I run a certain risk with blogging Glasslip, because my impressions after the first episode so perfectly match my expectations going into it that anyone would be skeptical that I was merely seeing what I wanted to see. Nevertheless, it is what it is – and it’s certainly not often that my expectations so closely align with the results. And in this instance, that carries a good deal that’s both positive and negative.
I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I find the visual aesthetic of P.A. Works to be my favorite of any Japanese animation studio. They seem to do the art of visual storytelling – using imagery to act as a kind of second, silent dialogue track – better than anyone else on a consistent basis. And Glasslip is P.A. Works through and through – there are a few more still shots than you’d expect (whether this is purely stylistic or economic or both is hard to say), but the look of this show is pure PAW. That is to say, gorgeous. But for me, that’s part of the problem.
My concerns with Glasslip going in, which were based on the previews and the synopsis, were that it seemed to be trying a little hard to be the quintessential P.A. Works series – to be an amalgam of everyone’s expectations of what that should be. Beautiful scenery porn, a group of high school friends who look and act younger than they are, wistful slice of life, hints of magical realism. It all seemed very self-aware to me. The show is directed by the man who helmed P.A. Works’ signature series, Nishimura Junji, and they even have chickens playing a major role yet again. The result is something that feels pre-fab, as if it was built from a kit rather than written – a cake that came out of a box.
Where that left me with the premiere was mildly interested but in the end, slightly bored. None of the characters made much of an impression and the comedy really didn’t click. I could see Glasslip being a slow builder as the first episode didn’t try too hard to establish anything – once the characters gain some distinctiveness and the mythology is fleshed out maybe the show’s charms will assert themselves. Right now it’s just a story of five school friends and a dark, brooding outsider who seems to bring both the possibility of the supernatural and a threat to steal the main heroine away from her childhood friend. If I had to guess I’d peg Glasslip as leaning more towards a true romance focus rather than slice-of-life, but it’s still a bit early to tell.
The vocal cast at least is an interesting mix. The seeming main heroine and glass-blowing otaku, Fukami Touko, is played by 18 year-old newcomer Fukagawa Seria. Imi Yukinari, the boy who pines silently for her, is played by Shimzaki Nobunaga (Kaitou from Ano Natsu, to which Glasslip bears a passing resemblance). The girl who likes him and resents his obsession with Touko is Takayama Yanagi (Hayami Saori). The ones who as far as I can tell aren’t part of a triangle are megane-girl Nagamiya Sachi (Taneda Risa) – I’m not sure if she likes anyone – and the boy who’s smitten with her, Shirosaki Hiro (Yamashita Daiki, showing great range after Onoda from Yowamushi Pedal). And the mysterious transfer student who immediately vexes and fascinates Touko (she sees him as Michelangelo’s David, though non-threateningly neutered) is Okikura Kakeru (it-boy Ohsaka Ryouta). He seems to be the chemical catalyst to move the plot, though whether he has genuine esper connections or just delusions of grandeur I don’t know – my initial take was that he was this show’s Isurugi Noe. Oh, and chickens.
It’s pure wait-and-see for me at this point. Reservations or not I go into every P.A. Works series resolutely hoping for greatness, and it’s extremely rare for a PAW show not to keep me watching to the end. This was certainly the least engaging PAW premiere I’ve seen in a long time, but it still looks fantastic and as I said, there is a sense that it could just be a slow starter. I’m not crazy about Nishimura-sensei’s catalog of the last few years but he’s a highly competent director at the very least, so I’m a long way from giving up hope. I do wish my preconceptions hadn’t proved so on-point though, at least as far as the first ep is concerned.
ED: “Toumei na Sekai (透明な世界)” by nano.RIPE