In the wake of Kill la Kill in 2013, anime has become a lot freer in convention and expression; studios have been inspired to let loose with their visuals and truly go nuts! Two years later, we are beginning to see the impact the Trigger produced show has had on anime. The Rolling Girls gets the ball…rolling.
The Rolling Girls takes place in an alternative timeline where Japan has been split into its respective prefectures following the “Great Tokyo War”; the central government has disappeared leaving behind a divided nation free to express itself without politicians and bureaucracy. In the midst of this, each prefecture has flourished and began to develop a unique identity and feel. Ten years after this happening, Japan is a very different place; it looks like a child has gone to town with a box of crayons and paint. Wow. Wit Studio, the developers of this show, didn’t hold anything back here! However, things aren’t as rosy as they seem or look. Despite the lack of political warfare, gang mentality has sprouted up and vigilante groups constantly roam the streets where two types of citizens have emerged – The Best and the Rest. The Best fight in an explosion of colour and no blood whereas the Rest watch on and aren’t permitted to fight; merely there to support the Best. Enter Nozomi, our main character, whose best friend Masami is the masked warrior known as Maccha Green. After battling a Best-for-hire, Shigyo, both fighters are incapacitated and their special heartstones are confiscated. Whilst in the hospital, Nozomi vows to find more of these heartstones and bring stability to the region of Tokorozawa.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, Wit Studio has produced a show which is heavily influenced by the modern classic Kill la Kill in many ways. These range from overall flair, action, art style and characters for the most part. However, it’s not as violent nor as polished. The Rolling Girls is a competent show which shows a great amount of effort and complexity in terms of on-screen content but it lacks something when it comes to the overall story. You have to pay attention in the opening half of the first episode or else you’re going to get lost and it’s easy to do so; there’s so much going on in front of you that it doesn’t take much to be disorientated and resulting in you having to pause and go back. Heavy exposition and a lot of standing around is to be expected in this show, or at least in this first arc. Things did settle down but I felt a disconnect; the vivid world I saw in the opening sequence clashed with the traditional view of Nozomi’s town in Tokorozawa. Was I in the same country? I wasn’t sure. Its locations are too jumbled up to make sense and you have to think carefully which hinders enjoyment overall. I think that The Rolling Girls needs a little more comedy in order to establish itself; its bright atmosphere lends itself to becoming a pastiche of Kill la Kill and acting as a satirical take on an already satirical show. Hmm. Double satire?
I will give this show credit for being a lot more distinctive than shows I’ve seen in the past but the important thing to remember is that the main character Nozomi is the focus here, not Masami or Maccha Green. The initial battle was used to illustrate the vigilante mentality at play in this world. When Nozomi ventures forth across Japan with her band of merry gals [Chiaya, Ai and Yukina] we begin to understand that this is more of a quest-driven series AND explains the Rolling part of the show’s title; these girls are on the road and meeting different leaders of prefectures and illustrating just how Japan has been torn asunder and started anew. This is a voyage of discovery and I get that Nozomi…just not with her crew. They don’t seem particularly skilled; Chiaya is a mono-syllabic girl who happens to have a stone, Yukina is the clumsy one with a poor sense of direction and Ai punched someone and is looking for attention. Yeah, not the most compelling team but that means that there’s the opportunity for them to improve fast…or stagnate, hopefully the former. When we get to Tokyo itself, we are greeted with the visage of the Tokyo Big Sight where the Japanese Comiket convention takes place twice a year; its purpose now is the hub of the Tokyo prefecture where cosplay is the dominant trend and has carved out new Tokyo’s identity. I found this amusing and I felt that this originality should’ve been carried over into Tokorozawa but alas no. Perhaps that town’s blandness is meant to mirror Nozomi and her trip will help define herself in the world. That’s a cool idea and I hope that remains the case. It’s a curious notion.
The Rolling Girls is a long-term investment. You need to wait a little bit before the pay-off arrives. You’re thrown a lot of plot in the first episode and it tends to fall back in the second and then resurge again. It’s an undulating experience but one with potential. It’s not a cash-in of Kill la Kill that’s for sure; it’s different enough to hold its own and warrant a watch but it needs to work its characters hard in order to generate a worthwhile experience.
The Rolling Girls is available to stream at Funimation.
RATING: CONTINUE [Confusing but interesting.]
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