Cheerful airhead Hitotsuyanagi Riri attends her first day at an academy for Assault Lilies, teenage girls who are able to use sword-like CHARMs to fight robotic enemy known as the Huge. Riri’s first meetings of note are with haughty rich girl Kaede Johan Nouvel and cool beauty Shirai Yuyu.
Yuyu saved Riri from the Huge two years ago and is the reason Riri applied to the academy. The three girls team up to fight and defeat an escaped Huge specimen, with Yuyu helping Riri form a pact with her CHARM and Kaede falling for the unexpectedly heroic Riri.
My first thoughts about Assault Lily were that the bridge in the cold open looks just like one in my neck of the woods, that everyone’s tight stockings made me worry for their leg circulation, and that there were too many damn characters to keep track of.
But as I got to watching, I became more engrossed in Riri, Yuyu, and Kaede’s first impromptu Huge-hunting mission, even if the Huge itself was underwhelming robo-CGI. Since this is Shaft, comparisons to the iconic Madoka are inevitable, and the Huge lack the creativity and “wrongness” of Madoka’s Witches.
I was also suspect when we catch the first glimpse of the character’s CGI counterparts, which will almost always look different and separate from the hand-drawn designs. That said, in the heat of battle the speed and focus helps alleviate that design gap, while the combat is smooth, seamless, and impactful.
Characters’ designs also feature an exaggerated Victorian hourglass shape with wide hips impossibly slim waists, and the aforementioned too-tight stockings. The designs take some getting used to, but unlike the Huge at least they’re relatively unique in a sea of big-boobed rail-thin anime characters.
Plot-wise, this opening episode couldn’t be any simpler, with the plucky newbie Riri proving she can hold her own even in her very first fight—after she’s able to draw her CHARM, that is. Both Yuyu and Kaede could tell there was something special when Riri was able to sneak up on both to stop them from fighting early on.
The escaped Huge specimen from the academy lab is a nice way of easing Yuyu and audience into the mechanics of the conflict, though I’m hoping future Huge are more menacing and tougher to bring down. The spotless academy and its lush green environs are beautiful, but this world lacks that immediate existential peril of, say, any Angel attack in Evangelion.
That said, the Huge battle is rough, Riri ends up with a scar on her arm, and both she and Yuyu have to be quarantined after the battle, during which Riri reveals that Yuyu’s heroics on that bridge two years ago are pretty much the sole reason she joined up.
I appreciate that Kaede switched her affection from Yuyu to Riri after the latter pushed her out of harms way (she didn’t need quarantine) and it will be interesting to see if they end up forming a Schutzengel (German for “Guardian Angel”) contract.
Riri’s exploits with Yuyu and Kaede earn her immediate fame before the first-year entrance ceremony even kicks off. No doubt she’ll have more allies, rivals, and neutral parties all keeping a close eye on her so-far rapid progress, while keeping track of all the names and hairstyles will be challenging.
There’s also the inevitable “cool beauty is morose” dynamic to Yuyu suggesting some kind of Dark Past, as well as some end credits with far more explicit yuri elements than we saw in the episode itself. In Japan lilies represent purity and virtue, but with nary a dude to be seen and the conceit that only teenage girls can wield CHARMs, it seems love will be sought and/or found within the same team.
Assault Lily: Bouquet doesn’t offer anything particularly novel, but what it lacks in originality it does largely make up in solid execution. It looks and sounds very polished—as expected for Studio Shaft—and in a lean season may be enough to stick with it.