What’s it about? Many years ago, mecha-monsters known as the Huge began appearing and wreaking havoc on Earth. Hitotsuyanagi Riri dreams of joining the Lilies, the elite squad of teenaged girls who fight the Huge with a combination of magic and science. Lucky for her, she got on the waitlist for the prestigious academy where the Lilies are trained—and now it’s time for her monster-fighting debut!
Speculative fiction is at its best when it’s asking big questions, such as “is teen girls fighting mechs with oversized weapons the coolest thing you’ve ever seen, or what?”
Assault Lily: Bouquet certainly has a fun, tried-and-true concept up its sleeve. The question will be whether or not it can power its engine on Cool Factor alone. The first episode is best summed up as “chaotic,” opening with an action-packed flashback that crashes and bangs past in a blur before the opening credits. A lot of colorful characters are introduced in quick succession, and the fight scene at the episode’s heart is oddly fragmented, going by in a few blinks of the eye.
It’s understandable that an action-centric show would want to progress at breakneck pace, but there’s still an art for balancing the setup of world and character with Really Cool Robot Fights, and I feel that this premiere hasn’t quite captured it.
After the bang-pow-crash cold open, the show changes gears and cuts to a peaceful train journey in which our protagonist, Riri, provides us with exposition about the world-state. A good old info-dump isn’t always a bad sign—and in fact Riri’s narration is sort of sweet, and serves as characterization for our plucky young hero too. But the first episode overwhelmingly leans on “telling” rather than “showing.”
Riri tells us about the Lilies and the academy system on the train trip there, rather than the episode providing a scene showing how the school functions on an ordinary day. Characters seem to read out each other’s Wikipedia bios when they meet. And why would you show a Huge escaping from the science lab when you could have a student run in and announce that it’s already happened?
One of the show’s few organic-feeling features is the character of Yuyu. She and Riri fit into a long-lived and beloved trope: the pairing of an effervescent, optimistic pink-haired girl and a more stoic dark-haired girl with a mysterious and tragic past. It’s become something of a staple, from Sailor Moon to Madoka Magica to GRANBELM. It serves as a neat visual shorthand, and, if the ending credits are anything to go by, the showrunners seem keen on people recognizing this and shipping them.
The characters are archetypal, and there are an awful lot of them, so it remains to be seen if anyone will be developed in significant depth. Nonetheless, I remain cautiously optimistic that Yuyu could at least be tropey in a fun and interesting way. The mysterious change between her personality in the flashback and her personality in the present day may just be the one compelling character detail that this episode presents, mostly because it leaves it as a mystery and doesn’t have another character explain her backstory to Riri and the audience.
Well, perhaps that’s not entirely fair. There are quite a few things that the show hasn’t explain-dumped yet. For example, what’s the deal with the blood pact and the intriguing mix of magic and tech present in the weaponry? How is this intriguing blend of sci-fi and fantasy integrated into the rest of the world?
And… why is this anti-monster taskforce comprised entirely of teenaged girls? Apart from it being Really Cool, of course. I hope the answer isn’t just because it enables lots of shots of thigh-high socks and school uniform skirts, but… well, there are quite a few of them, so it might be a factor.
Assault Lily: Bouquet is silly, frenetic, and could either be goofily fun or extremely meh depending on the way its narrative pans out. As of the first episode, it’s got slick but brief fight scenes, tropey characters, light but frequent fanservice, and at least the potential for some fun drama going forward. It’s not the most compelling, clever, or neatly-plotted sci-fi-fantasy mashup I’ve ever seen, but it might still serve as some brainless fun for your weeknight.