Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Anime Review: Rokka Braves of the Six Flowers

And now we get to the "this wasn't nearly terrible enough to drop it but boy did it have problems" series from the summer anime season. Just about all of these titles had one big thing in common, they started strong and then slowly started to stagger with different amounts of crashing and burning.

Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers

Despite being an ordinary man without even the magical powers of a saint, Adlet is quick to call himself the strongest man in the world and it's no surprise to him that he is one of the six chosen heroes sent to battle the reawakened demon lord. It is a bit of a surprise to his companions but they have another problem at hand, there are always six braves awakened to save the world but this time around there are seven of them. One of their number is a fake and will kill to keep it a secret.

I was drawn to the story because of it's Meso-American setting and designs which is arguably more unique than it's light novel plotting. The shows backgrounds peak very early on the show and then start looking a bit mushy later on, both because the area the characters are locked into is misty and because it's very obvious that the show spent too much time with elaborate animations early on and barely left themselves enough time for the later episodes. There's at least one full episode where the characters looked off model 80% of the time, including close up shots! The character designs are also a little odd, on the one hand I can buy into Nachetanya's design as a bunny warrior, a la eagle and jaguar warriors from the real Aztecs, but then there's the fact that both Fremy and Goldof are uncomfortably bare-chested and that every single character's aesthetic looks completely alien from the others, ie like they aren't even from the same country. I'm not sure if the Meso-American backgrounds (and the accompanying, similar background character designs) come from the anime or the light novels but the main character designs came from the light novels so I do wonder if that's part of the reason it feels so disjointed.

To speak about the actual story, I did not expect it to either turn into a murder mystery, (which was fine) or a locked room story for 2/3rds of the story (which was less fine). I have been told that if the anime had covered two volumes instead of just one it would have ended on an even worse cliffhanger, which is hard to imagine, but having this story drag so long really hurt the story. I couldn’t believe that this happened over only two or so days, it felt both too stuffed and like the story was spinning it's wheels at the same time. Many of the twists/reveals ultimately didn’t feel as “right” as they should have, they made a kind of sense but it also felt like Adlet was almost godlike, because so many of his crazy theories turned out to be true. I'm also not a fan of mysteries that the viewer can't solve, some of the theories thrown out there involved parts of the magical system that weren't previously introduced to the viewer and other characters, so yes I do consider that to be another strike against the show.

To touch on one of the big twists slightly more (no spoilers though!), I did find out rather early on who the seventh brave was and, even knowing that, that didn't make solving the mystery any easier. I'm in two minds about this, one is that all of the characters are rarely rarely alone so it makes sense that the mole was constantly lying to those around them. However, again since there were barely any signs of this (the character even goes out of their way to act contrary to their own plan) this is not a solvable mystery for the viewer and I feel that this is important. And finally, on a related note, the series ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which I promptly spoiled myself on after watching, and with that new information in mind as well, this reveal makes even less sense, at this point I would argue that the narrative itself is actively lying to the viewer! 

I am half interested in seeing more of the story just to see if this can pull itself together but, this series didn't sell very well. Heck, on the US side of things, distributor PonyCan announced that they would be experimenting with releasing both a LE and regular version of the show to see what kind of model works best for them, they canceled the regular version only a month and a half before the release. This just isn't the kind of show that any kind of extra (artbooks, soundtracks, posters, etc) would make me pick up basically premium singles for it so I can't say that I'll be contributing to the sales myself. 

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