A few years ago, a certain anime blogger had a few choice words over social media on the rampant overuse of the “p-word.” Potential, he so succinctly pointed out, is partially ascribed by the viewer towards the series that they’re watching, or highly anticipating. Occasionally, just maybe, a series’ potential is less of a failing on the creators’ parts but more of an unequal expectation on the viewer’s behalf.
I bring this up because his words still resonate with me, and keep me cognizant of how much potential I personally ascribe to an upcoming series – based on anything from a staff list to pretty key visual. If a series fails to grab me, or disappoints me later on in its run, how much of this is a result of my own taste or expectation? How much of this is an actual failing on the series’ part?
Now that we’ve covered that, on to The Rolling Girls.
I fell in love with The Rolling Girls at first sight. It had beautiful animation, gorgeous watercolor backgrounds, and appealing character design all wrapped up in the bow of an irresistibly catchy soundtrack made up of covers from the late 1980s-early 1990s Japanese punk-rock group The Blue Hearts. On top of this strong presentation was a surprisingly nuanced look at the dynamic between younger and older siblings. Where the visuals captured my attention, a quiet moment between pseudo-sisters Nozomi Moritomo and Masami Utoku captured my heart.
Unfortunately, this convincing initial production from the overarching thematic narrative to the minute character details slowly slipped away with each passing episode. I stubbornly refused to give up on The Rolling Girls, and resolutely stuck with it to the bitter end – an awkward, static mess of a finale that not only made absolutely no sense from a writing standpoint but offered little to no animation on top of this.
It’s become progressively easier for me to realize when a series just isn’t doing it for me and let go. Perhaps I’m not emotionally invested in the characters enough. The show in question might be really good, but just not my figurative cup of tea. In these cases, it’s not difficult to grasp that the problem is with me rather than the series, especially when I realize that my own lofty expectations may have adversely affected my personal enjoyment.
However, in the case of The Rolling Girls, the series broke my heart. Each episode following the Kyoto Arc was a slow descent into increasingly bad writing and static shots of characters spouting nonsense at each other. This lent absolutely no tension to supposed dramatic moments, instead appearing as random events happening one after another with little weight or emotional resonance. Comparing Episode 1 to Episode 12 of this series is almost like placing two different series side-by-side both visually and emotionally. I’m not the type of person to stress when minute details about a world are not revealed – in fact, I prefer when things are left to the imagination – but amidst a chaotic background tapestry, The Rolling Girls fails its most important test, making one care about what is happening to the characters.
In the end, I’m still unclear about how much of my disappointment with this series was ascribed by my expectations, or a genuine failing on the show’s behalf – it’s likely both, but percentages fluctuate – yet I remain sad about The Rolling Girls.
It had so much potential.
As an aside, this is the first of twelve posts discussing memorable moments from my past year of anime viewing as part of the Twelve Days Project. They’re going to be a bit more personal in nature and more loosely-written, but I still hope you enjoy. Additionally, check out what other bloggers are doing as well.