasing. Too many flags can get your content removed. And, if your “works” are flagged too much, you can be kicked out of the world of LayereD completely—so, in net lingo, “banned.”

A rumor begins to spread that Takuma, the son of a famous politician, is receiving illegally embezzled tax money to fund his career as an artist. His illustrations—while formerly popular, decorating the most famous buildings of Shibuya—are quickly taken down due to the flagging of users responding to this scandal. However, the protagonist Yuto and his female friend Shinji know that something else is up. The two find the root of the problem: a LayereD user who seems normal, but in fact would go as far as to hack the son’s social media to spread bad rumors about him. Using their bodies in connection with their Acts, the two control their Acts to beat up the criminal and turn him in.

Like Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale, users are able to explore fantastical world not seen in reality thanks to the power of AR—augmented reality. While in the case of Sword Art Online players use their own bodies to attack their opponents, players do not directly touch their enemies–instead, they summon their Arks to fight for them. However, there seems to be a connection between the psyche of the player and the avatar as seen when the physical movements of Shinji sync up with those of her avatar—despite the fact that she’s not actually touching anything during combat.

Image Source: レイヤードストーリーズ ゼロ公式 on Twitter

The first episode of LayereD Stories 0 sets up a world of endless possibilities in a landscape in which the line between reality and the internet are blurred. We’ll have to see how the story unfolds as more episodes premiere within the app when it is released.

LayereD Stories 0 is streaming now on YouTube with no region restrictions, but it has no English subtitles.

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