Original Run: July 2, 2022 - September 24, 2022 Number of Episodes: Genre: Action
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Lycoris Recoil. Reader discretion is advised.***
Direct Attack has worked in the shadows to keep Japan safe. One of the organization’s rising stars, Takina Inoue (voiced by Shion Wakayama), takes an operation into her own hands. Although she managed to keep all her teammates safe, she did go against orders. Therefore, Direct Attack demotes Takina to its subgroups, the small café LycoReco.
Although the little coffee shop doesn’t have the importance of headquarters, it is the operating base of Direct Attack’s number one agent, Chisato Nishikigi (voiced by Chika Anzai). Unlike Takina, Chisato is far more lax and easygoing, but her skills are near superhuman.
At LycoReco, Chisato and Takina run odd jobs for their customers. However, the nature of Direct Attack’s work involves dealing with the most dangerous of villains. Thus, Chisato and Takina are bound to find themselves in the middle of the fight.
This series was quite the treat, and all initial signs pointed away from such an outcome.
On paper, Lycoris Recoil sounds neither unique nor interesting. A gunslinger show about a secret all-female organization of highly trained teenage assassins protecting the public from terrorists. You know you’ve been watching anime for far too long when you hear a description like that, and the first thought in your head is, “What, again?”
In these types of series – because, for some reason, this is a pretty prevalent genre – the resulting story is extremely hit-or-miss, more often landing firmly on “miss.” The gimmick of having as-cute-as-possible high school girls fight in a paramilitary force in the shadows tends to be incredibly shallow. The makers behind Lycoris Recoil must have realized it would eventually hit all the narrative beats one would expect from such a show. However, someone down the line must have the brilliant idea to realize that things didn’t have to spiral into obscurity so long as they included characters that were – what’s the word – good.
Make no mistake, Lycoris Recoil’s story wasn’t anything special; we’ll cover the more problematic plot points later in the review. As for the characters this story centered around, specifically the staff of LycoReco, they elevated this series to rank amongst one of the more entertaining and memorable anime of the 2022 summer season.
Therefore, there is no point in beating around the bush. Takina Inoue and Chisato Nishikigi (especially Chisato) turned Lycoris Recoil from a no-thrills action anime into something worth checking out.
To start, Takina underwent a thoroughly satisfying development arc. Upon her introduction, her personality, view of her place in the world, and robotic nature were more akin to what one would expect to see from the strongest Lycoris in the field. At least, that is how most similar shows would have played it. Regardless, it was surprising to see how much she loosened up as the series progressed.
Takina never lost her professionalism; she tended to lean towards function over form. Be that as it may, she would eventually loosen up and didn’t feel out of place during this series’ more lighthearted moments. Takina could be funny, goofy, and downright adorable. Remembering her stoic impatience in episode one and watching her heartfelt drive on display in episode thirteen was remarkable. In a short amount of time, Takina grew to be much more than a one-note character.
Then there was Chisato. She was the most unexpected thing to come out of Lycoris Recoil. There are few action protagonists like her. In most other series, Chisato’s personality – lighthearted, ditzy, and carefree – would have, at best, regulated her to being a sideline actor. But to have her be the star and the most competent, efficient, and skilled agent of a secret crime-fighting organization, that feels close to unprecedented.
The only other character with similar traits that comes to mind is Rushuna Tendou from 2004’s Grenadier: The Beautiful Warrior. Quickly, with a show of hands, how many of you actually get that reference. And if anyone else comes to mind, mention them in the comments below.
The point is, Chisato damn near immediately established herself as a contender for one of the 2022’s best characters. After all, Lycoris Recoil found a way to make Chisato’s bullet-dodging ability believable – granted in a suspension-of-disbelief sort of way.
No matter the circumstances, Chisato exuded confidence. And although she always had any given situation under control, many of this show’s action scenes had undeniable tension. The climax, in particular, had much on the line. Disregarding the word battle between Chisato and Lycoris Recoil’s primary antagonist, Majima (voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka), the actual fight was intense.
Speaking of the fights in this series, A-1 Pictures, the studio behind Lycoris Recoil, once again demonstrated why they are one of the most prominent animators of the medium. This show had beautiful visuals, even without bringing up the gorgeous use of lighting, settings, and backgrounds. The action was smooth, quick-paced, and thrilling.
To cut to the chase, Lycoris Recoil shared a foundation lesser shows have put forward. And yet, what this series managed to build on top of that is beyond impressive. It just proves that any genre is not inherently lifeless.
As long as certain key elements are present, even the weakest concepts can become spectacular.
Lycoris Recoil managed to pull off something great. It was an anime that became difficult to put down once it started going.
Aside from the staff of LycoReco, almost everyone’s motivations in this series either didn’t make sense, were uninteresting, or were inconsequential.
Let’s begin with the organization Chisat and Takina were a part of, Direct Attack (DA). Despite being the “good guys” in this story, it was nearly impossible to root for them. This had nothing to do with the moral grey area they operated in. Instead, DA was simply unlikeable. They were arrogant and utterly full of themselves. While one might argue that was the point, Lycoris Recoil took things too far.
When against Majima, a proven terrorist who had no reservations about killing anyone who stood in his vicinity, DA was so self-righteous that they became the unreasonable ones. Despite everything Majima had done, you find yourself cheering him on because DA had lost any semblance of standing.
Heck, the DA was so heavy-handed that Majima came off looking like an anti-hero. There is no way that was the actual intention; nevertheless, it’s what happened.
Next, there was Majima himself. Most of the time, he was an entertaining villain who did more than enough to frame himself as a significant threat. However, one scene between him and Chisato was a laughably lousy excuse for a philosophical debate. At that moment, Lycoris Recoil was so far up its own butt that it never managed to entirely pull itself out again.
Both sides’ arguments (this not Chisato at her best) were cookie-cutter, unoriginal, and pseudo-deep. It was jarring to watch because the show hadn’t felt the need to do anything like this before. Well, that is if you don’t count Lycoris Recoil’s secondary villain (who will remain nameless for spoiler reasons).
The motivations of the other group made no sense. What drove them to go against Chisato was forced beyond belief. The arguments and justifications they used were naively black and white. They added nothing to the story besides giving Chisato a flimsy reason to temporarily doubt herself. And it’s not even clear if she even did that.
It is truly astounding how much Chisato and Takina carried this series. Whenever they were doing their own thing or when they were the ones trying to save the day, Lycoris Recoil worked. But when the powers that be tried to force their will into our heroes’ world, this series grew unnecessarily burdensome. And to make matters worse, this was most prevalent during the show’s closing episodes.
Therefore, we can classify Lycoris Recoil as a series that didn’t end with its best foot forward.
When a series has just a handful of elements that it does exceedingly well, can it override everything else that’s lacking? If this show is any indication, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Again, there is a reason why we should judge an anime based on more substantial elements, such as characters. If there are people worth liking, then everything can, at worst, be tolerable. Or, in the case here, surprisingly fun.
Now, to be fair, this show’s lesser aspects weren’t broken. However, they alone wouldn’t have made this series worth watching. But thanks to a core group of main characters, Lycoris Recoil has earned a recommendation.
But these are my thoughts; what are yours? Have you seen this show; how would you advise Lycoris Recoil? Leave a comment below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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