Anime Orbit Seasonal Check-in: A Gunsmoke Twilight in the Last Days of LYCORIS RECOIL

Anime Orbit is an irregular column where I summarize a stop along my journey through anime, manga, and the related spheres of popular culture over the past week. Expect spoilers for covered material, where relevant.

Magic Planet Anime posts will be extremely irregular for the foreseeable future. See this post for details.

Since we last spoke about Lycoris Recoil, the series has undergone a radical shift in scale and focus. We saw the opening moves of this maneuver back in episode 7, but by now the show has mostly disregarded any direct “nitty gritty” political engagement. There are two things LycoReco cares about right now: mapping out the long arc of Chisato’s short life, and broad, philosophical questions of destiny and free will. Even though the show’s actual setting and characters have not changed much, we’re still a very long way from the montage of high schoolers capping people from the premiere.

We’ve known for a while that Chisato has an artificial heart, some future-tech thing that doesn’t actually beat, and which is essentially irreplaceable. So it wasn’t that surprising when, a few weeks ago, a minor villain posing as a nurse injected our protagonist with some knock-out serum or another and performed some impromptu surgery. The result was hardware lockout; no one can tinker with Chisato’s heart anymore, and that includes recharging it.

She has two months left to live.

Chisato’s life has the ring of true tragedy. Raised as a child soldier but addled with an incurable heart disease, she was singled out by the mysterious Shinji Yoshimatsu as a “genius” of killing, the primary skill of all Lycorii, and given her artificial heart with the understanding that she would use this gift to become an even deadlier assassin. Even with this in mind, we learn, it was doubtful she’d live past 18. Of course, for the purposes of being a deadly teenage supercop, that’s perfectly fine; Lycorii are discharged at 18 anyway.

The entire universe of Lycoris Recoil is aligned against Chisato; the “nurse” who’s pulled the plug on her heart is one of Yoshimatsu’s people, an obvious attempt to gain leverage on her to get her to return to her alleged true calling as an assassin, her former superior at the DA is not much better, giving her back a camera she’d confiscated some time ago to try to nudge her back into DA service. And of course, there’s her heart problems themselves, a natural ailment that the artificial heart has provided only a temporary reprieve from.

Chisato rarely shows any direct concern over any of this, and frankly she’s remarkably unflappable in the face of her imminent demise, but that’s precisely part of what makes her character arc so effective. Fearing death, at least a little bit, is normal. Staring unblinking into its face as you know it’s creeping ever closer, that’s another thing entirely. The ability to do that only comes from having spent the better part of your life in a seriously bad place. Even with all she very obviously cares for—Takina, the cafe’, Mika, etc.—she seems to have accepted this as inevitable from day one. It’s heartbreaking.

Yet, when, in episode 10 (the most recent), she finds out who exactly is responsible for all of that hardship, she holds no ill will toward him at all. She’s not really even mad at Mika for keeping this secret from her this entire time! Instead, she reiterates that she sees the two of them as her fathers, and when, in the episode’s final minutes, we learn that Shinji’s being held hostage by Majima and Robota, she doesn’t hesitate to spend a day of her rapidly-shrinking lifespan trying to rescue him. (The actual hostage rescue itself being territory for next week, we must assume.)

Chisato is, at the end of the day, an incredibly strong character. Not just strong in the usual anime sense, and not just strong as in “well-written,” but possessing of a vast moral strength, too. It’s hard to know whether to take her insistence that she hear all of the terrible things Shinji’s said about her in person as an incredible capacity for forgiveness, a denial that she’s been lied to at all, or both. But all signs point to her being very much aware of her own mortality, her ability to do all of this in spite of that awareness is both admirable and more than a little terrifying. Hers is a blitheness that hides a deep pain, something we really don’t get to actually see for ourselves directly.

While this is very much Chisato’s show, it’d be a mistake to not mention that the rest of Lycoris Recoil‘s cast has continued to be great, too. Mika’s deep and very much justified regret over his role in concealing the truth from Chisato rounds out his character in an excellent way.

Takina, in the meantime, has had to deal with the impending loss of her best friend (or “best friend.” I leave that distinction up to you, shippers), perhaps the first person she’s ever truly connected to, while also, in a twist of dramatic irony, being given exactly what she initially wanted; a trip back to the DA. She and Chisato are apart for episode 10, which while sad, does give her a few moments to truly shine on her own, and her single-minded focus on trying to somehow help Chisato is very grounded and relatable, despite the fantastical stakes. (This could also be said of Mika, actually. I am sure there is at least one father watching this show who absolutely cried his eyes out this past episode.)

The only real weak spot is Majima, who’s taken the main villain role in this last arc of the show. As a cartoonish caricature of an anarchist in a world built on some already-iffy foundational principles, he is probably the only genuine weak link in Lycoris Recoil‘s character roster and embodies most of the show’s remaining shortcomings. Still, he’s at least entertaining at this point, with his utterly ludicrous plot of “hide a thousand guns all over Tokyo and let carnage ensue naturally from there” being, all at once, a decent piece of commentary, comically stupid on its face, and weirdly lazy, as far as big endgame villain schemes go. But at this point, that’s expected of LycoReco, a show that is built on contradictions top to bottom.

The plot itself has taken an all-action movie tropes twist—again—as we ride into the final few weeks. A dying Chisato prepares to rescue Shinji while Takina and the other DA Lycorii try to deal with Majima running circles around them. Much is up in the air, and it’s impossible to exactly call where it all will land.

For any flaws it could be said to have, there is absolutely no denying that, as Lycoris Recoil nears its end, it remains an absolutely fascinating show, forever pulling in all directions and only recently settling into a groove that seems to truly suit it. (No one would call the show’s early episodes bad, I don’t think, but things have definitely improved.) The last bullets are in the chamber; gun cocked, but not fired.

Like what you’re reading? Consider following Magic Planet Anime to get notified when new articles go live. If you’d like to talk to other Magic Planet Anime readers, consider joining my Discord server! Also consider following me on Twitter and supporting me on Ko-Fi or Patreon. If you want to read more of my work, consider heading over to the Directory to browse by category.

All views expressed on Magic Planet Anime are solely my own opinions and conclusions and should not be taken to reflect the opinions of any other persons, groups, or organizations. All text, excepting direct quotations, is owned by Magic Planet Anime. Do not duplicate without permission. All images are owned by their original copyright holders.

Let’s Watch LYCORIS RECOIL – Episodes 6 & 7

Let’s Watch is a weekly recap column where I follow an anime for the course of its entire runtime. Expect spoilers!

Well folks, I hope you like reading my opinions on Girls with Guns anime, because we have a full double-writeup this week.

Episode 6 is a weird one, although in the greater context of Lycoris Recoil it’s actually fairly typical, dealing as it does with a mix of action and wacky hijinks. Takina moves in with Chisato as an extra defense against the recent rash of Lycoris killings (we saw one of those in episode 5), mostly to comedic effect, despite the deadly serious situation, and there’s a running gag throughout the episode about Chisato’s preternatural skill at rock-paper-scissors, as well as plenty more gay subtext for those who are watching the series just for that.

But you wouldn’t assume such silliness from how the episode opens; it begins with the DA in crisis. The targeted killings have thrown the agency into disarray, and there’s not much indication that the commander really knows what to do. That’s actually all we see of her in this episode, but it sets the tone for that part of the episode pretty well.

Let’s briefly talk about Majima (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka). Majima is the weird terrorist who’s been behind these Lycoris killings. We learn in this episode that he’s probably working for Mr. Alan (whether he knows that is an open question at this point), and that he has a pretty short fuse, threatening his cohort, the hacker Roboto, if he can’t get him what he wants soon enough. What does he want? To smash the DA. To be honest, if that motive were welded to a more developed character, you could very easily make the case that Majima is actually the good guy. But Majima is not much more than a cartoonish killer with a grudge at this point, and frankly, he’s not a terribly interesting antagonist. (At least not in this episode, but we’ll get to that.) His being the bad guy is easy to chalk up to the show’s rather simple political principles. He is a functional counterforce for Chisato, though, which is enough for this episode specifically. He becomes interested in our hero when Roboto inadvertently shows him some footage of her roughing up some would-be assailants, and from then on it’s mostly ravings about “balance.” Although there is one interesting reveal snuck in here; that Chisato is, or at least Majima thinks she is, an “Alan Lycoris.” It really doesn’t seem like our protagonist is actually working for Alan, so what that means, beyond Alan’s brief allusion to her being a “genius of killing” back in episode 4, is fairly up in the air.

The actual section of the episode where Majima and Chisato fight is strongly done, and LycoReco makes a much-needed comeback on the production front after the visually iffy episode 5, here. The fact that Majima’s favored method of attacking Lycorii starts with “run them over with a Lambo” is still deeply silly, but it at least looks suitably dramatic and menacing this time around. Most notably with this shot, where it does actually look like Chisato might be seriously injured or worse. (She is, of course, fine. No one can stop an anime high school girl with a firearm.)

Things do get dicey enough though that Takina has to intervene, although not before we get a pretty great “hero and villain fistfight while surrounded by chanting goons” scene. I’ve always loved that particular trope, it’s an easy way to inject some grit into a story. (And the between frames of a full-on slugfest are inevitably hilarious.)

There are some other interesting bits in here. For one, we get yet another piece of the puzzle as to the question of what exactly happened back in episode 1. Today we learn that the person who hacked the Radiata system—and thus, indirectly lead to Majima’s people getting their hands on the names and faces of the Lycorii he’s been hunting down—was in fact Walnut, AKA our very own Kurumi. This is basically treated like a serious but ultimately goofy mistake on her part by most of the cast, which is as odd as it sounds. The only resulting consequence being her offering Takina a tearful apology and promising to help them see the case through to the end. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse whenever I bring this up, but this show’s oddly undercooked ideological framework really just lends a weird air to developments like this, and a few other “gags” throughout the episode. It’s the show’s most serious writing-side weakness, but admittedly, Kurumi committing a serious crime being treated as an Uh-Oh Whoopsie is actually kind of funny.

This is also the presumable inspiration for episode 6’s midcards, which I will not otherwise get a chance to include here, and which really remind me of that “girl being homoerotically bullied” meme that used to go around tumblr.

Do you think someone on the staff just made this as fanart, originally? I do wonder.

We close with Takina finally beating Chisato at roshambo, with her residence at Chisato’s place on the line, although not before the latter gets her hopes up.

….And, elsewhere, with Majima swearing vengeance against this “interesting” Lycoris he’s met, thrilled that he’s found someone who can “strike a balance with him.”

Which brings us to episode 7.

Episode 7 is not only much stronger than the comparatively weak 5 and 6, it’s probably the best episode of Lycoris Recoil so far, despite forgoing one of the series’ usual strengths. (That is to say; there aren’t really any cool extended action scenes in it.)

Part of this is down to a simple shift in focus; I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’m a bit down on Lycoris Recoil‘s worldbuilding and the assumptions that it uses as foundations. That’s still true, but this episode foregrounds a more interesting and more directly interpersonal series of conflicts that makes that a fair bit less relevant. You can think of this as the show “zooming in”, if you’d like.

Our plots here are twofold; one follows Majima and manages to make him a fair shake more interesting than he’s been since his introduction, and the other follows Chisato, who, via an unintentionally sneaked look at a phone, manages to learn more about herself and the operation that saved her life than she probably wanted to.

Majima’s plot is the more straightforward of the two, so we’ll knock that out first; he spends much of this episode running around on Roboto’s orders. All to advance some grandiose plan he has to encounter Chisato again, who he has quickly developed a dangerous obsession with. We also learn, somewhat surprisingly, that Majima was present at the much-discussed Radio Tower Incident, and in fact claims credit for “breaking” the tower in the first place. What this might mean is still unclear, but he did meet a certain deadly, familiar-looking Lycoris back then, which immediately adds a layer of the engagingly personal to his fixation on Chisato.

On the other hand, maybe this is just The Flatwoods Monster wearing a schoolgirl uniform.

His half of the episode ends with him and his band of thugs shooting up a police station, and attaching a bugged USB stick from Roboto to one of their computers. (Which is presumably somehow connected to the Radiata, to be honest this is the episode’s only plot point that I’m still a little unclear on.)

Chisato, meanwhile, happens to glance at her boss Mika’s phone one day at the cafe’. One can see why the message would catch her interest.

As much as what follows is about Chisato, it’s also about Mika. I haven’t really talked a lot about Mika in these columns, but he’s actually probably my favorite member of the adult cast. For one thing, cast diversity has badly backslid in anime over the past 20 years, so it is just nice to have a Black character who is a normal part of the narrative instead of some weird stereotype. But more than that, he’s an interesting mentor figure in his own right, past episodes have alluded to a checked past with the DA, gesturing toward the notion that Mika is not entirely the kindly man he seems.

This episode does not pull any kind of secret villain reveal, but it does confirm that, yeah, the guy used to work in the truly unpleasant part of the already-unpleasant secret government agency. Namely, because one of his buddies was Shinji Yoshimatsu. The mysterious head of the Alan Institute who I’ve accidentally previously only been referring to by his pseudonyms, I think. Anyway! That is the guy that he meets up with at Bar Forbidden, the amusingly named members-only lounge mentioned in the text message.

Initially, some of the cast (especially Takina) think that it’s possible that he might be meeting up with the commander, assuming it’s a strictly business affair. They find out the actual truth of things once they infiltrate Forbidden in, I’ll say, a very Chisato way.

Where in the world is Chisato Sandiego?

As they find out, Yoshimatsu and Mika go way back. On the one hand, we get pretty explicit confirmation that they used to be more than just friends. (Quoth Chisato, who sounds like she’s speaking from experience; “love comes in many forms.”) And Yoshimatsu attempts to psych-out Mika in an elevator on his way out. Both by acting all domineering and then by pulling back and explaining the reasons for his actions.

He, as we already more or less knew, was the one who funded her operation after the Radio Tower Incident, and did so because of Chisato’s natural talents. Those talents go unnamed here, but it doesn’t take a genius to infer that he’s referring to her skill as an assassin. Skill she hasn’t really put to use since returning to work as a Lycoris and switching only to non-lethal arms.

Here again we do kind of run smack into LycoReco’s fundamental writing issues. Lycoris Recoil seems to think switching to non-lethal ammo is a much bigger deal than it actually is. Yes, it’s great that the child soldier isn’t wantonly killing people (anymore), but she’s still a child soldier. An unsolved problem remains.

Or does it?

The series has not been shy about portraying Yoshimatsu as a villain. This is the first episode we get that really humanizes him at all, and what we learn is hardly flattering. Chisato confronts Mika and Yoshimatsu, although unfailingly politely. She learns about why she was saved, and even though she does not show it in any way but the most subtle, it’s very clear that this bothers her on a deep level. And I imagine that with Majima setting plans in motion to cause full-on disasters to attract the attention of his favorite Lycoris, her commitment to the bare minimum baseline even of just not killing will be tested in the episodes to come.

While that is not the comprehensive breakdown of the toxic structures that put all this in place that many were hoping for from Lycoris, it is meaningful. In the episode’s closing moments, she hangs up her Alan Institute pendant inside her closet, implicitly locking that part of her identity away. She is clearly bothered by what she’s been told here, even if it’s not in her nature to make that obvious. Hopefully, the next time we see the pendant, she throws it out for good. (And Mika, certainly, feels like he’s failed Chisato in some way by letting her find out about this. I really do think the two have an endearing surrogate father / daughter sort of thing going on, and you really feel for him here.)

Making things worse is that Yoshimatsu tosses this comment toward Takina, possibly hinting at a future wedge between the two. (Even if not, Yoshimatsu is clearly trying to make one.)

The episode ends on a brilliant little match cut; Chisato hanging up her pendant with Majima idly dangling his in the air as he plots his next move. This is the most alive Lycoris Recoil has felt for a few weeks, and whatever happens next, it’s sure to be explosive.

Like what you’re reading? Consider following Magic Planet Anime to get notified when new articles go live. If you’d like to talk to other Magic Planet Anime readers, consider joining my Discord server! Also consider following me on Twitter and supporting me on Ko-Fi or Patreon. If you want to read more of my work, consider heading over to the Directory to browse by category.

All views expressed on Magic Planet Anime are solely my own opinions and conclusions and should not be taken to reflect the opinions of any other persons, groups, or organizations. All text, excepting direct quotations, is owned by Magic Planet Anime. Do not duplicate without permission. All images are owned by their original copyright holders.

Let’s Watch LYCORIS RECOIL Episode 3 – More Haste, Less Speed

Let’s Watch is a weekly recap column where I follow an anime for the course of its entire runtime. Expect spoilers!

Before I begin today, I want to clarify that I tried to do something a little different with this writeup. Since its premiere, the main opinion I’ve expressed on this blog about Lycoris Recoil is that I think it’s really cool. I stand by that. It’s hard on a fundamental, entertainment level, to fuck up “girls with guns.” This is a style of story that, in anime, dates back to at least Dirty Pair. 2000s-era cult studio Bee Train also built their entire reputation on that kind of thing, and that legacy went on to inform the present day school of what I call battle girl anime, a tradition that Lycoris Recoil is very much part of. (It stands off in the comparatively more ‘realistic’—heavy scare quotes there—quadrant with other ‘spy girl’ anime like Princess Principal, RELEASE THE SPYCE, and so on.)

But today I want to get into the weeds just a bit, to the question of what Lycoris Recoil is actually about on a level beyond its literal plot. What it is trying to say, what assumptions it’s working off of, etc. As I say all this, I want to remain perfectly clear; I do really like this show quite a lot, and it would have to fuck up pretty badly for that opinion to change. Nothing I am about to say is meant to disparage the show, just to explore it in a slightly different way.

We’ll come back to that; for now, let’s start with the obvious, no-qualifiers positives. For the third week in a row, Lycoris Recoil delivers a knockout showcase of style. Throughout “More Haste, Less Speed” it is consistently entertaining as hell, and the production values are top-shelf in a way that is very hard to come by this consistently these days. Even scenes where characters are doing little more than talking to each other are absolutely chockablock with little physical tics—what the Sakurabooru crowd generally call character acting—and the action scenes toward the end of the episode remain, really, without much competition.

The actual plot is decent fun, too. The episode’s core premise is fairly simple; Chisato has to return to DA headquarters to get a physical exam so she can continue operating as a Lycoris, Takina tags along under the misguided belief that, since she’s been performing well, if she can get the commander’s ear she might be able to convince her to let her rejoin the force.

This does not happen, obviously, since then there would be no more show. Instead, we learn a few more interesting things about the incident that lead to her suspension; talk of radio interference and a possible hacking of Radiata, the DA’s ‘AI’ system that also handles its communications, absolves Takina of some actual responsibility in said incident. (Not that the DA commander knows, or, indeed, would care, as Chisato points out. That the higher-ups absolutely would feign ignorance in this kind of situation is one of the better observations LycoReco pulls out, here.)

Much of the actual conflict of this episode is more interpersonal though. It’s clear that however well she has or hasn’t been getting along with Chisato, Takina has been treating her assignment to the cafe’ group as a temporary thing, very much under the impression that she will be allowed back into what seems to be the main force of Lycorii, who are based out of the dorms in DA headquarters, eventually. Her hardnosed, by-the-book nature again comes into conflict with Chisato’s here. (There’s a fun bit early on where she refuses an offer of candy from Chisato. When the episode ends, after all that happens here, she accepts it instead, a cute visual metaphor for their increased trust in each other.)

Takina’s notion that she’ll be allowed back is, as she discovers here, itself wrong. The DA commander tells her to her face that she has no intention of bringing her back, and the other Lycorii, including her own former partner Fuki, are openly antagonistic toward her. (Honestly, Fuki is quite the baby authoritarian in general.)

This starts with verbal sparring, and by the episode’s end, culminates in a mock gunfight between Chisato and Takina’s team and Fuki, alongside her new partner Sakura.

Here, though, we should circle back around to that question of what Lycoris Recoil is actually trying to say. Because this is the first episode that’s really gone into any detail about how all this Lycoris stuff actually works, and what it shows us—and what it does not show us—is illuminating.

There is a lot of talk of “independence” and “leaving things behind” and such in this episode. To me, this is a strange bit of framing on Lycoris Recoil‘s part. Most of its important characters are orphans drafted into some kind of shadowy supersoldier program that, the more we learn about it, the less ethical it seems (and keep in mind we started with “orphan child cops”). The various Lycorii—for instance, Fuki, Takina’s former partner—talking about the DA as their “parents” is weird. It’s probably supposed to be weird, but I’m not totally clear on why Lycoris Recoil thinks it’s weird.

I will not disparage Fuki in the regard of her obvious crush on Mika, though. He’s a handsome guy if you’re into older dudes.

To me, that notion reeks of straight-up brainwashing, and the obvious best conclusion for this series is for Chisato, Takina, and ideally everyone else, to simply break away from this system entirely. (If they can dismantle it in the process, hey, bonus points.) Lycoris Recoil‘s actual qualms with this system, though, are hard to identify, seeming to equate them as it does to overprotective parents in a way that belies a paternal-authoritarian worldview. (Pro tip: if you’re equating anything to parents that’s not like a close friend or mentor, something has gone terribly wrong. The state is not your parents. Some kind of secret supercop department of the government is definitely not your parents.) If that’s so, it’s a disappointing failure of imagination. There is no reason a TV series for adults should be lapped in the “protagonist entirely rejects abusive system” department by, say, Fresh Precure.

But on the other hand, that is me making a lot of assumptions, and there is plenty of sign that Lycoris Recoil might have more ambitious plans in mind. As Takina continues to struggle with being so thoroughly rejected by the DA and by her former peers, Chisato says this, hugging Takina tight in a delightfully queer public display of affection. (Shortly after this she straight up lifts her off the ground and twirls her around in order to mock some homophobic onlookers. This is all very great.)

The question that springs from Chisato’s comment is a natural one; what kind of things can you gain by losing something? What can Takina gain from losing her membership in the DA? I would say all sorts of things. There’s what LycoReco itself implies; Chisato’s friendship1, her other friends at the cafe’ which she will perhaps come to regard as a found family, a sense of purpose, etc. But I would also add to that, freedom in the truest sense, a true unshackling from the system that is still very much invisibly stepping on both her neck and Chisato’s. It’s a fool’s game to try to predict where a piece of serial fiction will eventually end up thematically, but I want Lycoris Recoil to go there. That would take it from a very good show to a great one.

But as it is, we must look at the show we have and not the one we build up in our minds. LycoReco isn’t there yet, and it may never get there. Indeed, there are any number of minor nitpicks I could add on to this; why is Fuki’s new partner, the openly antagonistic Sakura, the one with the shortest hair and the somewhat boyish voice? Strange choice for a series with a massive periphery gay fanbase. Why does the DA commander (whose name I’ve not written down, because she’s awful and doesn’t deserve one) suddenly act all proud behind the scenes after Chisato and Takina leave? Of course, even as I write these things I’m cognizant that they are, again, nitpicks. One could easily wave them off as a byproduct of the many-hands approach that almost all modern serial television is made with, and I am largely inclined to do so.

So, do any of these, not even faults exactly, but potential future faults ruin the episode or make it bad or anything like that? No. Lycoris Recoil remains a masterclass of stylish and engaging animation and direction. The question for me is more whether or not the themes will prove themselves worthy of that style. To put it in an admittedly very dumb way; Lycoris Recoil probably has a spot on my end-of-year writeups on its looks and fun-to-untangle twisty-turny plot alone. And there are lots of little bits about this episode that I didn’t even get the chance to mention, alongside the aforementioned nitpicks; a few hints about Chisato’s past as “the hero of the radio tower,” the daily board game tournaments that apparently go on at the cafe’, etc.

Whether it comes out the other side of these twelve weeks saying something meaningful or interesting is what will decide if it ranks high on that list or ends up in the honorable mentions next to, say, Princess Connect Re:Dive. Neither is anything to remotely be ashamed of, and I would find it hard to actually slam Lycoris for the aforementioned potential failures of imagination unless it colossally dropped the ball in a downright offensive way—I don’t get my politics from cartoons and you shouldn’t either, go read Capitalist Realism or something—it’s just a question of its placement on the proverbial podium.

Put plain; I still really like Lycoris Recoil, but I am interested to see if it can raise the ceiling even more.

1: As strong and well-worn as my shipping goggles are, I don’t think you can really argue the two are actually going out, based on what we see. Yet. We’ll see what the rest of the show looks like. (And, hey, I’m not going to tell fanartists they can’t mine that little pick-up-and-spin-around bit for weeks. Are you? What are you, some kind of killjoy?)

Like what you’re reading? Consider following Magic Planet Anime to get notified when new articles go live. If you’d like to talk to other Magic Planet Anime readers, consider joining my Discord server! Also consider following me on Twitter and supporting me on Ko-Fi or Patreon. If you want to read more of my work, consider heading over to the Directory to browse by category.

All views expressed on Magic Planet Anime are solely my own opinions and conclusions and should not be taken to reflect the opinions of any other persons, groups, or organizations. All text, excepting direct quotations, is owned by Magic Planet Anime. Do not duplicate without permission. All images are owned by their original copyright holders.

Let’s Watch LYCORIS RECOIL Episode 2 – The More The Merrier

Let’s Watch is a weekly recap column where I follow an anime for the course of its entire runtime. Expect spoilers!

I know on some level that I can’t just spend every one of these columns gushing about how goddamn entertaining Lycoris Recoil is, but I really, really want to. If anyone had any lingering doubts, “The More The Merrier” proves that Lycoris Recoil’s spy movie chops are no fluke. It’s stylish and intriguing with a fun little left turn at the end. Basically, the perfect second episode for something like this.

We open on a delightfully Lain-y scene of two hackers meeting in the confines of cyberspace. One is Walnut, who we met last week, and the other is a new face (or mask, anyway), Roboto.

The two’s relationship can perhaps best be described as tense, and we learn early on here that it was Roboto who told the mysterious billionaire Allen Adams where Walnut’s apartment was. You may remember said apartment getting blown up via car touchpad toward the end of the premiere. Walnut, perhaps out of options, hires the LycoReco cafe girls to get him out of the country. This seems like a fairly straightforward premise, and it mostly is, but many small details shade the entire journey.

To start with, before the mission even begins, we learn Takina and Chisato have been paired up for about a month now. And we learn that Adams, under the alias “Mr. Yoshi,” has become an occasional customer of the cafe. (He tries very hard to play the role of the nice, well-intentioned wealthy customer. Maybe a little too hard, even bringing Chisato a souvenir from a trip abroad to Russia in the form of a small toy.)

The mission itself is a study in contrasts. Chisato and Takina have very different personalities that happen to work pretty excellently together, and almost every single facet of the job they pull off here sees the two’s approaches deliberately juxtaposed. Chisato evidently spaces out during much of the briefing and doesn’t note down most of the minute transit details about where she’s going or how to get there, Takina has them memorized. Takina drinks a “jelly drink”—Soylent or something?—to quickly and utilitarianly get a boost of energy before anything actually dangerous happens, Chisato on the other hand chows down on a bento box.

The actual spy work part of the mission consists of escorting Walnut while a group of mercenaries in the employ of Roboto—who we eventually learn is himself working for Allen—pursue him. There’s some fun stuff in here, too. When the two meet up with Walnut (who spends the entire episode dressed in a squirrel suit, in a truly inspired bit of costume design), for example, Chisato is disappointed that the flashy Lambo-like supercar she’d spotted in the parking lot isn’t their ride for the mission.

When things inevitably get hairy, culminating in an office building shootout with Robot’s mercs, Chisato’s still using her rubber bullets while Takina has made only the minor compromise of aiming for shoulders instead of heads. Even here, the two are very different. Chisato’s approach, tellingly, seems to be the more effective of the two. In an impossibly cool moment that I really hope has some eventual sci-fi hokum explanation, Chisato is able to calmly sidestep her way out of point-blank rifle fire, literally waltzing between shots like it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Minutes later, in what’s becoming a recurring pattern, she tend the wounds of one of their enemies so he doesn’t bleed out.

This seems like a mistake; as she’s doing that, Takina and Walnut leave the building, only for the squirrel-suited hacker to be riddled with bullets from across the rooftop. The ensuing bloody mess is the first time we’ve seen Chisato even remotely rattled at all in the entire first two episodes, and she and Takina grimly escort his dead body in the back of an ambulance.

But then, just as the episode seems like it’s going to end on a down note, Walnut rises from the ambulance bed, and takes off his helmet, revealing himself to be….


Yes, it turns out that the entire time, it was Mizuki in the suit, and this entire episode’s plot was a blind op. The Lycorii handled the hard part while, simultaneously, Mizuki and Mika handled the fakeout, which included the stupid squirrel costume; itself both bulletproof and stuffed with exploding blood packs.

This kind of borderline-corny twist is the sort of thing you can only get away with if you’re completely un-selfconscious about your genre. And thankfully, Lycoris Recoil seems to be. The episode ends with the real Walnut, a young girl who promptly switches to the also-fake name Kurumi (Misaki Kuno, thankfully operating in her lower, more naturalistic register rather than what she used for Chisato recently over in Prima Doll), moving into the cafe as payment for helping them out with future missions.

Spot the squirrel.

And we close on Mr. Adams once again patronizing the cafe, before asking Mika point-blank what sort of work he and Chisato actually do. Perhaps a lead-in for next week’s episode?

I realize I’ve leaned really heavily on the “recap” aspect of this column for this one. To be honest, so far almost all of Lycoris Recoil‘s strengths are in intangibles like style, tight pacing, and just generally being fun as hell to watch. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing thematic here; it really is worth noting how hard that contrast button between Takina and Chisato is being slammed, and who knows what the addition of Kurumi to the cast is going to do to that. This is to say nothing with the further hints at some larger overarching web of conspiracy, here, including the DA still hunting for the man in the blurry background of that photo from last episode and, of course, Allan Adams’ recurring appearances.

Until the answers make themselves known, see you next week anime fans.

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