Lumping these two together because I think they’re similar enough to the point that I don’t want to write separate posts for them. Let’s start off with Rolling Girls.
Rolling Girls: Episode 1
Rolling Girls really wants to stand out from the crowd to the point that it’s blind to the fact that so far, it’s no different from any other cartoon set in a wacky, hyper-real world. The creators put a lot of effort into making the setting come to life and it’s cool to see if you just want to watch vibrant visuals alone, but you can tell this anime wants to be more than just an animation showcase (not to mention, the good animation showcases have something to them underneath the vibrant visuals anyways), and I can’t say I’m a fan of what that “more” is.
The story of the show from what I can gather is that in a post-war Japan divided into many nations, there are two in particular that fight each other because one of the leaders wants the other’s green sentai costume (for some reason). A lot of characters are introduced at once – including some guy who wears a crocodile head for no reason other than to wear one – but as far as I’m concerned, the important characters are the titular “Rolling Girls” that you see in the promo material, as well as the sentai suit-wearing leader who acts as a sisterly figure towards one of said girls and her rival who wants to take said suit away. Unfortunately, whilst the latter two get some stuff to do, even if it’s mostly just to setup their rivalry, the actual four-girl group (or the members of said group that appeared in this episode, as I didn’t see Ai Hibiki this week) are a bunch of boring cheerleaders who contribute nothing to the plot so far. And I don’t even know what the plot is.
Yes, I know what the “story” is, but that’s not the same thing as the “plot”. A story is “how it happens” whilst the plot is “what and why it happens”, and not only does the show not reveal what said plot, it seems like whatever plot exists within this universe is doomed to get bogged down due to, ironically, the very thing that makes it stand out: its world. See, the thing I liked about Amagi’s hyper-real setting, as well as its comedy, is that it was grounded in reality, only for said reality to be as unrealistically dark as it could possibly be when you look at it closely. The same goes for the drama, which (mostly) ends up being darkly comedic when you realize why said drama is occurring. Rolling Girls is on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of both qualities from what I can tell, and whilst that’s not a bad thing automatically, the way it handles said qualities is what handicaps it from having a plot I can care about.
If the show was just going for constant comedy, I could have bought into its apparent “we want to be as wacky as possible” modus of operandi the same way I bought into Kill la Kill when it did it. But when Nozomi is given focus or things get “political” in general, the show suddenly becomes heart-warming in a straightforward way and I suddenly realize we’re supposed to care about her despite the fact that we saw her got launched into the air a few minutes ago, Team Rocket-style. It breaks my suspension of disbelief to see these sort of tame/maudlin moments in a universe where powerful characters can get defeated by “tickles”, hide their secret identities poorer than Superman, and trap a rival gang on a roller coaster by blowing up some of the rails with no security around. Not to mention, the comedy isn’t the least bit funny because it’s all energy and no punchline, always yelling in my face “look how silly we’re being” without a focus for said silliness. It doesn’t quite go into “we know we’re an anime” territory as of yet, but it’s dangerously close to that line.
Maybe my worries will be proven wrong somewhere down the line, but I’ve been burned too many times on anime that have wasted their unique setting and aesthetics in the same way as Rolling Girls is setting itself up to do, and it doesn’t exactly help that the writer of this show is the one who gave us Bible Black, Afro Samurai, and all those other shallow spectacles. It’s worth watching for the animation alone so far (Wit Studio having grown enough from their Attack on Titan sales to function properly in the visual department), so even if you’re turned off by everything I said, I recommend you watch it at least once.
Maria the Virgin Witch: Episode 1
Maria the Virgin Witch…what do you want me to say? Boring? Terrible? Unfunny? I have a bunch of words directed at this show’s premiere and none of them are the least bit positive.
Okay, I’ll say some positive things. Maria’s not a bad character. The humor revolving around her attempts to be taken seriously despite the fact that her knowledge of sex and how to be scary is less than a typical Republican’s IQ level isn’t funny, but it isn’t groan-worthy either. At best, it’s a light punch that feels like someone blew on your arm, which doesn’t leave much impact, but you do feel it. And just like Rolling Girls, the aesthetics/direction are nice to look at and the music is solid. It’s clear that a lot of effort has been put into researching the actual war this show takes place in and the action is
nice to look at too whilst having the required weight behind them okay, although it’s not that fun to watch.
However, also like Rolling Girls, there isn’t much of a plot so far, and what possible plot may occur in the future is bogged down by the terrible handling of tones this show has. Let me spell out the story of this episode to you: the Hundreds’ Year War is occurring near Maria’s territory and she intervenes with a dragon because she hates fighting. Given my intense hatred for war stories and the jargon/themes that come with the territory (seriously, I am so sick of “war is bad and accomplishes nothing” messages!), I don’t think I have to clarify how I felt when the episode focuses on scenes of soldiers killing each other or talking about upcoming battles in general.
What ultimately doomed the episode for me though was how I couldn’t understand, nor care about, what Maria’s interventions were supposed to convey. If it’s supposed to be funny, it fails because as I said earlier, the humor is too light to contrast with all the killing that happens. Someone brought up to me that the humor reminded him of Spice and Wolf’s banter, and that’s pretty much the main problem with it because A) Spice and Wolf’s banter is only chuckle-worthy at best (and that’s only when you watch it in English) B) Spice and Wolf is a bad anime in general. And if it’s supposed to be serious, it fails there too because I don’t want to hear “war is bad” from anybody, let alone a succubus, unless you attach something unique to it like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ “war is inevitable” message. No, Maria the Virgin Witch isn’t exactly a Ghibli film, is it?
– I checked the overall story on Wikipedia to see if it gets better in the future since this show is actually based on established source material from the Moyashimon guy (which is another one of those anime I enjoyed in the past, but it’s best to leave it that way) and…well let’s just say that the comedy needs to get alot better from here if the show wants to sell itself to me, because the plot is total shit.
– Seriously, is Death Parade (and I guess, Assassination Classroom) the only new show this season that knows a hook is more than just bad stand-up comedy?
PS: Okay, the scene where the soldier gets arrowed in the back from out-of-nowhere is actually pretty funny.