Amagi Brilliant Park gave us a lovely, wacky, riotous seventh episode set in the water theme part of the park this week. Almost everyone in the cast that has had screen time was there — including the trio of ‘normal’ girls hired last week.
In addition to the joyously absurd and funny story it told, episode seven’s biggest achievement may be in how well it juggled all of it’s characters. That I even knew who they all were and could give you more than a sentence about what they were doing in the park, their social relationships, and what mysteries each presents us with at this point in the series is nothing short of amazing.
Shirobako is the only other show with such a large cast and, by comparison, I couldn’t even tell you who 75% of those characters are without constant name blocks popping up and even then, and all but two or three of them are one-line-worthy archetypical characters.
That’s not the case here, and I can’t quite explain why. Maybe it’s just the advantage of the mascot theme character design? Maybe it’s that each character is part of the park’s structure AND that the park’s cast have a family / societal relationship?
Whatever the reason, ABP’s cast just works and, as I understand a lot of details about all of them, I care for them in addition more than just a source of silly jokes.
So what happened?
Macaron, Moffle and Tiramie are entertaining the kids at the water park and Kanie-kun tries to spice it up by sending in Sento and the Fairy Quartet to play fight in sexy pirate gear.
Unfortunately, Sento’s acting range is limited (she is a Royal Guard after all) and only the quartet’s resident airhead Sylphy brings any passion to the table — and even she’s off-target with her creepy shark hand puppets instead of a gun or cutlass and random Chinese(?) sayings.
Also Jaw the Shark mascot apparently turns into an actual, horrifyingly-realistic shark when he gets wet.
Then all hell breaks loose when the gate that connects the Magic Land and earth ruptures. Jaw and Chuujou Shiina, who’s still pronouncing everything wrong and dirty, are swept away.
Then real magical Pirates emerge from the gate, intent on launching a raid into the park.
The real pirates make quick work of the pretend pirates, subdue Moffle and Macaron (Tiramie immediately betrays them at the prospect of lady slaves), and even captures Princess Latifah, who was just passing by.
All the while, Adachi Eiko is narrating the events and translating the fairy and mascot chatter to the guests, who’ve been tied up and are confused but generally enjoying themselves. She’s delightful and her come-hither/kid-friendly hybrid voice is perfect for the loopy goings-on. (more mystery: Adachi appears to understand all these different languages…she’s no ordinary AV-starring human!)
After grabbing the mole people, Kanie-kun saves the day using the pirates’ own ship and their fear of Jaw against them. In addition to the pirates being seals, who instinctively fear sharks, Jaw is much scarier than usual because he’s wet, and a red-snow-cone-syrup-covered Bandou Biino happens to end up stuck in his mouth).
All’s well that ends well and the day ends very well for the park: They’ve gained a new attraction, more cast members (the subdued pirates) and above all else the guests were very excited about the day’s visit. Even Jaw wins, as he’s promoted to the new pirate cast’s boss, earning him a place of respect and purpose at last.
Amagi Brilliant Park is the 4th best show airing this season but what does that mean? What makes it less impressive than Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (#1/2) but more impressive than InoBato (#5)?
Obviously, ABP is very well-crafted. Its art is vibrant and drawn well, and has space to breathe and depth. It’s story holds a steady pace, the characters and humor are quirky but clear. It even knows how to slow down and give us quiet, thoughtful breaks to develop its characters and emphasize the moments of action.
But those points only explain why it’s a great show, not it’s relative place.
What sets it above is InoBato is a clear sense of purpose. Wacky it is along the way, but we’re reminded at the end of every week, if these people don’t improve the park’s attendance, tragedy will strike. It just has more purpose than InoBato’s harem target-of-the-week format with occasional tangents.
In fact, it can be argued that the wacky antics and happy framework around this conflict create a subtle underlying dread beneath everything. That’s not even getting into Latifah’s mysterious (and hinted at: sad) backstory with Seiya nor Sento’s desperate bid to win his love and respect, park be damned.
However, this same clear, purposeful but nuanced structure loses out against Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso’s relentlessly emotional, focused story of loss and unfulfilled love. ABP’s characters are rich, interesting, and specific, but they aren’t believably real people.
And ABP may be well drawn and full of lively action, the extremes of that action (within the confines of real space and peoples’ imaginations) lack Uso’s masterfully personal touch.
Regardless, this week was so funny it made my sides hurt. Moffle and Tiramie remain high marks for the juxtaposition of their happy kid-friendly/adorbs exteriors and deeply deranged adult interiors.
Even without them, the show continues to add mystery without feeling bloated and string us along with the good stuff. Humor and tragedy. Longing and satisfaction. ABP remains great stuff!