While legends are written by huge risks taken, sometimes the most effective way to go about things is to keep everything controlled and collected. It doesn’t matter if it is as minor a school project or as huge as a film production, the notion carries weight. With anime and a market that is always looking like it is gunning to make long running household names out of its various projects, it can be exhausting going through the same song and dance with genres as unexpected as comedies. Surely the scenario above only plays out for dramas and action anime one might presume, but it is arguably at critical mass with comedies. Every season has around half a dozen comedies at least that are stepping up to the plate with a long, long stay in the spotlight in mind. What might be the most exhausting part of this approach is that many of these shows just aren’t funny. Maybe that might sound unfair, but it is an uphill battle to argue it when it becomes clear that many of these high rollers don’t get the second seasons they were sure they would get. The biggest secret to these comedies? Most comedies that don’t get sequels frame themselves as being bigger than they are.
Be it a cliffhanger that is cheaper than a discount outlet store, or an obvious pull on potential punches thrown (ie jokes, character development etc.) that leave the taste of the comedy present pretty stale, these strikeout victims leave a whole lot to be desired in the genre. Every once and a while this approach pays off for series, but with the success so few and far between, there really is a desire for an “okay” tier comedy to come along and fit in cozily. Enter Amagi Brilliant Park, a Kyoto Animation product from the Fall 2014 season (which was on “holy crap” levels of packed in retrospect) based off of a light novel of the same name. Former child star and narcissist Kanie Seiya finds himself all but handcuffed to the responsibilities of turning the fortune around for a run down amusement park. This family thrill stop is actually inhabited by other wordy beings, however, that present their own unique challenges in management.
Despite carrying a really underwhelming story that looks picked out of something akin to a birthday cake book on display at a grocery store, this series knows the score and hits the right beats without over-reaching for anything revolutionary. Dry wit and banter ease a lot of the humor throughout and almost guarantee a chuckle or two out of the audience. There aren’t any side splitting comedy moments here, but the awareness it carries throughout to have acceptable comedy makes for a very smooth ride.
This control over its comedy leaves a lot of wiggle room for other things uncommon to comedy series. I think one of the most impressive things that Amaburi does is that it captures the real grit of managing a business/program/team in a way far more realistic than a story littered with clichés has any business doing. The best example can be found in an episode where Kanie’s assistant, Sento, struggles to adjust to her role as an assistant after getting heavily rattled in an unsuccessful stint as acting manager of the park. A lot of her body language and difficulties are textbook and go a long way in building a believable atmosphere in a tough fight with managing the park. In many regards, this kind of focus provides a much needed distraction from the “We have ‘x’ amount of time to save ‘y’ from ‘z’!!!” story that audiences are bound to have seasonally.
Another nice touch in its comedy can be found in the character’s interactions and individual developments. Rather than constantly playing pranks on one another, most of the comedy in the series is a result of a character counseling another or the usual antics co-workers get into when they really should be working. It is pretty well played when two people slacking off can be both funny and beneficial to the story being told. Something so childish looking as the character Moffle actually serves to give a deep dive of a working man’s soul.
Once it is all said and done, on paper Amagi Brilliant Park is a really confusing pitch- it has an alarming amount of mcguffins to combat the conflict in the story, lots of small laughs, and a weird amount of character development for the various staff members of the park. However at only thirteen episodes (twelve really if the viewers want the main story), it knows exactly what it is and doesn’t demand too much time to enjoy. Compared to the over-reaching comedies anime fans are fatigued of seeing, this series gives a couple nights’ worth of steady laughs and hits the trail without expecting much else. There won’t be a parade for it, but it’ll be far away from anyone’s hated list.