Amagi Brilliant Park is in trouble: the park faces closure if it cannot attract 250,000 visitors in three months’ time. The basic premise of Amagi Brilliant Park is a refreshing departure of the epic scale problems of other shows. Kyoto Animation’s entry in the Fall 2014 anime season is more of a light and magical experience. There is beauty in the show’s ability to execute its fantastical premise and keep tension in a central problem that can seem somewhat insignificant at first glance and in comparison.
Amagi Brilliant Park follows the lives of the park’s staff as they try to withstand all the trials and tribulations sent their way so that they can preserve their precious park. It is in this way that the show’s fantastic and oddly unique premise captivates – by capturing the magic that amusement parks likely presented to us at some point in our lives.
Adapted from the light novel by Shoji Gatoh, most popular associated with his Full Metal Panic! series, Amagi Brilliant Park is Kyoto Animation’s latest installment. In general, it serves as a departure from the trend of shows they have been producing, such as Free! and Beyond the Boundary. Rather, Amagi Brilliant Park seems to be a return to their more successful comedy and slice-of-life stylings. So although Amagi Brilliant Park is a bit weak in some areas, it is ultimately a successful and celebrated return.
The basic premise of Amagi Brilliant Park is that the struggling and titular Amagi Brilliant Park is in need of a savior – one which they hope to find in prospective manager, Seiya Kanie. If the park does not obtain 250,000 visitors in three months’ time, the park will close. For Amagi Brilliant Park, this comes with all the usual ramifications of an amusement park and an additional twist. As the staff and inhabitants of Amagi Brilliant Park are actually magical refugees from a place called Maple Land, who obtain magical energy the fun generated by their park, the park’s closure would very much leave them without a home or way to stay in the human realm. This conundrum is the focus of the material the show adapts from its light novel origins.
As can be expected, the show’s plot focuses much on Kanie’s and the park staff’s, chiefly his assistant and directly preceding park manager, Isuzu Sento, attempts to improve their beloved park and confront any and all problems that stand in the way of getting 250,000 more guests by the end of three months. With a brief thirteen episode run, it would seem fitting to have a brisk, tight pace. Amagi Brilliant Park does not accomplish this necessarily, lulling and losing focus at various points throughout its run. Regardless, it does generally chug along nicely while keeping its plot imposed arc deadline in mind, with the title of each episode of the season being the problem of the week, such as “Not Enough Visitors!” or “Not Enough Money!”
In that way, along with the following of changing character relationships and character dynamics, does Amagi Brilliant Park try and succeed at capturing the viewer’s interest. The latter episodes of the season introduce a subplot involving the Maple Landers’ leader, Latina Fleuranza, and successfully balance and intertwine it with the main plot for the season. There are some unresolved plot threads introduced at various point throughout the show, but they seem fairly clearly for the purpose of any possible second season, so it is certainly excusable. If nothing else, Amagi Brilliant Park is able to tell a complete story by its conclusion. It will likely not be interesting or particularly gripping for every viewer. Still, there is a certain appeal in the story’s need to save an amusement park, grounds for the magic of our childhood, to save actual magical beings in this case.
Amagi Brilliant Park has a very large cast. This is true even from the show’s onset, with a significant amount of earlier episodes being dedicated to learning about all the various characters that inhabit the park. Even so, the show actually manages to introduce even more characters at least twice more during the show’s brief run.
Without a doubt the large cast is detrimental to all but the most central characters’ chance at characterization or development. Very little meaningful anything is done with a majority of the cast and even some of the more prominent members of the cast are still really underdeveloped. In some of the poorer cases, some groups of characters are forced into development by simply focusing on them for the entirety of the episode, which is part of the pacing difficulty for Amagi Brilliant Park.
That kind of decision has its tradeoffs for the show. It is certainly an active decision as well, as the adaptation introduced even more characters in the first story arc than the light novel’s original and already numerous amount. In that sheer mass of characters there is likely at least one, if not a few, that the audience can come to love or resonate with even if they rarely appear.
The main cast of the show, more specifically narcissistic, but brilliant Seiya and the stoic Isuzu, get their fair share of development. Much of this is the result of their large amount of screen time, as much of the show is spent on focusing on either one or generally both of them. They actually have an interesting dynamic between them, particularly in the show’s earlier episodes concerning self-worth and expectations. They, as much as the various problems Amagi Brilliant Park faces, drive the pace of the show.
Though it has generally become the standard for Kyoto Animation, the animation quality is, in fact, beautiful on all counts. The character designs are clean. The backgrounds are detailed and beautiful. The movement of anything across the screen is almost always crisp. Amagi Brilliant Park also has an excellent and wide use of colors fitting to its amusement park setting.
Amagi Brilliant Park is an arguably successfully and generally delightful show. It goes along without restraint into its both magical and whimsical plot and setting. It seems to love every aspect of the show that was attempted and is included. While that can hurt it in the way of critical things like character development and pacing, it remains a lovely pursuit of the lofty hope of fitting all the good ideas in.
So, despite some flaws, Amagi Brilliant Park is an entertaining show for the proper audience. In particular, its magical setting in the modern day lends itself well to a just unique enough experience when combined with the nostalgia of amusement parks. There is a short, but complete story waiting for anyone who wants to pick up Amagi Brilliant Park.
Cover image via