Episode 4 – Lycoris Recoil

So long as Lycoris Recoil is going to remain dedicated to its idea of ​​marrying gunplay action to Cute-Girls-Doing-Cute-Things framework, I won’t begrudge it as much simply on account of how good it looks doing it. This is a show where this episode’s beginning features a ridiculously well-composed scene concerning Takina destroying those rival characters from last week in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegroundsspiced up with a musical Terminator allusion and culminating in a slow-motion plot-relevant upskirt shot that itself is nonetheless obscured by some strategically-placed knees. This would all be well enough were this simply a silly series concerning girls working in a cafe, but then you remember there’s a whole plot of espionage and intrigue happening in the background, bluntly reinforced by a massive underground train shootout-slash-explosion that happens later on. The dissonance continues to be Lycoris Recoil‘s biggest feature, and compared to my mealy-mouthed misgivings in last week’s review, I think it does be hitting a bit better now.

Granted, it means that all the Bourne-Identity-bang-bang action feels like more of a gimmicky bonus in this pass than the cutesy content that’s centered in this episode. Lycoris Recoil Is still perfectly happy to let its intrigue simmer in the background, with older characters like not-so-secret big bad guy Shinji sitting in an atmospheric bar with Mika as they talk in conspiratorial vagaries. Heck, the arms-dealing plot that’s supposed to be the driving mystery of this whole thing is still nowhere near being solved, spending just a couple minutes as we do with Kurumi starting to construct VR walkthroughs of the situation. The show seems to realize that it hasn’t really had anything for Kurumi to do since going to all the trouble to add her to the cast back in the second episode, so this sort of thing comes off like lip-service to the idea that she is definitely working behind the scenes, while contributing to the series’ stylistic charm points of seeing her get dispassionately yanked out of the bath or dispensing plot-relevant arms-market analyses while simultaneously doing that anime-girl talking-into-a-fan gag.

Those particular priorities are really only a problem for a pretentious weirdo like me that loves analyzing a story’s meditations on the skewed society it’s depicting in its fictionalized worldview, and Lycoris Recoil simply hasn’t delved that deeply into that sort of thing yet. Yes, there’s some cheeky rapport early on between Chisato and Takina discussing their moral perspectives on the recurring subject of lethal vs nonlethal takedowns. And that itself gives way to a little more interiority later on regarding Chisato’s personality. It suggests that her preference for eschewing as much guilt as possible in any harm she doles out on her enemies – to say nothing of her seeming disregard for her ostensible Lycoris comrades if she’s specifically in “Off Mission” mode while something’s going down – might be more of a personal defense mechanism than anything else. Learning the details of that long road that led to Chisato’s unique station even among the Lycoris will obviously be some sort of thematic through-line to follow this season, but it’s still just a particularly personal one, with the anime continuing to hold back on its perspective on the utilitarian use of gifted ‘genius’ youngsters or how ‘villainous’ an anarcho-hacker’s undermining of clandestine government death squads actually is.

But we are still very early in the show, which is acutely aware of what its audiences are really here for – even the more ‘serious’ examination of Chisato’s character is second to the adorable date we watch her take Takina on which frames it. Again, that was a plot-relevant upskirt shot, and there’s something knowingly amusing about Lycoris Recoil constructing an entire episode around the concept of panty shots only to never feature an actual panty shot in its run-time. I mean, there’s still a lovingly-rendered scene of Chisato embarrassedly peeling her pants down for exposure to her colleague, so things do get a littleleery. But the rest is an astoundingly well-boarded and composed procession of the girls eating desserts and hanging out in aquariums that continues that ‘effortless’ feeling that so propelled the previous episodes.

All these cloying, cutesy-poo conversational sketches work here for the same reason they do in shows that don’t also feature the girls murdering folks every now and then: the personalities and relationships of the characters are fun to witness on their own merits on account of the animation and character acting. Takina’s stone-faced reactions to the absurdities of spy-girl lingerie shopping sell that as a better gag than it has any right to be, while Chisato outs herself as an incorrigible hopeless flirt. It’s great that after building up her untouchable ace Lycoris abilities, the show is being extremely willing to let Chisato still get owned on the regular, by herself as much as others. And her goofy-goober antics rubbing off on Takina in small ways just parallels how neither of them is above it all; This series loves its long-form stupid punch-lines to end episodes on, exemplified with Chisato’s ultimate revelation that shorts are in fact comfy and easy to wear. They even bring back that aforementioned fan for one last contribution to the bit – that’s commitment!

So while I’m keeping an eye on that plot stuff, I can’t deny that I was finally won over by how well the slice-of-life fusion flavor worked this week in Lycoris Recoil. It’s a testament to presentation, as a more flat, simply-presented show wouldn’t have been able to pull off this sort of distracting daliance – you need that love for character craft powering this kind of faffing about. And I definitely wouldn’t advise them to stay on this trajectory through the rest of the season; we could always use more car chases and gunfights. The convergence of more villain characters at the very end of this one indicates that level of heating up, however, so I can comfortably declare this week’s entry a success at exactly what it was trying to do, with the show continuing to be a highlight of my schedule this season.


Lycoris Recoil is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitterand irregularly updating his blog.

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