There is a certain rule that must be followed in most mystery shows, and that is the mystery must be solvable by the viewer. Time and time again mystery shows expect to one up the viewer since the viewer didn’t guess that one random fact. Therefore they went from point A all the way to point Z on the basis of random guesswork. We as viewers must be given enough information to not only have our guess be informed, but to have at least some semblance of facts. Even if said facts are red herrings, that is alright if the main solution is solvable.
Now that just leads in perfectly to Rokka no Yuusha of Summer 2015. This is the mystery treat of the season as I classify Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace as more of a philosophical trip into certain ideals rather than a mystery. We have a fusion of both the fantasy and the mystery genre, giving us something interesting and certainly unique for the anime sphere. The question is, why did I write the first paragraph? Am I merely saying that Rokka is a failed mystery? Do you need to read more or is the question already answered? Well the answer is as simple as the questions, the new question one should ask is, “Am I going to be much more of a jerk or actually finish this review?”
Rokka and the Six Braves starts off with Adlet Myer, the self-proclaimed strongest man in the world, stirring up trouble during a tournament. Come to find out that the goddess will choose six heroes as her champions to fight the demon king and save the world, only until he gets reborn again. It is your classic hero lore and told in classic hero fashion, by some random girl who happens to be a princess. The first episode merely glances over facts and just details names of random people you will not remember or want to remember since most have no semblance in the story. Now they meet up with the other braves, but come to find out that there is not six but seven braves gathered! Wow I am completely sounding facetious right now, but that’s beside the point. This has us embark on a long hunt for whoever is the traitor among them. We as the viewers are finally getting into the nitty gritty and can’t wait to find out who it is! I have to say I’m intrigued by its solid premise, interesting start and locked room scenario.
The characters take over for the remainder of the series as they try to convince each other that they are not the traitor and we have to listen to reasons why and come up with our own reasoning. The questions are then raised again, “Did Rokka do a good mystery?” No, it didn’t in my honest opinion. I mean you could see it coming from my previous ramblings, but Rokka is not a good mystery yet it doesn’t fail entirely. The generic fantasy setting and rushed/forced romance is alright and certainly is the thing that won’t make you angry in the end. The mystery on the other hand will infuriate you. Now certain aspects hidden in great dialogue is one thing, but certain clues must be brought to our attention before the big reveal or exposition dump. We must be able to figure out most of the facts or be able to do so, the problem is Rokka disregards this to focus more on the fantasy elements and character interactions. We do not get enough information to make an informed guess, and thus we are just blindly thinking one way or another. The thing is, the traitor isn’t that stealthy hiding themselves and well you learn who it is easily if you pay attention enough.
The characters are certainly the only thing to write home about in this series as everything else is either bland, contrived or just a mess. The characters are unique to themselves in this world, and some of the better characterization I’ve seen in the fantasy genre. There is a distinct focus on backstories at points or other people’s perceptions of each other that can cloud the viewer’s judgement at times. This is what could have helped cause confusion within the viewer as each character feels like a brave. The problem is, the script didn’t play to the strengths of the characters and focused more on exposition backstory monologues and repetitious one note banter.
There is one other thing that will come to your attention, and that is the animation style. We have large generic Mayan backdrops with the main setting of the mist only growing blander as the story progresses. This is what the art direction is in the grand scope of things, generic and bland and can either look like ancient civilization A or B. This also translates into the monsters as they are the real kicker. The monsters are all done in CGI format which obviously clashes with the 2D animation of the characters. It would be alright, if the monsters were at all complex in their designs, but more often than not you will have the same bland blob of a CGI monster reused. With all these negatives there has to be a positive, yes there is actually and it goes back to the characters. Each character is designed with their past, personality or civilization in mind. The distinct look of the seven braves particularly stand out when contrasted to the bland backdrops and that is what studio Passione could have been going for, but I highly doubt it. The action sequences are at times very rough in the animation with the exception of a few sequences sprinkled here and there. The problem comes with continuous battle segments getting particularly messy and the cinematography and choreography lacking.
Now Rokka is certainly a dream premise. A mystery/fantasy adventure of potential epic proportions! The problem is the execution never matched up to the ambition leaving it an ultimately underwhelming experience. You will enjoy it and I did to, if I’m being perfectly honest, the problem will arise in what element you desire from it. The mystery element is not too enjoyable, but the fantasy could very well entertain you with the stories of the characters. For me, if you are going to tote around being a mystery, you have to deliver on it.