Second Impressions Digest – Rolling Girls, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu

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Sometimes, wanting to like a series just isn’t enough.

Rolling Girls – 02

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Rolling Girls is definitely an odd duck of a show.  I could see where someone who hasn’t seen the Gainax and neo-Gainax series (especially FLCL) this one tries so desperately to mimic might find this to be perfectly captivating – but then, if someone isn’t nostalgic for that bygone anime era, would they even get what RG is trying to do?  That’s a problem, because it seems to me that anyone who has seen the likes of FLCL and it’s direct progeny would surely judge this one to be a faint shadow of their brilliance at best.

As for me specifically, in the end I’m pretty ambivalent about Rolling Girls.  I love the OP, and I do think there’s a sincere effort at-play here to pay homage to the magical titans of the Gainax oeuvre.  But I find the final product to be pretty hollow.  FLCL isn’t simply a matter of insert rock songs and Vespas – there’s a relentless creative genius and thematic complexity behind that show, and RG has almost none of those.  It mimics the form but seems to understand very little of what truly made the likes of FLCL classics.  It’s just a pale imitation tweaked to appeal to modern otaku tastes, executed with above-average but not exceptional craftsmanship.  Something like Kyousougiga comes much closer to capturing the essence of the Gainax genius, certainly because it’s fiercely intelligent and visually and musically stunning but also because it doesn’t try to be a flat-out imitation.

I would really love to love Rolling Girls – if it were a better series, it would be the feel-good story of the season.  But you can’t force it – we respond how we respond, and every series is only as good as it is.  At this point I see it as an interesting failure, but I suppose it deserves points for ambition if nothing else.

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu – 02

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As for Assassination Classroom, while my overall affection for it is roughly on-par I certainly find it a less interesting subject than Rolling Girls.  The word that pops to mind for me in considering the first two anime episodes is “competent”, and that’s pretty much how I feel about the manga too.  I don’t see anything exceptional here, either in terms of the source material or the way it’s being executed by Kishi Seiji and Lerche – it’s perfectly fine and modestly entertaining, with a decent if unexceptional premise.

If there’s anything that does stand out with this series, it’s the sense that there are slightly darker undertones lurking beneath the surface.  They’re hinted at in Nagisa’s unusual personality, and in the way the school hierarchy plays out.  But the social commentary here is pretty broad, if not wholly uninteresting.  I haven’t read all of the manga but if there’s much subtlety and ambiguity here I’ve yet to find it – this isn’t a series that’s surprised me very often, but it delivers what you expect it to deliver in a reasonably interesting fashion.  I don’t think that’s enough for me to want to blog it, but if you’re looking for a shounen fix this season, you could do worse.



  1. G

    I am going to do a different take on Rolling Girls. Not to argue your review but a lot of people like this anime! The fight scenes are cool and that Roller Coaster from Hell ! Those Takumi Black / White are intersesting , I know the anime references but I got a lot of movie feel for this! Right away I thought of Kamikaze Girls (Girl Bike Gangs ) and then Easy Rider withe Captain America Harley chopper! This is about bikes and an adventure thats going to start! Oh those great classic bikes in this show. I am a 2 wheeler myself and I get this! The great insert music and the covers of the Blue Hearts ( Japan 60's 90' punk) adds to the fun! At the end of EP 2 I got that Wizard of Oz feeling about 4 friends Heading out on the Highway ! Yes a pun! For me it want high on my list but it is now!

  2. g

    I am enjoying both of these, but can understand you choosing not to blog them.

    Rolling Girls looks like it's heading towards more of a cute-girls-doing-cute-things direction now, which kind of bums me out. I hope it keeps up it's cartoonish fighting charm.

    I agree with you that it's somewhat hollow…but you're setting the bar pretty high if you think there's going to be something meaningful and real behind every watchable anime. Sometimes fun cartoon fight sequences and ramen eating contests can carry themselves.

    Assassination classroom is neat. At it's core, it's a modern chuuni repackaging of Great Teacher Onizuka and other teacher-against-the-system mangas. I'm not sure how much you liked GTO, but I dig it and generally enjoy the genre.

    At the end of the day, plenty of people will be blogging these two series, so follow your interests and don't worry about being trendy.

  3. I would argue that Rolling Girls set its own high bar by so overtly copying series like FLCL. It's obviously trying to present itself as the rightful heir to those series. That makes it harder for me to just enjoy it as mindless fluff with a bit of flair.

  4. g

    You're not wrong, but if you keep expecting things to live up to the greatness that was FLCL… you're going to be disappointed more often than not.

    My approach is – if somebody straight-up calls rolling girls the new FLCL or compares it in an apples-to-apples way, then I would correct them and insist this is nothing close. I haven't seen a lot of people doing that though.

    If any show wants to take on the manic energy and fun that was old gainax, I say more power to them. Maybe the success that energy brings to lesser shows will eventually lead to greatness being made again.

  5. s

    I kinda have to agree with the comments above; I think that Rolling Girls in a show that stumbles a bit, not because it's copying series' like FLCL but because of the narrative itself. The shows feels more like it's paying homage to wacky and colorful series like kyousogiga and flcl while establishing itself as its own thing, which seems is a cute-girl-doing-cute-things type of show (much to my dismay if that's were the series is heading. Not that those shows are bad per se, but i expected more.)

    To copy shows like flcl would be to copy it in thematic resonance and story-telling structure, which Rolling girls absolutely does not do (at least as far ive seen). Look at it this way; Akatsuki no yona pays homage to fantasy epics like kingdom and Moribito, but it's its own thing; It's a shoujo with fantasy trappings. It has blemishes of those shows but doesnt outright copy them and that's what i see with Rolling Girls as well, being a show that has blemishes of those good ole manic animes but never outright copies them. In a way, the show is more like yozakura quartet in that that series technically has a slice-of life narrative with a supernatural background twist.

    Either way, i think Rolling Girl's main hurdle is getting it's storytelling together. The show seems to have heart underneath it all, coming off more like a road-trip story and if it can just get it together, it will be a pretty decent series with that lovable sense of charm and fun which seems to be holding the show together at the moment. While i dont think the show has enough going for it to blog, it's still a slick series. Dont worry enzo, we all miss good ole gainax as well

  6. I think you're all really overthinking this. For me, the issue is simple – RG just isn't all that good. The characters are shallow and the storytelling is clumsy. I think the "Gainax vibe" is really all it has going for it at the moment, which makes it all the more problematic that it has none of the depth the shows it's copying had.

  7. g

    Got it. Depending on where it goes from here, I might end up on your side of the fence too. But for now it's working for me.

    Maybe it was just a side effect of a smaller word count, but to me your post read that your biggest problem with the show was it's copy-cat styling. Characters and story telling are big things to dislike. Carry on…

  8. s

    yea that was the impression i got as well from your post, but i sorta knew what you meant which is why is why i mentioned the narrative and characters being clumsy as my reason for being so-so on rolling girls, it's charming style being the thing keeping me watching. I think what we all were trying to say is that your problem isnt that it's "copying" gainax series' because it's not. The problem was that it has a manic gainax feel about it but you can see through the smoke and mirrors and see that the show is nothing more than your usual fluff thrown out in anime nowadays (though i have to admit, this ep had some good comedic timing like the chick who misinformed ma-chan by accident, causing her to get hit by shigyo).

    You know it's funny cuz stilts mentioned in a podcast about a year or two back that the anime industry would try to mash up certain genre's and styles or tweak a shows formula to disguise wat it really is in order to appease to a wider market. Scarily enough, im starting to see it happen with shows like saenai heroine no sodatekata and rolling girls. That man might be a prophet

    By the way did you move back up to the states or something? ive noticed that the time your blog post go up has changed since 2 weeks ago and i wanted to adjust to catch your post

  9. Just visiting.

  10. P

    I never watched FLCL or Kyousougiga before, and I don't think I'm the only one. So I see Rolling Girls as it is, not as how it fares when compared to its predecessors. Granted, it may lack depth but not every single show must have it. But I'm hooked thanks to the visual feat and the entertainment factor, in addition to the pretty character design and the prospect of interactions in the main cast. But i can see how it disappoints you.

  11. R

    It really is an odd case of the level of exposure of the viewer, especially those who were big anime fans a decade or so back. FLCL aside, Gainax (and many other companies who are now gone/bankrupt, ironically) had many other series with the sort of madcap energy that Rolling Girls is shooting for.

    Unlike Enzou, I still like the series enough just for the manic energy, but I think he's right when he says that you're probably going to feel differently about it depending on if you've seen its predecessors, which I'd argue are all better. It's like asking a guy to rate a cake after he's just been through a world class cake tasting exhibition. Good or not, that cake is not going to be getting the same judgement.

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