Imagine Durarara!! set in the post-apocalyptic world of Evangelion. Replace the dark, grimy colour schemes with bright colours and pastels. Then, add an all-girl biker gang on a quest to find mysterious gemstones that fell from the sky. This is Rolling Girls.
After The Great Tokyo War, each prefecture in Japan was divided into its own independent nation. Ten years later, and the gangs from these nations are still fighting, determined to prove their strength and dominance. Each gang has a leader, known as a ‘Best’. Everyone else is a ‘Rest’. Bests are chosen by their immense power, which seem to be linked to their heart-shaped gems. After a confrontation between the Tokorozawa and Higashi Murayama gangs, the Best from Tokorozawa is hospitalised, and her best friend decides to fill in as a peace-broker between nations, despite only joining the Rests a few days before. Three girls join her during her journey, each with separate goals to fulfil.
The plot of this anime is rather formulaic, and usually follows the same pattern. The group travel to a different nation, there’s some conflict, and then everything gets resolved over the course of one or two episodes. However, while this structure is repetitive, the audience finds out more about the gemstones and the various different characters as it progresses. While the individual episodes are rather predictable, the underlying story arc is more subtle, with characters from past episodes making reappearances later on.
While it may not look it at first glance, this is a sci-fi series. While this element isn’t particularly apparent in the first few episodes, it grows much more prominent once more information is revealed about the true nature of the gems. Mixing parts of the mecha sub-genre with the concepts of aliens and superheroes places this anime firmly in the genre, divorcing it from realistic fantasy while the road-trip aspect and character development simultaneously roots it back into reality.
The post-war mecha theme is highly reminiscent of Neon Genesis Evangelion, with some shots seeming to directly reference the series through use of framing, colour schemes and the actual content. Whether this was intentional or not is unknown, but due to its popularity and influence, this doesn’t seem coincidental. The animation studio which brought Rolling Girls to life, Wit Studio, also adapted Hajime Isayama’s Shingeki no Kyojin into an anime and the contrasts between the two art styles show how diverse they can be. Shingeki no Kyojin is the most well known series to come out of the studio, followed by Seraph of the End. Given that they were only founded in 2012, showing the diversity of anime they can produce will be an important factor in the longevity of the company.
I am one of the anime fans who are pretty much indifferent to the dub versus sub debate, and most of the time I decide on which one to watch based on the cast, or how busy my life is at the time. The last couple of weeks have been deadline season for university, so I settled on the dub because it was easier to fit in and used less brainpower. The dub for Rolling Girls has a solid cast, largely consisting of well-known Funimation alumni such as Monica Rial, J. Michael Tatum and Brina Palencia. While the majority of the voice acting was the standard quality you’d expect from Funimation, there were a couple of episodes which seemed a little under par. Episodes 7 and 8 are set in Kyoto and show a divide between the traditional ways of the geisha and the more rebellious musicians. However, every person from Kyoto is voiced with a fake British accent. I can understand the reasoning behind it, given that British accents are widely considered to be sophisticated and there is a history of the island producing iconic rock bands, but as a British viewer of the series it sounded very unusual to me. While Brina Palencia pulls off a British accent better than most, as she has already starred in Kuroshitsuji, taking it out of Victorian England made it sound slightly unnatural. I couldn’t shake the association with Ciel Phantomhive so I would have probably enjoyed it more if I hadn’t listened to her in that role beforehand.
When I first looked up this series while I was planning on watching it, I was very surprised to see it categorised under seinen. From the artwork and promotional material, it seemed like a shoujo. Upon further research, I saw a mixture between shoujo and shounen. And after watching, it felt like the tone of this series is quite different from the seinen anime I have watched before. However, I can see a few features of Rolling Girls which would appeal to adult males. For example, the sub-plot about the girls’ favourite band entails them (for want of a better word) fangirling over a band member over twice their age. Thankfully, the series handled that aspect tastefully and was based on respect for the music but one thing I noticed was the fact that Ai was always in a bikini. These girls are quite young so knowing it was a seinen did concern me slightly, even if the semi-nudity pales in comparison to other seinen shows like Kill la Kill.
Overall, this series is a cuter take on sci-fi mecha. With a relatively predictable plot and an emotional ending (even if you saw it coming!), Rolling Girls is less complex and twisted than the anime I’ve been watching recently. Even though this is the case, this coming of age story about four young girls trying to make their way in the world was enjoyable nonetheless.
I’d managed to time this so it was published pretty much the day after the last episode of the dub was released, hence the (kind of) late post. Not bad for someone who had deadlines this week! ~ ShannaroShoujo