ANIME REVIEW: “Amagi Brilliant Park: Complete Collection” – Animation Scoop

ANIME REVIEW: “Amagi Brilliant Park: Complete Collection”

The broadcast series Amagi Brilliant Park boasts an impressive pedigree: Its original creator is Shoji Gatou, who wrote the light novels that served as the basis for the hit comedy-adventure Full Metal Panic!

Former child actor Seiya Kanie (Adam Gibbs) is one of the brightest and best-looking students in his high school. But he’s so arrogant and socially inept, he has no friends. Kanie is shocked when pretty Isuzu Sento (Molly Searcy) appears brandishing an elaborate set of guns. She orders him to accompany her a broken-down amusement park.

Kanie can see at a glance that Amagi Park is a failure. But if its owners can’t attract 500,000 visitors within the next few months, a nasty real estate developer will shut it down. Only a few dozen people come per day, so the prospects are dim. Isuzu informs Kanie he’s been made temporary manager, charged with saving the Park.

Amagi isn’t just any old crumbling amusement park; it’s connected to the magical realm of Maple Land. The Mascots, who look like humans in weird character walk-around costumes, are creatures from the other world. They really resemble everything from a giant wrench to a small yellow triceratops. Presiding over this tattered wonderland is fragile blonde princess Latifah (Cindy Lou Parker).

Clearly, Kanie has his work cut for him

He charges in, making his bizarre performers clean up both the park and their acts: No more tantrums at guests, no more under-rehearsed shows, no more grimy rides. His insistence on higher standards puts him at odds with the cast, just as he and the viewer are getting to know them. The kawaii (ultra-cute) lambkin and kitty who charm small children are actually a pair of rowdies who like to slap back brewskies at the local pub.

But the cast member most at odds with Kanie is Mr. Moffle (Tiffany Grant), a hot-tempered mouse in an outsized bowler hat who juggles for the visitors. He repeatedly tries to punch out Kanie, and Isuzu has to separate them with special non-lethal but pain-inducing bullets.

Kanie learns the backstory of Amagi Brilliant Park from Mr. Moffle and the others. Princess Latifah suffers from a curse a sorcerer pronounced when she refused to marry him. The park was created to supply her with the “animus,” the energy from human joy that keeps her alive. If the park fails, she will die; even if she survives, she loses her memory every year—essentially dooming her to remain a teen-ager forever. (A problem: “animus” is obviously a mistranslation: The word they wanted is “anima,” which is refers to life or spirit—it’s the root of “animate” –“animus” means ill-feeling.)

Amagi Brilliant Park is often very silly and lots of fun, but at times, it falters. In the fan favorite Full Metal Panic, Gatou brought together an equally mismatched pair of teen-agers. Kaname Chidori is an outspoken, no-nonsense high school student who commands unsuspected psychic powers. Charged with guarding her is mercenary Sgt. Sosuke Sagara, who combines advanced weapons training and hair-trigger reflexes with an utterly clueless literal-mindedness. Kaname screams at Sosuke and belts him with an outsized paper fan, which works more effectively as a recurring gag than Isuzu shooting Kanie.

In Amagi, Director Yasuhiro Takemoto and his crew can’t quite find the chemistry between Kanie and Isuzu the situation requires. Kaname and Sosuke are attracted to each other, but they can only grudgingly acknowledge their feelings amid misunderstandings, adventures and hijinks. The viewer isn’t always sure about Kanie and Isuzu, and it was a mistake to divide Kanie’s affections between her and Latifah.

Another problem is that the cover of the box suggests the return of Bonta-kun, one of Gatou’s most outrageous creations. During the second season of Full Metal Panic, Kaname visits an amusement park with a guy she knew in junior high. To protect her, Sosuke mugs a park employee and dons the costume of the mascot, Bonta-kun, who looks like a chubby mouse in a green derby and red bow tie. Sosuke’s lethal martial arts attacks contrast hilariously with the character’s ultra-cuteness: it’s like watching Pikachu play Rambo.

Mr. Moffle looks like Bonta-kun and, adding to the inside joke, has fits when anyone describes him as a knock-off character. He mangles his speeches and regularly takes swings at Kanie. But he isn’t nearly as funny.

The filmmakers do what they can with the material, but in some places they clearly needed more to work with. Amagi Brilliant Park is genuinely funny when it’s sending up the behind-the-scenes workings of an amusement park. But it lacks the spark won Full Metal Panic its loyal following. The follow-up OVA about Kanie’s birthday is included in the set.

Amagi Brilliant Park: Complete Collection
Sentai: $69.98 2 discs, Blu-ray

Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen, and The Making of Peanuts Animation. Solomon's "The Art of Toy Story 3" will be published by Chronicle this spring.
Charles Solomon
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