Every once in a blue moon, there is an anime that is able to truly touch my heart. It really should come as no surprise that the passion project of Re:Zero‘s creator, Tappei Nagatsuki, Re:Zero‘s showrunner, Eiji Umehara, and Wit Studio (Attack on Titan, Great Pretender) was the best anime of the Spring 2021 season. When I heard Nagatsuki and Umehara were handling a sci-fi time travel anime with an android protagonist, I knew I would love it. Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song takes the themes of self-discovery and growth from Re:Zero, along with its theme of endless hope in the face of destruction, while taking a similar emotional approach to Kana Akatsuki‘s Violet Evergarden with its protagonist. Vivy felt like someone took all of my favorite things about fiction and combined them into one amazing anime.
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song begins with the death and destruction one would come to expect from a work by Tappei Nagatsuki. The world has seemingly been ravaged by a robot apocalypse, with one of the few surviving humans sending an AI back in time to hopefully correct the future and prevent the death around him. This AI, named Matsumoto after his creator, is sent to the android songstress, Vivy, one hundred years in the past, as she was one of the oldest AI still operating at the time of the demise of the human race.
However, Vivy’s primary mission objective is to make everyone happy with her singing and to “sing with all of her heart.” To receive Vivy’s help, Matsumoto convinces her that she can’t make people happy with her singing if there is no one to hear it. The rest of the series follows the two as they strive to complete the Singularity Project by changing various events over the one hundred years that originally led to the extermination of humanity by their own creations. Along the way, they find themselves constantly in conflict with the anti-AI terrorist group Toak.
Vivy is initially your typical android character, just working as a songstress instead of in intelligence or some related field. Many of her mannerisms are similar to other android characters, such as Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, with a human voice that feels robotic due to her limited emotional capacity. However, as she spends increasingly more time with other humans and Matsumoto, she begins developing her own unique personality, becoming more human-like in the process.
Matsumoto, on the other hand, acts as the more human of the two. Matsumoto is sassy and overly dramatic, constantly overexpressing to make up for Vivy’s lack of expression. Their differences reminded me of the partnership of 2B and 9S in NieR: Automata due to the drastic difference in personality. However, just like 2B and 9S in Automata, Vivy and Matsumoto grow greatly over the course of Vivy‘s 13-episode run, with their personalities even starting to mirror each other even more.
Vivy‘s plot structure consists of altering multiple events over the course of one hundred years, so it has a short-term arc structure, with each arc focusing on a different event. Because of this, we are introduced to multiple integral characters that heavily influence the characters’ growth, whether human or AI.
Momoka is the first one to truly give Vivy purpose.
Estelle and Elizabeth both show how AI can be swayed by how their creators treat them.
Grace and Tatsuya showed how intimate the relationship between humans and AIs can be and that they can coexist.
Ophelia and Antonio show the struggles AI face over the expectations placed on them by humanity.
Lastly, Dr. Matsumoto and Yugo Kakitani show how humanity can be influenced by AIs.
Every single character affects the overall story of the series, while also having each of them fit the series thematically as well. This should come as no surprise considering the series is co-written by Tappei Nagatsuki who does something similar with the characters of Re:Zero.
However, it is not just the writing that is special about this series. Considering this was more of a “side project” for director Shinpei Ezaki (Attack on Titan, Guilty Crown), the animation team at Wit Studio and the rest of the crew went above and beyond.
Character designer and chief animation director Yuichi Takahashi (FLCL Alternative, Stars Align) not only made the design of each character easily distinguishable, but was able to make each design fit the characters’ personalities perfectly.
Art director Yusuke Takeda (Vinland Saga, Great Pretender), the key animation team and the director of photography, Keisuke Nozawa (Plunderer), made every frame look like art.
While there is not much action in Vivy, when there is it is exactly what you would expect from the team at Wit. Every drawing is used exceptionally, with the sequences being an absolute pleasure to look at. It isn’t just the action sequences that benefit from the impeccable animation either. The performance scenes are super gorgeous. The amount of attention given to each individual piece of the performers’ movements, from their face to their hands, makes them feel alive.
Of course, the performances would be nothing if not for the music accompanying them and somehow Vivy is able to top most idol anime with its original music. Satoru Kousaki (Lucky Star, Beastars) composed the score and arranged/composed all of Vivy’s major performances. Kousaki’s score, in particular, manages to capture this utopian future style with the music surrounding Matsumoto, while also delivering on the suspense, especially in late episodes.
I particularly appreciate the use of music throughout the series to show Vivy’s growth, a decision likely made by the writers that managed to bring out the best of Kousaki and the rest of the composers. Such composers include Kakeru Ishihama (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU), Keita Inoue (NieR: Replicant) and Ryuuichi Takada (IDOLM@STER), with each bringing their own unique style to each of the character’s performances. The Japanese voice cast, especially Atsumi Tanezaki (Vivy), Satomi Akesaka (Grace) and Rina Hidaka (Ophelia) made the rather simple lyrics feel incredibly impactful with their incredible voices.
That, along with their voice work throughout the rest of the series, is easily one of the biggest reasons why Vivy became such a cult hit while it was airing. That is not to say the other members of the cast did not pull their own weight. Jun Fukuyama (Matsumoto), Kensho Ono (Tatsuya Saeki) and Takehito Koyasu (Dr. Matsumoto) each shined in their own right.
However, if you know me, you know I love me some good English dubs and Funimation/Aniplex absolutely nailed Vivy‘s. With voice direction by Wendee Lee (March Comes in Like a Lion, Rent-A-Girlfriend) and scriptwriting by Kayli Mills (Ni no Kuni, D4DJ First Mix), the English dub managed to capture the tone of each character perfectly, while still managing to feel unique compared to the original Japanese broadcast.
Christina Valenzuela (Miraculous Ladybug, Konosuba) shines brightly as Vivy, giving what might be one of the best performances of her entire career. The wide range of emotion she is able to show through Vivy as she changes over the course of the story is exceptional. From the stunted robot-like speaking of early episodes, to the sassy backtalk of the show’s latter half, Valenzuela captures every facet of Vivy’s personality perfectly.
Similarly, Max Mittleman‘s (Mob Psycho 100, Your Lie in April) performance as Matsumoto showed off the difference in personality between him and Vivy perfectly. The chemistry between him and Valenzuela was palpable and made me smile during all of their witty banter, especially between the more dramatic moments. Mittleman brings levity through his performance as Matsumoto, always making ever situation filled with hope through his energetic voicework.
However, it is the secondary members of the cast that manage to bring most of the series’ emotion. Lizzie Freeman (Rent-A-Girlfriend, Tokyo Revengers) is an absolute delight as Momoka.
Erika Harlacher (Violet Evergarden, Your Lie in April) and Allegra Clark (Jujutsu Kaisen, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) perfectly compliment each other as Estella and Elizabeth.
Billy Kametz (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, The Rising of the Shield Hero) brings this incomprehensible amount of trauma to his performance as Tatsuya.
Daman Mills‘ (Sk8 the Infinity, Beastars) performance as Antonio was terrifying, despite his initial friendly demeanor. However, the success of Mills’ performance is largely due to Xanthe Huynh’s (Anohana, Appare-Ranman!) voicework as Ophelia, brining this innocent atmosphere to contrast with Antonio’s demeanor.
John Eric Bentley (Final Fantasy VII Remake, Promare) even managed to steal scenes away from Vivy and Matsumoto with his performance as Dr. Matsumoto.
The whole cast exceeded my expectations and made me feel so much no matter how small the size of their role in the series.
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is the culmination of the talents of so many artists in the anime industry, and it shows through the amount of effort put into every aspect of its production. They truly put all of their heart into their work, just like Vivy. Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is currently available subbed and dubbed on Funimation.