The Fall 2015 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Comet Lucifer ?
Hobbyist excavator Sogo is zapped by interstellar energy one night, only to awaken with a suspicious red crystal. Elated that he's finally discovered proof of something his mom told him about, he's shocked again when he and his friend Kaon fall into a giant hole in the middle of the city and his new rock is sucked into a giant crystal column, spitting out his new magical girlfriend who can apparently summon a mecha.
Comet Lucifer is studio 8-bit's poor man's version of Eureka Seven. They're trying to recapture the adventure that made Eureka Seven popular by inserting the right keynotes, but its just an offbeat imitation. They've added their boy protagonist with his cool personal transportation device, replacing Renton's air surfboard with a hover scooter. They've got the girlfriend of questionable biology. And of course, they've got the mecha. But you can't just replay Eureka Seven's greatest hits and hope to get the same result.
The episode is one illogical misstep after another. Sogo and Kaon end up taking a fatal drop off the freeway when her over-eager fiance advises his driver to sideswipe them while they're riding Sogo's scooter. The city they live in seems to have a dedicated team of excavators searching for something, so there's an apparently unguarded crater in the middle of town that you can just fall into and probably starve to death.
I'm still not sure where magical crystal girlfriend summons her mecha from, either. At first, I assumed she turned into the bipedal armor, but that isn't the case. Does it just materialize? This isn't shown. It simply wasn't there, the camera cuts away, and then it's in the cave.
The show's internal reasoning notwithstanding, Comet Lucifer is also ugly. The backgrounds are nice, introducing a city full of terra cotta roofs and San Francisco slopes. It's Shogo and Kaon that routinely go googly-eyed and slack-jawed whenever the camera pulls out past a closeup. It doesn't bode well when a series' first episode looks like a mid-series “we'll fix it on the home video release” episode. Instead, most of the effort looks like it was saved for the attacking excavator and crystal-girl's armor fight at the end of the episode. The claw-like hands were an interesting change-up since mecha design usually rests on firearms, but it doesn't redeem what was otherwise an unattractive viewing experience.
Comet Lucifer hits all the notes of a sci-fi adventure story, but fails to do anything exciting. The plot it's spinning is mundane, and its artistry isn't good enough to even qualify as a mindless diversion.
Comet Lucifer is streaming on Crunchyroll.
There isn't a whole lot about Comet Lucifer's first episode that stands out from the rest of the teenage boy mecha shows out there, but that doesn't mean that it isn't enjoyable. Our peppy teen protagonist this time is Sogo, a kid with a fairly awesome hoverscooter and a penchant for digging in the old mines just outside of town. Sogo is apparently looking for a special stone mined there at one time, and as the episode opens, he's just found some – a perfectly shaped ruby-red specimen that he gleefully pockets before heading home. Meanwhile, grown men in ships are also searching for something in a parallel storyline that becomes one of the more interesting narrative devices of the series, when the two all-unknowingly converge at episode's end. (The stentorian narrator is less effective; luckily he goes away after the prologue.) Naturally Sogo's stone is something very special, as he learns when he and his friend Kaon fall into a mine and discover a lot more of the gem than they were bargaining for...and when Sogo's fragment joins the whole, a girl with more feathers than a homemade bird costume appears. This, by the way, is when the two storylines converge, as the men in the ship, now piloting what the show amusingly terms bi-pedal armor, find Sogo and Kaon with the Feather Girl in Sogo's arms.
It doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to see where this is likely to go, but it still manages to pull you in. Kaon is running from an arranged marriage (literally when we meet her, although she isn't running away from home), which adds some information about the world the story is set in; from the designs it already has a future-past look to it, with pastoral beauty combined with high tech items like Sogo's transportation. Whether or not the men from the ships are part of that same world or another one remains to be seen, and that certainly provides some interest, to say nothing of a Eureka Seven vibe. As for Feather Girl herself, she strongly reminds me of Noel from Celestial Method, both in her looks and the way the ending theme treats her character. That could add a moe aspect to the show that we might not otherwise anticipate, which could also perhaps give the show a little something to help it stand out.
Not that it especially needs it. While Comet Lucifer isn't particularly innovative in this first episode – although I do think it's worth pointing out that Feather Girl has a nice design, right down to her feather-shaped eyebrows – it also makes the elements it is playing with work. The characters are thus far likable, no one gets slapped for imagined slights, it looks good enough that you aren't sitting there picking out flaws, and the music sounds a lot less like a 1970s Hanna-Barberra soundtrack than a few other debuts this season. This show basically feels harmless, and while that might change as it goes on, right now it's playing by the rules of the genre and doing just fine.
It is very easy to see what kind of show Comet Lucifer is trying to be. In the vein of shows like Gurren Lagann and Eureka Seven before it, this is the archetypal Big Damn Coming of Age Adventure, complete with plucky male protagonist, mysterious magical love interest, and giant robots. In this rendition of the tale, our hero is Sogo, a young boy who spends his time excavating old mines (he's looking to prove some hypothesis of his mom's, fulfilling the “following in your parents’ footsteps” element of the genre) and speeding around his European-styled city on a hoverboard. When Sogo and his childhood friend Kaon accidentally find themselves trapped in the caves beneath their city, they run into a strange crystal formation, exactly the clue Sogo was looking for. But when excavations by a military organization prompt those crystals to morph into a mysterious blue-haired girl, Sogo and Kaon find themselves caught in a battle between the military robots and a new mecha that seems determined to protect the girl.
I say Comet Lucifer sticks pretty close to genre template, but sticking to template isn't necessarily a bad thing. For one thing, this particular genre is one of the better ones - less played out than most, often lending itself to ambitious stories, and full of room for creative execution. For another, almost every story adheres to some standard forms, and the truly important thing is how you execute on those fundamentals. Unfortunately for Comet Lucifer, it has yet to really recommend itself on that front. There's nothing that yet separates Sogo and Kaon from any other perky male lead and romantically doomed childhood friend, and nothing in either the worldbuilding or writing that offers any points of interest beyond the bare fundamentals of the genre. The episode moves quickly enough, but none of the things that happen have enough personality to them to yet warrant a recommendation.
As far as aesthetics go, Comet Lucifer is pretty midrange. The animation is middling and character designs not particularly inspired, but the backgrounds look pretty nice. The world is so far a strange mishmash of variables - hilly European architecture for Sogo's home, a mess of pipes and warehouses leading to the giant pit in the center of the village, and then the spiraling crystals of the underground. The mecha are all CG, but it's actually fairly nice CG, and it integrates well with the traditional backgrounds. Overall, Comet Lucifer has the potential to be a solid adventure, but isn't quite there yet. There wasn't anything truly bad about this premier, but also not anything great; another couple episodes should hopefully tell whether Comet Lucifer has anything worth waiting for hiding up its sleeve.
Review: This is an original production steeped in the now-classic “boy encounters mysterious girl associated with a mecha” and the “boy encounters mysterious rock/crystal associated with a mecha” traditions. It plays out about like you would expect, but with one additional plus: the mecha action, when it finally shows up in the last couple of minutes, is very sharp.
In this particular case Sogo is a teenage boy living in a bright, pleasant mining town called Garden Indigo. One morning while doing a little mining of his own, he encounters a cometlike force which knocks him out but leaves a red crystal, which he later identifies has extremely high-grade Giftdium, in his hand and vague images of a sleeping blue-haired girl in his mind. While on an errand for his father, he and his hoverboard-like scooter are commandeered by friend/classmate(?) Kaon, who is on the run from Roman, a dashing young man (and fellow classmate?) who is insisting on her trying on a wedding dress for an arranged marriage she doesn't want. The chase eventually leads to an accident which finds Sogo and Kaon somehow unscathed at the bottom of a deep cavern (how they ended up unscathed is not explained and they don't even wonder about this). But this particular cavern has something in it that authority figures have sent drill-equipped mecha to fetch, and that would be a massive Giftdium deposit in a column which, when it resonates with Sogo's stone, reveals a sleeping girl referred to by the authority figures as a Lima. The mecha want her, and Sogo and Kaon aren't able to get away, but at the last moment the unconscious girl summons a massive mecha protector to fight off the intruding mecha.
Despite there being only one true fight scene, the action element is heavy, and the mecha battle in particular is fully and impressively-animated. Sogo's stunts with his hoverboard-like contraption (it has handlebars which can be folded down) also get pretty involved. On the more potentially romantic front, it is clear that Kaon favors Sogo, though the closer suggests that the two of them, Roman, and Roman's servant boy(?) Otto will eventually all get along. Nonetheless, the appearance of the new girl, who will doubtlessly become attached to Sogo, is also doubtlessly going to complicate matters for Kaon.
The general course of events here seems fairly predictable: when the girl wakes up, she will end up living with Sogo and, with the help of his friends, get indoctrinated into a regular life. Meanwhile the authorities will be seeking her out for reasons that may not be clearly-specified until later in the series. Occasional situations involving spurts of mecha action will arise. Still, even if this does end up going down the well-trodden path, the production values, tense musical score, and brisk pacing suggest that this could be at least respectable entertainment. It will have to show more twists than are evident in the first episode for it to stand out, however.
What the heck? That long-forgotten light novel harem series Infinite Stratos just keeps coming up this season! Fortunately, it's coming up in a good way this time. Infinite Stratos doesn't have much to do with Comet Lucifer on the surface, but they have a very revealing "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" thing going on. Basically, the massive success of Infinite Stratos allowed newborn animation house Studio 8bit to expand and produce more shows in the years to come. They've never been able to duplicate Stratos's financial success, despite churning out plenty more otaku-friendly series in the following years. However, it looks like Studio 8bit is trying to forge their own independent identity with Comet Lucifer, which is their first original IP project. (Those can be a big gamble!) Yes, Studio 8bit has decided that they want to be Studio Bones. Specifically, they want to remake Castle in the Sky by way of Eureka Seven. No, I'm not kidding.
Here's the story: plucky teen Sogo Amagi is a minor miner searching for a magical red mineral called Giftium under the earth. He lives in a brightly colored coastal fantasy town where people ride whimsical scooters and try not to draw the watchful eyes of the mech-powered military, whose generals keep mumbling proper names and technobabble while carrying out secret missions. After a wacky altercation with his best gal pal (who is running away from an arranged marriage to a bishounen buffoon), Sogo plummets into the core of the earth, where the trace of Giftium he found awakens a beautiful pale-haired girl and a hulking, scaly robot to protect him from the pursuing military! If this sounds familiar, that's because it's the quintessential post-Evangelion psychobabble supermech premise. Looks like we're in for a mesmerizing blend of the surreal and sentimental, the whimsical and the war-torn, alongside a young boy who just wants to come of age already, gosh-darn it! (Unless they screw the writing up, in which case we're in for a lot of nonsense.)
The most interesting aspect of the show is that "Castle in the Sky" allusion I mentioned. Comet Lucifer is very deliberately riffing on plot points, imagery, and even musical cues from Castle in the Sky, and I have no idea why yet, but kudos to them for having the balls to play around with a massive Ghibli classic. Apart from that, the characters are pleasant, the pacing is solid, the production design is attractive but unfortunately not distinctive, and everything past that is still up in the air. This show is the brainchild of the third wheel to the long-continuing Code Geass legacy, Yuuichi Nomura. Most people think of Yoshino and Okouchi first and forget about Nomura, but he's continued to work on minor mech projects since then, just like them. Unfortunately, "forgettable" is not a great adjective to conjure for someone helming an original series plot.
Apart from that, the only glaring problem with Comet Lucifer is that it doesn't have a unique hook yet, despite its earnest and charming tone. (It's also nowhere near as pretty as the Bones shows it's drawing from, but it's just pretty enough to carry the story just fine if that story is good.) This premiere episode is a passel of good ideas delivered well, but that doesn't mean the premise and execution aren't "been there done that." That's not to say the show is bad or even mediocre! I thought this was a very nice and promising first episode. It's just all potential at this point, which means I have no idea if this is going to be a RahXephon (great!), a Eureka Seven (good!), a Star Driver (disappointing), or heaven forbid a Captain Earth (ouch).
Of course, all of those were Bones shows, because this has always been a Bones genre, so in a different studio's hands, I have no idea what to expect! This is definitely a show to keep your eye on if you've been thirsting for another EVA-inspired faux-losophical candy-colored mech adventure, though! Good or bad, these projects take a lot of effort and creativity to pull off, so I know my heart is always open to another endeavor.
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