This is review number four hundred and eleven. This anime is part of the Fall 2014 lineup, and it’s called Amagi Brilliant Park. Oh, yes, we’re doing a KyoAni show. No more dilly dallying, this review is long, so let’s read on.
The anime follows Seiya Kanie becoming the acting manager of the theme park called Amagi Brilliant Park. He promised to revive the park till July 31st, and he plans on bringing in 500,000 guests before then. It’s an impossible task for a rundown theme park like Amaburi to achieve, but Seiya promised them that he’d perform a miracle in front of their eyes.
Taking the Pants Off
Oh boy, KyoAni. Once again, I discussed the anime to some anibloggers and it turned into a “hyping up” post. It was mostly one blogger ranting about KyoAni though, but I’m glad I’m not the only one that hates Kyoto Animation. I was around when Amagi Brilliant Park was airing though, and a lot of people love it. They hail it as “one of the best KyoAni has made”, and they even compared it to Hyouka. It’s that good, eh? For the collective masses to rejoice, then KyoAni must’ve done something right. So, I decided to see exactly how KyoAni fared after a lackluster lineup. Before we begin, let me clarify that I have seen almost the entire KyoAni lineup going into Amaburi. Aside from Free, which is really just an ecchi version of K-on (the very first male centered Ecchi anime too, so it’s a gawd damn genre defining anime), I have seen the shows that KyoAni has produced. I even saw Free’s first episode, and I ran away after the ending sequence. It was so….filthy. It’s not for me, but I do need to review it properly sometime in the far far far future. Anyways, a lot of KyoAni shows really suck. As I said in the KyoAni Brilliant Rant post, I consider the pre-K-on anime great, and post K-on anime as bad with Hyouka as the sole exception. Kyoukai no Kanata was frustratingly disappointing, Tamako Market is just bland, and is Free really a good anime? No, it is not.
So, this is me. I’m a guy dragged into the fandom by Haruhi, cried at Clannad, celebrated with KyoAni at every reference in Lucky Star, and totally agree that Fumoffu is a much better season than Gonzo’s attempt. I love Kyoto Animation. They rose through the massive fan support they garnered through good will and positivity. Once they discovered a bankable formula with K-on though, they decided to reward the fan support, who eagerly awaited Haruhi 2 for three years, with the glorious endless eight. It was a troll move. “What you gonna do? We know you guys can’t turn your back on us. We’re making the anime that you enjoy watching. We own you” that was KyoAni’s message with endless eight. And they were right. No matter how bad endless eight was, KyoAni was too good of a studio to really fail. Even if they lose the small group of core audience that understood the very first opening shot of Haruhi is a reference to Escaflowne, they have a more massive and accessible audience now. Long gone are the mild receptions for Visual Key adaptations. No, KyoAni is a giant now and they did reach that status through their own hard work. So, even after the “not so good” post K-on shows, KyoAni isn’t worried because they know they are untouchable. And the fans that cheered them on for putting Evangelion references in Nichijou’s ending theme actually did want this kind of success for KyoAni.
But, why does it have to be so bittersweet?
So, here comes Amagi Brilliant Park. A lot of people really like this anime. They claimed that it was a really good show, and it’s one of the best KyoAni anime out there. Is it really? Is it gawd damn really one of the best?
Shoka did claim the anime is “fun” though. So, is it at least “fun”?
This anime is Tamako Market with a carbon copy of Free’s main character wearing a shirt, and the Fumoffu character tricking everyone that the anime is AS funny as Fumoffu. No, it’s not. Nothing’s changed. This is still the same bland post K-on anime that KyoAni insists on doing. But this anime feels like a compromise. “Hey, I understand a lot of fans are pissed at us, so we brought back that Fumoffu character you guys love and we also have tons of fan service in this anime. We even brought back Haruhi’s director. You guys like him, right? We’re cool, right? We never forgot about you guys, so stay and have fun”.
I will not enjoy this bland and forgettable anime. But it is interesting how a lot of people immediately claim this anime as one of KyoAni’s best. I think deep down, we want KyoAni to throw us a bone as well. We want a compromise from them as well. So when KyoAni did try a compromise, we were quick to congratulate them. I think Amaburi is a sign of good will from KyoAni. They don’t need to produce an anime like this, but they did because they care about the fans. KyoAni is, indeed, reaching out to fans again. It’s a good sign that change can happen for KyoAni. Here’s my main gripe though, did they really compromise? Is the Fumoffu mascot really enough to be called a compromise? Did we really enjoy Fumoffu for its mascots?
No. F*ck KyoAni.
Ok wait, this was supposed to be a review of Amagi Brilliant Park. Well, there’s really not a lot to say about the anime. It was just like Tamako Market, but the setting is changed from a local market place to a massive theme park. I keep making the comparison to Tamako Market, because there’s really very little to distinguish the two. Aside from an annoying mascot bird, Amagi has a bunch of cute mascot characters instead. Aside from that, it’s just a large cast of zany characters doing their best to improve their local market, I mean, theme park. Of course, visually the characters do look great but they don’t really have much personality to really keep the show afloat. The anime mostly follows one fully clothed Free character doing his best to “save” the park.
The anime is about Seiya Kanie becoming the acting manager of the theme park facing closure if it does not attract 500,000 visitors in the span of 80 plus days. It’s an impossible task, but this theme park has a weird twist to it. It’s actually run by magical creatures, like fairies and such, and the mascots are actually fluffy beings with no one inside them. Their “oracle” actually prophesized that Seiya would save their park and that he would create a miracle for them. Seiya reluctantly agrees, and rested on the fact that it’s only a temporary thing. Throughout the course of the show, we mostly just follow Seiya doing his managerial duties coming up with schemes to save the park. He did ad campaigns, TV and magazine exposures, new attractions, and ensured the employees are doing their best to gather costumers. The premise is pretty straight forward, but the show is non-episodic. There is no overarching story to the anime. It just functions with its one premise, and the rest of the content is just “fun” stuff with the rest of the cast.
Bottom line is that I don’t remember much of Tamako Market. The show didn’t have a story as well, and it just functioned on a general premise about the bird being royalty. The only episode I remember in Tamako Market is the Valentines episode featuring the adorable characters being adorable characters. Aside from that, Tamako Market is a forgettable twelve episode anime. Amaburi is the same. Nothing stood out, and everything is forgettable. It had good visuals, but that’s about it.
The anime lacked content, so it isn’t really that interesting. It refused to develop a story, and it insists on focusing on the amazing visuals and cute characters. It hinted at interesting things like Seiya being a child actor, Isuzu being a former guard in their magical realm, and a hot dude in a suit waiting for the day Seiya fails at his goal, but they were mostly just used as meaningless padding. I mean, we can have an episode about the idol fairies singing and dancing, because it’s “fun”, but we can’t have a narrative to tie everything together. In the end, the anime becomes forgettable. Yeah, I love Tiramie and Macaron’s design, but they remind me of Tamako Market’s Tomio and Fumiko. It’s the same characters, basically.
And this is really why I just ranted as I open this review, there’s nothing to actually “review’ in this anime. It’s just a blander version of Tamako Market but with sexy characters. Midori Tokiwa from Tamako Market had more sex appeal than any character in Amaburi, but the lack of actual content did raise my curiosity though. Is the original source lacking as well? I decided to find out, so I spent the rest of the week just reading the original source. I plan to compare the LN to the anime, and I hope to understand Amaburi itself but also KyoAni’s approach to adaptations. This is also my first time comparing an LN to the anime, so I’m kinda excited.
First of all, the anime mostly nailed the intention of the LN. The vibe is similar to the original source. It’s mostly a “cynical” look at life, but a “hopeful” belief under that. The LN points out that dreams doesn’t actually come true, BUT that shouldn’t stop us from dreaming. It’s a very complex tone, but an interesting one for a story about a theme park – a place where dreams come true. The anime nailed this sentiment by introducing us to the rundown park in the first episode and the depressing mascots drinking beer after a hard day’s work. The theme of “dreams don’t usually come true” is delivered most powerfully through one character though: Princess Latifah.
This is the interesting part. In the anime, she’s just your typical happy girl that could very well blend into a certain light music club. In the LN, the b*tch is blind.
It was only when they were 2 to 3 steps apart when Seiya noticed—her eyes were not focused on him, but slightly above, staring blankly into the horizon far behind. Could it be that this girl is blind? While Seiya was hesitating, the girl spoke.
“Could you perhaps be Kanie Seiya-sama?”
“Eh? Yes, I am.”
As he’d guessed, she was indeed blind.
The most hopeful and overly positive girl in the entire story is literally blind. She cannot grasp the seriousness of the situation, she is clueless about everything outside her sky garden, and all her bright enthusiasm is moot because she is literally blinded by all of it. It’s very curious as to why KyoAni cut this bit out of the anime? They can’t have blind characters? Making Latifah blind spoke to her incredible character though. Even if the world ended, Latifah would be that one strong character clinging to hope and believing deep in her heart that dreams do come true. It’s a step up from the bland character in the anime. I mean, Tamako Market didn’t have a character like her, so I like her already. She’s not a KyoAni staple, and this is where the problem lies.
The KyoAni brand.
Do you believe KyoAni has an image they are adamant of protecting? Yes, this is evident from the theme of all their anime. Everyday life is fun, friendship makes everything better and a good story can never match their top notch and crisp animation. These elements have mass appeal, and they can easily be sold to people. A blind character that represents that dreams can literally blind you? No, that goes against their brand. Romance? The mass audience is not aware of that. Blood? Nope, focus on the magic of friendship. KyoAni’s brand of entertainment is unique and identifiable. This nets them huge returns, so they don’t need to change it. They won’t compromise on that, so one of the best characters in the LN needs to be turned into a more accessible character that everyone can like. Do not challenge your viewers. Do not let them leave unhappy. No thought provoking things, no deep introspections, no smart commentaries, and no forms of affection outside friendship. I ask again, where did KyoAni compromise when they gave us Amaburi? The fumoffu character?
In the LN, he’s actually less impressive.
With a clack, the door to an adjacent office opened, and the mascot in question walked out.
It was small and adorable, with its head taking up two-fifths of its height. It looked like a mouse given its rodent teeth and dark round eyes, but it had the body of a wombat, or maybe a guinea pig. Furthermore, it was wearing a chef’s hat and apron.
This is their compromise? Shoving the Fumoffu character into the show? And what did they leave out? Well, they gutted out the story, the strong characters, the narrative flow and the bigger theme of “work life” that makes the story so engaging to read. Why didn’t they just respect the original source and give us a respectable adaptation? They don’t want to. They won’t compromise on that.
Interestingly, the anime covered two volumes of the LN. A lot of the stuff in the anime happened in the original source. The only exception is the ham fisted ending, episode seven (featuring the shark and the seal mascots), and the idol trials. Everything else, from the AV girl being interviewed to Isuzu eating a heartsleeve fruit, happens in the LN as well. The big difference is the narrative flow. Despite having an actual source of the story, KyoAni didn’t adapt it. In the first volume, the park will be closed in two weeks if they can’t attract 100,000 customers. It’s the same with the anime, except there is bigger stakes in the LN. There’s also shorter time, so Seiya needed to scramble hard. The solution was still the stadium being used, but the narrative flow is extremely different in the LN. You see, realizing that the short time and high goal is impossible to achieve, Seiya needed to perform a “miracle”. He committed arson along with Moffle. He set fire to a stadium forcing the organization to use Amaburi’s stadium. They dreamed that their hard work will attract visitors and clear their goal, but in the end, it took a fire caused by electrical shortage done by Seiya himself. Loving that dream that came true yet?
Isuzu stood from a distance and gazed at the stadium that had finally come back to life. She was overwhelmed by indescribable emotions. Perhaps it could have been a sense of isolation or loneliness, but it was certainly beyond mere feelings of relief and happiness. An apt analogy would probably be like a child watching other children playing among themselves from far away.
“The people down there didn’t come for the park, fumo.”
It appeared that Moffle had come over without her noticing. He was busy manning his Sweet House the whole day and had not appeared until now. Just like Isuzu, Moffle stared into the distance towards the stadium.
“If this were a live concert, we’d only be considered the curtain-raiser, fumo. Nothing has changed…not a single bit…”
Before they knew it, the other cast members had also appeared. Having finished their job, they gazed at the stadium without saying a word. Traces of loneliness like what Isuzu had experienced could be seen in their eyes.
It’s so damn good, and it annoys me that KyoAni refused to adapt the beating heart of the original source. They worked as hard as they could, but it wasn’t enough. In the end, a pathetic miracle saved them. I wish I could’ve seen this sad scene in the anime. Also, there is a story and a lot of content. Why is the adaptation so bland and forgettable?
Anyways, the second volume features a different problem: the park is almost broke. This happened in the anime as well, but it was just a one off episode featuring the AV idol interview. In the LN, the 30 yen campaign that Seiya did is now coming back to haunt them. It ruined them. Yeah, the park isn’t closing down but they now need to act fast to ensure they don’t go bankrupt. This is where the story settled as it features the everyday working life of the characters. The narrative flow is now similar to the anime “Working” where the everyday mishaps in the workplace make up the story. It even opens with Isuzu and Muse bathing together in a public bath, since they’re saving money. Muse taught Isuzu how to scrub her body, and then they soaked in the tub together. Of course, this isn’t in the anime because it conflicts with the KyoAni brand. Oddly enough, the solution to the money problem is same one in the anime, but it was just folded into the first volume’s story. Is the narrative so bad that you needed to alter it? The LN is actually a lot better. I can understand gutting out the elements that conflict with the brand, but why did KyoAni scramble the plot and dilute it? Is it because it ruins the “fun” that they love producing? Maybe.
Anyways, the sale of the second theme park is actually a big deal for the second volume. This housed the stadium that saved their ass, and the cast members of the park also hoped to one day fill the park with so many people that they’ll use the second theme park. It’s one of their dreams, but it’s now being sold off just so they can continue as a park itself. It’s pretty gawd damn sad, and so beautifully told. The story is forcing the characters to abandon their dreams so they can literally stay alive, and it’s such an adult thing to do. They can dream all they want, but reality is a lot harsher. You kinda feel glad Latifah is blind, because she can keep dreaming without reality affecting her as harshly. This is honestly such a wonderful light novel, so I am really annoyed that KyoAni refused to respect it. Why even adapt it if you aren’t going to really adapt it? This is really why KyoAni frustrates me. They used to care about the story, like in Haruhi and Hyouka, but now they’d rather feature the “fun”. That’s not fun at all. I’d end this review with an actual excerpt from the light novel itself, and I think it nicely sums up my position about KyoAni.
“This theme park is an insult to the concept of entertainment! The management might think that entertaining guests is the same as deceiving them, but they’re wrong! In order to entertain properly, the audience should be the top priority! It isn’t something that can be half-assed; it requires true passion and will! However, I see none of that in this theme park! Not a single trace! If the cast members want to create a wonderland for the guests, they must first believe in themselves! In fact, I don’t think this park could even fool kids to begin with!
Sight and Sound
This review is long enough, so let’s just move on to the design next. Visual is where KyoAni excels in, so this is obviously a really well done aspect of the anime. Character design is amazing. In the anime, there are four fairy idols called the Elementario. Character wise, they suck but their design is really great. Muse’s water costume is cute AND sexy, and the rest of the cast are exactly like her. They’re pure eye candy of the best kind, and it does help digest a show about nothing. The mascots are even more amazing. They’re f*cking adorable and I really just watch to see Macaron and Tiramie go insane from time to time. Their round heads, cute eyes and just pure “moe” existence really makes the experience enjoyable. I’m a cynic, so I can’t enjoy the fumoffu character as much but he does nicely fit in the Amaburi setting. As for our main, Seiya, I’d accuse the anime of re-using character design, but that’s actually alright. Since Seiya has zero personality to help the show, making him look like a Free character does help a lot. It’s like the show intentionally gutted out his loner personality to make the visuals stand out. It’s like a petty BS reason to sabotage the adaptation, but I don’t care at this point. Anyways, the details are amazing. The costume design and the uniforms of the cast members stand out as well. KyoAni did a hell of a job actually bringing the characters to life. The LN has brief description of minor characters, like Wrench-kun and the three interviewees (Eiko, Biino and Shiina, literally place holder names Girl A(ko), Girl B(no) and Girl C(na)), but the anime captured every nuance description they had and improved upon it. Even their original mascots like the shark and the seals are amazingly detailed. If only they can put this much effort in the story, damn it.
Animation is also top notch. Of course, this is to be expected of KyoAni again. If they’d deliver bland and then awful animation, then they’ll really be trolling us hard with that. It’s not as detailed as the usual KyoAni style, since they were reaching a compromise. The anime is trying to bring the Fumoffu vibe to Amaburi, so the animation feels a bit rough. It’s not full on cute, so there are no high frame rate shots of a girl eating cake or blushing with cat ears. In terms of facial reactions and character movement, it is still top notch. The details of the characters are never lost, and every scene is clearly handled with care. As I always say, animation IS effort and KyoAni does effort expertly. The tone is weird, since the LN’s theme and the KyoAni brand clashes, but I do think the director tried to make something good out of the compromise. He gave us wonderful scenes reminiscent of Kyon in the SOS clubroom or Sagara Sousuke tying up the students during art class. The camera angles are different than your upfront K-on “feature the moe” style, and the mood just feels heavier without being overly serious. It’s confusing as f*ck though, but I do wish he continues giving us more of this. Fine tune it and maybe intensify it. He nailed the compromise with Hyouka, but I do understand that KyoAni doesn’t want to risk another Hyouka when the returns aren’t as promising for them. In terms of pacing though, in a specific episode, I do believe he gave us the best narrative he can make out of a script that had no narrative. Yasuhiro Takemoto is amazing, and I have massive respect for him. I do hope he continue on working with KyoAni, since he can bring them a better compromise than the sh*t show in Amagi Brilliant Park.
The anime’s OP is “Extra Magic Hour” by AKINO with bless4. The singer is apparently American born accompanied by a quartet that is also American born. So that’s a cute factoid. Akino’s voice is very aggressive though, and I love how she fights with the music. The rhythm of the song is already intense, but Akino matches that and really takes over. It’s a really good song accompanied by a really good Op sequence. It features the day to day Amaburi work life, and it introduces the cast in a brief montage. I laugh, because Latifah is introduced staring at us. I wonder how’d people who first read the LN would react to that.
The anime’s ED is “Elementario de Aimashou” by BRILLIANT4 [Sylphy (Tomoyo Kurosawa), Kobori (Shiori Mikami), Salama (Minami Tsuda), Muse (Yuuka Aisaka)]. It features the four fairy idols, and the song is pretty good. To be fair, I could not process it properly because the ED sequence features the girls half naked, with their privates covered by their respective elements. It’s super fan service heavy for KyoAni, and I am just distracted by it. I do love how they ended with Muse, the original fairy, so that’s a nice touch. Hm? There was a song?
4/10 “Bland and forgettable. This anime feels like a retread of Tamako Market. We’ve all seen it before.”
Setting aside the fact that the original source wasn’t respected, the anime’s creative routes weren’t that good in the long run. Deliberately gutting out the story ruined the series. The compelling characters were reduced to bland KyoAni cutouts, the beautiful theme of the LN is diluted and eventually ruined, and the experience is just entirely dull. There’s very little reason to actually watch this non episodic show because the payoff is non-existent. If you like to watch KyoAni for its visuals then check out K-on. The visuals in this anime are less impressive, and it lacks impact. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree, but I wholeheartedly do not recommend this.