Amagi Brilliant Park
Short Synopsis: Our protagonist is kidnapped by an emotionless girl with a musket.
Ninjarealist’s Impression: A bitter and narcissistic ex-child star, a creepy and falling-apart theme park whose few visitors are outnumbered by vermin, a cast of characters named after American hip-hop stars: these are just a few of the bizarre elements that make up the first episode of Amagi Brilliant Park. And if you’re unable to imagine how all of that could fit neatly into one show, let me reassure you: this debut episode is laugh out loud funny. Comedy is probably the most subjective of genres, but what sets Amagi Brilliant Park apart from the crowd is that it’s quite clever. For example, the choice to name the main characters after hip-hop stars. It’s an inherently funny choice, but a lesser series might be content to simply play this for cheap jokes. But in Amagi Brilliant Park these names are actually used as ironic commentaries on the lead characters’ attributes. The emotionless girl, who is constantly shooting at people with a musket, is named after famed stoic and shooting victim, 50 Cent. The self-absorbed child-star protagonist takes his name from renowned narcissist Kanye West. That’s the type of subtle humor that this series uses. It doesn’t just stop at the usual manzai jokes (although it does those very well), it utilizes the bizarre setting and strange characters to play with the viewer’s expectations and force us to laugh at the morose absurdity of it all. In this way, Amagi Brilliant Park reminds me more of a show like Humanity Has Declined than the typical KyoAni fare that many expected this series to be.
A lot of what makes this show work so well is the excellent direction, which fleshes out the setting with lifelike visuals. Much of the humor in the first episode is driven by the surroundings, a theme park so poorly-maintained that it feels more like a haunted house than a place to unwind. And what really drives this home is the director’s use of short but intricate scenery shots that direct the viewer’s eyes to important details, which might be missed if they were placed in the background. Crows eating from a spilled trashcan, aging animatronics struggling to speak outdated lines, a bored child sitting with his parent in an empty auditorium, playing video games, as the uninspired show girls struggle to feel relevant: brief shots like this make the setting feel almost like another character in the show. This is gracefully mixed in with the comedy and never bores the viewer or verges into scenery porn. Much of these exposition shots are jokes unto themselves.
Amagi Brilliant Park is by no means a perfect show. There’s plenty of dumb fanservice and, while the dialogue is usually quite funny, it can sometimes feel extremely corny and derivative. That’s what worries me the most about this show. While I loved the first episode, it showed unmistakable signs that it might devolve into something less unique than what we see in the first episode. The use of dramatic flashbacks late in this episode suggests that this show intends to get serious at some point. And I have some doubts about whether this series can pull off drama as well as comedy. Still, this is was an impressive first episode and I’m excited to see where they go with it.
Psycho Pass Season 2
Short Synopsis: Our protagonist is a cop hunting criminals in a “Minority Report”-style dystopia.
Ninjarealist’s Impressions: Full disclosure, I really liked the first season of Psycho-Pass. The show had a lurid, hollywood, feel to it that made it seem almost as much like an American action movie as an episodic sci-fi anime. And as much as it pains me to say it, I’m just not really feeling as much of either influence from Psycho Pass 2, which seems much more rooted in modern anime. The main characters have gotten cuter, the soundtrack has cut down on the orchestral instruments and upped the amount of electronic ones, and the script, no longer written by Gen Urobuchi, doesn’t quite have the same edge to it. That’s not automatically a bad thing, but something seems like it’s missing from this sequel. Akane is still a badass, the premise is still great, and the setting is still super cool, but the show sort of feels like some of the life has been sucked out of it. There’s just not a whole lot in this first episode that compares favorably to the original series. With all of that being said, I still liked this first episode. While I’m disappointed that the staff seemed to be making a concerted effort to up the number of cute girls, I do like Shimotsuki’s character and I like how they’ve set her up to be so antagonistic towards Akane. It’s essentially the same relationship she had with Ginoza in the first season, but in reverse. And maybe that sounds boring to some of you but I for one am excited to see how Akane deals with an upstart who questions her authority. The new villain is also an obvious retread of the villain from the first season, but again, they’ve made some interesting choices with him that should provide some serious challenges for the main characters. If viewers can get past the fact that this show seems to be a downgrade in quality from the original Psycho Pass, I think they might find something to like here.