One day Kanie Seiya is forced by the mysterious transfer student Isuzu Sento on a date to visit an amusement park named Amagi Brilliant Park (by pointing him with a gun), a place which is in serious financial trouble and about to be closed forever. To save the park from closing, Seiya is hired by the owner, Latifah Fleuranza, to use his skills in entertainment to become its new manager. However, to not lose the land to a real estate agency, they have only three months left to attract 250,000 visitors, a feat that seems impossible given the park's current situation.
I'm a big fan of Shoji Gatoh, both as a Light Novel author (Full Metal Panic!) and as an Anime scenarist (Hyouka) so when an adaptation of his latest work, Amagi Brilliant Park was announced I got pretty excited (been hyping the series since January 2014 when it was first announced) so I went into the series with really high expectations. Was the hype and the wait worth it?
It's not a Fairy Tale
Amagi Brillant Park sounds like the place where dreams should come true and fairy tales would come to life, but the cast is just full of weirdos. We have the stoic, expressionless and lacking common sense Isuzu, the frail and kind owner of the park Latifah, the 4 Elementario Fairy girls with very distinctive and dysfunctional personalities and the rest of the park staff which is full of "unique" personalities not to mention our main character, the extreme narcissist Kanie Seiya and the cast keeps growing as series progresses. Despite this, the series manages to take all this weird personalities and make them work really well together to deliver a nice slapstick drama with a very unique and fresh setting. Characters keep growing throughout the series and some of them become very likable at the end of the show.
Moffle, Macaron and Tiramie
While the cast is incredibly balanced and entertaining overall, the ones that steal the show are the three main mascot characters from the park, Moffle the fairy of sweets who is actually hot headed and very violent, Macaron the fairy of music who has a short temper and has some very complex family problems (like not paying child support for his daughter) and Tiramie the fairy of flowers who has a perverted personality and states he likes T&A (I had to search what this meant). Their very dysfunctional personalities are a great source of humor and you can't help but chuckle whenever they're on the screen with their ridiculous schemes and their awesome and weird conversations.
Shoot first, ask questions later
This is a slapstick comedy and one of the best in recent memories in that regard. The Anime relies a lot on the visuals aspect of the comedy, using things like characters getting shot very often, the mascot being kicked by kids, or the elementary school kids weird obsession with torturing Isuzu which is not a saint herself as she's probably one of the best exponents of the Shoot first, ask questions later characters. It never fails to catch you by surprise and make you laugh like crazy at the results. It does have a little problem, but I'll get to that later.
Nice Mix of Comedy and Drama
While the characters are all a source of humor we can't forget that they're actually struggling to save their home (the park) and the Anime manages to mix both genres pretty well. Even if you're laughing the series manages to remind you that their future is at stake and those moments are delivered in a very natural way. They go through some hardships that makes them grow as characters and make you appreciate those funny moments all the more
Pleasant to the Eye
Kyoto Animation does it again. Good looking comedies are probably what they do best. This series very pleasant to look at and a visual treat. The animation is pretty fluid and the color palette is pretty vivid and very fitting to the overall atmosphere of the series. The characters are well designed, and the facial expressions are very detailed, particularly during the drama sequences. Special mention goes to the opening, which is probably one of the best-looking openings this season.
Speaking of music, the soundtrack of Amagi is a very solid effort by Shinkichi Mitsumune. In particular the pieces used during the drama scenes are very fitting and mix well with the atmosphere. While it won't win any award it does a great job of in helping bring out the mood. Once again special mention goes to the incredibly catchy opening song "Extra Magic Hour" by AKINO with bless4
Hit and Miss
One of the problems with Slapstick comedy in particular is the fact that the same visual gag is reused many times (Isuzu shooting someone for example) so by the end of the series it starts to feel a little stale. While the characters grow throughout the series their personal quirks mainly stay the same so it can become a little repetitive. Also even while the comedy is great most of the time there are some jokes that don't work very well specially in the mid-chapters and some characters that showed promise are swiftly forgotten and only used once to deliver a particular joke
Middle Ground Fanservice
Let me get this out of the way first. I don't mind fanservice at all as long as the series doesn't forget about the plot to give us boobs and panty-shots (I'm looking at you Maken-ki), but AmaBuri has some troubles in this regard. While this is the first KyoAni show that isn't coy with fanservice in a while, it feels like the Director couldn't decide if being as detailed and bold as the source material or foregoing it completely so he decided to stay in between, but what we got comes out as awkward or even out of place/intrusive, specially some scenes in Episode 3. It is a minor complaint in my part, but be warned.
*Skip to the next section if you want to avoid spoilers* Don't get me wrong, I like the final Episode (For me the final episode is episode 12, episode 13 feels more like a bonus or something you will find as an extra on the DVD/BR release) and seeing how the characters save the day, showcasing how much they have changed and how far they're willing to go to save their home. The fact that even after saving the park the series makes you feel the impeding doom and sadness of knowing that even if they managed to save the park Latifah will lose her memories of the past year was a great achievement, so the way that matter goes resolved in a very Deus Ex Machina-like manner felt rushed, unnatural and a waste of potential (I mean the Animus thing made sense, but the magic tree explanation comes out of nowhere and resolves the matter just by appearing at the last moment)
At the end of the day Amagi Brilliant Park is Slapstick drama that it's easy to watch despite having some flaws. It has a very interesting premises, a very likable cast of characters, a great sense of humor, it looks awesome, has a decent soundtrack and it manages to blend the comedy and drama pretty well, but at the end of the day it can feel repetitive, fails in execution at a very specific part and some people won't tolerate the humor in it.
This review is not enough Amagi for you? Then here, have some fun and hopefully interesting facts for further reading to help you to get to know the AmaBuri universe better!
- As you may have noticed, Amagi Brilliant Park was not licensed for streaming and it doesn't seems like it will receive an official English DVD/BD release. Do you know what was the last KyoAni show that wasn't streamed and neither received an official English release of any kind? That would be Hyouka (Chuunibyou first season and Tamako Market, while were not streamed, received official English DVD released) a show that was directed by Yasuhiro Takemoto (same as Amagi) and the Series Composition was in charge of Shoji Gatoh (author of Amagi). Coincidence? Who knows...
- Speaking of that, this is the fourth Anime series in which Yasuhiro Takemoto and Shoji Gatoh have worked together, the other three being Hyouka, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu and Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. Also they brought Fumihiko Shimo to work on the script for Amagi. Shimo held the same position in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu and Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid and worked alongside Takemoto in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya so they have a lot of experience working together.
- As stated above the Anime is "based" on the Light Novel series by Shoji Gatoh as they actually only adapt the first novel, but to fill the spaces in between they use plot points from other volumes (The Elementario Fairies arc, the Dragon and the part-time workers are from latter volumes of the novel)
Some other changes are made to the original plot, like Kanie having to attract 250,000 customers by the time he's hired (100,000 in the novel/manga) and Latifah not being blind in the Anime (at least not stated otherwise)
- The Anime LOVES to be creative with names: Aside from the obvious references in the names of the mascots a lot of characters names are based on the name of famous rap and hip hop artists. Our MC Kanie Seiya name comes from Kanye West (Seiya is written with the Japanese character for West), Isuzu Sento name comes from 50 Cent (Isuzu can be read as 50 bells), Latifa Fleureanza derives from Queen Latifah, Seiya's aunt, Aisu Kyuubu makes an obvious reference to Ice Cube, Ashe the accountant lady name comes from Usher and the head of the Amagi group Kurisu Takaya name makes reference to Chris Tucker
The name of the part time workers in the order they are introduced? Adachi Eiko, Bandou Biino, and Chuujou Shiina. A little knowledge of Japanese pronunciation and it should be clear what they were trying to do.
- Moffle, the most popular and charismatic mascot of the park holds an uncanny resemblance to Bonta-kun the mascot character of the FMP series, a character who became famous as the official mascot of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu Anime, a teddy bear-like mascot of an amusement park called Fumo Fumo land (foreshadowing?). That of course is no coincidence as Gatoh states that he borrowed the design with the approval of FMP illustrator Shiki Douji. At the same time it is said that Bonta-kun design is inpired on Gonta-kun, the mascot of Japanese kids show Dekirukana (できるかな) , a show that was actually somewhat popular in some Latin America countries (like mine)
Speaking of moffle, it is stated in Volume 3 of the novel that his human form is identical to Aragorn from Lord of the Rings
- During episode 6, one of the girls who is interviewed for a part-time worker spot (Adachi Eiko) states that she has experience as an AV actress. In Japan AV normally means Adult Video so Tiramie, Macaron and even Kanie think that she is a former porn actress. Almost at the end of the episode it is revealed that AV meant Animal Video and we're shown the video of a Horse is giving birth). During a Fantasia Bunko Daisankashasai show, Shoji Gatoh stated that his original intention was indeed make Eiko a former Adult Video (porn) actress but that his editor got pretty mad and made him change that part for the one with the play on words we finally got.
Curiosly enough that is not the only instance where he got censored, as he states in the afterworkd of volume 3 of the novel that he wanted to cram as much fanservice as possible into the adaptation, but director Takemoto shot down most of his suggestion.
- NSFW links follow, you've been warned: The Light Novel illustrator Yuka Nakajima (of PapaKiki fame) is actually part of a Doujin circle called Digital Underground (NSFW). She actually drew an adult-only Amagi brilliant Park Doujin (NSFW) to sell on Comiket 87, an event where Isuzu was probably the most featured character (NSFW).