The Winter 2016 Anime Preview Guide
Luck & Logic
How would you rate episode 1 of
Luck & Logic ?
What is this?
Everything changed when humanity discovered the power of Logic, the divine element that governs emotion, memory, coincidence, and every other intangible force of our world. This epiphany enabled humanity to perceive phenomena beyond its comprehension, so the world quickly became endangered by otherworldly beings (known as Foreigners) eager to latch onto unsuspecting humans and use their Logic for destruction. Only teenage humans possess Logic strong enough to enter a Trance with a god from worlds beyond, combining their powers into superpowered forms to protect the city. Tsurugi Yoshichika's been out of the Logic game ever since he made a near-fatal mistake in battle, but when Athena comes calling to give him a second chance, he jumps right back into the Paradox Zone to resume his dreams of being a hero. With Tsurugi as her Logicalist and Athena as his Covenanter, there's no monster big enough to keep them down. Luck & Logic is an original anime work and can be found streaming on Funimation, Saturdays at 8:30 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
Review: Youths contract with friendly otherworldly entities in order to battle unfriendly otherworldly entities; could a base concept get any more generic? It even goes the extra mile and takes a page from the Gunbuster 2 book by elaborating that anyone who has the appropriate trait (called Logic in this case) gradually loses it as they grow into adulthood, hence providing the reason that teenagers have to be used, and sets up the stereotypical situation where the male lead is going to be sharing a room with his female partner.
For all of the lack of originality here, though, the first episode actually works reasonably well. Making the male protagonist a retired hero (now only Villager A, as his sister so eloquently puts it) who is getting back into the game, rather than a fresh new hotshot, is just enough of a twist to not make the situation totally trite, and the dynamic with his family works better than in most such series; his sister isn't over-the-top, just plain worried about him – and with good reason, since him essentially overdriving his power nearly killed him before. The nature of Logic and the Covenants with the otherworldly powers could be interesting to explore, too, since it the former is implied to have dimensions could take it beyond just ordinary magic use. Seeing the protagonist only jump in to take strategic control of the situation against the episode's final foe was also a welcome surprise, as he didn't so much take over the fight as give the girls the opportunity to gather themselves and finish off the opponent while he played defense/assist. In fact, for me that was the biggest selling point, as it offers some hope that this will not be about him dominating while the other girls swoon over him. The other random girl who gets recruited during the episode but is not yet put into action also seems a little different, but we'll how far the story goes with that; she also could have just been there to given the series an excuse to explain things a little more.
Artistically, the action scenes have much the feel of being in a video game, which was probably the intent. The artistic quality is otherwise middle-of-the-road, with some of the character designs (the woman with the dusky skin and the teardrop tattoo) leaving a bit to be desired.
If you don't mind watching one series of this type this season, you could definitely do worse than this one. Keep the expectations reasonable and it just might work.
“Be the stereotypical protagonist that never loses!” Shiori exclaims to her brother Yoshichika, the stereotypical protagonist who never loses. Thus closes Luck & Logic, an anime series created in the same tradition as Fantasista Stella, Collector Infected WIXOSS, Future Card Buddyfight, and multitudes of others trying to sell 2.5 × 3.5 inch cardboard to kids.
Luck & Logic is a perfect cocktail of everything awful that plagues recent magic and sci-fi themed anime series. The system it relies on to explain why magic exists all of a sudden is convoluted, its characters are blank slate personalities with no flaws, and its action sequences are awful CG-animated sequences. The result is a bunch of technobabble that loses the audience, characters that are as dull as rocks, and a visual product that hurts to look at.
In this particular case, there are portals that open up, releasing monsters that terrorize the populace. This has something to do with the discovery of Logic, a force beyond the physical realm that allows gods to exist. Teenagers can access Logic to create contracts with these gods to fight the demons. There's also an academy (of course), some bluetooth-looking device, a “Paradox Zone,” the ability to “Over Trance” while battling, and the list of specific terms goes on. Literally no one needs this terminology. Magic has existed in fiction for so long that it's no longer necessary to create parameters to explain it like this. If a book, TV show, or video game has enough magical cues floating around, the audience will accept it as a matter of the setting.
Outright ignoring the terminology in Luck & Logic starts to make it passable again, but then other issues show up. Yoshichika establishes himself only as a guy who shops for underwear for his dad's birthday. There are no hints either in his dialogue or actions that give any indication that he has a personality. He used to be a Logicalist until he literally lost the card required to participate. When it's finally returned to him he just “oh wells” back into his dangerous career, has immediate, strategic control over his new powers, and saves the day. Top it off with the previously mentioned CG-action sequences and it becomes clear that this is another poor attempt to make an entertaining advertisement.
At the very least, playing the Luck & Logic card game is bound to be less technically complicated that its anime counterpart's plot.
Luck & Logic is the brainchild of fresh-faced anime screenwriter Yuuya Takahashi, who previously wrote the script for the wild and gritty Lupin III movie "Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone," but he doesn't have many other credits to his name. I guess he rubbed just the right number of elbows to get his own anime series off the ground, but whatever seed of brilliance its producers saw in this premise, they haven't shared it with the audience just yet. This is one big loud pot of anime gumbo, pulling narrative and aesthetic tricks from No Game, No Life, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, and of course, an uncountable bevy of light novel anime.
Gaudy clichés aside, Luck & Logic becomes a much better show when you throw out its poor choice of gobbeledygook terminology and take in its simple action plot on face value. ("Logicalists? Covenanters? Foreigners? Guys, we need to talk, these are some first-draft scrub names you've come up with.") Just throw out those unfortunate word choices, substitute "The Force" for the ambiguous power of "Logic," throw in a few Greek and Norse goddesses, and you've got a nice boilerplate monster-of-the-week epic told pretty well over the course of twenty minutes. It's not a great-looking show by any means, mostly because it tries to do too much with too little in every aspect of its production. (Some of the episode's most bloom-heavy moments reminded me that Mahouka and Sword Art Online have firmly changed the way virtual reality will look in anime for potentially years to come.) At the same time, it doesn't commit the cardinal sins of the light novel-based anime it cribs from, either. There's no painful detours into lame humor, labored exposition that stops the story, or tawdry self-insert appeal tricks to dumb down the cast. It's just a simple tale of a heroic boy and his lady fair fighting monsters, with way too many extraneous ideas gunking up the edges.
At best, this could turn out to be a less attractive but still entertaining sci fi story like Studio Bones likes to dabble in on their off seasons, and at worst, we could end up with another painfully generic and pointless experiment akin to Rolling Girls or Comet Lucifer, courtesy of a fledgling studio trying to pull out too many stops at once. It's too difficult to make any firm calls because the potential for success and embarrassment is about equal right now, so this might be the show of Winter 2016 that most deserves another episode before making any concrete judgments.
So Luck & Logic is one of those (so far) run-of-the-mill scifi shows that takes place in a world where a Power exists, and the main character is one of the special few who can use that Power to defend his home. Symphogear's one of the most successful recent examples of this (likely because it effectively marries its classic genre template to JoJo-style personality), but it's an action-drama subgenre that's pretty much inescapable in anime. Our main character here is Tsurugi, and the Power is Logic, one of many Imaginary Proper Nouns (Covenanters, Foreigners, etc) that this episode uses to describe things that might as well be “magic,” “familiars,” and “monsters.” Tsurugi was once a talented Logicalist, but he lost his power when he was forced to go into a special overdrive mode. Two years after that event, he will now will be rejoining the team with the help of his new Covenanter, Athena.
As far as shows within this tried-and-true genre template go, Luck & Logic isn't particularly good or bad. There are lots of familiar tropes here, from the mysterious blue-green haired Athena to the whole Logicalist organization setup, but the execution is reasonably sound. The show doesn't have that much visual personality, but the CG used for battle scenes is actually pretty reasonable, and allows for some fairly dynamic action sequences. And the use of “Covenanters” as partners/weapons also isn't the freshest idea, but it makes for a reasonably multifaceted group of characters once Tsurugi joins up with the formal Logicalist organization.
If there's anything that makes Luck & Logic stand apart, it's possibly that the show seems to assume the audience is familiar with this genre, and so doesn't waste too much time establishing the characters or organization. When three girls in supersuits jump into battle with some CG monster, we understand there's a shadowy government organization backing them - when Tsurugi laments his current stasis and then jumps directly back into Logicalist capers, we're not left behind, because we've seen all this before. Luck & Logic only spends a few spare minutes establishing its worldbuilding, and though the second episode is likely to busy itself with the formal introductions, it's still overall a very confidently paced genre piece, one that doesn't seem overly impressed with its ability to jump through the expected plot beats. If scifi battle-shounen is your genre, Luck & Logic is a competent execution of it - it's unlikely to set the world on fire, but it does its job perfectly well.
We've seen a lot of questionable English usage in anime over the years, but Luck and Logic has me wondering about the show's grasp of the first word in its title; none of the six standard usages as defined in the dictionary really seem to apply. But while that, and one other issue that bothers me as an English professor, may be an actual logical problem, that doesn't really affect the basics of enjoying the episode.
Luck and Logic at this point appears to rely on the old mythological standbys of G-Reco-Roman and Norse gods, with Nemesis, Athena, Valkyrie (yeah, not a specific god), and Venus all making named appearances, but there have been some interesting tweaks to the usual in that Venus has healing powers, with her partner looking like a classic magical girl when they're working together, which feels a little like a Sailor Moon tribute even if the healing thing isn't part of the goddess' mythology. Athena is in her least warlike aspect and feels like the least recognizable of the gods, although her presence in the show makes sense, given the title. She also lacks the gray eyes Homer attributes to her, which would be my other big issue and is unlikely to bother anyone who isn't a stickler for that sort of thing.
Where Luck and Logic stumbles in the storytelling is in feeling as if it is not quite giving us enough information. We know that Yoshichika was once a logic user, bonded with a different god until he lost his “logic card,” but we don't know if that card was taken away or actually lost. How Athena found him is also a bit of an issue, although really when you sit back to think about the episode, you realize that we actually have learned a lot about the story's world, just in bits and pieces scattered throughout action scenes. Therefore it feels confusing without actually being confusing upon reflection.
And when you think about it, this is another one of those anime dystopias where teens are the only ones who can save the day – the power to use logic fades with adulthood. This has apparently lead to the government forcibly recruiting teens with budding powers, and judging by Yoshichika's sister's reaction, there's a high risk of death for the fighters. Amusingly she tells him to be just like the stereotypical shounen heroes, a path he's clearly already on.
On the whole, the combination of bright and shiny battle scenes with standard everyday life isn't quite enough to make up for the fact that the episode feels unbalanced in its explanations and characters. With some more time to build up the world, this does have the potential to become a better action show than it currently is, but right now it's feeling like it falls just shy of “average” to be just a little less good than it could be.
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