Amagi Brilliant Park Episodes 1-4 Review (Full Series Review Excerpt)

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With Sword Art Online II out of the way and ready to be published, my next project for Funcurve is Amagi Brilliant Park. This is a fun little series I never got to finish when it aired. Just a really playful and silly show that demonstrates KyoAni’s comedy chops really nicely. Not always a hit, but pleasant all around. Preview of my full review comes after the break.

Kyoto Animation, or KyoAni for short, has become quite the hallmark name of the industry in the past ten years. Any person getting into Anime as a hobby will quickly get acquainted with titles like Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star and K-ON!, names that carry with them great fame and great infamy. Although they’ve had big shows like Chunibyo and Free!, as well as cult hits like Hyouka and Sound! Euphonium, they’ve fallen somewhat under the radar in recent years. Nonetheless they remain a studio with one of the most distinctly recognisable styles in the industry, and immensely talented animators and directors who have a knack for human drama and endearing comedy. Amagi Brilliant Park is a strong showcase of the latter. It’s a half-whimsical and half-sleazy fantasy comedy from the original author of Full Metal Panic!, another popular series produced by KyoAni, and its charming premise and quirky characters are a good match for the studio. It’s certainly not the most ambitious series they’ve ever done, but it’s fairly consistent at delivering on its mild ambitions right to the finish line.

Kanie Seiya is a former child star and teenage narcissist who gets forcefully dragged along to the eponymous run-down enchanted theme park by stoic girl Sento Isuzu, and eventually agrees to save the park from disclosure and in turn maintain the life energy of the fairies that inhabit it. I think the best way to analyse this show is to analyse the KyoAni quirks that have shown up in its adaptation. The first thing of note is that this is, quite obviously, a pretty looking show. Although KyoAni shows are basically gorgeous by default, the fact that they are doesn’t stop being impressive. Their technical consistency is nothing short of astounding, and it complements Amagi Brilliant Park in its own distinct way by infusing the upbeat playful aesthetic of its character and background designs with the typical KyoAni subdued color palette. It gives the whole thing a delightfully dreamy look that’s very easy on the eyes.

Another thing that’s of almost immediate note is the use of the comedic talents of KyoAni. I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of “anime comedy”, but I’ve also said that many ideas are able to work with the right execution. KyoAni have an eye for the timing of their gags, and it shows in Amagi Brilliant Park how they can shape an ostensibly mundane joke into something special. They take something fairly mundane and simple like a manzai routine between Kanie and Sento (a gag featured extremely heavily in Anime and Japanese comedy in general) and elevate it through rapid-fire delivery, while also gracefully sprinkling a handful of quick sight gags in between like the dingy out-of-order toilets and the heavily polluted lakes at the park. They also know when to slow it down to deliver laughs, such as in the first exchange between Kanie and Moffle that gradually builds from plain uncomfortable to gut-bustingly violently hostile. The gag pacing is tight and smooth, and along with the fun ideas of Amagi Brilliant Park and the lovably goofy characters they’re able to build off each other well and deliver the laughs.

Although there’s plenty to love, it’s of fair warning to note there’s quite a bit of fanservice in here. Fanservice is difficult to positively appraise, and I could probably name only a handful of anime that are able to use it in a meaningful way. Amagi Brilliant Park is definitely not one of them, but as far as fanservice goes it’s pretty harmless. It’s worth noting that KyoAni is one of the more female dominated studios in the industry, and with most of their shows of the past five or six years they’ve openly taken the very respectable stance of not under-dressing female characters, or putting them in outfits that a regular woman wouldn’t wear. So, as far as overt fanservice goes, KyoAni shows are actually pretty tame (unless you want to debate the sexual undertones of moe, which is a topic for another day). Amagi Brilliant Park is evidently forgoing their general rule, although seemingly reluctantly. Though it does feature scantily clad women, it doesn’t emphasize it in the way you expect fanservice to be emphasized. It usually just presents mid-level shots from the front and back, leaving the rest to your imagination. But… it’s still fanservice. It carries the bad connotations while also not particularly trying to please the audience with it, which puts it in a very weird spot.

The first act of Amagi Brilliant Park ends with a serious episode, which is respectable enough in conveying characterisation and drama but definitely not KyoAni’s best showing. The strengths of this series come from its wackiness, and with the exception of episode four that’s thankfully where its priorities lie in the beginning stretch. Amagi Brilliant Park is off to a solid start!

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