I can’t shake the impression that Wit Studios’ Rolling Girls is trying just a little bit too hard. Too hard to be clever, and retro, and cool. And it never quite makes it over the hill, though it’s certainly an interesting attempt. I think I get what this series is going for – a kind of post-Gainax vibe, right down to the very Trigger-like character designs and art/animation style. It’s manic and nonsensical, certainly, and not a mass-produced model. But it still feels more like a cover band than the real deal.
Largely casting exposition aside, Rolling Girls jumps right into the story with only a brief narrative prologue introducing us to a post-apocalyptic world where, ten years after the “Great Tokyo War”, Japan has been split up into independent fiefdoms, which use armies called “mobs” to fight for territory. For whatever reason a band of girls roams the country mediating disputes between these warring “nations”.
Ultimately, it seems as if Rolling Girls is a cute girls being cute and fighting series, and the rest of the premise is really just window-dressing to make that sales pitch. It’s tempting to compare it to Kill la Kill, though RG seems far less overtly exploitative and hard-edged – there’s a gentler tone to this series all the way around, and if less edgy it’s certainly more artful in the way it tries to cash in on its female cast. That said, no one in that cast really made much of an impression on me – it was mostly vamping for the camera, really.
As far as plot, who knows whether this rather silly premise will yield any really interesting fruit. I liked the sense of comic timing and it did yield a couple of amusing moments (the ramen scene was quite funny) but nothing was very filling – it was pretty much empty calories (unlike the ramen). Frankly, I appreciate at least the effort to be interesting even if a series isn’t all that interesting in itself, so I give RG points for that and I’ll give it a couple more episodes, too. But overall, I’d say this was very much a mixed bag of a premiere.