Why have one review of a bad mystery anime whose name starts with an “R” from me this week when you can have two?
If I told you guys that Rokka no Yuusha was a mystery show and you took a look at this anime at first glance without any background information whatsoever, you’d probably wonder if I was off my pills again. Well maybe I am, but the point is that yes, despite the fact that the setting, characters, and overall driving force are as standard fantasy as they come, Rokka no Yuusha’s plot belongs to the whodunnit side of the genre with plenty of suspects and a lot of circular logic to be had. Which doesn’t exactly change the fact that I’m still watching standard fantasy adapted by a studio whose last anime was freaking Rail Wars, an anime with so much false advertising attached to it that Burger King advertisements look truthful by comparison. But I do like mysteries, so this standard fantasy was worth taking a look at at the very least. See if this mixing of genres turns out an exciting combination or a generic kitchen sink.
Twelve episodes later and all I can summon for this show is a resounding “mrgh”, which is pretty much a combination of “meh” and “urgh” if you didn’t quite get that. A more common word to describe my judgement would be “mediocre”, which isn’t the worst thing to happen when it comes to the “LN adaptation” field, but you’re reading the wrong guy if you think I’m going to excuse a “better than usual” product from a medium whose very form of entertainment runs on poor working conditions and sex crime. Because there was potential for true greatness here with just a little more polish could have made a good mystery anime or even a good character study. Instead, Rokka no Yuusha is pretty much a bad anime made pretentious from its inability to execute its unique ideas properly.
So the show takes place in some fantasy land where six chosen heroes called Braves must vanquish a great evil called the Demon God, and said Braves are chosen by crests marked on their body from the Goddess of Fate due to their unique abilities. Our focus character is Adlet Myer, a guy who proclaims to be the strongest man in the world and resolves to prove said boast by invading tournaments and wooing ladies whom are more likely to kill him than they are to listen to his big mouth. After said shonen behavior combined with his skillful fighting gets him marked as a chosen hero, he teams up with a bunny girl princess – and I know some people have been praising the Mesopotamian symbolism that was added in by the anime staff, but it’s hard to take anything knee-deep in religious culture seriously when one your characters looks like she’s wearing an extra costume from a Tales game. It’d be like if Haibane Renmei made Reki wear a jockstrap and a beanie the entire runtime.
Anyways, he teams up with said princess and meets up with other Braves along the way before they all gather at a temple, only to realize there are seven of them. Naturally, one of them has to be an imposter working undercover in order to sabotage their mission, and when Adlet is suspected due to some circumstantial evidence against his favor, he must avoid the fighting prowess of his comrades whilst figuring out which one of them is trying to set him up. The fact that it takes four episodes to even get to the mystery plotline is one big point against the show’s favor, but whilst things start getting exciting afterwards, the show peters out of energy fast. Whilst I applaud the team’s decision to just adapt a single volume into twelve episodes because they realized that it can only go downhill from there, by the time the finale rolled around, I had long since stopped caring who the imposter actually was because this team doesn’t seem to understand how to make a mystery interesting.
The big elephant in the room is the production. I’m not going to mince words: it is freaking crap, with tons of bad CG and awful cinematography. Even with the studio’s clear lack of money and resources compared to the big wigs, it probably wasn’t in their best interest to hire a director who’s pretty much made a career out of nothing but borderline porn and a LN adaptation that most people consider to be a classic but I consider to be rubbish. There’s this one scene at the end of the fourth episode where the camera tries to build tension by rotating around the room for over a minute Sonic 2006-style to the point that it gave me nausea whilst simultaneously making me want to punch the person who approved that shot in the face. And it also doesn’t help there is quite a bit of fighting in this show, where the few scenes of decent choreography are let down by the lack of in-between animation during moves compounded with horrendously out-of-place CG monsters and magic make them incredibly unexciting to watch. Sometimes, the director shoots the action so close to the camera that I can’t even tell who’s aiming at who or whether someone got hit or not. This is far from the budget issues that plague Ushio and Tora. This is just incompetence that makes Gangsta look like John Wick.
But no amount of production issues can make me overlook how padded everything is. Once the mystery actually starts, too much of the runtime is spent on the actual deductions and getting from Point A to Point B rather than making said transitions meaty so I’d care about them. Very few of the characters are actually interesting because aside from Adlet and an eye-patched girl named Flamie, we barely get to know them apart from the fact that they come from some fucked-up places and have their own ideologies on how to kill, namely in how fast and cruel they want to do it. There’s a little bit of the “clashing of philosophical conflicts regarding different ways of life” that made the author’s last work, The Book of Bantorra, fun to watch. But it is very neutered here because it mostly manifests in lame action and circular logic that is repeated endlessly and doesn’t go anywhere rather than something actually challenging. I can’t even remember what that knight who protects the princess actually does, let alone his name.
The development given to the more characterized of the bunch isn’t so hot either, because it’s mostly just flashbacks regarding racism or idealism that are incredibly hackneyed in execution before resulting in a token romance that is as believable as the scientific study that humans only use 10% of their brain in daily life. And to make it more frustrating, said token romance ends up as nothing more than an “I hate you. Well I love you” affair, which is pretty much the third-world country of romance all on its own. However it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, so I gave it a pass. And despite the story having no rewatch value whatsoever because there’s not much there beyond the actual deductions along with there being no point in watching a mystery again if you know the mystery, I was willing to give the show a “well it wasn’t that bad” recommendation to people who have lower standards than I do. But then those last few minutes occurred and they ruined everything.
Going to be mild spoilers here, but I can’t exactly conclude the review without mentioning this, so if you haven’t watched this show and take offense to learning anything beyond what’s written on the synopsis, I’d advise you to stop reading right now. Also, those who can’t handle my hate speeches should probably stay way too.
If you spend the entire runtime having your characters overcome a challenge, only to rehash that challenge for your sequel-hook ending without so much as a break in-between, all goodwill suddenly disappears when you realize that the authors weren’t taking the subject material as seriously as the audience was. It’s a cheap method of baiting your audience whilst ensuring that they have nothing to look forward to but the same old shit should they ever make more of it (and I very much doubt they will), and it didn’t help that it just put further stakes into the token romance that it quite frankly didn’t need. Nothing is more designed to aggravate the mind than substance-less stories with cliffhangers, especially ones that have had absolutely no foreshadowing whatsoever or so little foreshadowing that it doesn’t matter either way.
And seriously, a freaking cow uniform? You’re jealous of a girl in a cow uniform? And cow uniforms are considered suitable fighting clothes in this universe? At least the bunny suit looked mobile, let alone like appealing eye-candy.