Part 11 of my final impressions countdown.
3. Rokka no Yūsha/Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Out of all the shows airing this season, the first episode of Rokka no Yusha easily had the most interesting setting and attention to detail, despite the actual budget & technical finesse being rather barebones. While the premise seemed your fairly generic adventure about a group of warriors going off to fight a demon king, the unique Mesoamerican-inspired society, restrained depiction of fantastical elements and naturally communicating characters showed a real glimmer of hope. Unfortunately the writing was also super clunky, with plenty of technobabble, ‘as you know’ world building, and the general feeling that not enough effort had been put into adapting the script to sound natural as dialogue. Some of the character designs also crossed the line into parody and had me fearful the story would descend into a series of memes.
Fortunately, while many of those issues remain, they do little to ruin what is generally a very entertaining and engaging title.
The turning point comes in the fourth episode with the revelation of a traitor within the Braves’ midst, at which the story drastically changes from a set of heroes killing monsters on their way to some vague big bad, to a spy mystery in the vein of They Were Eleven, where suddenly nobody knows who to trust. This allows the story to slow down and focus on the cast’s personalities. What their motivations are. What they prioritise. How they react to extreme stress. Suddenly the façade of being a unified sect of holier-than-thou saviours is stripped away, revealing the isolated, paranoid and broken individuals at their cores. These are people scarcely able to keep themselves together, let alone bear the weight of humanity’s expectations. They lash out, reveal bloodthirsty and nihilistic outlooks and generally look to scapegoats or convenient quick fixes to keep their simplified black and white worldview of good and evil.
Adlet, our main protagonist, is the most obvious example of this. He starts off as an obnoxious and arrogant insert, constantly declaring himself to be “The strongest man in the world”, yet when shit hits the fan he’s immediately revealed to be completely out of his depth when compared to his teammates, with no special abilities beyond his will, wits and selection of tricks. Conversely, other characters brimming with natural talent are unmasked as to woefully inexperienced in actual combat, or so confident and smug in their abilities that they fail to address glaring weak points. While not every character receives the same amount of depth (there’s little you can add to Chamot’s sociopathic tendencies or Maura’s crippling self-seriousness), by the end the show you’ll have a firm grasp of each person’s thought patterns and how they interact with one another.
Some people might take issue with the actual dynamics of the mystery itself, which is a fair enough complaint considering it employs concepts kept hidden or unfamiliar to the viewer without familiarity to the mechanics of magic and technology. Like Ranpo Kitan, this isn’t exactly a show you’ll be able to figure out the details on your own. However, at least here there are hints to potentially figure out the culprit, if not the implementation and motivations behind their deception. It honestly didn’t bother me too much as the explanations felt so meticulously thought out and in keeping with the in-world logic that it’s hard not to be impressed at the consideration put into the scheme.
A bigger issue lies with the animation. While the background art and general direction, particularly regarding body and facial movement, remains impressive throughout, the actual characters go consistently off model. It’s clear that the extravagant level of detail of their designs proved too much for Lerche to manage, either from time, budget or artistic limitations. The cgi on display is also pretty hideous, even by standard tv anime levels.
The ending also veers into absurdity, with excessive reveals and character motivations dampening what was generally a pretty focused story. Apparently the Japanese blu ray pre-orders look fairly dire, which on one hand is a shame, but on the other prevents the show of descending into a mess of badly written cast additions and trope-heavy mannerisms (watching Flamie turn all jealous for no reason was literally painful to watch). I never thought Rokka’s biggest plot twist would be the reveal of a character with an even worse design than Nachetanya. That takes real effort!
Generally though, if you’re after a well-thought out adventure story of the type of doesn’t come across too often, I’d highly recommend Rokka no Yūsha. It might not conclude perfectly (or at all), but as an individual arc it’s a real blast of adrenalin and suspense.