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
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.