The Reflection might not be the prettiest girl at the dance this season, but is there a great personality hiding under its unusual sense of style? This week in anime, we give this potential diamond in the rough a chance.
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Nick D Hey there Steve! Welcome to the team. How's it feel to be among fellow anime shitposters?
Steve Thanks! Honestly, it feels like every other day on Twitter, so a mixture of exhilaration and regret.
That's the anime life in a nutshell. But don't worry, we're gonna be easing you into the feature with a nice, easy slowball topic. We're gonna discuss the moderately contentious cross-cultural co-production from a controversial director and a storied creator with decades of iconic works. Y'know, the simple stuff.
Hmmm, sounds like I'm gonna need to take some time to reflect on this.
But seriously, let's dive into The Reflection, because it's anything but your average anime production.
I'll say. It's an anime co-created by Stan frikkin Lee, produced by companies from three different countries, and somehow still manages to be the most niche show in a season featuring A Centaur's Life.
Monster girls are in, uncompromisingly stylistic comic book-inspired superhero stories are ??? Like, probably my biggest question regarding The Reflection is who is it even for? Who is the target audience? And will it find them?
I think the target audience is Hiroshi Nagahama and whoever is interested in watching him smack his action figures together.
Oh same. Full disclosure, his adaptation of Flowers of Evil played a huge part in getting me to follow anime again.
but yeah, The Reflection is such a weird product when compared to the rest of the media landscape
Do comic book fans want to watch an anime? Especially one that isn't based on an existing story? And do anime fans want to watch what is basically an animated American comic book? And we gotta talk about the art style.
Yeahhhhhhh. It's not quite as alienating as Flowers of Evil, but it definitely doesn't look "anime" at all.
Nagahama's whole MO is making anime that doesn't look like other anime, though. He talked a bit about it at Sakura-Con, saying that when other kids were drawing based on the manga they were reading, he liked drawing based on American comic books, with realistic facial proportions and all that. You could definitely see that influence in his approach to Flowers of Evil, and it's cool to have that come full circle in this show.
It's a pretty daring move to say the least. It's in a weird way, but going back to the classic aesthetic of 70's superhero comics, Nagahama's made something that stands out like a big, bold-lined thumb in an ocean of superhero media.
Yeah! It's neat, but the total lack of shading and limited animation also kinda remind me of old flash cartoons I'd watch on Newgrounds.
That's a fair point. I like the style, but it's purposefully paying homage to an aesthetic born from cheap product printed on yellow pulp, so it's not surprising that the show itself looks cheap too.
I think it's also a factor that anime production overall hasn't evolved with this kind of art style in mind. I'm not dragging the show by any means! I personally like the look of it, but I can also understand why people would be turned off by it.
Absolutely. When you dedicate yourself to a distinct style, you're bound to put people off. For my part, I love seeing stuff that goes off the beaten path or makes weird decisions just for its own sake.
plus I can't think of many other anime that absolutely nail how New York City looks
Like if I can Music Geek out for a moment, I just want to say what a brilliant choice "Sky Show" is.
Nagahama is SO GOOD about the music and sound design in his shows.
Yeah, but this one is especially amazing. So it's established that I-Guy's an 80's one-hit wonder, and Sky Show is his one eternal hit.
And who did they get to produce it but the guy who wrote the quintessential 80's One-Hit Wonder
I'll hold myself back from nerding about Horn's career as a producer but this is exactly the kind of outta-left-field thing that I love to experience. Much as I love My Hero Academia, it's never going to suddenly have a central fight set to ABC's The Look of Love.
Definitely the kinda song that makes you wanna fly around and beat up frog guys.
I guess we should actually talk about the narrative a bit.
Oh yeah that's a bit important.
Granted, this is a Nagahama show, so what story we've gotten so far has been doled out really slow.
"Patient" is certainly a word for his directorial style. I wasn't expecting his bombastic superhero anime to begin with a full minute of a quiet lantern ceremony. But that's also why I love him.
That delivery is arguably the most striking part so far. Truth be told, a looooot of the character and story beats so far are super familiar if you've read any comics since the 70's.
I have not!
Well I have, and The Reflection definitely wears its influences on its sleeve. There's a lot of visual references to Steve Ditko era Spider-man with X-On, for instance.
oooh that's neat!
And I-Guy has a marked resemblance to early 70's Tony Stark, what with the lavish condo and robotic exosuit and barely-managed alcoholism.
That much at least I was able to pick up on.
Not coincidentally, I-Guy is my favorite character so far.
I-Guy rules. And he loves LA.
There's just something so charming about a guy who gets into superheroism to be famous and revitalize his music career.
I think that's such an interesting angle! One of the big themes the show seems to be wrangling with so far is the purpose of superheroes. Are they here to fight evil? Are they here to entertain us? I like that I-Guy's fight from the first episode was contextualized in the second as a deliberate fourth-wall-breaking spectacle for the crowd, contrasted with X-On slinking around on the ground.
It's a pretty interesting angle, and probably the aspect that modernizes this concept the most. The Reflection's pulling from decades-old material, but it's also commenting on everything that material inspired afterwards, in a way.
It's a very consciously meta show so far. Not least of all because Stan Lee is the villain?
I wonder how meta they mean to be by making Stan Lee a villainous mastermind using a showy superhero to attract villains to his side.
But I love that Hiroshi Nagahama finally gets to work with his childhood hero Stan Lee and then proceeds to make him possibly the main antagonist. Only in anime!
I'm also tickled they've got Stan Lee voice himself in the English dub.
That's gonna be a trip.
At some point Stan Lee is going to have a conversation with Vic Mignogna and then the world will end.
But yeah, I'm super curious to see where The Reflection goes now that we've established the major players. Not gonna lie, I looked up a lot of the promotional info and there's so much stuff I'm excited to see.
Oh yeah, we should mention our main character, ace reporter Eleanor Evans, who loves photography, teleporting short distances, and tomato juice.
Eleanor's not yet made a real impact, but her position in the story is interesting. It's rare enough for a superhero story to follow a female lead, but one who's not cape-ing it up yet is almost unheard of.
It's details like that which make me confident about The Reflection going forward. Despite wearing its influences on its sleeve, it's approaching them in thoughtful and unique ways.
I really am hopeful for it. It's the kind of production that comes along pretty rarely, basically laser-focused to appeal to me. I could absolutely see myself loving it depending on how it turns out.
I'll follow Nagahama wherever he goes, but I'll admit I was super skeptical when I first heard about this project, so I'm glad I'm genuinely enjoying The Reflection.
I'm sure we'll have a chance to check in on it again later. Until then...
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