Assault Lily Bouquet
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Assault Lily Bouquet ?
One odd effect of the disconnectedness of Assault Lily Bouquet's storytelling is that, four episodes in now, it still feels to me like the show is just getting into first gear. Sure we had three episodes supposedly building up the partnership of Yuyu and Riri (who get couple-named ‘Yuri’ in-setting this week, just in case the pun wasn't blindingly obvious to you already) but given how perfunctory that turned out and how little has happened besides that, it comes off like we're still treading water. Most ancillary characters continue to be introduced to the audience in passing, and even as they try to engage in endearing sitcom antics the show's still forced to regularly display everyone's name on screen when they appear à la Legend of the Galactic Heroes, except in this case just so you'll recall them when you pass by them in the aisle of the hobby store.
This issue of sluggish and unfocused characterization befalls even the characters we've deduced are actually important. One development halfway through this episode has Riri realize how impressive the abilities of her pals Kaede and Fumi are, but only because her roommate tells her about them. Not to be too cynical, but we've only seen either of them active ourselves for a couple of moments each, and they haven't come off too distinctly impressive compared to the other identically-dressed Lillies who've been slicing, dicing, and three-sixty-no-scoping killer robots so far. The idea is to drive home how Riri might have been taking her friends for granted in inducting them into the legion she's tasked with forming this episode, but as a viewer I can hardly blame her since I myself haven't been shown them being overly skilled at anything beyond eating desserts and enjoying foot baths.
Right, that's the actual plot this episode: Yuyu asks Riri to collect a set of nine Lillies for a legion, theoretically as a lesson in insurmountable tasks. Given that Yuyu has been utterly wrong about every task she's tried to set Riri up to fail for the purpose of thematic character-building so far, you'd think she'd have learned her own limitations. But that would require the series to initiate a plot mechanic beyond “Riri is motivated to do a thing on account of Yuyu” and we can't shake things up this many episodes in! The legion-assembly process is also an obvious way to have our lead talk to other characters and discuss abilities and setting elements in passing, so it's perfect for the way this show works!
The continuous drip-feed of every component of Assault Lily instead of any real attempt to focus means we're still trying to get a handle on all the characters and relationships at this point in the story. That's why we have to just be told about Kaede and Fumi's impressive in-setting status for that plotline to make its point here, and it's why tiny little aside character moments are the only things sustaining the appeal of 90% of these people. I have no idea what Tazusa's deal actually is yet, but she gets some cute, funny moments in this episode which means I end up remembering her as “That one who was acting goofy at that cat”. But it almost feels like a waste to devote something like half this episode to Riri and pals parading through the school experiencing blips of characterization from the whole cast when so much of previous episodes have done that, to no avail due to the sheer volume of people it's attempting to sell us on.
The flip-side is that some deeper character focus is attempted for a couple of other side-characters in the latter part of this episode: Wang Yujia and Kuo Shenlin. They'd already popped up briefly (like everyone else) but we're more formally introduced to them here, and by ‘formally introduced’ I mean we glimpse them making small talk in each others' vicinity before Riri and the others meet with them in the second half. It technically dovetails with the primary plot, as both girls get roped into the legion, but that's mostly a mechanic to explore their relationship issues...which are barely made apparent thirty seconds before the recruitment plays a part in resolving them. Has Assault Lily Bouquet ever heard of taking time to actually establish things?
Cramming Yujia and Shenlin's intertwining character arcs into less than eleven minutes not only results in some bizarre pacing issues, but also shortchanges the impact we were supposed to feel from understanding their relationship as it made itself apparent. We barely get a sense of whether they're meant to come off as antagonistic or just being dishonest with each other before another character (Yuyu this time) once again has to simply tell the audience what an ‘angry’ person Shenlin is. Then we're off to watching a gun-and-sword-based trust exercise that apparently diffuses her frustrations and shakes off Yujia's confidence issues. It's actually easy to understand what Shenlin's issue is: She doesn't like how Yujia is throwing a pity-party for herself despite her clear advantages and good points, wanting her to get over herself so Shenlin wouldn't have to be the one to babysit her confidence. Thematically, it almost ties in nicely with the earlier mini-plot-point about the abilities of Kaede and Fumi being taken for granted. But the broad strokes of that character concept blew past us with so little time to dwell on them or what this breakthrough now means for the two girls that it may as well be meaningless.
At least the show still looks fine? All those little character moments are rendered cutely enough – stuff like Tazusa's antics wouldn't get my attention otherwise. The facial expressions – especially in this episode – are delightfully varied. And that scene of unconventional weapon-based conflict resolution is pretty sharp to watch, even as I was still racing to contextualize it. Plus for all my bemoaning the lack of new plot information the series is giving me, this episode actually ends with some extremely vague hints being dropped about the show possibly, potentially, just maybe having some sort of overarching plot taking hold! There's still hope for Assault Lily yet, I feel, but in order to get there it's really going to need to pick a street and stick with it for more than a few feet.
Assault Lily Bouquet is currently streaming on Funimation.
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