AniMAY 2015: The Rolling Girls (2015)

Welcome to AniMAY at Sketchy Details, our annual celebration of all things Japanese animation. Up first is a brand new series I've fallen for fast and hard: The Rolling Girls.

10 years after the Great War destroyed Tokyo, the remnants of the city are broken up into the 10 original prefectures. They are independent city-states in constant competition with each other. Each city-state is protected by a grand champion fighter, called The Best (Mosa). All conflicts that cannot be handled by diplomacy are decided by dangerous, literally explosive, combat between The Best. Everyone else is The Rest (Mob), who do everything they can to support their champion.

My favorite champion is Kuniko Shigyo, one of the greatest fighters in the Great War who battles with a giant safety pin. They had me at giant safety pin.

Kuniko Shigyo of The Rolling Girls

The Rolling Girls is a very silly coming of age Seinen series. It is ridiculous in the best way possible.

The first battle between invading champion Kuniko Shigyo and hometown champion Macha Green is delayed over a debate about whether a picnic may be held before the battle. The fight literally knocks all the supportive The Rest into the sky from the energy exchanged between a power suit and a giant safety pin.

The second battle between the two champions (Macha Green is Masami Utoku's secret identity) is a ramen eating match at a local restaurant. Kuniko accuses Masami of being Macha Green. They meeting becomes so intense that they fight bowl for bowl over delicious beef tendon and egg ramen until the loser is left with the tab and a bitter taste of defeat.

These two battles are the key to understanding the comedy of the series. Both are animated with the same intensity and flourish. Any conflict, no matter how small, will be an epic special effects explosion in The Rolling Girls. It's really like a child-friendly Kill la Kill in that regard.

Similarly, the visual style of The Rolling Girls is all about the expert use of light. Where Kill la Kill turns the series' villain into a god through crowns of light and upward camera angles, The Rolling Girls turns every human into a palette of pastel noir. The shadows are stark and intense, but they always fall into softer shades of natural colors. White is the most startling presence onscreen, often obscuring the corners of the frame and pulling focus to even the lowliest member of The Rest.

The series actually focuses on one new recruit to Macha Green's army, Nozomi Moritomo. She's a very sweet girl who wants nothing more than to serve beside Macha Green. She is the diamond produced by 10 years of conflict between the city-states that don't quite know how to navigate a world without central leadership from Tokyo. She's proud of her home, reluctant to create another major conflict, but willing to fight to preserve the unsteady peace she's grown up with.

The Rolling Girls is streaming on all the major anime-friendly sites, including Hulu Plus and CrunchyRoll.

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