This is review number four hundred and forty six. This anime is part of the Winter 2015 lineup. It’s called Rolling Girls and it’s a twelve episode anime about girl literally rolling on the ground. Seriously, this show is insane. Of course I’m lying but I would love to see a literal show about rolling girls. Anyways, let’s read on.
The anime follows four girls as they travel Japan completing requests, collecting hearts and having fun along the way, I guess.
Taking the Pants Off
I am writiing this review on my iphone. I want to see if its possible to write a TPAB review this way. So far, I am not f*cking hopeful. I plan to buy a laptop in the near future but I want to see if this is possible first. Writing in a keypad is weird and I am honestly don’t think I’ll be able to finish this. We shall see, so let’s get onto the anime. I saw the title and the image of girls on bikes sounds intriguing enough. I don’t think this is the ideal anime to start off my break from hiatus though. Yeah, this one is pretty rough. So looking at the title and the picture, you’d expect this show to be a laidback slice of life anime akin to Yuru Camp or something. I expected to see girls traveling and we’ll focus on the picturesque appeal of Japan. I was expecting some good healing anime at best and a decent marshmallow show at worst. I got neither.
This anime opened with bright colors, two girls fighting and over the top animation that reminds me off Kill la Kill. I guess Studio Wit is slowly moving out of Production IG’s shadow and they will make that statement known with this anime. Yeah, I’ve seen a mess like this before. I remember reviewing a show called Sora no Method and it was a big statement anime by a budding studio too. They showed off their animation chops and their potential as a new comer but the entire anime is just a cohesive mess. Directionless, shallow and absolutely pretentious in its purpose. Rolling Girls is exactly that. It’s not just a bad original screenplay but its Studio Wit going above and beyond only to get burned by the sun. After all, Attack on Titan is credited more to Production IG than Studio Wit. Their second work, Hoozuki no Reitetsu, didn’t really get heads turning. Third times a charm though. Wit went balls out. Cute girls, awesome animation, a great soundtrack and a whole bunch of awesome sh*t. It’s so awesome that the story got clogged up and the entire experience was a headache.
The Established Normalcy
The first three episodes is the ultimate litmus test for an anime, right? The anime has this much time to establish its story, characters and the general appeal of the show. It needs to give us its established normalcy. Basically, the stuff you’d expect from the show. An action anime will have dudes fighting to establish itself and a slice of life show will feature its slow pace. This anime was rough from the get go. It featured the story of a girl named Macha Green fighting the leader of a faction group. They are apparently special people with super powers and they are called “bests”. Macha Green is a negotiator and her current job is to establish peace between two factions. Ok, so far so good. Macha Green has a normal friend. Normies are called “rests” in this world. They are ordinary people that gets sent flying whenever two bests fight. Anyways, the first two episodes follow Macha Green beating up this chick, and it was dumb fun. I guess we’ll expect more awesome but ridiculous fights from this anime. That’s fine, because the rivalry culminates in a hostage crisis on a roller coaster that Macha Green must stop. Wow, I cannot wait to see more of Macha’s exploits as a negotiator. From the first two episodes alone, I am already sold on all the zany nonsense the anime dished out. Oh yeah, one problem though. Macha Green is not the main character.
Her normie friend is the protagonist, but we wasted two episodes on a story that will not affect the rest of the anime. In fact, the actual cast just randomly assembled after Macha Green finished her story. Four girls we haven’t met before will now be our main characters. Whet the hell? The anime is weird like this. It focuses on a lot of things, dumps unnecessary exposition and gives us a lot of characters with their own personal conflicts. These things will not be established early on. It will just appear and the show expects the audience to care. After the first two episodes ended, I knew I was dealing with an original screenplay. Its first undying trait is actually the only thing it established in its initial three episodes: directionless storytelling.
A Bike Journey
The true main premise of the show is about a bunch of normies taking up Macha Green’s place as a negotiator. They grabbed a bunch of letters asking Macha’s assistance and they decided to travel to complete the requests. This is a straightforward premise, but we had to jump a bunch of hoops to get here. Hell, the anime actually opened explaining how the fictional Japan reverted to its fuedal system with different regions being governed by different factions. It introduced giant robots, a colorful Japan run by young people and a handful of them having powers. This is thrown in our face long before Macha Green’s adventure and this backstory never really impacted the overall one. I honestly don’t know why the show decided to throw those unnecessary details at us. If this was a traveling anime then there was time to slowly incorporate world building. Why is it hurrying to establish details that don’t really matter in the overall experience? Because I don’t give a damn about how a bunch of introverted kids shaped Japan into a vomit induced acid trip. I just wanted the girls to go rolling. Why is that so hard to do?
But the anime does get good eventually, right? I mean, it has people beating each other up and the promise of mecha. Surely this anime will bounce back. If you honestly believe an original anime will be good with its directionless storytelling then you haven’t seen that many O.Screenplays. It does not get easy moving forward. It will only derail from here. As the four girls we barely knew starts up their journey, the next trait of an original anime is soon established.
Original anime has a knack of introducing characters that doesn’t really have a role in the show. Their presence doesn’t move the story nor do they influence the other characters. They just exist to look cute and take up space. I first noticed this in Zankyou no Terror where the girl in the show spent a lot of time in the bath tub than helping the terrorists she was hanging out with. Our four girls are true useless characters, and I’d never expect this many in one anime. The girls all ride bikes and act cute, but they don’t really do anything. The various conflicts in the show barely needed them. They were involved but they didn’t really help. They were supposed to be the anchor for this anime, but they mostly serve as clutter. They complicate an already convoluted show. The annoying part is that the anime doesn’t really give time to develop them as well. They are victims of the original screenplay and it shows. The girls are solely dependent on their boring stereotype like the clumsy girl that has no sense of direction, the quiet one, the loud one and the other one. I seriously can’t give them a decent description. They suck that bad. It’s infuriating because the characters could’ve made the story interesting. I remember Kino’s Journey 2017 sucking so bad but you can expect Kino to remain his neutral self while the bike gets some sassy jabs from time to time. This anime spent so much time dumping exposition and random details that it somehow missed to give any that’ll redeem the main characters. The ultimate trait of an original screenplay soon appears once you foolishly watch more than three episodes though. Yes, it is the big one.
Short Sighted Storytelling
There are twelve episode directors for this anime. Kotomi Deai, the main director, only doing episode 12. With so many hands crafting the show, is it any surprise that it lacked cohesion? Short sighted storytelling is when the show focuses on an episode’s story more than the overall one. So an episode could make sense, but the plot loses its luster when you move onto the next episode. The story moves along so sloppily that I seriously could not follow it. I especially remember the third place they visited. It featured two girls that aren’t talking to each other and it was resolved by launching missiles on a rock festival for random reasons. Seriously, I was watching a band performance while rockets explode and I honestly don’t know why. The anime never explained it, and they could’ve easily explained it. Unfortunately, you’re listening to twelve people tell a story and you’ll eventually just go “f*ck this” and throw your hot milk at one of them.
Cohesion is the ultimate thing that lacks in this show. I understand that the main premise is about traveling girls but it is often bogged down by subplots about characters introduced just an episode ago. These characters would have personal conflicts that will be forcefully resolved in the next episode, but, as an audience, you don’t really care. You don’t know these people and the show forces us to eavesdrop in their business instead of making us engaged in their story. I remember the conflict between the two girls performing at that missile episode. The anime went as far as to feature flashbacks and to explain the conflict, but it never focuses on the characters themselves to make us care. And again, I know it can be done. Kino’s Journey feature one off characters but I assure you that I still remember the tank hunting itself, the town boiled by magma, the workers in the train tracks, the girl reciting the maggot poem and the three human traffickers Kino helped from death only to kill them soon after. I should just review Kino’s Journey, but I hope the point is clear. This anime had the elements to make a good experience. It just didn’t become one. Original Screenplays are just problematic from the get go. Let’s talk about the last two awful traits of these kinds of anime.
The worst thing about an original screenplay is that it doesn’t really offer anything substantial. Most of them are born out of an idea like recapturing Cowboy Bebop’s magic or making a cool robot transformation in space but the effort often stops there. Rolling Girls is about the bright visuals and the zany animation, but it offers nothing else. Some ideas are established in one episode and it ends in that episode only to be replaced by another one. This anime had an interesting subplot about tradition and modernism clashing to stake its claim, but the idea never really blossomed. It has this backstory about the Twin Towers agreement that all places follow, but it was never fleshed out. The subplot about the Bests and the Rests never really made sense, and you can expect more sh*t is crammed into an already convoluted setup. The result is a shallow experience. It focused too much on ideas that the characters drowned in it and the initial idea of bright colors plus zany animation soon becomes a hollow experience as well. Why should I really care about those stuff when there is very little pay off in watching the show?
The anime is constructed decently though. The rolling girls travel into a place and it eats two episodes. The last four episodes are dedicated to one big place though. Ideally, six directors can tell a story in two episodes with an overall theme tying all of them together. This show had good intentions, but it just wasn’t able to execute it properly. The story is a big shame, but the rich world building was also never fleshed out. Rolling Girls has a fun world and I want to visit the different places as well. Unfortunately, it was never a priority. So we’ll visit a place where people cosplay but we never know why the entire place became a massive Akihabara. We’ll visit a place with big roads for motor racing and its adorned by old building with giant fishes on them, but again no real chance for the place to breathe. The motorbike city focused more on making the vehicles fly more than anything else. It’s frustrating, because the show could’ve been a lot better. But enough about that, let’s end this with the final bad trait of an original screenplay.
I remember M3 The Dark Metal assigning a minor character as the main villain at episode 20 and we focused on that until the last episode, the 24th. It came out of nowhere because the directionless storytelling didn’t bother to set anything up. Cthulu could’ve appeared if the show wanted it. The same goes for this beautiful mess of an anime. Here’s the best part of Rolling Girls, because the ending had aliens in it.
I sh*t you not. Aliens appeared in this anime and I guess people with powers and a mecha subplot isn’t enough for the show. It needed to have aliens and I honestly checked out. I was done. F*ck this show. I half expected the heart shaped stones the girls were collecting would be part of the ending, because it was the only consistent element in the show. Yeah, the whole thing about the stones changes with each episode as well. It powers the Bests and then it suddenly isn’t the reason they power up. It isn’t a special stone in one episode then becomes a cursed stone in another then becomes fuel for an alien rocket like gawd f*cking hell stick to one thing. We never find out why the stones exists and we don’t really know its true purpose. It’s just another useless thing to adorn this mess of an experience. Aliens though. I honeslty don’t understand.
Kotomi Deai and Studio Wit
Kotomi has been an episode director for majority of her career but she landed good directing gigs starting with this anime. She helmed the later seasons of Natsume so I guess this was her attempt at getting used to doing directing work. I have no idea if her later works are good though. Judging by Rolling Girls alone, you can tell this show is directed by a Hajime Yatate. It’s Sunrise’s pseudonym for the group of people that works on an anime. Hajime is credited for developing Cowboy Bebop. Kotomi is just one member of Studio Wit’s very own Hajime Yatate. She might’ve lead the entire thing, but the project could also be credited to the eleven other directors. To be fair, the visuals and animation is great. Studio Wit is clearly breaking away from Production IG’s sleek style and trying to have a voice of their own. Rolling Girls feel experimental and I do hope they learned from whatever exercise they did here, because Studio Wit has a talented Hajime Yatate. Let that group grow and they’ll sure to bring in success for baby Production IG.
Sight and Sound
An artist named tanu designed the characters, and they also designed the characters in Tari Tari. That makes sense, because the faces are familiar. The design is pretty generic though. There are no discernible look that makes any character standout. Some of them are over designed as well, like a twin tailed girl in a knight armor or Macha Green’s stupid scarf. The designs, despite going overboard, still looks underwhelming because it is just noise among the noisiest aspects of the anime. I do understand the designer is going for a style that fits the story, but the story itself never really justified the visuals envisioned for it. I do love the designs of the vehicles like the various motorbikes in the anime. You can tell they put effort in the rolling aspect of the show.
I also love the background design for this show. It’s done in a watercolor style that makes it look dreamlike or Puella Madoka surreal in a way. I love how the characters float in it, because it does capture the idea that the girls are traveling and they don’t belong in the place to begin with. I love pausing at certain moments in the show just so I can enjoy the visuals. You can tell the storyboarder wanted a particular scene to stand out and it does. I think that sentiment was carried through properly in the show.
The animation is inconsistent. The fight scenes are gorgeous and certain moments had a high quality style, but the anime also recycle frames. Some scenes are clearly all style and no substance. I appreciate the zany style but it doesn’t really serve a purpose for the show. It spends too much time trying to look cool that it does abandon cohesion and the story itself. The fight scenes also lessen as the episodes progresses so you were lured by the great Macha Green fight only for the anime to abandon it in later episodes. It does have good animation but not really something I personally can talk highly about.
The anime’s OP is “Hito ni Yasashiku (人にやさしく)” by THE ROLLING GIRLS (Ari Ozawa, Rina Hidaka, Risa Taneda, Yumiri Hanamori). The song is insanely catchy and I love its simple style. The VAs voices are front and center here and they truly shine. The anime’s main strength is really its wonderful soundtrack and the OP song is the best example of that. The OP sequence is also a good example but of the show’s attempts being more style than substance. It features the four useless girls strumming guitars and beating on drums, but you never see a smidgen of the story in the montage. There really isn’t one and making the girls perform like a band is so hamfisted. It truly reflects the aimless direction of the show. The anime has a lot of ED songs. I won’t go over each one. They are as good as the OP and even the insert songs have the same energy to them. I’d recommend the OST album of the show more than anything else. The ED sequence is an image of the girls and the characters they met in their travel with the credits rolling in it. It’s simple and I do like it more than anything in the actual show.
3/10 “It’s all style and no substance.”
The entire experience is meaningless and its not really worth it to continue beyond the second episode. Poor characters, a problematic original screenplay and a studio clearly overcompensating makes for one awful journey. This anime is not worth it. I do not recommend it.
Also, I can write a TPAB reviewin my iphone but it is super tedious. It is super hard to edit in wordpress using a phone. I can write more like this, I guess.