The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Rolling Girls

Title: Rolling Girls
Genre: Comedy
Companies: Wit Studio
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 10 Jan 2015 – 28 Mar 2015

Synopsis: Following a great and inexplicable civil war within Japan, the country has been divided in 10 districts, each under the control of a vigilante warlord and their respective mob. Representing the district of Tokorozawa is Utoku Masami, who moonlights as the masked hero Maccha Green, brokering peace between factions and regions. The job of standing up to vigilantes is a violent and messy affair, which eventually lands Masami in the hospital alongside her longtime rival. With her incapacitated, her admirer Moritomo Nozomi takes the responsibility upon her shoulders to bring about peace among the warring mobs.

The Highlights
Humor: Precision timing.
Background: Eye catching watercolors.
Animation: Some limited character movement, but frenetic when in motion.
Music: It’s awesome and I won’t hear a word otherwise.
World: At time unapologetically ridiculous, at others, trying too hard to justify itself.
Cast: Likable but accomplish little.
Tone: Undying optimism makes up for the occasional plodding.

I feel like I come down kinder on Rolling Girls than I ought to. As quickly as the anime won me over, it almost lost me a few instances later in its tendency to amble. The moment the cast trips, so goes any semblance of direction. Though seemingly going nowhere, it manages to find itself in glorious resolution after glorious resolution. Ultimately Rolling Girls works out as an optimist’s anime, a straight up feel good title. 

What Rolling Girls has going for it is a sense of the absurd, which plays right into the animation style. The way the aesthetic choices come together feels only natural for the world at hand. The first thing worth noting in this series is its color scheme. Primary and muted colors are eschewed for less conventional shades, such as lime and powder blue. Integration of these into character designs borders on just the right side of tacky and tasteless. More striking would be the watercolor rendered backgrounds, giving the impression of the show taking place in the illustrations of a children’s book. Animation wise, similar to Wit Studio‘s previous work Attack on Titan, it suffers from extended static sequences only to go from zero to sixty thousand in jaw dropping action sequences. 

Much of the humor is derived from slapstick, making it a little more pie in the face than I generally prefer. To its credit, it happens to be a perfectly timed pie and the filling is a thermonuclear device. The precision of each punch, each explosion comes down to the millisecond, whether a decisive punch to the wrong face or the fear of the taxman taken to its frightening conclusion. Much of these are met with disarming comments that play into the second aspect of the humor: the absurdity of the world, or more specifically, how normal it all seems. When the mobs quarrel over what embodies the true spirit of Kyoto, rock music is embraced as an obvious choice. With districts including a police state run by cosplay fanatics, there can be an undoubtable air of randomness to each premise. There is method to the madness granted, with the characterization of each district being a parody of Japanese society. Sadly, this comedic setup falls apart quite often as the show attempts to establish to itself.

The world of Rolling Girls needs little introduction, but the stories within the world do. Often efforts to move the plot along stiffen the pacing altogether. The show knows how to keep things snappy, particularly when the animation is the driving factor. Once the exposition gets heavy everything comes to a screeching halt. Prolonged scenes waiting in houses or cafes waiting for story to happen are too common, offering but a morsel of context.  The cumbersome development of guest characters doesn’t help, nor does the passive role of the viewpoint characters. Too often our heroes come off as ineffectual when faced against the insanity of the world, as they should, honestly, given the gulf between Nozomi’s intentions and her competence. Unfortunately this quality persists with none of the protagonists accomplishing much beyond a few afterthoughts. There is paradoxical silver lining to this oddly enough as it puts the responsibly of making peace into the hands of the warring vigilantes. The show’s underlying narrative of people coming together over shared dreams holds greater meaning with the girls acting as catalysts of change rather than as agents.

To watch Rolling Girls can at times be akin to wading trough deep mud while carrying a cinder block overhead, more effort than it’s seemingly worth. It just so happens that the brick is made of gold, and emits explosions and rainbows. On entertainment alone, this series succeeds, and the animation and music only make this more so. Normally I’d think myself above such a lame pun, but the soundtrack here just rocks. And I admire anything that has the chutzpah to try and top Do You Remember Love? in terms of audacious musical blowouts. And with such audacity at hand, the payoff throughout the series is all so worth it.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx

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