Episodes 1-2

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 1 of

How would you rate episode 2 of

From the director of Aldnoah.Zero, Fate/Zero, and Ga-Rei Zero (Ei Aoki) and the creator of Black Lagoon (Rei Hiroe) comes an original anime project that's truly astounding in its ambition, even if it may not have "Zero" in the title. Based on the first two episodes, Re:CREATORS is melding together numerous popular anime genres – fantasy, mecha, magical girl, isekai, supernatural, old-school action, and even fighting games – and numerous media formats (anime, manga, light novels, and games) into a single production that remains shockingly coherent for all the messy blending of different elements that it entails. Even more amazing, the show combines these disparate elements without clashing poorly or feeling like an exercise in pandering to otaku – even though that's exactly what does in the process.

The premise that characters are stepping out of other forms of media and into the regular world isn't entirely fresh, being explored in many stories from the amusingly cynical Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle The Last Action Hero to the more fairytale-like Princess Tutu anime, among many others. However, this may be the most involved treatment of the gimmick to date in anime, featuring characters from various forms of Japanese media who start to appear in modern-day Tokyo, regarded as the realm of the gods because it's where their creators reside. One particular character, who comes to be called Military Uniform Princess, seems to be at the heart of why this happening, although her motives remain unclear. One character recalls her making reference to “worlds colliding,” which combined with some things she says in episode 1 suggests that she wants to meet her Creator and either kill or manipulate that person, perhaps creating some kind of multi-dimensional paradox if she succeeds and others follow her example. Unlike the other characters who have popped up so far, our full-blown otaku leading man Sota doesn't recognize Military Uniform Princess, but she seems to know him. My suspicion right now is that she's somehow connected to the unfinished novel that Sota has been working on, which would also explain how he's wound up at the center of all these events, but we'll see how the story plays out.

As intriguing as all of this is, it would just be another gimmicky premise if it didn't step up its game in several ways. Of the characters introduced so far, Meteora seems to be the fairly standard Dry Humor Girl, but Silesia shines as a take-charge action heroine, a remarkably adaptable young woman who nonetheless doesn't take kindly to discovering that average people know everything about her, that she can be observed 24/7, and that someone else is controlling her life and everything that happens to her on his whim. I can easily see her becoming one of the season's hottest new characters.

Also showing promise is Magical Slayer Mamika, the magical girl who takes a big shock to the system when she discovers that this world doesn't work the way hers does; people aren't automatically going to be reasonable when defeated in battle, beating people up with her magic causes pain and bleeding, she can cause a lot of collateral damage if she's not careful, and she can't just get away with using force to assert her will. (In a bit of meta-commentary, she's also thrown by adults knowing her identity.) There's a deep irony in the way her heart-shaped magical bursts hit like grenade launchers or even missile launchers when charged up, although this is something that has been parodied on occasion before (like in Oreimo). It also looks like Matsuraba, the author of the light novels that Silesia's world is based on, is going to become a regular cast member, and at least one other otaku-creator-looking fellow is shown prominently in the closer. That holds all kinds of promise for interesting character interactions, after the first blow gets struck in episode 2 when Selesia gets to put a sword to Matsuraba's nose. That conversation got interrupted by the appearance of Mamika, but I look forward to seeing where it leads.

There's also a philosophical side to this material, which magical librarian Meteora (from a game that Sota has played) expounds about at length in episode 2. She speculates on two possibilities; either the worlds they are from existed independently and the “Creators” have just been able to peer into them, or the creative minds of Sota's world have been able to create new worlds because of how “information-dense” Sota's world is compared to other worlds. The latter case, which the series seems to be favoring at the moment, raises all sorts of interesting questions about what might happen when a creation meets their world's God. What happens to the world if God gets killed off? If the creation influences the Creator to change some aspect of their personal story, could they literally write their own destiny? What would happen if the creation got the Creator to institute retroactive changes? And on a lighter note, what's going to happen when these characters discover doujinshi featuring them, especially all the hentai? These are all issues that I hope the series deals with as it progresses.

So much is going on here conceptually that it's easy to overlook the fairly sharp technical effort. The artistry by studio TROYCA may not be top-of-the-line, but it's still pretty good, featuring some sharply-animated action scenes so far. The musical score also has its moments, including one of the season's top openers. Episode 2 does suffer some minor pacing lags when Meteora breaks into exposition, but despite that, this series looks like a guaranteed hit that could be on the level of Re:Zero, acting as otaku catnip while featuring a lot of creativity, substance, and story potential.

Rating: A-

Re:CREATORS is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

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