#1 Rescuing a failing theme park
Asking somebody out on a date is perfectly normal, but threatening to murder your date is generally frowned upon. This happens when teenager Seiya Kanie one day finds himself held at gunpoint by the new transfer student, Isuzu Sento. Either he goes to the nearby Amagi Brilliant Park with her or she puts a bullet between his eyes. Seiya decides that the former is preferable.
The date quickly turns into a disaster. Even getting to the park via public transport is a pain, but inside it’s even worse. The park is filthy and in a state of disrepair. Attractions are literally falling apart while listless staff abandon their post at random. Some will even try to fight you if you make a fuss over it. It is an inexcusable mess that people justifiably avoid. But to Isuzu and a select few others, the park is a precious part of their lives. And as Seiya realizes that those feelings are genuine, he agrees to become the park’s manager.
Many a miracle will be necessary to save Amagi Brilliant Park. Not only do Seiya and his team have to revitalize its image, they also need to turn the attitude of its staff around. This was my favorite aspect of the show, in fact. There are a lot of characters who care about their work and take pride in it, but are still slacking off as it all falls apart around them. They don’t care to do their job properly, but they fiercely object to Seiya’s changes anyhow. Making sense of that incomprehensible attitude and changing it is a fascinating process that I enjoyed following.
There is also a very real time-pressure looming over all this. The park has to meet a quota before its anniversary, or else it loses its license to operate. At which point a financial group will be able to snoop up the land and bulldoze the entire park. They have 3 months and still need hundreds of thousands of visitors. The park is lucky to average above a 100 on a normal day. Like I said: they need miracles.
#2 Fairytales are real
Fortunately, miracles are not outside the realm of possibility. As Seiya soon learns, the park’s image of being a magical fairytale land is more than just marketing. Its inhabitants are actually migrants from a different world who can do real magic.
There are some humans in on it too, but the majority of the staff are all magical creatures. Not just the mascots; they also operate the rides, do maintenance, and even work the desk jobs. You got a bipedal triceratops just working the sales department and nobody bats an eye. It makes for a very diverse cast and it gives Amagi Brilliant Park something of a Shrek vibe. The cutesy, pink cat that summons flowers is actually a fucking asshole that seduces other people’s wives. He and the other mascots clock out from a busy day of entertaining children to go sexually harass the waitress at their favorite bar. There is a lot of raunchy comedy to contrast the often-saccharine fairytale mood.
At the same time, this magical setting adds to the story’s stakes. All the creatures live under the rule of their beloved princess, whose very life is tied to the park. She is a sickly girl already. Without the magical energy harvested from people’s joy, she is not gonna make it.
For all its comedic touches, Amagi Brilliant Park is great at drawing you in with its emotional stakes. I was genuinely tense as the deadline drew closer, the princess became sicker, and Seiya ever more desperate.
#3 Crude comedy & slapstick
While I compared Amagi Brilliant Park to Shrek earlier, raunchy jokes are certainly not its only forté. It’s actually a very well-rounded show that explores a lot of different angles with its humor. Most of the time, it does so successfully.
Its comedic timing is solid. Jokes are set up well and the punchlines are brilliantly delivered. This especially pays off in the slapstick, such as the many times where Isuzu cuts into other jokes to punish her co-workers. Running gags are also plentiful and get nicely iterated upon. It feels like the gags are constantly reinvented and developing, instead of the show just repeating the same joke to you again.
The characters get to shine as well. Their personalities are fun and developed enough that there is a lot of potential for fun banter. Whether its witty dialogue, raunchy jokes, gags, or slapstick, Amagi Brilliant Park handles it all. It is certainly above-par for comedy anime.
#4 Beautifully animated
Animation is basically a free space when it comes to KyoAni and it holds true here. Amagi Brilliant Park is a great-looking show. Though it’s also one that deviates from the studio’s popular trends, in a way that I appreciate.
Amagi Brilliant Park has its own look & feel. Its silly with a lot of crude visual gags in it, but also kind of wondrous. The park and its inhabitants are so creatively fantastical. Once it gets cleaned up and starts to improve, it really does feel magical in a way. Even if some of those creatures may be taking illicit pictures of the fairies on the sly.
The animation isn’t as eager to flaunt as in Hyouka or Sound! Euphonium, but it does look very good. It can both accentuate the show’s emotional highs or help it land the goofiest of jokes.
#5 Fun storylines balanced with economics
Amagi Brilliant Park has a strong central dilemma to overcome: meet the visitor quota in 3 months. What really makes it work though, is how the show finds a neat balance in how to tackle this objective. Sure there are amazing plot developments that help Seiya and friends on their mission. The bulk of it, however, comes down to economics and business management.
The characters have to make tough decisions with real consequences to make it happen. When Seiya wants to extend the opening hours, the staff is understandably upset and he has to negotiate with them. At one point he decides to drastically lower the entrance fee, which several episodes later leads to the park not being able to make payroll. It’s a real struggle and that makes it feel well-earned when these decisions begin to bear fruit.
At the same time, the show has a lot of engaging storylines that throw a wrench in Seiya’s plans. In one episode, a bunch of pirates from the fantasy world break through and begin assaulting the park. Something that the people mistake for a show, but which the staff needs to resolve before someone gets hurt for real. Or my favorite episode, which deals with the fairy performers whose show just incredibly sucks. They get stuck in a life-or-death dungeon with challenges that teach them to cooperate and strengthen their bond. Skills that carry over to their less-lethal performances afterwards.
It’s amazing that the show could be about brainstorming an ad one moment and a literal treasure hunt the next. Especially when both those activities are entertaining in their own ways.
More like this…
Fullmetal Panic: Sister series
Grimm’s Notes: Fantasy series heavily inspired by fairytales.
Spice & Wolf: Desperate struggle to keep an enterprise going.