Daiki YamashitaHaruka ChisugaTomoyo KurosawaMikako Izawa
Amagi Brilliant Park
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: A
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Yasuhiro Takemoto
Writer: Fumihiko Shimo
Original creator: Shoji Gatoh
Actor: Ai Kakuma, Kouki Uchiyama, Yukiyo Fujii, Ai Nonaka, Ayako Kawasumi, Haruka Chisuga, Hiromi Igarashi, Jouji Nakata, Junichi Suwabe, Minami Tsuda, Natsumi Takamori, Ryoko Shiraishi, Shiori Mikami, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Yuka Aisaka, Daiki Yamashita, Daisuke Sakaguchi, Jun Fukuyama, Kaori Sadohara, Masahiko Tanaka, Mikako Izawa, Moe Otomo, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Saeko Zogo, Sakura Nakamura, Satoshi Hino, Seiichiro Yamashita, Shinichiro Miki, Shinya Takahashi, Takuma Terashima, Tetsu Inada, Tsuguo Mogami, Yoshihito Sasaki, Yuko Kaida
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 13 episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=16133
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 24 January 2015
I liked this one a lot. Admittedly it has a protagonist who's a complete bastard, whose main assistant is an emotionally repressed ex-soldier whose most common reaction to anything is to shoot her gun. In outline it's also theoretically a fairly dry series, being about managing an amusement park, with problems including guest numbers, staff, cash flow, etc.
However it's funny, heartwarming and surprisingly realistic for a show where most of the park's staff are refugees from a magical realm.
Our protagonist is Seiya Kanie, who's clever but also a smug narcissist. He'll say whatever he wants, even if it's brutal, tactless or hurtful. Sometimes this will be to goad everyone to greater efforts, but at other times it'll be because obnoxiousness is his default mode and he couldn't care less about being disliked. He also has an unusual background, having once been a famous child star. He's prickly about it, but it makes him knowledgeable on showbiz and performing and so he's the man to save Amagi Brilliant Park. This, you see, is a theme park staffed by magical fairy people who need human emotions to live... except that they're mostly rubbish at their jobs. They had no choice in coming to our world and they're likely to have no useful talents, or else to be ill-suited to the roles they've been allotted. (Management is something else they don't understand.)
This is, oddly, less wacky than you'd expect. Despite its fantasy premise, this is a realistic show. Our heroes are under threat by developers who'll get legal control over the park if it hasn't had 500,000 customers by 9pm on 31 July. Seiya and his comrades (who often hate him) have their work cut out... but the show doesn't cheat. Seiya's solutions to their problems are sensible and would work in the real world. The show's built around its premise properly, so the park's employees are expected to do their jobs and the show isn't simply being Driven By Wackiness. Seiya would fire anyone who was taking the piss. The employees include:
(a) Sento, a soldier who rarely shows emotion, but underneath is insecure about the fact that she's clueless about almost everything. Give her an order and she won't question it, but she also won't ask for help even if she's out of her league. She's super-efficient, yet also incompetent. Oh, and her reactions are hilarious on eating a "heartsleeve fruit" in ep.6.
(b) The park's mascots (Moffle, Macaron, Tirami), who are super-cute fluffy animals. They look as if they'd be best friends with Mickey Mouse. However Moffle is an ex-military bruiser with hostility issues, Macaron is a hard-drinking divorcee with custody battles and Tirami is a pervert.
(c) Four fairies who sing and dance on stage, despite the fact that one can't sing, another can't dance, a third is an airhead and a fourth cares about nothing except sending texts on her mobile phone.
These people are frequently dodgy, unusable or terrible at their jobs... which is the source of much of the show's comedy. Seiya gets ill in ep.8, for instance, and his employees "help" by impersonating him at school under magical disguise. Very funny, but if that were you, you'd have them shot. Sento dresses up as a pirate in ep.7 and tries to deliver dialogue as such. Yikes. Princess Latifah's castle was designed by a lunatic (ep.9), while there's almost nothing good to be said of Moffle, Macaron or Tirami. Mind you, the park has regular human employees too, yet they're arguably more eccentric than the magic folk.
Incidentally, this show is directed by Yasuhiro Takemoto, written by Fumihiko Shimo and based on a light novel series by Shoji Gatoh. (Well, it's mostly just the first book.) They've worked together before in various combinations on Full Metal Panic, Hyouka and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, so there was fan expectation for this show. (Personally I don't really like Full Metal Panic, but don't worry about that.)
The show also looks nice, with the only shortcuts that jumped out at me being the non-animated battle in ep.7. I'm afraid there's some fanservice, with most of the main girls being busty and the occasional bit of cosplay (swimwear in ep.3, pirates in ep.7), but it's mild. The show's not leering at its characters. It's not offensive.
It's a likeable show, albeit with a twist of lemon in Sento's coldness and Sento's inability to open up. This makes the heartwarming stuff feel more earned, I think. The finale's in ep.12, by the way, with an OVA-like thirteenth episode that's just amusing filler. The beginning and the finale are particularly strong, I think, with enough plot, jokes and ideas for double their actual running time. Ep.1 struck me as brilliant, although it's throwing in so much that I'd argue they're cheating a little with the telepathy. When introduced, it's startling. In the next episode, it's immediately tied down with such a big restriction that it's useless in most day-to-day situations and gets used so little thereafter that you'll almost forget about it.
It's still a great opening, though. Meanwhile the finale is just as energetic, with two emotional countdowns, big decisions and jokes. I love the ironic use of the Evil Brats from Hell, for instance, while I laughed at the identities of some of the park's employees' saviours.
Might they do a second season? The idea hadn't occurred to me, because the main story arc is so strong and has such a clear endpoint. However there's plenty of material in the later books, while there are a couple of things left up in the air that could usefully be continued and/or resolved. I'd be delighted to see a second season, obviously.
It's a strong show, I think. It's keeping us at arm's length a little with the personalities of the two leads, Seiya and Sento, which makes it slightly less cuddly than it might have been. That's not a problem, though. It's realistic when you wouldn't expect it to be, but also eccentric and funny. It has quite a large cast, if you include all the different theme park employees, but they all manage to stand out even when they've only been allocated minor story functions and precious little screen time. Delighted to have watched this. It's intelligent and funny. I'd recommend it.