Tuesday, June 30, 2015

All About Anime: Ladies Night- The Strongest Rolling Girls In The World

It's another All About Anime and today we are talking about two shows with a primarily female cast.  Both of these are recent additions to anime's illustrious line-up coming out within the last two years.  The pro wrestling anime Wanna Be The Strongest In The World debuted in 2013 in Japan, but came out only recently in English, and the coming-of-age zany action-comedy The Rolling Girls which is brand-new in 2015 in both English and Japanese.  Both feature strong women, hard work, weird jokes, and amazing animation. 

Pop idol by day, pro wrestler by night
"Not the face" has to be in Sakura's contract

Wanna Be The Strongest In The World tells the story of Sakura Hagiwara, a pop music idol who is a member of the group Sweet Diva.  She is their lead star when the group arranges a press event where the idols go to a local women's wrestling promotion Berserk to try out.  While there, one of Sakura's teammates in Sweet Diva speaks disparagingly of wrestling and irks one of the stars of Berserk, Rio.  Rio is angry and prideful, thinking it is disgusting that mere pop idols can assume they can make it in pro wrestling.  She takes the position of the long-term and established veteran who just hasn't made their own title run, but everyone has to go through in order to reach the next level... think Tyler Breeze's position in NXT with boobs and a camel clutch. Sakura steps into the ring to face Rio and it leads her into the world of pro wrestling full-time seeking a chance to be strong. Not just strong, but the Strongest in the World.

I break you back! I make you humble! I cause boobies to jiggle!

Sakura is an interesting character. The anime fan in me sees her hard work and perseverance despite constant losses and submissions as admirable and inspiring. The pro wrestling fan in me sees her as an uber-babyface seeking sympathy from the crowd and jobbing to the entire territory to pay her dues before getting a push.  I'll say it in a straight-up shoot: Wanna Be The Strongest In The World plays hard kayfabe (when staged events are presented as real) in its build.  With the lack of restrictions in anime, insane manuevers can be delivered that would have devastating effects and you can even hear Sakura's inner monologue, showing that this fight is 100% real.  I was honestly hoping for a moment where it would address storylines or booking, even just a casual line in the last episode of "I'm really glad you put her over" or something as a wink to the smarks who also like anime (a.k.a. Rican and I).

All Champs use a bow and arrow. #BestShowOnTV

As a pure action series, the animation and fights are very well-done. It looks great, it moves fast, and it uses a lot of pro wrestling imagery.  Famous moves like the Camel Clutch, the Moonsault and others are used in matches with great flair.  However, let me warn you, there is a ton of fan-service (read: creepy perverted scenes) in this series.  Sakura's breasts jiggle with every strike, when she is in a submission such as the Boston Crab the frame changes focus directly onto her crotch as she is bent back, as if staring at her vagina is going to add to the scene, and that ol' standby of anime, the nude shower monologue that has been a staple of adult anime since Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie made it famous.  Still, while there are some eye-rolling levels of nudity and objectification, if you can look past it (or enjoy it, if that's your thing!), the story gives a lot of characterization, plenty of fun fight scenes and one nice twist. Plus, Sakura uses a Flash Kick to win matches! That's worth checking out for sure.

Pro Wrestling 101: If you are on your back and your opponent
is on the turnbuckle, raise your knees

Wanna Be The Strongest In The World isn't great by any means, but it is an enjoyable show to watch. Consistently good animation, a brisk pace, and a great theme of hard work and doing what you love make it worth checking out, even if it probably isn't worth buying for anyone but a big fan of ecchi anime and pro wrestling. Plus, at only 12 episodes, it's easy to check off your to-watch list in a day or three of binging.

Ramen eating is intense

Quite possibly my favorite anime of 2015 so far, The Rolling Girls is the story of a group of young women who travel a futuristic Japan which has been divided into various prefectures in search of special gems which grant amazing powers to those who possess them.  These powerful people are known as Bests, and the normal people who work to support them are known as Rests.  

The main group we follow is Nozomi Moritomo, an only child and best friend (unwittingly) of the famous hero Maccha Green, Yukina Kosaka, a shy runaway, Ai Hibiki, a violent young girl who will risk her own life to protect others, and Chiaya Misono, the mysterious girl who seems to know all about the power gems and the pasts of the other girls.  They travel the country to find the gems and fulfill all the requests sent to Maccha Green, even though they do not have any powers.   

You're telling me Maccha, lending money is painful!

I have watched the first two episodes probably 10 times.  They define everything I love about anime.  Ridiculous powers, outrageous crowd reactions, diabolical villainy, amazing animation, incredible choreography, selfless heroism, and building the world in a casual manner.  Add to that one of the best dilemmas of the superhero secret identity ever, and you have 40 minutes that I will likely continue to watch many, many times to come.  Even confronted with her secret identity, Masami cannot admit she is the hero Maccha Green because she knows it will break Nozomi's heart and put her in danger.  The entire segment is classic Peter Parker, with awkward jokes, forced distractions, and even a parallel to the classic Spider-Man 2 train stopping scene.

This punch has the best delayed reaction
since Trunks punched Mr. Satan

The music in this show is an absolute delight. With opening and closing songs that are covers of the punk rock band The Blue Hearts, The Rolling Girls sets a tone that these girls are living the punk rock life and just as the tagline says "Rolling, Falling, Scrambling Girls. For others. For themselves. Even if they're destined to be a 'mob'."  They scrape through and make their way for whatever they feel like. You can't tell them what to do. They are strong as self-reliant.  Along with the Blue Hearts covers, each episode has a song for that specific moment. As Maccha Green takes the stage to save her Rests from a malfunctioning roller coaster, the music starts the lyrics "A peaceful world is too uncool! Oh, I declare war... I wanna be a hero, like the one who died too soon!" showing that she would sacrifice herself for those she loves, but also lives in the battle.  As both a star motorcyle racer and a skilled craftswoman rekindle their love for their work, the music cues, "Let's ride the train heading toward glory... Let me hear your real voice," further supporting their fervent desires to meet their goals.

The Rolling Girls has a wide variety of locales, but never takes itself too seriously. One episode can be about a race against a muffled villain who speaks through revving his engine, another can have an alien battle with a giant mobile suit, and yet another can be about helping a rock band whose lead singer has been kidnapped. It has no restrictions. It just freely goes about adventure. A group of young girls having fun and helping those in need.     

I know all my pics are from eps 1 & 2, but I
don't want to spoil anything, plus I freaking
love those two episodes.

Brand-new for this year, The Rolling Girls is an anime you cannot afford to miss. It has the best animation of any series I have seen in years, with a fresh and upbeat pace that magnetizes the viewer.  It lends itself greatly to multiple views and close, careful review as almost every episode is packed with all-new material, characters and locations. Even at only 12 episodes, it isn't something you should blitz through, as the story is crafted with such care that it deserves time to be appreciated. 

There is no higher praise I can give an anime than that I think it is worth watching over and over, and The Rolling Girls fits the bill without question.

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You ani-MAY want to check out previous All About Anime articles: Seraph, Sailor, School, & Space

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