[Vivid] Amagi Brilliant Park - 01 [3AEAF3B3]_Oct 11, 2014 2.08.47 PM

When we as an audience step into Amagi Brilliant Park, what greets us is a combination of smooth, charming visuals and comedic caricatures of characters [1], emphasized by the high energy opening sequence. It’s a world in which four scantily clad women claim to be elemental fairies, and where this suspiciously familiar mascot character immediately jumps into a physical altercation with our hero. The first clear shot inside of the titular Amagi Brilliant Park is a scene of desolation played for comedic effect: a gag ping chimes while Kanie points out the absurdity of an empty amusement park. A dead frog lies by the entrance, dried out.

[Vivid] Amagi Brilliant Park - 01 [3AEAF3B3]_Oct 11, 2014 1.51.00 AM

Yet Amagi Brilliant Park can hardly be called charming. When stripped of the flair that the narrative lens provides, the fact remains that the amusement park is in shambles, its glory days having long since passed. The elemental fairies are stuck between complete apathy for and willful estrangement from how awful the park has become. Just like the trash that they’ve given up on cleaning, enervated workers are littered around the landscape. Children come to physically abuse the mascots; the mascots cuss them out afterwards. Rides are in a state of disarray. There’s a dead frog, for god’s sake.

[Vivid] Amagi Brilliant Park - 01 [3AEAF3B3]_Oct 11, 2014 2.09.47 PM

The dissonance comes to a head as Kanie addresses Isuzu after touring the allegedly notable attractions: the amusement park doesn’t understand what entertainment’s about. What he says here is fascinating: instead of addressing the physical state of the park, he focuses on its spirit. To make an amusement park work, the workers need to be as fully immersed in the illusion as the guests want to be, even if it’s all an act. Kanie, as a former child actor, recognizes that behind every performance there lies a human; that behind every amusement park, there’s a group of tired people working to keep the illusion [2].

The narrative-sparking decision to help the park happens after Kanie tastes Latifa’s croquettes, the one attraction he recognizes some character behind—he decides to follow Isuzu after she offers to show him who made the croquettes. People are more interesting than the attractions, and they create the magic. His decision in episode two is superficial—a heartless act, even—predetermined by his decision the episode prior to see Latifa.

[Vivid] Amagi Brilliant Park - 01 [3AEAF3B3]_Oct 11, 2014 2.08.14 PM

For a show that ropes us in with the trappings of comedy and magical whimsy [3], the underlying structure in Amagi Brilliant Park is deeply human. Every mascot and character has a story to tell, and has a life outside the park’s gates. Isuzu’s deadpan delivery, while humorous in its own right, stems from her inability to communicate with Earth’s people. This Totodile look-alike bemoans his fate after the park, fully aware of how unpopular his character is. Through various articulations of the camera, we’re led to believe that all of these mascots have similar apprehensions about the park’s closing. Yet none of them prepare for what’s an inevitable curtain, instead preferring to act like it won’t happen. Moffle polishes up his attraction’s trivial water guns instead of addressing the ingrained frustration that leads into his violent reaction to Kanie. They care about the park, but don’t know how to fix it. They need someone from outside of Maple Land to pinpoint and exaggerate the magic already present.

[Vivid] Amagi Brilliant Park - 02 [EEA5B675]_Oct 11, 2014 2.12.37 PM

As episode two concludes, Amagi Brilliant Park has fully opened up, even if its gates are closed. Every attraction and its associated character(s) lies broken or rusting, but open to the necessity of change. The rides will improve naturally as the characters come to recognize their own magic. As Kanie says, the task may well be impossible. But it’s a healing process to bring the magic back, and at least person seems to believe in the dream.

For what it’s worth, when I think back to amusement parks, I don’t remember the rides. Rides for me are boring; there’s a multitude of Amagi Brilliant Parks. What I do remember is the time I spent with others, waiting in line and cracking jokes. That’s the magic Amagi Brilliant Park seeks to deliver, and it’s off to a fantastic start.

[Vivid] Amagi Brilliant Park - 01 [3AEAF3B3]_Oct 11, 2014 2.07.14 PM

 

———General Notes———

[1] — Normally, I’d've liked to talk about the cinematography of this show’s two episodes, but someone’s already gone and talked about the premiere episode quite well. Also character names are important. Perhaps not for immediately obvious thematic reasons, but I mean. 

[2] — This sequence in the OP is particularly clever. It focuses on the inner workings of the amusement park and its occasional failures, but interlocks all of its mini-narratives in a way that the eye can never rest lest it miss an amusing moment. This is what an amusement park would like to be.

[3] — Isuzu seems a typical manic pixie dream girl at first, the mascot costumes are quite literally sentient, and we learn that the world’s amusement parks are run by denizens of magical lands.

It strikes me now how fitting an analogy for an anime season an amusement park can be. The last of the Fall season’s episodes have aired, and before we guests lies a great variety of shows; attractions all varied and promising that, if we’re willing to wait in line, we’ll come out of the gate with a tampered sense of balance and dried tears around your eyes. Or that at least you’ll have some fun.

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