I’ve been a fan of just about every Kyoto Animation produced anime that I’ve seen so far, as the studio has a knack for choosing engaging material to adapt and giving each series very high quality, eye catching animation. Amagi Brilliant Park is no exception, and has every element that viewers have come to expect from anything produced by the studio. Set in an amusement park run by refugees of the magical realm Maple Land, main character Kanie Seiya is tasked with trying to bring 250,000 visitors to the park in three months to prevent it from shutting down. While the actual plot may not seem that different from the usual story of a hero saving the day against all odds, Amagi Brilliant Park’s rapid fire comedy mixed with a healthy dose of fantasy and drama (along with a slight bit of romance) makes it genuinely fun to watch and the characters are sure to stick with you for quite some time.
What I was expecting going into this series was the typical set up where an average high school student is thrust into extraordinary circumstances and has to save the day. But right from the start it’s made clear that Kanie Seiya is a little different from your usual protagonist. He’s a former child actor that’s highly intelligent but a huge narcissist and it’s that overconfidence and downright arrogance that initially drew me in. I’d become so accustomed to the wimpy lead that anime and live novels are so content with portraying that this felt different right from the start, and it works. Kanie is coerced at gunpoint by a girl named Isuzu Sento to visit Amagi Brilliant Park, though it appears that she can somehow materialize guns out of thin air. Under the guise of a date Kanie explores the different areas of the park and learns that the majority of the employees at the park are from the magical realm of Maple Land. What this means is that all of the mascot characters aren’t actually people in suits, but that’s what they actually look like.
Amagi Brilliant Park has been going through a rough patch, and its visitor count has been on the decline for quite some time. Kanie meets the owner of the park, Princess Latifah Fleuranza, a frail young girl who looks like she’s 14. He is asked if he will take over the responsibility of manager and help turn the park around, as Isuzu believes him to be an ideal candidate due to his past in entertainment and the kind of person he was as a child actor. As you might expect, Kanie declines initially and doesn’t believe that any of the magic from the Maple Land inhabitants is actually real. But the next day after Latifah said that she had given him a magic power, he discovers that he now has the ability to read a person’s mind once. With it now seeming as though the magical inhabitants of the amusement park were telling the truth, Kanie eventually ends up accepting the role of manager and sets off trying to figure out ways to up the visitor amount within the three month period.
Though it starts off on a slightly serious note with a little bit of comedy, after a few episodes the plot ups the comedy significantly and throws in a healthy dose of fan service for extra measure. I think this is where the series really started to shine for me, as putting the comedic spotlight on its quirky cast and going with some out the most outlandish scenarios possible worked perfectly. Kanie, Isuzu, and Latifah serve as the three main characters, and while they initially seem relatively normal compared to the entire supporting cast they each have their own quirks. I’ve already talked a bit about Kanie, but it’s worth reiterating just how much his overconfidence and narcissism makes the show feel different. When the management team has to venture into a mysterious cave filled with all sorts of traps and obstacles in one episode and a walrus pirate kidnaps the female staff in another, rather than being the typical useless protagonist he takes initiative rather quickly. There’s definitely a humorous side to it, as one early episode has Kanie looking at himself in the amusement park manager’s uniform. Most other shows might have the protagonist lamenting having to wear something like that, but Amagi has its lead tell himself that he looks good in just about anything. Isuzu’s super serious almost to a fault, and there are plenty of moments where she’s tasked with partaking in a performance on-stage for the park audience and delivers it in a completely dry and monotone voice. Plus she has a tendency to resolve any issue with the staff by pulling out her magical guns and threatening them until they stop complaining/asking for things. Latifah’s permanently trapped as a 14 year old whose memory resets every year, and for most of the episodes she serves as the token “loli who’s not actually a loli,” though she does get some important parts later on.
I like the core cast, and they definitely made the show compelling, but what really sold me on every episode and had me laughing hysterically during many of the skits are the secondary characters. First, you have the trio of Moffle, Tiramie, and Macaron. These are the fairies who in an ordinary theme park would be humans in costumes, but in this case this is what they actually look like. Each one has a different talent around the park, but when they’re not working they act like dirty old men. Seeing a Pomeranian dog, a sheep, and a mouse with a hat talk about porn and drink beer at the bar is way more amusing than it should be, and half of their dialogue would be extremely creepy if it wasn’t for how adorable they look. There are also four musical fairies who each represent a different element and have personalities that reflect that element. My favorite out of the four is Sylphy, who tends to be totally off the wall and a complete airhead that often talks in complete gibberish. There are plenty of other minor characters that are sure to warrant some laughs, ranging from a masked wrestler security guard to a shark that looks cute and cuddly normally but becomes terrifying when wet. Amagi Brilliant Park makes the most of its cast and every episode seems to give a little bit of screen time to someone besides Kanie and Isuzu, which works nicely.
Amagi Brilliant Park doesn’t forget that it has a plot though, and towards the end the comedy is toned down a bit in favor of some drama. This seems appropriate considering that many of the other shows Kyoto Animation has adapted have gone for a similar slant. There’s also a hint of romance and a bit of a love triangle between Kanie, Isuzu, and Latifah but it never moves beyond too far beyond the awkward stage and everyone seems to be somewhat oblivious of their true feelings. Even when it starts to get a bit heavier thematically the series doesn’t stumble like so many others, as by the time the story starts rolling and there aren’t just one off jokes driving the episodes forward I felt invested in the cast and their plight to keep the park open. A good amount of the twists that lead to the conclusion are likely to be predictable for the audience, but you’ll have so much fun watching the outlandish moments that it never really becomes an issue. There’s also a healthy dose of fan service, which is to be expected considering that the series has a sizeable female cast, but it never feels like it’s overdone.
Kyoto Animation has always impressed me with their production values, and Amagi Brilliant Park is no exception. They did a fantastic job at bringing this magical amusement park to life, and earlier episodes throw in a lot of little nuances showing just how much of a state of disrepair it has fallen into. Quite a bit of the animation is bursting with bright colors, and each of the different fairies and other employees at the park have their own distinguishable characteristics that are sure to draw viewers in. Kyoto Animation strikes a nice balance between a softer feel during the more serious and dramatic moments and complete insanity that has plenty of quick cuts and over-exaggerated facial expressions to sell the comedy. As I watched each episode I felt as though the studio had struck a balance that was somewhere between the moe/drama angle of their Key adaptations and the all-out madness of Nichijou, which definitely made it consistently eye catching. There are also some neat touches such as the counter at the end of each episode that lets viewers know how many visitors the park gained in that episode and how far away from their goal they are. The vocal cast also does a fantastic job, and they were given plenty of silly dialogue to work with. Kōki Uchiyama delivers an energetic performance as the narcissistic Kanie Seiya and Ai Kakuma does a perfect job at giving Isuzu that overly serious, dry delivery. There’s also plenty to be said for the supporting cast, as most of the comedic moments from the fairies and other wacky park inhabitants wouldn’t be nearly as good without the high energy performances from the voice actors. This high energy feel is also supported by the upbeat opening theme “Extra Magic Hour” which is another catchy opening for a KyoAni series.
While it does tell a fairly complete narrative that wraps up the majority of the loose ends while leaving just enough room for a potential second season, I wouldn’t say that Amagi Brilliant Park tells a particularly deep story. After the first episode or two the plot takes a backseat to round after round of comedy and insane scenarios, but it works well and by the time that the plot does become the central focus again viewers will find themselves invested in the characters and interested in what is still to come. I’ve found myself coming back for repeat viewing of pirate invasions and dangerous cave adventures, and I suspect there will be plenty of you out there that feel the same way and find yourself still thinking about the absurd situations for months to come.