Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Amagi Brilliant Park Review

At the end of my Impressions series this past fall, I mentioned that I was going to take a break from Impressions due to real life and such. That kind of also means that my one seasonal review that I do at the end of each season is now up in the air. Well, I haven’t 100% decided what I’m going to do with that just yet. For now, let’s all have a splendid day at the theme park! ………….. Oh. Well this just looks depressing.

Amagi Brilliant Park is a 13 episode Fantasy/Romantic Comedy series based on the ongoing light novel series by Shoji Gatoh and published by Fujimi Shobo. A ongoing manga series from Gatoh is also published by Fujimi Shobo. The anime from Kyoto Animation and director Yasuhiro Takemoto aired during the Fall 2014 season. As of this review, Amagi has not been picked up for licensing or legal streaming.

Seiya was forced to accept an invitation to an amusement park by the mysterious and beautiful girl Isuzu. What he didn't know was that she would bring him to the decrepit Amagi Brilliant Park, Japan's most disappointing amusement park. Seiya is introduced to the leader of the Park, the "real princess" Latifah, who suddenly entrusts him with saving the park, which is in danger of shutting down. Amagi Brilliant Park, it turns out, is not just any amusement park, but rather one populated by fairies. 

In case you’ve forgotten who Kyoto Animation is, here’s a little history of their work. Kyo Ani is most well known for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Full Metal Panic Fumofu (which, by the way, has a rather familiar face you’ll see in Amagi), Clannad, and, more recently, Free! Iwatobi Swim Club/Eternal Summer. So, as you can imagine, they do pretty well with their animation work and Amagi is no exception to this. It opts for a simplistic yet really colorful style, adding in a touch of child like wonder since the majority of the cast is from a magical land. There are some times where the animation does take a slight dip in quality, but those moments aren’t that many, leaving most of the series’s animation quality rather high. The soundtrack, on the other hand, isn’t really anything to write home about as it is rather forgettable, using the typical high energy and peppy kind of tracks to help with the comedic aspect. The only memorable thing about the soundtrack are the theme songs with the opening theme, Extra Magic Hours, as a fun favorite of mine from the fall season.

The story is pretty straightforward as far as I’m concerned. Once Seiya takes on the role of Park Manager, the series becomes much more episodic as every episode involves new schemes and ways to get park visitors. This also includes the introduction of numerous other characters that help out with reopened attractions. Everything leads to the final few episodes were things are resolved and the then the ending happens. Now here’s where the bad part comes in. Amagi’s story seems to degrade over time. It has a great start, but by the time we reach episode eleven there are some holes in the story that become overly noticeable. Not only that, but the so called villain of the series doesn’t actually do a whole lot, making for a rather pointless and unsatisfying defeat. And let’s not even get into the 13th episode because it is completely unnecessary. The series could have ended at the 12th episode after wrapping up rather well, but instead we get one more episode that goes back to the daily workings of the park as the group works on a promo video. Like I said, I feel that the quality of the story goes down over time. The 13th episode could have been moved to some point in the middle of the series, or it could have been good as an additional OVA episode. Hell, there’s a possibility that it was trying to give us an idea of a second season, but there’s been no news nor does that episode really give us a hint towards it making our final impression of the series and it’s story a rather poor one.

The characters are rather interesting to talk about, because the development for them is actually very little. There are some episodes with pieces of development for some of the characters, with Seiya, Isuzu, and Latifah falling under the major category. The problem is that even these characters have moments that are never fully explored. Seiya’s background as a child star is rarely brought up and is never used against him in any way, Isuzu’s budding romance with Seiya was never fully realized but that’s fine because that would just make the story even worse (in my opinion), and Latifah’s story is very little. You would think there would be more to explore since she is the Mapleland princess, but that’s just it. Just like the story, the character development just falls apart over time thanks to the rather lackluster story. Which makes my job much more difficult in order to talk about these characters because I have very little to play with and get attached to. What it really comes down to is a major writing issue for both the story and characters because it just seems to trip itself up by the time we finish the main story.

As expected, the voice acting from the Japanese cast is rather solid. With Seiya as the character leading the pack, Kouki Uchiiyama (Haikyu!!, Shiki) plays the egotistical yet vulnerable lead rather well and making for a fun performance. On the other hand, Ai Kakuma’s (Aldnoah.Zero, Selector Infected WIXOSS) performance as Isuzu was rather flat, however it did work in terms of comedy thanks to the dry humor Isuzu gives off. Yukiyo Fujii (Log Horizon, Patema Inverted) and her performance of Latifah brought in the cute and adorable that the character calls for. As for other fun performances, Ayako Kawasumi (Fate/Zero, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun), Ai Nonaka (Another, Puella Magi Madoka Magica), and Ryoko Shiraishi (Hellsing Ultimate, Psychic Squad) as mascots Moffle, Tirami, and Macaron were a fun group that bounced off of each other seamlessly as well as the rest of the cast. As for the ladies of Elementario, Yuka Aisaka (Gonna be the Twin-Tail!!, Sakura Trick) Minami Tsuda (Momo Kyun Sword, Wake Up, Girls!), Tomoyo Kurosawa (Black Bullet, Yuki Yuna is a Hero), and Shiori Mikiami (Attack on Titan, One Piece) gives these fours fairies a lot of life as well as use the respective personalities their elements call for rather well.

I may not have seen a lot of series from Kyoto Animation, but, out of all the ones that I have seen, Amagi Brilliant Park is among one of their weaker works. While the animation and the voice acting are rather solid, it’s the degrading story that makes for the biggest setback. Because of elements that are never really expanded on or that are extremely underwhelming, this also drags down the overall story as well as the characters. It had the makings for something great, it honestly did. But, there’s a reason why it wasn’t picked up for streaming. I’m pretty sure I understand why that is now.

Next time, we’re going to raise our own aunt! Until then, otaku on my friends.

Final Rating: 5/10 A magical park, but needs to work on those plot holes.

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