This Week in Anime
What Is The Reflection Mutating Into?

by Nicholas Dupree and Steve Jones,

The Reflection started out somewhat unsure of what kind of superhero story it wanted to be, but it seems to have found its footing in recent episodes. This week in anime, we delve into how this anime has found its way forward.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

You can read ANN's weekly coverage of The Reflection here!

Nick D
How you been, Steve?

Steve
Hm? Oh, sorry, I was just listening to my favorite song. Maybe you've heard of it. It's called "Sky Show."

It certainly rings a bell. I may even have heard it every Saturday for the last two months.

Huh, weird! Well lemme just call my good friend Trevor Horn and then we can start the column.


God this show is the weirdest thing I've seen all season. And I'm watching A Centaur's Life, which featured a skit about horse vaginas.

IT'S A REAL THING THAT HAPPENED. Trevor Horn is anime now.

So yeah, THE REFLECTION has kept on keeping on since we last talked about it.

Yeah, quite a bit has happened.

It's still kind of an awkward Turducken of clashing influences, but I think it's come a long way since those early episodes!

It's still a super weird show and a super weird take on American superhero comics, but it's settled into its own rhythm and I'm down with it.

Mainly I'm surprised by how much I'm liking the cast.

Yeah! Since we talked last, we've added a few pretty important characters and learned a lot about our main ones.

In the first two episodes, the characters kind of took a backseat to the visual design and uncanny atmosphere, but since then they've kind of turned into one of my favorite ensembles of the season. For instance: Lisa

Lisa is probably my favorite character at this point, at least partly because she's Nagahama's self-insert huge comic book nerd.

And also mainly because her wheelchair does indeed transform into a giant toy robot. With guns.

I love unconventional powers like that, but she's also just a fun addition to the cast. In a series that can sometimes get dour in its quiet moments, she's just excited to be a superhero and go on a roadtrip with a bunch of other weirdos.

She's truly living her dream, and she doesn't let anything stop her, except maybe being too big to walk through a department store.

And I really like how this bit of slapstick in last week's episode shows that, despite how weird all the Reflected powers are, they feel grounded and are treated as realistically as they can be.

It's a fun bit of levity - not every superhero story's willing to make its heroes look like awkward dinguses fumbling with their own powers! And it's nice characterization for Lisa. She's excitable and leaps before she looks, which can be troublesome when she's arguably the strongest character we've seen so far.

Michael and Vy have also been interesting additions, and through them we've learned more about how the Reflected view themselves and how the rest of society views the Reflected.

Ah yes, The Reflection has also been leaning a lot into its X-Men roots since the premiere.

Are you telling me that the Reflected might be a Metaphor????

I'm just saying, don't be surprised if we get an awkward scene where somebody's parents ask "Have you tried not being a Reflected?"

And I mean the whole New Orleans arc was extremely unsubtle about painting the Reflected as a marginalized class, tho the supposed distinction between those who got hit by the light and those hit by the smoke is interesting, and I'm interested to see where the show goes with that.

It's the show's most blunt distinction so far, but we've already seen through Michael and Vy that there's more nuance than "Smoke = Bad Guys", so I'm hopeful there's going to be more explored about it.

That's what I'm thinking! Even when the concept is introduced, Eleanor admits that she doesn't remember if she was hit by the light or smoke. But Earth had to be REALLY unlucky to get hit by not one but TWO cosmic superpower-creating elements on the same night.

Hey, sometimes it just happens. One minute you're looking up at a solar eclipse, then WAMMO you're a giant bat monster. DC Comics characters get hit with space magic every other Tuesday.

and that's why you never look directly at the sun, kids

But along with expanding its story, the show's also been giving us better looks into the initial cast, which is maybe my favorite part at this point. For instance: X-On just kind of being a dick.

X-On spending half his airtime being grumpy in the backseat of a pickup truck

I-Guy did get quite a bit of development this week.

Boy did he ever

The kind of development comics do best: all your friends are dead now

That's part of it, but it's also been interesting to see more of his history and motivation revealed. At the start, it's almost treated as a joke that he's doing all this Hero shit for attention, but then we learn that The Reflection turned his one passion - singing - into a weapon he can't even control. And suddenly it makes sense that he became a superhero as the world's most irresponsible coping mechanism.

Fixing his problems by turning himself into a giant flying boombox. But it totally makes sense! And it's satisfying to understand the reason for that, just as much as it's satisfying to see X-On punch him in the face for being such a selfish blowhard.

I loved that moment because 1 - holy crap the show had animation for a second

now THAT'S what I call a Sky Show

And 2 - it shows that for all X-On's pithy quips, he does care about what's going on and has a sense of what's important here.

X-On's the guy we know the least about, but his character is extremely familiar.

It's a good way to make him at least sort of likable when we don't really know his story yet. Though he can still be grating. Just ask Eleanor.

WHAT A DORKY PASSWORD. Bless Eleanor. She's awful at preventing people from getting kidnapped, but dammit she's trying.

I can relate, girl. Though it's been neat seeing her get more of the spotlight. She's a rookie at all this who wants to Make a Difference and prove (to herself) that she's got what it takes to be a hero. But she doesn't have Lisa's raw power or X-On's experience, so she's left with perseverance and not much else.

She's got the most passive power out of the main cast, but even then she always rushes into the fray to teleport people out of danger. She's a good hero, even when she's bad at it.

Sadly, determination isn't enough to overpower a giant purple furry.

She's definitely good at getting psychic house calls from the big bad tho!

That's gotta be a fun thing to see when you're driving 60 down the interstate.

Who knows what Wraith's deal is yet, but I gotta admit that's a cool costume.

We still don't know much about the villains yet, save that they're serial kidnappers and many were deformed by The Reflection.

Also, lest we forget, one of them is Stan Lee. I'm hoping, given Eleanor's cliffhanger confrontation at the end of this week's episode, we'll learn more about what their motivation is next week.

Same. I already have an inkling about what it probably is, but I have faith the show can still make it interesting in its own way. On paper, a lot of the story and character beats have been your standard comic book stuff, but something in The Reflection's delivery has made the whole thing feel charming and kind of fresh.

That's kinda the show's MO, taking familiar characters and plot beats but adding the weird flair that only Hiroshi Nagahama can provide.

And if nothing else, The Reflection gets America better than any other anime I've seen.

Also show me literally any other anime that visits Dayton, Ohio. I mean there are a lot of anime takes on the US, but there seems to have been a real effort to capture the feel of Americana in The Reflection, and that's honestly fascinating to experience.

On the other hand, of course this guy is called Mr. Dallas.

Mr. Dallas, from New Orleans of course

Like you do. I'm not saying it's perfect or even accurate, but the effort is clearly there and I love that.

In general, the show's done a lot to come into its own since the start. TBH my initial impression was that it wouldn't necessarily be "good," but unique as a weird melting pot of different influences and market appeals. But it's managed to grow into its own beast, still wearing its origins proudly but making something that feels genuinely interesting.

I'm sure the art style will remain a sticking point for some people, but the scene at I-Guy's lair this week has one of the strongest moods Nagahama has put together. The monochromatic blacks and reds, the harsh shadows, the patient, steady strobe of the lights -- they all come together beautifully and tragically.

It's a fantastic moment that sells the scene without even needing dialogue. You could watch it on mute and still get the emotional beats with total clarity. Nagahama's a pretty divisive director ever since Flowers of Evil, but his skill is undeniable with sequences like those.

Insert my obligatory request for everyone to watch Flowers of Evil. But back on topic, I've gone from being 100% skeptical of this project to being 100% glad he's doing this. I watch anime to see things I've never seen before, and I've never seen anything like The Reflection.

Now if only they'd stop teasing us and show the magical girl idols already.

SOON™

They were just eating burgers, so in spirit at least they're already very close to America.

Leave it to Nagahama to make a match cut on eating McDonald's.

The mark of an auteur~


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