OP: 「エクストラ・マジック・アワー」 (Extra Magic Hour) by AKINO with bless4
「お客が来ない!」 (Okyaku ga Konai!)
“Not Enough Visitors!”
I will make no great secret of the positive bias I bring with me into Amagi Brilliant Park; I think I made that clear in the preview. As far as I’m concerned (or rather, as far as my desperately optimistic delusions are concerned), the combination of Gatoh Shouji and Takemoto Yasuhiro can do no wrong. No, Amagi Brilliant Park isn’t more Full Metal Panic! and frankly anyone who is till holding their breath for more FMP! must have asphyxiated by now. On my part, I inhaled deeply and told myself that the best of FMP! was Fumoffu and that was just good comedy. We can still have good comedy. Think of it as Gatoh and Takemoto getting the band back together to give it to us, except they’re not playing their old songs. And they’re now more pop than rock. And…where’s this analogy going? Whatever.
But first, the plot
The plot of Amagi Brilliant Park departs quite sharply from Gatoh’s Full Metal Panic! and seems to have ended up as a rather curious creature. It brings several disparate elements together, piecing familiar pieces into an unfamiliar whole. On one hand we have the drama about running a business and meeting quotas, which is a down-to-earth set of conflicts, but interjected with overt magical fantasy. It’s somewhat of a mood dissonance, but at least it’s introduced fairly naturally. Did you notice that loading magic bullets and whipping muskets out of hammerspace came with their own sound effect the first we times we saw it? The developments were flagged by the subtle details you can always count on Kyoto Animation for.
From the OP, it seems like the cast is going to end up being pretty big, but we haven’t seen much of them yet, so characters like Disney Princess Latifa Fleuranza (Fujii Yukiyo) haven’t really gotten the opportunity to shine. The focus was instead on male protagonist Kanie Seiya (Uchiyama Kouki) and female counterpart Sento Isuzu (Kakuma Ai), and they have played off each other very well. It’s a kind of natural comedic chemistry that’s fun to watch. And, of course, let’s not forget Bonta-kun Moffle (Kawasumi Ayako), serving as that small bone thrown to all the frothing FMP! fans. He may have as well been lifted directly from Fumoffu, still acting like the superficially cute psychopath we’ve come to love. Except he talks now. I’m never going to get used to that.
So, what about the comedy?
Comedy is highly subjective, and this holds doubly true when we’re coming at it as a Western audience watching jokes in Japanese. I can say it at least made me laugh (plentifully), but it’s entirely possible that the Seiya/Isuzu manzai team didn’t work for you. The closest thing I can do to objective measurement is note how deftly Amagi Brilliant Park uses three great tools of comedy—exaggeration, juxtaposition and repetition—to make an episode that is almost all exposition funny.
Pretty much anything can become funny when exaggerated out of proportion. Exaggeration leads to absurdity, which leads to humour. Consider this: if you break it down, Fumoffu was basically the story of a child soldier who is so socially stunted he can only solve problems with militant violence. That’s actually dark stuff, but if you play it up enough you can make it funny. In the same way, deserted theme parks are actually a rather heart wrenching sight, and a symbol for the Japanese of how far they’ve fallen since their 20th century economic fortunes, but Amaburi is so hilariously, impossibly awful that we never feel obliged to take it too seriously.
Juxtaposition is the art of laying two contrasting concepts next to each other, again creating absurdity, again leading to humour. The relentlessly deadpan Isuzu narrating cheesy lines about busted attractions is layers of juxtaposition. I’d take her as my tour guide. She’s hilarious.
Last is repetition, and here pictures do the talking. If you force the same gag long enough it’ll eventually become funny—perhaps as a running gag. And if you vary the gag slightly to surprise your audience that’s a brand new joke for minimal effort.
None of this should be surprising; Takemoto Yasuhiro always had a very keen sense of comedic timing that serve all this series well. It worked for Fumoffu. If can work for Amaburi too.
Oracles of the future
It’s hard for me to say exactly where Amaburi is going to go because it’s got all these little bits going for it. There’s several love interests lined up for Seiya, so romantic comedy is possible. We’ve got the magic, so we can do urban fantasy. There’s hints of traumatic pasts so we definitely have drama potential. Running the theme park may draw us into the deep dark world of corporate business management. Is Amaburi going to do all that at once? That’s ambition. I hope we don’t end up with something schizophrenic. We can at least count on Kyoto Animation to always make the anime very shiny, but that’s about the only inference we can draw from the studio. Amaburi smells different compared to the modern KyoAni slice-of-lifes. For one thing, when was the last time KyoAni did something like this?! They haven’t shown off as much flesh as in Amaburi since…well, FMP (no, Free! doesn’t count, they’re swimmers). Is it true? Are they back? That’s sort of exciting. And I’m not even fond of fanservice.
Full-length images: 03.
ED: 「エレメンタリオで会いましょう」 (Elementario de Aimashou) by 相坂優歌、黒沢ともよ, 三上枝織、津田美波 (Aisaka Yuka, Kurosawa Tomoyo, Mikami Shiori, Tsuma Minami)