Nobodies on an Adventure: The Rolling Girls

rollinggirls-motorcyclefallSource: Kirishii

The Rolling Girls is currently my favorite anime of this season, even more than Yuri Kuma Arashi which I think is incredible. Both shows have quite a bit in common with each other in terms of creative visual presentation, but whereas Yuri Kuma Arashi has more of a theatrical and fairy tale feel, Rolling Girls I think can best be described as “charismatic.” When watching I sometimes feel like I’m falling in love, not so much with the girls in the story, but rather with how its world is presented and how its people move through their environment. I’m not sure just how popular The Rolling Girls is inside or outside of Japan, but I’d like more people to watch it, so I’m hoping to make a convincing argument as to why it’s at the very least an interesting show, as well as a refreshing and invigorating experience.

The overarching premise of The Rolling Girls has Japan split into a variety of independent territories, somewhat like a contemporary warring states period. In this new era, different factions try to get ahead, either by fighting other territories or through peace. People are divided into two categories: exceptional individuals known as Mosa (meaning “valorous individuals”, translated officially as “Bests”), and the regular masses who at best provide support in conflicts but mostly stand out of the way, known as Mobu (literally “Mob” but translated as “Rests”). Without going into too many details, the somewhat off English subtitle for the show explains its concept well: “Rolling, Falling, Scrambling Girls. For others. For themselves. Even if they’re destined to be a ‘mob.'”

In other words, a group of girls, despite not having any superhuman abilities, try to do their best in their crazy world, and following them has been an absolute joy.

rollinggirls-alwayscomimaSource: Beautiful World

I imagine that the first thing people will notice about The Rolling Girls is its colorful palette, attention to environment and backgrounds, and stylish animation, reminiscent of Kyousou Giga and to a lesser extent Kill la Kill. Any time a character says something, does something, or even just stands still, there’s an energy and vibrancy to their actions. The Rolling Girls has the feeling of a really dazzling billboard come to life, and while anime is no stranger to slick animation and bright colors, what I especially enjoy about the series is how this presentation emphasizes the connection between the characters and their world.

At the time I write this, the narrative and the world of the story have barely begun to unfold as they travel from one place to the next, experiencing the unique customs and cultures that have arisen since Japan broke apart as a nation. I want to find out more about their world and their characters. It’s kind of like Kino’s Journey in certain respects, only without the idea that the beauty of the world is in its ugliness, and even sometimses reminds me of Redline in the way that the world seems to be constantly teeming with activity. The aesthetics of the show enhance the world-building not so much because of beautiful backgrounds or other more expected ways, but because the world and the people seem to be breathe as one, and that breath is somehow chaotic and erratic and all the better for it.

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Did You Spot This Manga Reference in The Rolling Girls?

Have you been watching The Rolling Girls? So far, it’s one of my top 3 shows of the Winter 2015 anime season. I’m planning a larger write-up for the series, but for now I wanted to point out a small reference in Episode 4 of the show.

Episodes 3 and 4 take place in an area named “Always Comima,” a land that is a perpetual Comic Market doujinshi festival. At one point, the girls end up at a house in Always Comima, whose owner once met one of the girls, Kosaka Yukina, who gave her gratitude by drawing a portrait of their family. You might have noticed that the portrait looks somewhat…peculiar.

The style used in the portrait is actually a reference to a manga artist named Jigoku no Misawa, or Misawa of Hell. Having gained popularity among 2ch users, Misawa is mainly known for his bizarre one-panel comics depicting silly-looking characters trying to act cool.

While his claim to fame is like some Bizarro version of Family Circus, Misawa’s actuall had a few manga long-form published in Jump SQ by Shueisha, the same company that puts out Shounen Jump. I’ve only read Kakko Kawaii Sengen! (“Cool-Cute Proclamation”), which features a girl who is known for being clumsy and popular with the boys, while still looking like this:

Kakko Kawaii Sengen has actually received an animated adaptation, and some merchandise to go along with it.

If you’re interested in checking out Misawa of Hell’s stuff and you have a smart device, then you’re in luck. His series, The Great Phrases Women Fall for, is currently available translated into English on the Manga Box app.

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