Assault Lily Bouquet
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Assault Lily Bouquet ?
I think it's been clear from the beginning that I've never been terribly ‘invested’ in Assault Lily Bouquet. I came into this show interested on account of the simple appeals of cute anime girls fighting with sick mecha-weapons, plus I tend to like SHAFT's animation efforts and hey, that RAISE A SUILEN theme song is pretty rad. But pretty much right out of the starting gate, the show fumbled almost every opportunity to really ingratiate me to its characters, concepts, or themes. Those clumsy efforts have climaxed with this latest arc about Riri's pseudo-daughter Yuri, and I've mostly been motivated to snark my way through it until we arrive at this week's entry in the trilogy of episodes that was her life. Indeed, if you had bet ‘three episodes’ on the When Will Yuri Die Tragically office pool, you'd be a winner this week, but really I think it's a victory for all of us, or at least myself as I'm less affected by the intended pathos and more by the unintentional hilarity of how everything about the event ends up structured.
That's mostly a result of the culmination (or lack thereof, we'll get to it) of things at the end of the episode. The preceding 90% of it is otherwise an exercise in proving that Assault Lily really is composed by an anonymous room of writers yelling out concepts then filling a time-slot with whatever catches their interest at the moment. And this episode has it all! Things are kicked off thanks to last episode's reveal that Yuri is in fact a Huge-derived human replica and a product of the sinister (yet still entirely unseen) research group G.E.H.E.N.A. They want her back, so to protect her, Riri pulls a mid-season Jack Bauer and goes rogue. If you think this might give way to tense scenes of her and Yuri fleeing pursuit, perhaps being put in conflict with their former allies or those Lilies from other schools mentioned in the previous episode, then you hadn't actually been watching Assault Lily for the past nine weeks.
Instead, Riri and Yuri basically disappear for most of the episode while everyone else stands around discussing how they're going to react to them. One large chunk inevitably revolves around the Hitotsuyanagi Legion deciding their loyalty to their adorable pink leader and her accidental offspring trumps any government orders, complete with a neat little scene of Kaede telling her dad off. There's little interrogation of some of Assault Lily's more interesting plot points here: nothing is floated about the prospect of Riri's Charisma ability swaying the girls to commit light treason, it's simply the Power of Friendship all the way! They even throw in yet another hitherto-unrevealed detail that Tazusa was experimented on by G.E.H.E.N.A., as if by this point we really needed any more qualification from this show for its haphazard handling of any potential conflicts.
As is par for the course for Assault Lily at this point, this episode just kind of glides over the introductions of details that could be developed into cool showcases or interesting ideas, and simply opts not to use them. We get snapshots of all these new girls from all these new schools, only for a trio from Lohengrin to engage in an impromptu assessment of Yuri's humanity and conclude that they're on her side as well. There is an interesting side of the debate we could have spent time on: That with public distrust of Lilies it's important to keep a distinction between them and the similar-powered Huge, necessitating a shunning of any potential allyship between the two. But the writing simply brings up that possible reckoning without doing anything with it, limited by how little we've seen of civilians and the direct effects Huge have on them in this setting. Instead the question of Yuri's sentence is settled in a hilariously legal manner: Moyu, who's probably my favorite character by default at this point, rolls into the board meeting to destroy those officials using facts and logic to prove that Yuri is, technically, a human, and it works! Her ridiculous rules-layering maneuver is probably my favorite part of the episode, because I think it's at least intended to be an absurd solution to the overt problem the episode otherwise spent all this effort building up.
Of course, just as that display makes it seem like things are going to work out okay, you'll probably notice by now the considerable amount of time left in the episode as well as some furtive foreshadowing in the dialogue as we finally catch up with Riri and Yuri. And this is where it becomes apparent that the fine folks behind this show's epic narrative knew they definitely wanted to kill Yuri off here, but hadn't really figured out how until they got to it. So no sooner has Yuri demonstrated that she's become surprisingly insightful in her three weeks of life, no sooner have all the friends gathered to celebrate how happy and alive they all are, than a super-huge Huge pops out of nowhere, Yuri nyooms off to fight it before any of the dozens of other Lilies standing around can assist her, and defeats it before getting caught in the resulting explosion and dying. It plays like a parody of a Heroic Sacrifice, with Yuri bittersweetly professing how she's proven herself despite never really being in doubt to the people involved here, and everyone's reactions to the final two minutes read less like shocked sadness and more akin to “Well, that just happened”. I can't even jibe with the baseline level of pathos they want, since the immediate acknowledgement of how toast Yuri is coupled with the sickly-sweet send-off of an ending theme just comes off like the classic gag about a character killed off after only being in the story for few minutes.
You know the one.
Which is really the best I could have hoped for from Assault Lily Bouquet at this point. It's a scattershot, absurd effort all around, and it was entertaining (albeit mostly for the wrong reasons) even as it had no clue what it was doing. At least Yuri went out with another cool-looking (if short) fight scene.
Assault Lily Bouquet is currently streaming on Funimation.
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