We're sampling all the new pilots this Winter. Check out our thoughts on...
- JOJO'S - BATTLE IN EGYPT ** ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM ** DEATH PARADE
- MARIA THE VIRGIN WITCH ** YATTERMAN NIGHT
Due to the fact that the list of things I enjoyed about “The Rolling Girls” episode 1 was relatively brief, this review shall be correspondingly brief.
First and foremost, allow me to start with the positive. The art and animation for this episode were positively stunning. The director of the series, Deai Kotomi (who has worked on such shows as “Ergo Proxy” “Silver Spoon” and “Michiko to Hatchin”) clearly put a great deal of energy into making sure this show’s visual design. And as a result, audiences who sit down to watch episode one will be rewarded with a treat for the eyes. Incredibly fluid motion. A vivid color palette. Lovingly detailed backgrounds that add a sense of warmth and ambiance to nearly every scene. And well-drawn characters with lively movements and great facial expressions that can convey a wide range of emotions whether the characters are playing, fighting, or just sitting and eating ramen.
The negative: Everything else.
This show’s characters may have been enjoyable to look at, but they were nearly all as dumb as rocks. The villain of this episode had exactly 2 intelligent thoughts over the course of this pilot, (and I’m using a VERY broad definition of the word “Intelligent” here). This may not sound like much, but was still enough to allow her to triumph over the heroes (who had 0 intelligent thoughts during this pilot).
Why do I say this? For that, let us explore the bizarre, disjointed, meandering, confused narrative that (again, using very broad definitions) we will call the story.
“Rolling Girls” takes place in a near future where Japan is no longer a unified country, but rather has broken down into a series of fiefdoms (which are each controlled by a local gang called a “Mob) who battle each other for territory and power. So far so good. I’m on board. But the logic problems start piling up when the show introduces the super-powered heroine “Macha-Green.” (For those checking their watches, this is about 2 minutes into the episode.)
You see, it seems that each of the mobs fighting for control of Japan employs a “BEST,” a super-powered hero (or villain, depending on your point of view) to fight on their behalf. Exactly when where how or why these BESTS obtained their super-powers is never really explained, but that’s the least of the show’s story problems.
The protagonist of the show, Nozomi Morimoto (who did absolutely NOTHING to advance the plot in any way shape or form, and as far as I can tell is only the protagonist because she takes up the most space on the show’s promotional posters) idolizes Macha-Green, the BEST who is in charge of defending Nozomi’s neighborhood. Nozomi very much wants to be introduced to the masked superheroine, but when she asks her neighbor “MA-CHAN” (who sounds exactly like Macha-Green, is about the same height and build as Macha-Green, and who is the person in the community who always runs off to find Macha-Green whenever there’s trouble, and who is never seen in the same place as Macha-Green, but who Nozomi never suspects might be Macha-Green because… the people in this world are kind of dumb) Ma-Chan refuses, saying the world of BESTS is too dangerous for a civilian like Nozomi to get directly involved in. Instead, Ma-Chan advises Nozomi to let Macha-Green handle the super-villains while Nozomi sticks with what’s safe: Working for the neighborhood mob at the local community center downtown.
A safety recommendation that…sort of makes sense? Until…GASP…horror of horrors, the super-villain BEST who’s been employed by an enemy fiefdom deduces Macha-Green’s secret identity…due to the fact that she discovered Macha-Green’s superhero mask JUST SITTING RIGHT OUT IN THE F@%&ING OPEN in the sidecar of Ma-Chan’s motorcycle after Ma-Chan carelessly left it lying there for any looky-loo passing by on the street to see!
(P.S. Connecting the dots and realizing that there was a very high likelihood that the owner of Macha-Green’s mask might…y’know…be Macha-Green was intelligent thought #1 for the villain. It’s not exactly a Sherlock Holmes level deduction, but it still puts her one step above of anybody else in this show.)
Intelligent thought #2 was when the villain decided to go after Macha-Green by targeting her friends and family. How did she do this? By sending an anonymous postcard to the Mob offices where Nozomi works, inviting everybody in the building to visit the local amusement park, and promising they’ll all be given free rides.
“Who sent this card?” Nozomi asks. “Why is a stranger offering us free stuff?” “Due to the fact that we live in a city where we’re effectively at war with several rival factions who want to wipe us out, should we consider the possibility that this strange unexpected invitation might be some form of trap?”
HA HA HA!! I’m just kidding. Nozomi didn’t ask any of those questions. NOBODY in the office did! Because…people in this show are kind of dumb. They all just go down to the amusement park (without telling Macha-Green about the card first) and get on a roller-coaster which…SURPRISE OF ALL SURPRISES…turns out to be booby-trapped.
As Nozomi and her friends head toward a section of roller-coaster track that’s been blown out by the villains, the credits begin to roll and…I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to care whether Nozomi will live or die in the next episode…but I kind of…don’t.
As I said before, this show is visually amazing, and if you’re one of those anime fans who likes to watch shows for the art and animation, then you’ll probably enjoy this very much. If you’re like me, and one of the major factors in whether or not you like a show is the story, “Rolling Girls” might strike you as a narrative kick in the crotch. If anybody out there in internet land wants to watch episode 2 and let me know if this story gets any better, feel free an maybe I’ll give it another shot. But as of now, I think I’m going to be Rolling along to other, more palatable shows.
Watch this pilot and decide for yourself.
(Special thanks to Hyper-User Takashichea for the screencaps)
Kaita Mpambara works every day to try and create shows, stories, and characters that are as exciting, energizing, and entertaining as the very best works that have been given to the world by both the western and eastern animation industries. Keep up with his musings on life, the universe and everything by following him on Facebook.