Rokka, at first glance, appears to be a pretty standard fantasy show. Many years in the past a demon lord arose and corrupted part of the land. Eventually, he was driven back by an ancient warrior. Afterwards, the warrior spread her power throughout the world, prophesying that it would manifest itself in 6 parts – choosing the greatest hopes for the world as champions – should he ever return.
This has happened several times, and these champions – known as the ‘Braves of the Six Flowers’ – have always succeeded in driving back the demon lord. Demons have once again begun to harass the people of this world… and the demon lord is sure to rise again.
Perfect set up for a standard fantasy anime, right?
You’d think so… and the show probably would’ve been better if they’d gone that route. But in stead, they add in random extra Braves and suddenly everyone becomes obsessed with finding a fake and trying to figure out who betrayed them. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a good story in there somewhere, but just not the way they told it.
Mystery requires clues and logic. The story has to involve a plot that can be figured out based off of the information provided within the show, and is usually best if you have very strong characters. Rokka completely fails at both of these aspects. That isn’t to say the cast is weak, as there are a few interesting characters… but for the most part the characters are too stupid to care about. Even the ones who are supposed to be smart. Most of the characters have these really poorly thought out character flaws in an attempt to make them interesting, but they just don’t work within the story. The entire cast feels vapid, paranoid, and idiotic due to the way the circumstances are orchestrated.
Probably the worst offender is our protagonist, Adlet, the self-proclaimed ‘strongest man in the world’ who has this cliché tragic back story that led him training to defeat the demons once and for all. Of course, he somehow managed to endure training nobody else could, and has a personality that wouldn’t be out-of-place on a log… except the log probably wouldn’t be as arrogant. The rest of the braves are all pretty bland in character… we have Maura the perfect, Nachetanya (my wife and I called her Nacho Tanya) the naive, Goldov who is obsessed with Nacho Tanya, Chamot the child, Hans the crazy (he thinks he’s a cat, apparently). The only character who has an interesting personality is Flamie, and even she is a bit hard to relate to.
None of that would be a massive issue if not for the fact that the plot is completely concealed from view. We are provided no information in any fashion that would allow the mystery to be solvable as a viewer, save by a lucky guess. In fact, the eventual solution only makes sense because we are told it makes sense… the logic behind it is so flawed and circumstantial that it feels utterly and completely empty. The evidence they use makes sense only if you assume that the premise they’re using – which isn’t entirely logical – is accurate, and the logical jumps the characters make are so erratic and paranoid that we just assumed they were all perpetually high.
Despite all of that, I did enjoy my time with Rokka, mostly because of two factors. First: the show’s presentation. The visual design direction is fantastic. The visual character design is the only reason I can even tell the characters apart, in fact. The scenery art is fitting, and often beautiful. The show uses a very interesting colour palette… and isn’t afraid of having things not quite look the way you’d expect. The sound design is also quite good, with a great voice cast who fill their roles – such as they are – well.
The other key aspect is the action. This show features a lot of very interesting and high-octane action. The dynamic between the various characters – those with magical powers and those without – is fascinating. But the best are the early fights… the fights where the various characters team up and fight against the fiends, both singularly and en masse, are beautiful and masterfully crafted. It’s a pity the fights between the characters feel a bit lazy by comparison, but they’re still quite good.
Which leads me back full circle to my original point… if this had been a rather stereotypical action anime about heroes teaming up to stop a demon lord… perhaps with a cleverly timed betrayal thrown in for good measure, we’d have probably ended up watching a much more enjoyable and engaging show. And the characters’ flaws wouldn’t have been so blatantly obvious.