The watercolor art style by Eriko Shibayama and Ryou Kouno created some of the best background art I’ve seen out of any other series from the Winter 2015 season! Eriko Shibayama is a very talented artist that I feel is one of those artist that if you see their work you know it’s them. Shibayama worked on Masaaki Yuasa’s Space Dandy episode 16! I really can’t wait to see what these two animators will be working on in the future!
Along with the amazing art another big reason why I like this series so much is because of how diverse the episodes are. Rolling Girls uses the idol singers concept a bit further by adding a fantasy spin to it. Nozomi, Chiaya, Yukina and Ai progress through their journey of finding heart stones that build upon a couple of larger themes: coming-of-age friendships and establishing peace not just in Tokorozawa but the other Districts.
This anime really shines in its characterization of it’s minor cast– about every two episodes or so we are introduced to a new district with different Bests handling their own problems in their own ways and for most of the time it doesn’t work out until the girls show up as a kind of peace treaty in closing up each arc. I really wish that this series didn’t even have a main story– I’m a huge fan of episodic shows and Rolling Girls had some really amazing episodes that capitalized on this style of storytelling. Mie Motors arc and the Kamogawa Rockers arc were both incredibly different from each other yet still held up with some similar themes– traditions of Japan tarnished by selfish ideas from a mob. It isn’t about the main cast receiving development but how they would help grow the people around them– these individual arcs were a perfect example that fitted how to blend long standing traditions of the old with generations of the new. The stones which is revealed in the finale layers up the concept of people’s potential in doing something great for themselves, for others. Just as the tagline for the series states.
These girls in a sense, even though Nozomi wanted to follow in Maccha Green’s footsteps, were their own mob holding onto the power of friendship as the key to success. This is why Rolling Girls can be such a delight for kids as well as adults!
However, the final few episodes were rushed because I feel that the creators really wanted to do something for the main cast which is why this show has such a haphazard ending. They should have compiled that arc right from the get-go but instead used it as a climax that was less than satisfying. About the only part which I may have mentioned before that I enjoyed was the very end with Kuranosuke’s inspirational monologue about how people can have the ability to draw out the stones. Opening up for a possible sequel is one way to do it. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso composer Masaru Yokoyama’s score there was very good.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 78/100
This is a prime example of a 1-cour series that stuffs too much material in it and just flies with it willy-nilly. This episode works too hard at concluding everything. This past week we’ve had a lot of finales considering how the new season is gearing up next week and I have to say that most of these titles have loosened a bit. Last year’s 1-cour series were ending on thirteen episodes rather than twelve and most of what we had this season bring their stories to a close at this mark. For Rolling Girls like I’ve said before it has so much potential to be a genuine adult/kids series with fantastical elements intertwined. After seeing this I’m a bit disappointed how an ex-hentai screenplay writer Yasuyuki Muto [Bible Black, Afro Samurai, Galaxy Railways: Wasurerareta Toki no Wakusei] crams everything together for the final act.
The pirate queen Shima in still the villain throughout most of this but we get her backstory in under a few lines– this is a atrocious writing. Why she goes through all the trouble of stealing the Takumi’s ‘sacred object’– not a single bit of what it is happens to be explained. However, the former Mom-han singer Kuranosuke re-introduces a theme to Yukina’s drawings in a pretty large way here. Do what you love without stopping which we saw a lot of in the previous episodes’ Bests and their commitments or rather promises made to make the districts much stronger.
Another is Masami. She has been worried about Nozomi since the very beginning and this episode considering how badly constructed it is didn’t leave this out. I feel that without having a stone deepen those moments between the two of them quite effectively here.
The lack of fighting from the previous two episodes more than made up here– very flashy and wildly rambunctious between mecha fights and an all out punching match between Shima’s assistant and Kuranosuke. The designs in this are fantastic especially the designs of the ships [Space Dandy writer and artist Hiromu Shimizu!].
Running at all ends by the middle of this episode we had quite the hurried resolution in the second half without much of a detailed explanation of Takumi founder being the doctor and Chiaya’s departure from the other girls feeling lacking. This is a brief goodbye that tramples on what they’ve developed as friends over the court of their journey. Bad writing and production to a very inspiring entertaining wacky series. Someday I hope that this series is revitalized with much more to explore because this is way too short with how much was developed initially. Frankly this series deserves a better ending than this.
On a positive note the music is fantastic especially towards the end! The fictional band that uses the reoccurring song “Stones” just released their single on iTunes JP which you can purchase here.
The ending credits depicts everyone’s future after the girls’ adventures and I like how Yukina becomes an artist, Ai climbs a mountain illustrating how much she wants to become stronger. Kuranosuke’s narration in that entire scene is probably the best scene out of this entire episode. It speaks a lot when these stones illustrate the take away of Rolling Girls.
To have friends with fun adventures and achieve great things in life.
Getting there though is what grounded Rolling Girls to have a bad ending. Rushed and unfocused.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 4/10
Finally! Each one of these stories are arriving at a single point! It’s good that Nozomi and Ai face each other– their resolution is good to see. Ai’s determination to stop a fight between Momo and her real mother Ura Kukino– it’s about time one of these girls uses a stone to get the peace-keeping message across. It’s interesting this theme has been floating in the background since the Tokyo arc– the girls have been wanting to keep peace and now where seeing it first hand by Ai actually using a stone! Clever that the creators use her uselessness in a sense– running towards their fight only to be blown back reminds me a lot of the first episode where Nozomi and the other Rests are flying in the sky.
Tightly animated fight with a few drops in quality and I think its great to see Haru step in– she’s been taking care of Momo and resolves the conflict. Family relationships with a fantastical element to them!
The second half establishes Shima as the villain– the politics that have been countering each other within Hiroshima were vital in order to make this episode more grounded. She climbs in a giant robot activated by a key hidden inside the license she steals– I like this but I feel every one of these Bests from Hiroshima should have been introduced some time ago. It’s a highly entertaining episode but is lackluster in the set up department of its side cast here.
Seeing Masami Utoku and Shigyou Kuniko [not to be confused with Kukino in this episode] brought a smile to my face here because now we’re finally seeing them in action. However the are useless without their stones providing some hilarious results when they are facing off against Ishizukuro’s gang. The roles have switched from Masami being the fighting peace-keeper to Nozomi an average girl wanting to avoid all the fighting while still keeping in line with her role model Maccha Green’s ideals. I just have to wonder if Nozomi will end up using a stone or not and if she will inevitably inherit the Maccha Green title back in her hometown Tokorozawa.
I really hope this series is issued another season. I miss the adventures these girls have been going on. This episode rekindles a little bit of that with this episode– the wildly rambunctious adventures these characters that have jumped into since the first half of Rolling Girls!
This show still has the potential to be fantastic: hopefully it won’t run out of steam with all these stories pulling together so quickly!
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 7/10
This series has a ton of potential behind it. I can think of two series this season specifically that follow this style– Death Parade and Rolling Girls. Only problem is its length– 1 cour can be a huge problem for series that excel at world building. The issue with both of these series are that the creators have unfortunately decided to run with only half a season with a straight-forward narrative to run with adding details in between maybe too many details. For Rolling Girls it’s all about the group traveling to different districts and allowing for the home turf Bests to shine. While those past few episodes have been highly entertaining and uniquely animated its just as a feared– the writers have aimed at shifting this anime from highlighting the minor characters and further developing the main cast so late in the game. Four completely different stories that haven’t had the runtime to connect yet just shows how much of a headache this will be for the final episodes.
The first half here continues what is loosely mentioned from last time about Chiaya and slams the hammer down– she and her mother collecting the stones are aliens! Where did THIS come from? I like the backstory on their characters but it’s a little too late to re-introduce Chiaya and bring her into the forefront of this series. IF and I say IF this receives a second season then it will all make sense– however, as of right now I can’t really see any good coming from developing her with such a twist. I do like how the moonlight stones are derived from their homeland and will end up playing a key role by the end instead of capitalizing on one big motive: to make the animation stand out and look ‘pretty’. At least Chiaya had a surprisingly adorable scene as an octopus close to death. Very funny moment there! Adding depth to her is how she wants to fix Nozomi and Ai’s relationship– really adds some personality to this show that has been left in the shadows since the beginning.
The second portion of this story runs out of steam by using Yukina solely as a gag device– she gets lost again and winds up in the Stone’s hideout. Good thing this series has forgotten its comedy but sometimes characters that outshine others in this trope should be a bit more rounded. For instance what is her family like, would have liked to see an episode dedicated to her in a district.
Ai is still intrigued by the stones and it’s good she’s pairing up with the Fujiwara family– perhaps she will learn a thing or two from them. I say this because its a good contrast between selfishness and honor. This is my favorite part of the episode because Nozomi and Ai still haven’t seen each other since the big fight and seeing Haru respectfully follow the orders of the town and pay the outlandish taxes by the Okayama demons illustrates subtle foreshadow of Ai protecting others without thinking of herself first.
Nozomi is useless as ever here– still looking for her friends, negotiating a peace between Noyotake Best Kaguya and Shima Ishizukuru’s henchmen and ultimately introducing the big theme of this arc. The adventures are over as she’s missing her friends, her home and the reason she started this moonlight stone hunting adventure in the first place. I will add that the fight sequence between Kaguya and Ishizukuru’s men is the highlight of this episode here! Incredibly fluid! Can’t wait to see that fight between Ura Kukino and Momo Fujiwara.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 6/10
I’ve always enjoyed this series since it began but this episode works in some areas and it doesn’t in others. I like the character drama and the rift that I expected from last time between Ai and Nozomi. How it develops here though is a different story. It gave me the feeling that the episode director rushed this intentionally. Considering how there’s only a few episodes left it ends up being a weaker story than what we’ve had recently because all of a sudden we dive right into these girls as the attention of the show: characters that are strengthened as ongoing and detailed entertainment in previous episodes. By using these girls on the sidelines the creators have been able to develop some pretty amazing minor characters especially the Bests but this episode changes this completely. I’d say this one here would have been stronger if it showed up right towards the beginning of Rolling Girls for two reasons.
One being that the girls have traveled together this long and while they haven’t been necessarily pivotal in moving the events forward they’ve been showcased as over-arcing entertainment– especially with the restuaruant scene in this episode. That is until now where this episode completely shifts its attention towards them to write in a quickly developing wrap up to summarize Nozomi, Ai, Yukina and Chiaya. These girls are still getting to know each other and I just find that this fight over Ai just wanting a stone without any thought to how the others feel about being strong the easy way is a cop out: a cop out just for the sake of having some issues between the girls in order to establish drama between these main characters because we are close to the end.
What happened to the idea that made this series so good? Following these girls’ travels to varied lands throughout the country by understanding themselves through others and the problems these districts have in order to establish an episodic wacky adventure series for kids and adults. Perhaps I’m being bias because I love series that use individuality as its potential in setting a story up. Thinking of Mushishi and Space Dandy here.
The second reason being the issues at Hiroshima– the pirate Shima Ishizukuri taking all the stones within the district but we see here that her plan is even one step further– taking them from Chiaya and retaining Hiroshima’s license. This would have been better off if it used just this episode to focus on Hiroshima rather than channel it as background noise to capture a wider dramatic effect that’s far away from the girls’ own problems. Keeping out the events from Tokorozawa and rather than using multiple episodes for Hiroshima they could’ve managed this in just one and spend the rest of the episodes back in Tokorozawa for the final arc.
One good point about this is now that the girls are separated it should give at least one of them determination to use a stone– something I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time. Chiaya has always been the enigma of the group and this just proves it– she’s an alien and I’d guess that these stones came from her homeland. I like how she is the connection that brings this series initial cast full circle while introducing some new characters. There is so much going on– Yukina searching for Chiaya but gets lost, Nozomi searching up to the sky for an answer as to what sort of resolve she needs to be stronger without a stone, Ai storming off and Chiaya learns the truth only to disappear for the remainder of the episode.
I’m glad everything is coming together but will four episodes be enough for this? Shigyo’s assistant getting kidnapped by the alien leader is a good way to bring back the original hero that Nozomi looks up to– Maccha Green. More importantly, if this does go the way I think it’s going to go it will be this event that will be the crucial part of this arc– driving Shigyo and Maccha Green to team up. How will they do this without a stone? Nozomi wants to resolve conflict without a flimsy way [having a moonlight stone] to achieve power however these stones might just be what she has to accept in order to save others.
While this episode does focus on Chiaya and her reveal as an alien I am more intrigued by Kuranosuke’s actions– lying to the Tokorozawa president about keeping tabs on seeing Chiaya in each district proves how much he’s grown. Simply caring for the daughter that has been neglected by her own mother is a good contrast between Haruka’s desire to collect the stones and Ai’s desire to have one all for herself.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 5/10
The hair on the members of Momiage Hammers look ridiculous but crazy fun. Small details is what transcends Rollings Girls from a true adventure series to a wacky one with a simple plot about girls growing up as they travel together. It’s also this very element that defines the typical moe tropes so well– tsundere and dojikko are a showcase this episode breaking the mold by taking what we know about Bests to create different talents in these minor characters!
Week after week the background art continues to amaze me– it’s no surprise how smooth the fireworks scene and the fight scenes are here since they’re from Masafumi Yokota, key animator on Miyazaki’s film The Wind Rises. Everything is drawn up nicely and I like that scene a lot towards the end– Chiyo’s shimasen playing is animated here in high detail!
It’s this straightforward plot that catapults out of control with each district these girls involve themselves in. Just like the journey with Thunder Road and her moonlight stone this arc uses a geisha breaking free of a respectable tradition out of family [as we see with her mother’s dissatisfaction] to form a friendship with rocker Misa. It makes me think how much this correlates to the overall bond that Nozomi, Ai, Yukina and Chiaya share. This might be my favorite episode so far because it pushes together so many crazy ideas– Momiage Hammers music, geisha and rocker with Best abilities!
All while this is going on the story doesn’t forget where its focus is– the moonlight stones and the reason behind why these four girls are traveling. Kuranosuke represents the cryptic follow-through Nozomi and the others have as to why they are getting these stones. Moreover it’s nice to see he’s not just a spy but a really good fighter whose got his suspicions on the stones and that the Takumi are becoming more and more involved: delivering dangerous packages that can hurt people. It’s all this build-up that has such strong intentions on concluding a few things here: Chiyo and Misa’s very comical tsun-tsun relationship expanding outwardly through music and Shuten’s acceptance of the district’s own set of rules. The fireworks are a good touch to establish a ‘coming together’ effect between the district’s people and the bigger picture: that this is a beautiful series that packs quite a punch that could not have been done justly if it weren’t for all the build-up in these past two episodes.
In the previous episode we see Ai mentioning at the hot springs how much she wants a stone and given what she’s delivering here– being questionable about Chiaya’s memory pad I am curious as to whether or not Nozomi will be using a moonlight stone to save her from succumbing to power. Will there be a rift between these two at some point? I wish this show would receive another cour because I’ve got a feeling their return home might be written in abruptly.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10
Speaking of traditions this episode combines a historical aspect of Japan: The geisha with rock music to deliver a really unique journey for the four girls to travel on. This is quite possibly the most beautiful episode I’ve seen yet! Those background designs of Kyoto continues what Rolling Girls has always treaded on– a colorful gag series. With this episode we are taking a backseat to all the action here and its these Bests holding the stones that steal this series!
Each arc has been completely unique from the last and its good to see the narrator taking involvement– similar to how Space Dandy had been. Giving a general layout of how these districts differ provides a solid introduction.
As for the gangs that show up here– The Kamogawa Rockers provide a lot of flashy entertainment for the locals and that give a steady momentum for Nozomi, Ai, Yukina and Chiaya to interact with! The other gang, Maikos, We Are, retains a lot of what this show is capturing as a whole through Nozomi’s desire to uphold peace just as Maccha Green established peace back home. Maiko member Misa brings back the Hammers band that Nozomi and the other girls idolize.
Momiage Hammers, I didn’t expect them to show up in this here and what better way to do this by doing an homage to Space Dandy! Johnny resembles him so much and I’m glad that the creators use that intro scene to give off more of a feeling that he’s a womanizer. The Moonlight stones connect everyone and Kuranosuke showing up here is a strong indication that there’s more to these stones than what’s been shown. The question is how why is Haruka trying to get as many stones as possible and what will she do about her daughter Chiaya once she comes home from her journey? Also how will they handle the evil Takumi? This is a great buildup episode that sets the girls, Misa, Shuten and Kuranosuke in all the right places for an even better second narrative to this rock arc.
Also want to point out how good that fight between Maikos and Kamogawa Rockers is– the girls are still useless in terms of physical resolutions but still provide the charming comedy that Rocking Girls represents well!
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10
I like this series a ton– it’s so whimsically fun for everyone! However, this arc would have been better off being three episodes rather than two considering how much the creators condensed all these different characters into 40 minutes of runtime.
Love seems to be the theme here for this district that the girls travel to. It’s briefly touched on at the very end of the previous episode with Mie Motor’s captain Suzuka and shachihoko artisan Himeko. This time around though, this episode focuses solely on Himeko’s determination on finding what she wants to do in life: the shachihoko that fell is the driving force for this and I like how Nozomi and the other girls put themselves in Himeko’s shoes by building their very own Shachihoko to claim peace between the two gangs. They’re forgetting about collecting stones the main reason they went on this adventure only to be caught up in each districts issues. The results are hilarious here. This arc is a lot different than the one in the Tokyo district Always Comima– while that one had tons of energy this one uses a wide range of characters with various ideals and ways to solve problems to get the overall peacekeeping message across to the viewer.
Suzuka wants to bring peace between them without racing but ends up going anyway, Dandy upholds the contract set by Mie Motors out of duty as a Best, Himeko’s hospitalized grandfather finds his own reason for reuniting with Himeko to rebuild the shachihoko. The girls especially Nozomi and Yukina set this all up for them in one heck of a way– try your hardest to bring others together. A theme surrounded by love and respect for the shachihoko that has been built for years in this district are resurrected with an outsider’s [Nozomi and company] perspective to creatively establish peace between the two rivaling gangs. The visuals are awesome here especially with the race between Mie Motors and Suzuka firing the rockets up towards the roof. It’s flashy and over-the-top but this just gives it the animated charm this series delivers exceedingly well in its narrative!
Suzuka does everything in his power with the Moonlight stone to get those statues up there and I love the addition of the motorcycle and jumbo shrimp. Defining what your town means artistically through a long standing tradition and the girls pull this off beautifully!
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10
I really hope this show can continue this trend– traveling to different towns with different clans and perspectives about life. What would this show be without its daring ability to pull the viewer in by creating unique characteristics for each clan? The fact that Mie Motors members cannot be heard without the sound of their engines roaring, haha. What a crazy trait to use for this group– nonetheless this is hilarious and works out extremely well for this episode!
The shachihoko was a great chance to bring these girls into the town– it was the aftermath of Mie Motors causing trouble that would ultimately bring these four to Himeko’s story and her abilities with a Moonlight Stone. I also like how much it reconnects with the first episode of this series– Nozomi recalls Himeko crafting Maccha Green’s stone in a heart shape. I like how magical it looks through the eyes of a child Nozomi. Everything was a mystery and struck her with curiosity and it’s this motif that handles Himeko’s grandfather wanting her to rebuild the shachihoko nicely.
However, the transition was strange here– it wasn’t bad it felt abrupt. One thing is how this episode in its second half slightly moved away from Nozomi’s past into Dandy’s explanation of the Twin Towers Declaration and Mie Motor’s reckless behavior. Genius to bring this terminology back into the story here, however I felt this would have been better if it was placed more towards the beginning.
With comparison to the previous two episodes– using a japanese anime series to gradually develop its character’s motives we get to see Mr. Dandy the bartender protect the Rests at the cafe. It’s a shame this episode couldn’t have gone with a cross over here– by using Space Dandy to portray the bartender. After watching this I feel a reoccurring theme that’s being used throughout the episodic arc characters– bonding together and moving away from the established clans that were created long ago to develop real long lasting friendships just as these Ai, Nozomi, Chiaya, and Yukina are doing.
I noticed this in the previous episode with Aki stepping down from her Best title of ThunderRoad and now I’m seeing a relationship has formed between Mie Motor’s captain Tomoki Suzuka and Himeko. It will be their relationship that will provide a hopefully good conclusion to this shachihoko arc.
Come to think of it both Masami Utoku [Maccha Green] and Kuniko Shigyou [Higashi Murayama leader] lost their stones after the battle caused destruction which ended their story as well.
Four girls in search of stones ends another Bests’ stories and begins a new journey for them. What a powerful narrative to carry over between episodes! Speaks volumes to children that watch this even with this episode– when you find something you are good at and like doing hold on to with all your heart. Morals are being taught with each episode– I really like how Himeko’s family for generations had made the shachihoko and it’s her incredible artisan skills that channels this for kids so strongly!
Ai’s in intriguing girl so far– she had taken an interest an Chiaya’s stone and now she questions Dandy outright if he has stone because he could defend against a motorcycle. I hope we can see great things from this girl in future episodes– will she finally gain her strength and become a Best?
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10
Now here is a series with some spirit! Masaru Yokoyama’s soundtrack is completely out of the norm than what I’ve been used to with Shigatsu Kimi no Uso‘s score. It’s heavily mixed with guitar strumming in the light-hearted scenes whereas the action-packed sequences contain rock guitar riffs with a lot of energy! I’m enjoying this guy’s works this season quite a bit!
There are so many things going on especially with this episode that keeps this story from being a generic idol anime. While there are the songs that play a vital role in bringing these four girls closer together but its how they are developing that really makes for some awesome scenes. Kuranosuke is collecting the stones for Chiaya’s mother and here is where we get the inkling that he’s Hinayo’s father. I like how the writers tossed this in here while trying to figure out how to get the stone back from ThunderRoad Aki. What’s even better here is that members of Higashi Murayama have setup a new bomb building up some nice tension between a regretful otaku-obsessed Aki wanting to maintain her promise of protecting the town and losing the stone. It’s not until you lose something how much you really need it.
These girls are traveling all for the Moonlight Stones and for very different reasons– Ai’s desire to have strength reflects this quite a bit and how they all want to find Chiaya’s stone before the bomb goes off. So far from what has been gathered the villains of this series have been touched on briefly– Higashi Murayama. More notably it’s the group Takumi that will probably dismantle all the fantastical elements of this show out the window. It’s this charming style and why I like Rolling Girls so much. The evil isn’t shown however, it’s these acts that these clans pull off ridiculously well– without Drom Beserker Aki is just a cosplaying girl, the Murakami members frantic about the real bomb inside a cleaning robot they were sent and what the results would be. Everything came together nicely here and why like I’ve said before this is that both kids and adults can enjoy!
Nozomi still admires Maccha Green stone or not should provide some interesting developments with her later on. Another aspect of this episode that uses this same idea is Noriko becoming ThunderRoad and earning Chiaya’s stone as punishment for secretly being the inventor of the Dynamite Bombers. That scene where Ai was holding up the stone and looking intently at it was this foreshadow that she might become swayed by a stone just for power later on?
The ending provides a nice start to these girls journey. Chiaya was able to establish her own resolve to her mother on the phone– she’s got friends, she’s going to be traveling to different cities and towns and since its for these stones perhaps she’s lashing out in order for her mother to take notice of her. Great contrast between her family relationship and the two girls of Always Comima, Noriko and Aki by revealing that Kuranosuke is Rick&Shaw, the very anime series that Aki idolizes.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10