Assault Lily Bouquet
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Assault Lily Bouquet ?
Assault Lily Bouquet's disconnected storytelling issues made themselves most apparent in the show's third episode, but I honestly wasn't expecting to see them manifest again in such a direct way so soon. Episode four had mostly messed with misprioritized characterization while the fifth episode was a welcome exercise in focus. With Riri and Yuyu's dynamic seemingly sorted and the Legion formed I was ready to settle in for the action-focused episode they'd teased this week's outing as, seeing how it was going to utilize those colorful characters it spent all this time herding together. A show about action figures has to actually focus on selling these people to us at some point, right?
What I didn't count on was that Assault Lily shifting into Serious Mode would reveal that it never really got over the storytelling growing pains of its early episodes. Last week's romp wasn't the show finding its feet – it was simply a reprieve necessitated by how they've decided to pace out the action setpieces. And so here we find ourselves again, with a big fight episode that showcases with little explanation some mechanical elements of the lilies and the world they inhabit while nominally putting Riri and Yuyu through an emotional wringer to deepen their relationship. Yes, we've done that before, but as I already poked fun at last week, the show seems to know only a few methods for plot and concept advancement that it just rotates every few minutes.
That isn't to say that Assault Lily is lacking in ideas. Nominally this episode focuses on properly showcasing the "Neunwelt Tactic", a special move that can only be used now that our nine focal Lilies are together, powered by the teamwork between them. That makes perfect sense as a storytelling framework: We've got all these characters together, now there's a motivation to see how they bounce off each other and grow closer together. So the show does its requisite infodump with a bunch of Proper Nouns (I feel like we shouldn't still be having to define key components of the story six episodes into the series but whatever) and we even get to see the characters attending something resembling a class at school! I was even down with the obvious complication of the ‘demonstration’ fight against the Huge going awry because I thought it would bring out the disparate elements of the team that were supposed to be brought together to make this all work. But as I already mentioned: nope, we mostly just focus on the main duo again.
In hindsight, that dedication should have been obvious. Another decent hook, concept-wise, thrown out in this episode continues on the thread from last week: that Riri's skill of ‘Charisma’ affects people around her by drawing them in to work with her whether they independently want to or not. It's still not specified how strong this ability can exert itself on free will, and that creates a compelling ambiguity for Yuyu to work through. We see snippets of her second-guessing every thought or interaction she has with Riri, questioning how much of it is her own feelings or not. That's a solid path to complicate and possibly strengthen the relationship of the main girls, so of course the rest of the episode hardly does anything with it.
The main issue here is how much of the dramatic character content turns out to be a do-over of Yuyu's development back in the third episode. A Huge's mysterious connection to the tragedy of her previous dead partner sparks traumatic flashbacks and causes her to lose control and activate Lunatic Trancer. Then Riri talks her down, they realize they believe in each other, monster gets blown up, go home. The concept of Riri's Skill disingenuously affecting Yuyu's feelings isn't knowingly acknowledged in the question of having someone to believe in her, and we're simply back to square one of her guilt issues. I understand that real-life problems like this naturally aren't solved with one breakthrough followed by some ramune and a birthday party, but there still needs to be some semblance of progress to give this character-based narrative the illusion of momentum. That's made even more frustrating in this case given there were elements in play that could have been utilized to up that interest.
It falls into the same glaringly obvious issue in Episode 3: the content of the individual episodes hardly acknowledge each other where they really need to. This one manages to neatly ignore Yuyu's efforts from the previous episode to not take herself so seriously, putting her angst front and center again while also bringing all the other characters together like they're capping off some arc we didn't actually see. The Neunwelt Tactic actually does make an appearance by the end of this one, but by then we've practically forgotten its introduction because the rapport of the Legion – the entire purpose of its focus – has been ignored for a do-over of the third episode. Each of the girls gets a one-liner with each other, seemingly speaking to how they've become familiar, but having seen so little of them do anything, it feels token at best and confusingly like we missed something somewhere at worst. Had Mai and Fumi said even three words to each other before now? Don't know, but they must have since they can pull off this Ro-Sham-Bo with gusto!
The disconnected storytelling extends to the technical execution of the episode itself. There are odd cuts, specifically a bizarre storytelling decision wherein Riri getting trapped in the bladed limbs of the Huge is what sets off Yuyu's berserker rage, only for Riri to be freed off-screen by the other Lilies and needing to tell Yuyu (and us) about it happening. They also miss some of the elements they did effectively before, with the more subtle suggestions of the Huge's encroachment on the human world from last episode disregarded to have one just pop out of the ocean once again for our heroes to fight. The spectacle it's in service of is mostly entertaining enough, at least. There's more noticeable CGI for all the characters in places this time, but the fighting still looks dynamic (I quite enjoy the depiction of Mai's super-speed) and there are some lovely singular shots sprinkled between all the action. Plus hey, they got Bkub to draw the end-card for this episode, which is a visual triumph all its own.
Overall I'm just annoyed that after the previous episode of Assault Lily Bouquet seeming to get a handle on itself in the obvious methods (learning to focus, showing character progression), this one sent it hurtling backward in the clearest way possible. The lack of connective tissue between episodes is really standing out as a problem now, making me question the writing process here (apart from Shouji Saeki, who also shares directing duties, the show's writing is only credited to the shared pseudonym of Shaft's staff as a whole). It's especially frustrating in the face of the show teasing but not doing anything with its ensemble, which should be a major strength overall. I'm not asking them to make me ‘care’ about all these toys, but they've got to realize they can't rely on raw fight spectacle forever (especially when the setup keeps being this same-y) without at least making us interested in some of the other girls participating.
Assault Lily Bouquet is currently streaming on Funimation.
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