Amagi Brilliant Park – 07

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

9_ogk

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Amagi Brilliant Park – 06

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Amagi Brilliant Park episode 6 is just delightful. Its premise is simple: the park is understaffed and Sento has been drugged with a ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ magic pill, which makes the interview process even more ridiculous than it would otherwise be.

Between Sento banging her head on the desk to avoid telling Kanie-kun her true feelings about him, Sento’s premonition-dream about three of the female applicants, and the totally absurd group of applicants not including those three, episode 6 keeps its jokes fast and plentiful.

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Sento dreams that Kanie-kun will hire three lovely ladies and replace her. The idea of this is so distressing that she wakes up, having shot a hole through the roof of the dorm building!

Then, at breakfast, Macaron the lamb mascot slips a magic pill into her curry and the day goes downhill fast.

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When Sento figures out she’s been Heartsleeve’d, and it obviously doesn’t take her long to figure out she’s spilling her guts to everyone, she brings her frustrations down on the culprits with both barrels. Poor Tiramie wasn’t even involved! (even though he was going to ask her some compromising questions if he had the chance)

Unfortunately, Kanie-kun doesn’t get what’s going on and doesn’t let Sento excuse herself from the interview process.

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The interviews are generally outrageous. A former mayor who lost his bid for reelection, a failed baseballer, a Luchador, and a ninja are among the few looking for work, whom Kanie-kun hires without a second thought.

On top of that, all three girls that Sento dreamed about show up for interviews and she just loses it.

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Adachi Eiko is a mature woman from the film industry. She’s done ‘AV,’ which Moffle and Kanie-kun take to mean Adult Video and have trouble responding to her. It’s later revealed to Sento that AV actually means Animal Videos, but its a fun situation to watch unravel.

Bandou Biino has recently been stabbed by her older brother. The brother actually shows up with stockings over his face and also naked and gets destroyed by Moffle in a fight.

Chuujou Shiina is a twin-tail high schooler who stutters and is nervous. She barely gets screen time, due to Biino-chan’s commotion, but is also hired because whatever. They need staff.

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What a gaggle of weirdos!

Great gags, character development and more time with the terrible creatures known as Tiramie and Macaron. There isn’t much more I could ask for and, while it certainly isn’t tight enough or unusual enough for a perfect 10, episode 6 gives us yet another perfectly great experience.

Bravo!

9_ogk

Amagi Brilliant Park – 05

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Amagi Brilliant Park episode 5 wants us to know the park is totally broke! ‘Good job with that 30 yen special, Seiya-kun!’ ‘Now we can’t even pay our cast members!’ (and, according to the episode’s ending head count, attendance hasn’t edged up much either)

It’s desperation time and everything is on the table though, and Seiya hears the senior staff out. From turning the park into a Red Light District, to starting a Fight Club, to betting everything they’ve got left on horse races, their ideas are, predictably, stupid or illegal or both!

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Perhaps the stupidest idea comes from Moffle, who recalls gossip about a magic cave filled with treasure in the southern part of the park. They are desperate though and Seiya hasn’t seen that part of the park yet…

The Southern part of the park is huge, and almost entirely empty save for the unfinished stadium that was built during the economic boom. A whole sports theme sub-park would have been here and you can see the gears spinning in Seiya’s head, but for now the magic cave is what he has to deal with.

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In brief, 10 years ago a cast member named Dornell got drunk and was dared to explore the cave. He entered and was never seen again. The cast members who followed him returned, barely alive, rambling crazy stories of endless tunnels, traps, and an unreachable treasure.

Even though Seiya assumes this will be crap, the cave does turn out to be the mouth of a vast dungeon…which Tiramie (the pink cat) immediately traps them in.

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Tiramie is a bright spot on the cast. Selfish, utterly absurd, probably a pervert, knowledgeable about weapons and endowed with the best facial expression range you can imagine on a pink cat-mascot, he’s (is he a he?) a joy to watch on any occasion.

Episode 5’s Indiana Jones-style antics dials his opportunities to the max. He’s the best, most totally insignificant side character ever!

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From the get-go I knew the cave was an attraction. Between the silly switch that opened the stone wall and the Gate Keeper that looked like an animatronic toy and the silly ‘weapons’ hidden in each player’s coffin, it was all too staged. Too hand-built feeling.

Sento even gets cell service deep in the cave — and regularly texts the Fairy quartet back at base with their progress. Though she’s terribly cryptic about it and the fairies have no agency to help, even if they understood what she wanted.

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Still, the Orcs were pretty convincing and, it probably wasn’t in their best interest to give Molotov Cocktails (or a shovel, a chain and a bent aluminum bat) to their ‘guests…’

abp5_10Dornell didn’t disapear because he’s a popular ‘girl’ who plays MMOs. Nice!

Regardless, the mystery wasn’t really the point of this episode.  Nor was it surprising that Dornell had lived in the attraction for 10 years, secretly adventuring in MMOs, reading Manga, watching Anime, and building model kits.

Episode 5 was all about fun, building on the core casts interactions, and making fun of how little Seiya cares about his plush companions. When Sento falls into a pit trap, he screams Sento! with longing. When the sheep falls in after her, he looks over, then back and screams Sento! again, with longing.

It’s deliciously funny and spectacular, and the parodies were a huge treat.

abp5_17There’s even an emergency exit in the dragon boss fight room. it has a sign guys!

The fun and silliness of it never came off as jarring or out of tone because none of the ‘sane’ people entering the cave ever showed signs of worry. Even face to face with a dragon seemed more like a funny challenge to Seiya. At least it was a chance for him to use his psychic powers again — for laughs!

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Finally, after defeating the dragon, we learn the whole southern section was built as a cover story to hide the Digerries (mole people) from the Polytia Empire. They’ve been there, waiting for guests this whole time, without official purpose or oversight.

Sadly, they’ve spent all their treasure so the cast will have to survive another way.

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Obviously the mole people and the dragon join the cast and Dornell’s collection of manga and video games gets sold to buy them a little time. But what to do about the long-term financial problem? What to do about the attendance problem that’s even more important than that?

For now, we end with Seiya looking away and a pan to the unfinished stadium…

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Ep 5 was the funniest episode of Amagi Brilliant Park to date. The timing and the facial expressions (and the situation itself) were outrageous and I loved every second.

Some of the humor even transcended the predictable: where shows like DGnHs simply parody or drop homages to tropes and convention, ABP seemed to parody the parody of those tropes.

abp5_2We’d like to order crepes? Hello? Are you…are you a statue??

Over all, ABP continues to showcase why it deserves to be the second highest rated show of the wacky, slightly tragic, magical teen rom-com genre this season.

Not only is it the second best looking, with remarkably well designed and rendered characters of every shape and size, it’s physically large and broadly colored environment gives those characters a greater amount of space to breath than the hallways, class rooms and bed rooms so standard to the genre.

Only Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso competes with it visually, and only that surpasses its energy and character sincerity.

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But I can’t and won’t give it a 10. For all it’s majesty, it lacks that flawless charm so intrinsic to the genre’s best of the best. (Tamako MarketChu2Koi’s first season, and Uchouten Kazoku)

Is it just missing a strong and frontal love story? Is it just not Rom enough to be a Rom-Com?? Maybe. It’s still a top of the 9’s in my book.

SENTO! SENTO SENTO! 

9_ogk

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 07

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Going into the treasure hunt, we predicted Renge would be forced to choose a side, as her new friends Kate and Roboko were being targeted by her superior White Egret, disguised as Madame M. The hunt is just a means to and end: exposing and capturing Zvezda members, but Kate and Natasha take over and make it a real thing. This could mean that part of Kate’s power is making her own whims, wishes, and beliefs come true through manipulation of time and space, a talent akin to Suzumiya Haruhi’s.

While Renge is a member of White Light to better herself and fight evil, Mikisugi seems to take pleasure in looking down on people; she teases Kate and arrogantly tries to shoo off Renge by phone, only to be talked down to herself by her superiors. A box of men is released on the school when Kate activates a trans-dimensional portal in the pool, and White Light’s operation is cancelled. And even though Asuta often questions the validity of his fellow Zvezdans’ wild theories about history and mythology (the voice of reason keeping the show honest), even he can’t deny the fantastic stuff that goes on this week.

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Kate drags him into that dimension, then wanders off, and next time he sees her, she’s a towering shadow monster demanding he let her conquer him. He chases her back into the regular world, where he happens to have his Dva mask on when he bumps into Renge. Kate unleashes a massive attack that appears to disperse all parties involved, but the flurry of dark seals stops before it reaches Asuta and Renge. Everything returns to normal abnormalcy, and the item conquered this week by Zvezda could be Asuta’s skepticism.

It could also mark the conquest of the last remnants uneasiness with his new life with Zvezda. The school, his last sanctuary of normalcy, was invaded by Zvezda, White Light, and the Tokyo Special Forces, but he’s not that upset about it. What makes him upset is the final twist we never saw coming: those Special Forces are under the direct command of Tokyo’s governor, who just happens to be Asuta’s estranged father. That means he knows about UDO and Zvezda; it could also mean he knows where his son is and what his son is up to. That is, if people in this show weren’t so easily fooled by masks.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Gorou can do Morse Code by foot…but not well.
  • Asuta really doesn’t want to do the “Treasure Dance”, but Renge, Natasha and Roboko goad him into it with incessant chanting. Renge smiling when she knew she’d won was a nice little detail.
  • Kate doesn’t remember anything about the evening after she and Asuta jumped into the pool, which means Asuta was the only person who remembers that bizarre stone version of the school sitting in the desert.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 06

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Working his ass off as indispensable all-round doer of cooking, laundry, cleaning, and TP acquisition, school is Jimon’s last refuge. So naturally in the cold open he has that refuge snatched away by the surprise transfer of Kate and Roboko to his class. They and the rest ofo Zvezda aren’t there for Jimon, but for the “Udo Bride”, an ancient treasure Kate learns about by a dubious flyer published by the “Treasure Club.”

With Renge and Jimon’s secret identities secure, the sudden arrival of his colorful “cousins” doesn’t faze her; on the contrary, she swoons when she learns Jimon proposed to the school idol Shirasagi Miki when he was little (though he was instantly shot down). It’s kinda funny and ridiculous that the school accepts a grade-schooler and a robot to middle school, while Iitsuka and a fully-clothed Natasha look more at home. Meanwhile Gorou is ingeniously disguised as a bronze bust in the courtyard.

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That first scene with Miki seemed random, but sets the stage for the Treasure Club mystery: it’s all another elaborate ploy by Shirasagi, AKA White Egret, AKA Madame M (lotta aliases pilin’ up!) to trap Zvezda, whose members she’s identified by the UDO levels they gave off while at the club meeting (the inexplicably interactive film reel was a nice touch). As Egret she ordered Renge to stay home, but the fact Renge couldn’t stay away (and indeed is so enthusiastic she shows up in full adventurer’s kit) could be a potential wrench in her gears.

This episode was full of interesting interactions between people who’d normally be enemies warming up to each other at school. In that regard, where Zvezda and Renge are concerned, it’s every bit a sanctuary and “neutral space” to them as it had been for Jimon. But Shirasagi is poised to ruin all that by unmasking the Zvezdians (her flyers will serve double duty as Zvezda power-negating talismans, another clever touch). Renge could learn Jimon and her new friends are all members, meaning she’ll have to pick a side.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • We noticed Roboko was eating her udo lightly grilled; nice continuity!
  • Not sure where Jimon dredged up tha “Treasure Dance” thing, but it sure was weird…and the positive, reverent reaction to it was even weirder!
  • The episode never forgets for a moment that Kate is at the end of the day a little kid, who doesn’t conserve her energy and ends up falling asleep all the time
  • To that end, we like how she initially tried to use a more polite, formal affectation while at school, but the more tired she got, the more she just forgot to use it, confusing Renge.
  • Roboko’s Schoolgirl mode made her sound a lot more like Morita Moe. We also liked how she was prepared to punish Jimon should his insulting of Kate continue.