#1 Stan Lee
The Reflection was co-created by Stan Lee, who took charge of the writing and decided what kind of tone the series would take. He was given a lot of creatively liberty, so his influence and passion are obvious throughout the entire anime.
Not a big surprise, because The Reflection is basically anime X-Men. After a mysterious phenomenon known as “The Reflection” caused rampant mutation in humans touched by its light, the world became a mistrusting place. Regular folks live in fear of the mutated “Refs”, who they they view as a threat to society. Some are able to hide their mutations well, but others have had their bodies so visibly altered that they hardly still resemble humans. The Refs who feel upset about this have banded together in a terrorist organization that now threatens to escalate conflicts between them and the rest of society.
The Reflection is a great addition to the line-up of superhero anime that have been appearing these past few years. Getting a story like this from the grandmaster of superheroes himself, so shortly before his death, makes this a series worth visiting for that reason alone.
#2 Comic book artstyle
Most of the criticism leveled against The Reflection relates back to its visual style, which many found unappealing. True, it’s definitely not what you’d expect from a modern anime. As a superhero story written by Stan Lee, though, it feels like a nice homage that the visuals are reminiscent of a comic book brought to life.
The very American design of the characters is nice to see in an anime and I like how it’s all colored. The anime doesn’t do much shading or gradients, so everything is instead made up of solid colors. It may sound simplistic and I was skeptical too, until I actually saw it in action. The Reflection is a very colorful show and the flat colors mean actual creativity is required to make shots look nice; leading to gorgeous scenes like the one above.
The animation, I admit, is a bit sluggish in places. It often feels like the show is transitioning between big poses that would look good in comic book panels. Stuff like big attacks, zoomed-in shots of characters, and key moments look good, it’s just that it lacks impact and excitement when actually in motion.
#3 Creative heroes & villains
Superhero stories live or die based on the quality of their heroes and the villains opposing them. The Reflection, like X-Men, does not focus on just one superhero or even two or three good ones. It’s about a ragtag group of Refs that want to coexist with humans trying to defeat the organization that wants to fix society’s problems with violence. Both these groups have several unique characters, each with creative powers, fascinating personalities, and neat designs.
Among the heroes, one of my favorite characters ended up being I-guy. He’s a singer who ceased to be relevant instantly after his one and only popular single. Now granted a superpowered voice, he works with a production company as a marketable superhero in a robot suit. He’s not even strictly part of the team of good guys. He mostly works solo and is desperate to make appearances everywhere, just so his character will remain popular and he can feel like he did in the glory days of his short-lived music career. I really took a liking to him because he values spectacle over efficiency; always eager to put up a show and make battles needlessly dangerous, even as this antagonizes his allies.
The villains have a lot of cool Refs in their army as well, including an imposing spokesperson who can put herself on fire, a woman that can manipulate all metal she comes into contact with, and a guy who causes wide-spread hallucinations. The design of the villains especially is neat and it was interesting to see how the balance of power tilts in their favor as the stakes of the story increase.