Rokka no Yuusha Review — Mediocre Mystery

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.

26 responses to “Rokka no Yuusha Review — Mediocre Mystery

    • There are actually two mystery shows next season: Sakurako and A-1’s thing. Can’t say I trust either. The former is based on a light novel and being done by a newbie studio, which was what resulted in this mess. The latter is based on an actual novel, but I don’t like the studio and I haven’t heard good things about the live-action drama either.

  1. Your review for Rokka is mostly saying that you don’t have the patience for detective stories and that one thing only. Its telling me more about you than the series itself. Its not so bad but you’ve done better though…

    • No, I don’t have the patience for bad detective stories that focus too much on the deduction and putting things together at the expense of everything else. Mysteries aren’t just brain-teasers y’know. The good ones are tense, full of symbolism, and have well-developed characters.

      Mouryou no Hako is a great mystery show. Un-Go is chock-full of post-war metaphors and questions regarding human philosophy. Rokka is badly produced and there’s no rewatch value even if you like all that deduction stuff because I don’t see the point in watching a show where the mystery itself is the main draw if you know the mystery.

      • It does have no rewatch value coz the mystery, and Adlet playing batman is the selling point. But Adlet is cool while doing it!

        If you question the why too much, you’ll miss out on a lot of stupid stuff to enjoy. Oh well the world needs people like you anyways, sometimes people can’t differentiate stupid that is enjoyable and stupid thats just retarded.

    • I think most Japanese entertainment is kinda inherently stupid considering sex crime is pretty much its entire foundation. And with anime, there’s just something about it you can’t take 100% seriously.

  2. You know, until you reveal more about why you seem to hate Spice and Wolf, I’ll never be able to take your opinions seriously about other anime. Not that I matter, but given that you actually liked Aku no Hana, Natsuyuki Rendezvous, and Apollon, it smacks of cognitive dissonance to me.

      • Yeah, well…it’s fucking funny as hell with some cool things to say about anime fandom and real-life dictatorships underneath all the craziness. I don’t know what Rokka or Spice and Wolf is supposed to say besides “here’s some light writing to comfort your mind”, and they didn’t make me laugh once apart from maybe some chuckles at Holo’s dubbed lines.

    • Spice and Wolf’s story is incredibly inconsequential to me. The appeal is supposed to lie squarely on Holo and Lawrence flirting with each other whilst they deal with random adventures that are never going to be relevant in the future and don’t tell me anything about economics other than that it’s a rough business. And the flirting gets old after like Episode 3, leaving me with a couple who just get a little closer with each messily written arc.

      Those other anime you mention do way more with romance than that. They use it to give us an analysis into the human condition. They reveal how hard real-life relationships actually are. Apollon even had the main destroy his relationship due to actions that were both his fault and not his fault. Holo and Lawrence’s romance is just “there” and no amount of well-written chemistry is going to compensate for a lack of forward momentum.

      • Aww pls don’t try to brainwash me with your point of view anymore, coz i’m becoming more convinced. You’re just giving me more reasons not to watch Spice n Wolf…

      • I’m not exactly here to convince people what they can or can’t like. I recommend/discourage things based on my reasons, but that’s not exactly the same thing, since there’s always going to be somebody who likes something for the reasons I don’t and vice-versa.

      • Nonsense. Spice and Wolf was about how extremely lonely people have romantic dealings, in the framework of a May-December relationship. A classic story. Holo and Lawrence keep nearly destroying their relationship because of deep-seated personal issues and an inability to communicate. Cliched, sure, but name one thing that the other anime did which hasn’t been well-trodden by romance stories over years.

        I can understand if you just didn’t like Spice and Wolf because you’d prefer all of its subtext to be spelled out (like the light novels do compared to the anime), or because you feel it didn’t motivate you to look deeper past its most superficial level. Or if you just don’t like stories where the couple find it oddly difficult to accept their relationship.

        But there’s more to Spice and Wolf than you’ve portrayed here, and less to Apollon or Natsuyuki than you seem to be implying. They’re not that far removed from one another. They just tell different classic stories with slightly different approaches. I’m not at all sold that one of them is “bad” just because you apparently chose to ignore most of what was going on in it. I will of course gladly accept that you didn’t like it because it wasn’t your cup of tea.

    • Holo and Lawrence keep nearly destroying their relationship because of deep-seated personal issues and an inability to communicate.

      I only remember their relationship being in jeopardy once, and that was when Amarti came onto the scene. The communication issues during that arc came off as superficial to me because it was all based on him knowing or not knowing her home was gone, which I woulda been fine with if that arc didn’t resolve itself so anticlimactically (Holo was planning to help Lawrence the entire time? Really?). Maybe there’s more in the light novels, but I don’t read them and I’m not going to.

      Edit: Okay, there was that second arc in II when Lawrence considered using Holo in order to achieve his dreams, but even the fans agree that that arc was a mess. The situation and plot turns were incredibly circumstance-driven and the show never really sold me on Lawrence’s dream to begin with, so I never felt he was sacrificing much by giving up on it. And at the end of the day, all the arc did was just make them grow a little closer with Lawrence realizing he’s discovered something more important than his dreams. That’s the complete opposite of what tends to happen in my favorite anime romances where characters have a hard time working things out.

      Or if you just don’t like stories where the couple find it oddly difficult to accept their relationship.

      I think those stories make up more than half the romance anime I’ve said were good.

      • Unbelievable that somebody will not take you seriously because you dislike a show. Worst yet is that said anime is non-other than Spice and Wolf… Are. You. Serious? It amazes me how you tried so hard to explain why you hate it as well.

      • Spice and Wolf’s problems go beyond any surface material the show has. It’s what’s under the surface that’s inane. I can’t exactly explain that sorta stuff in two sentences.

  3. I am currently watching this one and I noticed how painfully slow its pacing is. Ugh. Aside from their ridiculous names (Kekkai Sensen is also at fault too), I cannot find myself investing to the characters. They’re not lifeless per se but still…

    Heck, is that even a mystery series? Maybe I am going to watch further episodes to see where the mystery part comes from.

  4. I think after reading this review, I’ll be going with my gut decision and saying that my glance at this show and not liking the look of it was the right one.
    As for spice and wolf my reasons for not getting into it was all the medieval trade/economics stuff and the relationship between the two characters didn’t cover enough for that, hearing the second season was quite poor turned me off further, I was out in 7 episodes.
    As for apollon, the heighlights for me in that one are where even after the girl’s feelings changed, the male lead still couldn’t get her in the end, also the side story with Jun caught my interest. The series however was a bit rushed and I would have liked a bit more focus on the jazz music.

    • The jazz music is alive in the relationships and the time period the show takes place in as well as in physical form. I prefer it that way because it makes the times when the music actually shows up really powerful.

      If you focus too much on the music at the expense of the characters, then you just get stuff like Euphonium or Nodame Cantabile. Both solid shows, but they’re held back from being truly special as a result.

      • Now theres an interesting way of looking at apollon that I hadn’t considered. Although I am speaking about jazz music as someone who is a pretty big fan of the genre and hearing it.
        Nodame, I saw the first season and saw it as a funny romcom with great character chemistry, the Austrian music teacher was a character I recall, that confession scene bewteen the two leads had a very “final feel to it”.
        Your review of Euphonium and deadlight talking about it caught my interest though I’ve been iffy on kyoani since beyond the boundry.

    • I’ve been iffy on kyoani since beyond the boundry.

      Because all the big-name studios don’t have their catastrophic misses.

      deadlight

      I haven’t had contact with him for almost half a year now.

  5. Yeah. The final minutes of this show ruined my experience with it. Darn it. I genuinely like it until then and I regretted why I decided to watch it until that point. Seriously? The author’s gonna subject us to the same experience we had before? Wasn’t it pointless by that time? I don’t know. I don’t even want to care.