Amagi Brilliant Park (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray/3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running Time: 361 Minutes approx.
Release Date: June 19th
So, the new transfer student approaches you for the first time, completely out of the blue, and asks if you will accompany her on a trip to an amusement park. Oh and she’s pointing an ornate loaded shotgun into your face. Well, it would be rude not to accept, wouldn’t it?
This is the situation narcissistic high school student Seiya Kanie finds himself in, assuming that his gun-toting admirer Isuzu Sento is merely responding to her hormones in approaching him. Instead, Isuzu has a rather unusual motive for demanding Seiya’s company. The amusement park in question is Amagi Brilliant Park (known hereafter as AmaBri) which has suffered a downturn in fortunes of late.
Apparently, a prophecy foretold of saviour for the park and that just happens to be Seiya. The park manager, Princess Latifah Fleuranza, asks Seiya to assume the role of manager and boost business again. Latifah kisses Seiya and passes on the magical ability to read minds. Through this, Seiya learns that the park needs to bring in 500,000 customers before July 31st of face being shut, and agrees to help.
It probably hasn’t escaped your notice from the above plot summary that AmaBri isn’t your average amusement park, although given such a fertile premise that doesn’t strictly apply to the series itself. Despite staying within the safety net of anime conventions, there is enough silliness and esoteric characters to make it stand out among the mire of production line shows that have arrived in recent years.
The reality is that it is the characters that drive this show with the story being largely a functional backdrop for the amusing hijinks and occasional dalliances with light drama to play out against. In true anime style however, some of the episodes do little to actually advance the story and serve as vehicles to give members of the expansive supporting cast a moment in the spotlight.
Originally a light novel series created by Shoji Gatoh, AmaBri tends to throw a lot of ideas against the wall and sees what sticks. For starters the dichotomy of vain Seiya and super serious Isuzu is your basic high school comedy set-up, the latter bypassing the tsundere mode and going straight to developing a secret crush on Seiya. They actually work well as a pair but Seiya is too consumed with his work and himself to notice anyone fancying him.
Perhaps the most contrived aspect is the presence of magic. Princess Latifah and all the staff at AmaBri are all exiles from the magical world called Maple Land, where Latifah was cursed by a wizard, the full extent of which is revealed late in the show’s run. The mascots that inhabit the park are also magical beings and not people in suits, using their bespoke skills to make up an attraction.
Top of the list is the most engaging mascot, Moffle, AmaBri’s star attraction. A sarky mouse-like chap and Latifah’s uncle, he is many anime tropes rolled into one – pervy, hot headed, quick witted, gregarious and strict – stealing the show from Seiya and Izusa, who presumably dominates the DVD cover to make this an easier sale for male fans, when by rights Moffle is the star.
Other mascots include a musical sheep, a pink dog florist and a sensitive blue crocodile along with Triken the Triceratops head of sales, the handyman who is a wrench and the cook who is a chunk of meat! Seiya and Isuza are not the only humans at the park – head of accounts is the busty blonde Ashe and Okuro the security guard hides behind a wrestling mask.
Another popular attraction is the female idol group Elementario, four girls representing the elements – water fairy Muse, ditzy wind fairy Sylphy, stoic Kobory and bored Salama, who get an episode to themselves when their tem work is required to save the day. Later Seiya employs excitable Bino, nervy Shino and nice girl Eiko who used to work in AV (wait for the double pay off of that gag).
The thirteen episodes and bonus OVA are mostly dedicated to the ongoing strategies employed to make the magic 500,000 visitors pass through the main gates and it is a steady fight, some ideas being a success, others working through serendipity and happenstance. Much fun is had along the way but it is only in the last few chapters where the drama and gravity of the deadline is amplified to the limit, undermined a little by the climax occurring in the penultimate episode, leaving the finale to be a piece of extraneous fluff.
Woefully understated is the personal journey Seiya goes on, namely the dissipation of his vanity in favour of putting others first. A quick mention near the end is all we get, proving insufficient in charting Seiya’s improvement. Given more prominence though is the extolling of the virtue of teamwork and communal problem solving, as well as the mutual respect it engenders.
KyoAni handle the production of this title and really, the mascots are the only real standouts in terms of character design with the human models very much indistinguishable from other shows. The personalities of the mascots are extremely vital in making them such memorable figures of fun, perhaps the only saving grace of the humans.
With the enticing dark humour of the aforementioned opening scene serving as a great hook, it is a shame that a lot of what follows is by-the-book antics, complete with mild fans service and hackneyed set-ups. Thankfully the irreverence isn’t eradicated totally and the show as it is best when its tongue is in its cheek and the rulebook is thrown out the window.
Amagi Brilliant Park is quirky enough to win over most anime fans and provides much amusement and controlled chaos as one series can deliver. A little less reliance on convention and more anarchy and this could have been a future classic but remains a fun ride nonetheless.
English Language 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Disc 2 only (Blu-ray):
“Extra Magic” International Mix
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Ending Animation
Limited Collector’s Edition
Rigid Collectors Box
Set of Art Cards
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black