I didn’t quite catch all of the enthusiastic narrator’s talk about a “Great Tokyo War” That resulted in Japan’s prefectures breaking off into independent nations, nor the various mumbo-jumbo exclaimed by several characters. What I do understand is that this Zvezda-style politics-through-Kill la Kill-esque-stylized-warfare milieu is a ton of fun.
This show was classified by MAL as “slice of life”, but what a strange life it is for the titular girls! Though not on the surface: Moritomo Nozomi is a normal girl attending normal school whose normal parents own a normal restaurant, and she has a normal senpai-kohai relationship with her neighbor Masami Otoku.
And that’s about where the ‘normal’ ends. In this world, the various prefectures pick fights with one another and their ‘armies’, essentially mobs of mostly normal young vigilantes, meet on fields of battle in lovely weather In this case, Tokorozawa is under attack by Higashi Murayama, which means The latter’s “Best” peacebroker-for-hire Shigyo Kuniko battles one-on-one with the power-ranger-looking Tokorozawa Best, “Maccha Green.”
The comparisons to Kill la Kill (without the nudity) Zvezda (without the loli fanservice) continue as the combatants mix in kicks and punches with supernatural attacks as well as tickling, in some very slick and satisfying combat. Maccha is able to make Shigyo and her mob retreat by summoning a giant robot, but she will be back.
It doesn’t take long for us to learn that Maccha Green is none other than Nozomi’s close neighbor, Masami Otoku, though she’s not yet aware of this. Masami doesn’t want Nozomi so close to Macchas (i.e. her) battles, as the “Rest” grunts tend to end up as collateral damage.
As you’ve probably already noticed from these screencaps, Rolling Girls is very rich and colorful and lively in its presentation of everything from a semi-magical scrap to a touching sunset meeting to a nighttime ride in Masami’s motorcycle with sidecar.
And while this show has the trappings of a magic battle show, it sticks to the slice-of-life fundamentals, like taking a breather for a character moments between Nozomi and Masami, or the goings-on in the Hiyoshicho Propellers’ (the name of the mob they’re in) HQ, or a casual meal at a ramen stand…which turns into an eating contest, as Shigyo suspects Masami is Maccha Green.
But what put this show over the top for me into “8” territory was the chess game Shigyo and Higashi Murayama played to put Tokorozawa on its knees. As Shigyo distracted Masami, her Rests arranged an amusement park trip for the Propellers and takes them hostage, even blowing up the roller coaster track they’re on.
I’m not under any illusions real blood will be shed, but Shigyo is definitely playing for keeps and seems to have the upper hand on Masami. But Maccha Green has already pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat in this episode, so I’m confident she can save her Rests, Nozomi among them. Rolling Girls is off to a stylish and promising start.