Lycoris Recoil Review: The Police State Will be Run by Anime Girls

Directed by Shingo Adachi

Produced by A-1 Pictures

Streaming on Crunchyroll

Tone is vital to storytelling. What feeling is the writer attempting to evoke in their audience? Do they want you to laugh or cry? Does the music, animation, voice acting, and script come together to form a cohesive whole?

If they don’t, it could ruin the entire project. A drama that is overshadowed by jokes isn’t taking itself seriously, and your audience will feel as though you’re mocking them for trying to take it seriously. A comedy that’s not funny or a horror that’s not scary just sound pointless. When creating anything, the first question you should ask is, “What do I hope to accomplish with this?”

So, when I tell you that this season’s Lycoris Recoil is a moe slice-of-life joint with frequent breaks for being a hardboiled action thriller, I have to communicate the importance of balancing tone. Great anime can be ruined by jarring changes in moodl Code Geass was infamous for whiplash-inducing shifts between war crimes and school life comedy. The Misfit of Demon King Academy kinda forgot that it was an absurdist comedy and tried to demonstrate its dramatic chops…and failed.

But that doesn’t mean two dissonant tones can’t work together; they simply have to be working towards the same goal. Apparently cute anime girls working at a café and a dystopian police state where the public is gaslit into believing crime doesn’t exist is the anime equivalent of peanut butter and chocolate.

In the future, wars will not be fought with tanks or drones. Peace in Japan will be ensured by countless agents working in the shadows, whose work can never see the light of day. That’s because the Japanese government has entrusted law enforcement to a bunch of teenage girls while pretending that their Minority Report surveillance system is stopping all the crime.

But when you see an innocent girl in her school uniform like Takina, you have to let your guard down; I mean, how could she possibly be capable of mowing down thugs in a hostage situation with a machine gun? If you made the mistake of thing that, your sole saving grace is that you won’t live long enough to regret it. Takina gets booted from central command, though, seeing as her excuse of “I didn’t shoot the hostage, I just shot at the hostage,” didn’t fly.

Now, she has to work her way back up the ladder and learn under Chisato, one of the agency’s greatest assets. It turns out that her senpai is also a bit of a genki girl who would rather be actually working at a café and having sleepovers and stuff. But not Takina, she’s a stone cold killer, and she will never almost certainly wind up getting into wacky hijinks with Chisato at the café between missions. Nope, nosirree.

At this point, I haven’t seen much evidence of a grand overarching narrative; the series has dedicated most of its early episodes fleshing out its leads and their chemistry to excellent effect. Chisato’s energy and optimism are positively infectious, and while her odd couple routine with Takina is nothing new, it demonstrates the strength of a formula done right.

Lycoris Recoil wouldn’t work if these two characters weren’t so much fun to watch. We haven’t seen much of the other characters working in the cafe or the agency so far, but if this is just thirteen episodes of Chisasto and Takina bouncing off of one another in action and slow-going moe, I’m down for it.

The side characters are probably its weakest point. Maybe because this is a moe anime, but it could really benefit from having other girls their age around. The two adults, Mika and Mizuki, don’t get a lot to do except play the occasional straight man and Mizuki’s single gag about casual alcoholism. Kurumi’s introduction in the second episode may prove me wrong here, but I’ll need to see how this plays out over the whole of the series.

This doesn’t necessarily affect my judgment of the series, as I’m speaking in terms of hypothetical problems that may crop up later. You watch so much anime, especially seasonal anime, and you get a sort of spidey-sense for all the ways a show could fall short. But, I’ve been known to be wrong before, and I’m hoping that’s the case here.

One day, I might do a write-up of all the anime and essays about anime I’ve failed to finish. Until then, I’m going to continue referencing the fabled vault of secret blog posts, because you ought to know the lore of this blog by now. Check out the wiki.

One of those pieces I’ve been trying to write is about my strained relationship with moe. I’ve heard people gush over K-On or talk about how A Place Further Than the Universe changed their life, and I just don’t get it. I’m of the opinion that if you’re not interested in a show about cute anime girls being cute and only about that, all these shows will fall flat.

And that’s weird, because I love slice-of-life, but there’s just no comparing Chihayafuru or Fruits Basket to K-On. Shifts in characters and relationships take the focus, whereas I finished the first season of K-On and struggled to remember a single thing that happened. The anime equivalent of potato chips, and I was stuck with an empty bag and not feeling full in the slightest.

Lycoris Recoil has thus far managed to avoid that particular trap by sprinkling in tense, high-octane action set pieces. By offering two vastly different sides of the show, neither wears out their welcome. By the time an action scene has run its course, I’m ready to get back to the cozy moe comedy, and vice versa.

This makes for a remarkably satisfying viewing experience, and benefits tremendously from the solid presentation. A-1 Pictures Rarely misses, but the balance between endearing character animations and exhilarating shootouts demonstrates a strong hand at the wheel. Shingo Adachi has a long history working in key animation and character design, but for his first time helming a series, he’s consistently exceeded my expectations.

You should be watching Lycoris Recoil. It’s just one of those shows that has a bit of something for everyone, and even if you’re not into everything it’s going for, you might find enough to make sticking around worth it. Of everything I’m reviewing this season, it’s probably the easiest to like and get invested in.

Lycoris Recoil picks up a rating of Entertaining Fantastic, and with that, I’m halfway done reviewing the summer lineup. Sorry, but I’m having a hard time finding new anime worth watching this season, plus I’m trying to have an easy summer before the autumn slate decimates me. Mob Psycho 100, My Hero Academia, Blue Lock (!!), Urusei Yatsura, more Spy x Family, and I haven’t even mentioned any of the low-profile anime I’ve looking forward to.

Down in the comments, why don’t you tell me about your favorite moe show and how it livens up the plot? Or you can head over to Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku where I’m probably talking about the latest episode of Lycoris Recoil and everything else I’m watching. Until next time, thanks for reading.

MediocreRWBY: Ice Queendom
FantasticLycoris Recoil

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