Another entry in the “disappointing” category. This anime was yet another one that had some really interesting ideas and really cool stuff, but failed in execution. It felt like something of a bait-and-switch – the first two episodes set up a really different sort of anime from what it ended up becoming. Unfortunately, the strongest point of the anime, the action, was really under-utilized.
Purpose: Poor. They had some really strong ideas in there, they just couldn’t find the right way to go about displaying it. Essentially, we follow four nobodies who try to help other people solve their problems. This is a fairly standard setup, which would have been okay if the anime was what the first two episodes promised to be – an action-type anime with a supporting character drama. The action really was the strongest point of the anime with some really neat and interesting scenes, often with supporting music going along. However, the reason the purpose failed was that they didn’t focus on their strengths. They focused too much on the girls, which was a problem because the girls weren’t developed very well. The reason this focus was improper is because the girls, being nobodies, had little role to play in the anime. That said, if done well, it is completely okay to have the “main characters” be little more than plot delivery devices. Essentially the camera follows them around so that we get a limited perspective with which we get to learn about everything else, which is really interesting. For this to work, the characters are supposed to have as little presence as possible so that they merely serve as the rope that connects disparate plot points What happened in Rolling Girls was that the cameraman was effectively getting in the way of other, more interesting things, which is unforgivable.
Characters: Poor. These characters actually were non-entities for the most part. The fact that they were bland and forgettable is what is supposed to happen in this kind of anime. On a general note, they did serve their role as tying plot together, acting as a substitute for storytelling. That part was sort of competent. Everything around them, from the world to the characters at the center of the plotlines, was more interesting. Characters that are involved in the plots are decently developed enough to make them worth paying attention to. If it were just as I described it, then this element would be Good. The problem was that they spent far too much time trying to develop our “main” characters. This really hurts just about everything else because every minute devoted to those girls was a minute taken away from the interesting world or the interesting “bests.”
Since the anime tried to develop them, we’re forced to evaluate them as characters rather than storytelling “glue.” In this regard, they utterly fail. We get very little information about the characters other than they are weak and powerless. Even at the end, all we really knew is that they were sort of on a journey to help others (just because) and to possibly become “bests.” They were the bungling-meddler character type that really is served best by having one, not four. In effect, they really only sort-of helped situations, often in spite of themselves. Even so, there wasn’t really any rhyme or reason for their actions, other than they (and not even all of them) felt obligated to help others out. One other problem with these characters is that they were a bit inconsistent. The best example is the character that wants to be a “best.” She’s surprisingly blase about getting those stones to become a “best” until the end, when it serves as a cheap excuse to add some tension into the group.
World: Very Good. There was some really cool stuff here. There was the interesting breakup of the world into, basically, vigilante groups. That set the stage for some really interesting fights. The fights themselves were often highly stylized, in a Kill-la-Kill-esque style. Sadly, the fights were often too short and too far in between to really mean something. Aside from the fighting, each of the areas that the girls visited had a distinctive feel and flavor. Generally, these were caricatures of those areas, but that is part of the world’s charm. The varied settings provided very interesting backdrops for the plots to play out. With that said, there were some problems with the world, especially near the end. The main problem was that it got a little bit into jump-the-shark territory, where random stuff just started happening. The random stuff necessitated an expansion of the world into areas that lacked the foundation built upon earlier in the anime, so were shaky as a result.
Plot: Decent. If by plot you mean the things that happen to affect the world and the other non-main characters, then the plot was Good. If you mean the plots directly involving the main characters, they were Not Really Good. The plots around the non-main characters were fairly bland to start out, but got stronger as the anime went on, to a point. That point was where things just started to get random. The fact that they were random is because they didn’t create logical steps to where they were going. Things appearing out of nowhere or “just because” often can be attributed to poor storytelling, but in this case it was because there were missing plot elements.
Storytelling: Weak. One problem with the storytelling was addressed above – mainly that they focused too much on the girls. Another problem was that the connections between plot points were often lazy and inconsistent. This also stemmed from the improper focus. Since they spent so much time on the girls, they had to leap from plot point to plot point. This created large gaps in the storytelling to the point that it couldn’t hold together any longer. Basically, the ship was already sinking under the weight of wasted time. Once it reached the critical point, they just started throwing things in there without any support. That was the “jump the shark” point. Normally you need the storytelling to set up the kind of world so that even if really crazy things happen, it’s not a surprise, but a logical extension of where the world was going. Think of Gurren Lagann – they set up such a crazy “world” that where the anime ended up was crazily over the top instead of just being random. In other words, it made sense for the world.
Pace: Decent. This anime was oddly slow. Again, everything ties back into focusing on where they shouldn’t have. The good stuff was interesting enough and fast enough to keep the pace from being annoying, though.