For every anime series, nailing that first episode is crucial. In that time, the viewer has to be sold not only on what they’re seeing in the present, but be reassured that it’s worth investing in future instalments. For any story with a pre-determined length however, keeping that momentum throughout its run can be a challenge – as evidenced even by Netflix’s Marvel shows. How people will remember a story however, isn’t determined just by the beginning or the end, but how we got there – which brings us to Amagi Brilliant Park.
Helmed by Yasuhiro Takemoto (Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid), Kyoto Animation’s latest fantasy romcom opens with a striking, memorable scene of narcissistic protagonist Seiya Kanie being held at gunpoint by fellow student Isuzu Sento, who insists the two go on a date to the titular theme park. Finding it in a state of utter disrepair, Kanie is coerced into stepping in as manager, with the tall task of attracting 250,000 visitors in 3 months, or facing closure.
Unemployment isn’t the only tragedy the park’s employees will face however. For the cute mascots aren’t just guys in suits; a large number of employees actually hail from the magical kingdom of Maple Land, with the park a means of harvesting Animus (a power born from joy), to ensure their survival.
One thing that immediately stood out to me about Amagi Brilliant Park, is how it wastes no time in establishing that the three core mascots – the bear Moffle, sheep Macaron and pink dog Tiramy, are far from what we expect theme park mascots to be like. For example, Moffle’s prone to violence and Tiramy’s a repulsive pervert. With the early appeal of this show being how unappealing its cast is despite their family-friendly surroundings, I can only call it a disappointment that the series utterly failed to capitalise on this and unfortunately, largely becomes what it set out to parody. The series gives occasional small glimpses at what could have been, like risqué one-liners, Sento showing interest in the videos of an AV actress and the cuddly-appearing Macaron making reference to a custody battle, but instead the main stage is given to childlike episodic stories including an attempted pirate invasion (seal pirates are cute though) and with morals taken straight out of kid shows (I’m looking at you Elementario).
As alluded to earlier, Amagi Brilliant Park suffers from irregular pacing that is especially noticeable near the series’ halfway point, with the focus shifting from a heavy story focus to the development and introduction of more characters. The series recovers somewhat towards the end, but stumbles with a climax executed an episode too early, which is followed by an incredibly cringe-worthy finale better served as an OVA or honestly, not existing at all (which is then followed by an actual OVA).
Like most Kyoto Animation series’, where Amagi Brilliant Park truly shines is in its characters. In a medium drowned in recycled stock roles, the cast feels wonderfully fresh even when ignoring the unusual aesthetics of most. Despite the stories they’re in being decidedly average, I was left with a longing to spend more time at the theme park, with the colourful cast who work there.
Ultimately, Amagi Brilliant Park is a fun, entertaining ride that fans of the studio’s other slice-of-life offerings are sure to enjoy, but I just can’t shake the feeling that perhaps there was a more memorable story to be told with its unique premise and characters.
Title: Amagi Brilliant Park
Production: Kyoto Animation
Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment
Platform(s): DVD / Blu-ray (Combi Pack)
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray
Released: Out Now!
Disclosure: A copy of Amagi Brilliant Park was supplied by Animatsu Entertainment, the distributor, for the purposes of this review.