Asst. Arts and Entertainment Editor
In a future where there is no crime in Tokyo, at least not officially, the task of maintaining peace falls on a group of all-female assassins. These highly skilled agents are known as the Lycoris. One such operative is Takina Inoue, who takes the saying “Shoot first and ask questions later” a little too literally. After being kicked out of her organization, she is recruited by the bubbly Chisato Nishikigi, an elite agent working at a café. Chisato can dodge bullets and dispel criminal threats without killing anybody. Through their misadventures, this mismatched pair learn not just to team up against thugs and terrorists, but to trust and support each other.
“Lycoris Recoil” is a rather bizarre anime. On one hand, its premise suggests a serious cyberpunk anime focusing on young teenage assassins working to maintain the peace in Japan. On the other, said assassins can best be described as cute and adorable. It pays obvious homage to classic action movies such as Terminator, Mission Impossible and Die Hard. Meanwhile, the show also makes subtle criticisms of violence as entertainment. It tries to be both a mindlessly fun “popcorn anime” while attempting to be serious with the subject matter.
That makes giving Lycoris a positive or negative rating rather hard. It’s even garnered the admiration of Hideo Kojima, creator of the successful Metal Gear Franchise, and it’s not hard to see why. The production team at A1 Pictures, responsible for animating Sword Art Online, Seven Deadly Sins, and Fairy Tail, clearly did their homework when it came to weapons, ammunition and gun combat. My friend, an avid gun enthusiast, often was able to identify the models and munitions of various firearms in the anime. The animation and art direction are flashy and stylish, especially in combat sequences. The character designs are extremely appealing and even cute.
The show was undoubtedly at its strongest in its first half. After Takina is demoted, she must relearn the ins and outs of being a Lycoris agent while also working with a lively, cheerful assassin in Chisato. Their interactions and deepening relationship easily make up the best part of the show. However, as the anime progresses past the halfway mark, it takes a turn focusing on Chisato and how she became a masterclass Lycoris. The difference is while Takina’s character arc makes her a more compassionate and considerate team player, Chisato remains pretty much the same from start to finish. She is this anime’s manic pixie dream girl, and it's rather disappointing that she didn’t experience any change, considering the hints of inner struggles and insecurities.
“Lycoris Recoil” tries to strike a balance of being cutesy, adrenalin-pumping and serious, but in my opinion, it fails to hit the right sweet spot. For one, the pacing in the show might be too tight and brisk for its own good. At only 13 episodes, it’s easy to think that this anime could have been improved by doubling its length and giving its characters and world a chance to breathe and develop. What’s even more frustrating about the show is the way too lighthearted tone of the entire show.
In the last three episodes, the tension is rising, the stakes are heightened and the fates of the cast is put into question. The viewers are left on the edge of their seats, anticipating a thrilling climax, only to have the good old bait and switch turn everything on its head and rob us of any investment we had. That was the final episode in a nutshell. Episode 13’s conclusion of the show left me feeling cheated, empty and most of all disappointed.
“Lycoris Recoil” might not have stuck the landing. But there’s no denying the dumb fun to be had throughout. For anyone looking for a more serious approach to the Girls With Guns trope, deadly female assassins or crime thriller intrigue, you’re probably better off watching “Gunslinger Girl” instead. “Lycoris Recoil” premiered last Summer and can be streamed on Crunchyroll.