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I didn’t pick up many new shows this season, but among them was Rokka –Braves of the Six Flowers-. It was a bit of a mystery going in; the art didn’t reveal much other than that it was a fantasy show, I’ve never seen anything from the studio, Passione. Only the director stood out, Takeo Takahashi, who also directed Spice and Wolf, and as soon as I read that, anything else he had done didn’t matter, he has a golden resume as far as I’m concerned.

Unfortunately Rokka and SaW are very different shows, and while SaW could get away with exposition because of its more subtle plot elements, complex character interaction and great writing, Rokka needs to show more rather than tell.

I’m two episodes in so far. The first one spends about three-quarters of its runtime getting the lore out of the way, while simultaneously impressing me with its animation. From a critical perspective, the writing is bad and forced. Two characters who both acknowledge that they are familiar with legends of the Six Braves explain it in great detail, in front of an unrealistic silent jail cell of prisoners, for the benefit of no one except the writer who couldn’t be arsed to tell it naturally. It even has a pre-OP scene to explain it, but they still use up at least half the episode on this!

Several hundred years ago, a great demon terrorized the kingdom until a goddess drove it back. But she did not kill it, so now every couple centuries, when the demon comes back, she appoints six “Braves” to drive it back again. There, is that so hard?!

Anyway, our protagonist, Adlet Mayer, the self-proclaimed strongest man in the world, thinks he is bound to be one of this cycle’s six, and he decides to prove it by beating the shit out of an old man in the middle of a big ceremony. Yes, he’s that kind of anime protag; the kind that pulls every idiotic move he can think of, but still has to win and look good doing it because he’s protag.

Rokka Braves of the Six Flowers Adlet

That said, I do kinda like Red-Head McBishi, and not just because he’s bishi. He’s got a bit of a Nobunaga vibe to him, only dialed back from like, eleven down to a five. Some of his decisions make no sense, but he carries things out with a passion and showmanship that you kinda forget that. You can call him mad, but that’s not entirely a character flaw for him. And his animation, the way he moves and carries himself make him feel just the right amount of flamboyant.

He runs into Princess Bunny-Ears, Nashatania, and they two soon get chosen to be Braves. She breaks him out of jail, and they run off on horseback into a mystical land of exposition called episode two.

Rokka Braves of the Six Flowers

As episode one went over the lore, episode two goes over the characters. But so much is said, and in the most dull and forced ways possible that I couldn’t care enough to remember most of it. At some point Bunny-Ears starts talking about her father issues without any prompt or lead in; she just randomly decides that now is the time. The main things I picked up about her is that she’s a little weird because moe, a little naïve being princess, and a little harsh in that she is will to leave a presumed civilian behind because saving them would distract her and Adlet from finding the other four Braves. I remember those things specifically because they were the only parts of her character that were shown instead of just told.

Towards the end of the episode they must have realized that this is a shounen show and they need to get some actual action and fights in, so the two stumble across some “fiends”. This is where the animation got me. I usually hate CG. My only exceptions are Karas and the opening of Ghost in the Shell: SAC. The monsters here are done entirely in CG. And they actually don’t look bad. I think it’s the way they interact with their environment and how Adlet and Bunny-Ears attack them; they don’t look awkwardly superimposed on a page that doesn’t suit them. They look like they actually belong there.

The art style works to their advantage too. The colours and shading of the normal, 2D animated characters look a little CG-like, so actual CG fits in better. It’s at least good enough to get the approval of me, someone who still thinks hand drawn animation leagues above today’s best computer done work.

So that’s Rokka –Braves of the Six Flowers- as it stands now. It’s a little irritating getting into, but has proved that it can have some good action. I think if it finishes with this early exposition stuff and continues to develop its characters through action rather than story time, it could be really good. For now, I would say hold off unless you really like the look of the art.

Don’t Lose Your Way