A big surprise for most people, I’ve been quietly (& smugly) confident The Rolling Girls was going to be a wild card of the season, something that hasn’t really happened with me since Madoka. Several months back, Andrew Partridge, CEO of UK-based company Anime Limited/All The Anime, positively mentioned that he’d seen evidence of the show during a recent business trip to Japan, & not being the type of industry bigwig to get excited over mere fluff, my ears pricked up. He also mentioned that the show was being directed by Kotomi Deai (director of Silver Spoon S2) a former protégé of Bebop’s Shinichirō Watanabe who was still in her twenties (the mention is on a Manga Entertainment podcast – timestamp 37 minutes), so at the very least I was expecting something fresh.
On that front the show certainly delivers, being the most vibrant & visually explosive experience in several seasons. Nearly scene is loaded with spectacle, no matter how pedestrian the action taking place is. The characters themselves have a soft elastic quality to their features that you’d normally see in the type of moeblob shows Kyoani is known for, only instead of focusing on cute & incidental movements, we get punches to the face. Aesthetically, it’s almost too much to take in one sitting. Several people have already compared its style to that of criminally underrated Toei show, Kyousougiga, which was my first thought, although there’s also similar elements in the premise to battle shows like Kill la Kill or World Conquest Zvezda Plot (minus the fanservice).
Plot-wise there isn’t too much to say as yet, with the show mostly establishing the zany rival-prefecture premise, although with some focus on the two main sister’s relationship with each other. There seems to a heavy family vibe, like with Kyousougiga or The Eccentric Family, but as yet it appears a far more surface level conflict. In any case, I’m looking forward to more.
Yatterman of the Night
I may have just been singing the praises of The Rolling Girls defying people’s expectations, but the true surprise of the season belongs to this reimagining/sequel of the 1977 Yatterman series. Man, was this a treat in every sense. Admittedly, my knowledge of the franchise is next to none, beyond it being an intentionally campy kid’s show, featuring a super popular female-lead villain-trio, & everyone looks out of a 60’s era super hero comic; however, this reboot requires no real understanding of any of that.
It’s clear that from the start that there’s more of a narrative focus than the original show, sincerely & emotionally depicting the tale of the descendants of the Doronbo Gang, i.e. the original series’ Team Rocket-esque baddies. Only here the situation is reversed with the characters being relatively humble & peace-loving, while evidence points to something far more sinister happening with the original Yatterman duo. At the same time it isn’t afraid to inject some much need humour & lightness into the story, while slowly raising the scope of the drama to near epic proportions by the end of the episode. It reminds me of Gurren Lagann in that respect, a comparison that’s been mentioned by others.
Mainly though, I was surprised by how much I found myself sucked into the universe these characters inhabited. Part way through the show, Leopard, our female lead, stumbles across an old poster of her ancestor Doronjo & the other members of the Doronbo gang. Even with next to no experience with any of these characters, I was struck with a strange, almost deific quality by the picture, like seeing a sculpture of an ancient god in a museum. This exists in other scenes, such as the old picture book depicting the original Yatterman team like epic heroes out of a fable. The events of the past have developed a powerful, almost mythological presence in the show, without it trying to act especially reverential or self-exaggerating to what the original series represented. I admit to searching youtube for subbed episodes afterwards, in an attempt to get a stronger feel for who these people were.
I used to be particularly cynical to reboots of old properties, mainly due to the volume of quick-cash Hollywood efforts, but between Yatterman of the Night & Gatchaman Crowds, there’s a definite sense that the anime industry is taking great care when attempting to mix the old with the new. Consider this my highlight of the season so far.