The four young women in the image above don’t appear to have a care in the world. Joking around and laughing with one another, they head out, enjoying the day together. Perhaps they’ll go to a café or an amusement park.
Their reality is nothing like this carefree snapshot, taken from the opening sequence of Amagi Brilliant Park. Instead, it’s displayed in the image above. Forced to perform in front of an audience of two, the four women are obviously miserable with no outlet or avenue to channel their magical powers. The energetic redhead smiling and laughing in the opening shot is formally introduced to us as apathetic and without regard for keeping up appearances. Her cohorts are similarly despondent, one chokes back tears as she attempts to perform. Escape from the dire nature of their jobs is impossible when their profession so encapsulates who they are: fairies from another world. Doomed to display their powers to the most meager of audiences, the four women seem impossibly distant from the happy image in the series’ opening song.
Amagi Brilliant Park presents the four fairies of Elementario – and the other wonders contained within the amusement park – through the reactions of Seiya Kanie, quick cuts to debris and desolation, and the deadpan narration of Isuzu Sento. To her credit, Isuzu manages a greater apathetic demeanor than Salama, our aforementioned fire fairy, while introducing the various attractions, like the “Heart-Pounding Coaster: a bullet train of thrills and excitement.” As Amagi Brilliant Park‘s most unenthusiastic hype woman, Isuzu’s emotionless voice drones regardless of whether she is introducing an event or affirming that Amaburi’s staff are magical denizens of a place called Maple Land.
Yet, one can’t help but feel that Isuzu cares deeply about the fate of the decrepit amusement park and its inhabitants. This is exemplified not in the tone of her voice but through the amount of knowledge she possesses and her forcefulness in dragging the hapless Seiya on a date turned expository info-dump. At their core, amusement parks are determined to remove one from the real world, placing them in a fantasy land for a day. The enjoyment one derives from attending a theme park often depends on how willing they are to buy into the fantasy. In the case of Amaburi, the cast members are all magical, but the park’s aura is anything but.
“‘If you want to make people dream, you have to start by believing in that dream yourself?’ Harsh, but true.”
– Isuzu Sento, Amagi Brilliant Park, episode 1
The end result of Seiya’s whirlwind tour is not the revelation that he – as a former childhood actor – has been chosen to lead Amaburi out of the doldrums and into prosperity, although this will indubitably drive the narrative. Instead, Amagi Brilliant Park makes it a point to show that Seiya is actively angry with the state of Amaburi, as it makes no effort to bestow the actual magic that the cast members have onto the few visitors that happen to stumble through its gates. While the reality of working at an amusement park involves far more cleaning up vomit and preventing teenagers from copulating in the restrooms, it is a reality to be hidden behind a curtain of magic, and some excellent acting.
In Seiya, Amagi Brilliant Park offers the standard story of a young man rediscovering what he loves – presumably acting – while inspiring others in the process. If images from the opening sequence are anything to go by, he has a very long way to go. Even in this montage of happy faces and a cleaner, more inviting Amaburi, there’s still the chance of unearthing a dildo in front of children, and drinking one’s self silly after a hard day’s work. The disgusting bits will never be eradicated, as escaping these things are part and parcel of what makes theme parks work. Amagi Brilliant Park understands this, and manages to make one look forward to how the magic will return.