Amagi Brilliant Park is a great example of the kind of frivolous fun I favour when it comes to anime. Beginning on a moment of unabashed absurdity – a girl asking a guy on a date at gunpoint – the series continues in that vein throughout, consistently prioritising silliness over logic without tipping over into outright ridiculousness. Amagi Brilliant Park is colourful, funny, restlessly creative and unlike anything else I’ve seen. Is it a masterpiece? Far from it. But it is a lot of fun.
The girl turns out to be Isuzu Sento (Al Kakuma/Molly Searcy), the assistant manager of the titular Amagi Brilliant Park, a dilapidated theme park that’s stocked with fairies, seal pirates and a cursed princess (Yukiyo Fujil/Cindy Lou Parker). The ‘date’ turns out to be a slender excuse to recruit Seiya Kanie (Koki Uchiyama/Adam Gibbs) as the park’s new assistant manager, with the goal of somehow attracting half a million visitors over the next few months to avoid the park being closed by stern-faced businessmen.
For a few episodes, the series glides along as a theme park governance procedural – think Theme Park or Rollercoaster Tycoon, only with more scantily-clad fairies and violent, magical mascots. But just when you might start to tire of the intricacies of viral videos and budgeting, we shift gears with a run of episodes focusing on …well, whatever strikes the fancy of the writers. In one episode we delve into the depths of the theme park in search of hidden treasure, instead discovering an ex-employee who’s spent over a decade missing and addicted to MMO games. In another, the park is overrun with the aforementioned seal pirates, forcing the employees to wage war upon the intruders without letting visitors know it’s not all an act.
Amagi Brilliant Park returns to its original narrative in its last few episodes, and the skill with which it weaves these disparate elements together into something approximating a serialised storyline is mostly why I found it so enjoyable. Animation has always provided the opportunity for experimentation beyond the scope of live action, but it’s rare to find a series that simultaneously revels in stretching its boundaries while refusing to descend into outright incoherency. Amagi is absurd, but never goes beyond gesturing towards the surreal.
There are limitations, naturally; the show’s willingness to go different directions every other episode – often branching out into subplots with previously underdeveloped characters – tends to leave the cast on the whole feeling a touch undercooked. For example, there’s an episode where Sento is exposed to a truth serum of sorts, and while I found her head-banging attempts to avoid revealing her feelings for Kanie hilarious, there’s never any attempt to develop why she might have feelings for him before or after that episode. I didn’t find this to be a problem, but if you’re looking for fully-fleshed characters you might want to try another series.