Nearly every anime season is absolutely dominated by adaptations or sequel seasons. Yet, the anime original series, Lycoris Recoil, managed to secure an absurd amount of popularity, and rightfully so.
From director Shingo Adachi (Wagnaria!!, Galilei Donna), assistant director Yusuke Maruyama (Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Sword Art Online) and writer Asaura (Ben-To, Phantom in the Twilight), Lycoris Recoil begins with a mission gone wrong. Taking place in a fascist utopian Japan, a secret service of highly trained young girls called “Lycoris” hide any and all conflict that occurs to preserve peace.
One such Lycoris, Takina Inoue, acts recklessly during a mission to save a comrade, and quickly reprimanded by her superiors. In hopes that she will learn restraint, Takina is sent to the café Lyco Reco to work alongside Chisato Nishikigi. Considered the best Lycoris ever trained, Chisato has the opposite “problem.” Chisato values human life so much that she refuses to kill. Chisato’s cheerful demeanor pairs perfectly with Takina no-nonsense attitude and lack of social understanding. Together, they must grow off each other if they have any hope of protecting Japan from its greatest threat yet; the truth.
The series’ main antagonist, Majima, is dead set on revealing the Lycoris to the public. Lycoris Recoil does an excellent job of exploring the differences between Majima and Chisato’s idealism, examining the negatives of fascism and why some are quick to embrace it.
The team at A-1 Pictures put so much love into this adaptation and it shows. The action cho0regoraphy is incredible. Lycoris Recoil is not as flashy as Demon Slayer or as fluid as Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man. However simplicity of the action sequences feels reminiscent of action thrillers like Mission Impossible and Charlie’s Angels.
That timeless feel is enhanced by the red powder effects Chisato’s bullets leave behind. While used to distinguish between regular ammunition in the show, it appears similar to the blood clouds in Clint Eastwood Westerns. Much of this is due to key animator Kenji Sawada (Sword Art Online, Fate/Grand Order -Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia), who handled much of the gun action animation.
The Hollywood style action contrasts perfectly with Imigimuru‘s (The Art Club Has a Problem!) character designs. He had never having designed for an anime before. Despite this, his more defined art style made him a perfect fit for the series.
Balancing the spy thriller elements with the slice-of-life moments was no easy task, yet Adachi and Asaura made the two halves of Lycoris Recoil work in tandem. This is further represented by Shuhei Mutsuki‘s score. You may recognize Mutsuki as one half of (K)NoW_NAME, the group behind Spy x Family‘s soundtrack.
Mutsuki’s prominent string instrumentals for the action sequences allow them to pop, matching their fast pacing. When mixed with the backing base guitar and drums, it becomes an unforgettable piece of of the Lycoris Recoil pie. Coupled with the more wondrous and peaceful main theme, with its delightful accordion and piano sections, Mutsuki managed to match the series’ tone. It may be the best anime score of the year.
Lycoris Recoil has one of the best ensemble production teams of any anime in recent memory.
Now I am sure you’re wondering by now if the English dub production team is just as well coordinated.
ADR Director Steve Staley (Demon Slayer, The Misfit of Demon King Academy) and script writer Brian Timothy Anderson (Beyblade Burst QuadDrive) breathed so much life in this show through their passionate work.
This is most represented in the performances from the series’ two leads. I could watch an entire slice-of-life series with Lizzie Freeman‘s (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Tokyo Revengers) Chisato and Xanthe Huynh‘s (Kageki Shojo!!, Vampire in the Garden) Takina. The two play off each other remarkably well.
Freeman’s soft, upbeat voice as Chisato captures her endlessly positive attitude, acting as a counter to Huynh’s tighter, less emotive portrayal of Takina (at least in the early episodes). Although, their performances shine most when their characters are out of their depth, especially the last few episodes. Their performances in the finale were something truly special.
They weren’t the only stars of the show, though.
Bob Carter (Full Metal Alchemist, Tokyo 24th Ward) was a surprising standout as Mika, the owner of Lyco Reco. The depth his performance brought to Mika made for some of the most emotional moments of Lycoris Recoil. This was most apparent in his scenes with D. C. Douglas‘s (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Akudama Drive) Shinji Yoshimatsu.
Sean Chiplock‘s (Re:Zero, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) Majima was an excellent foil for Lycoris Recoil‘s protagonists, and may be Chip0lock’s most dynamic performance yet. Like with his role as Draken in Tokyo Revengers, Chiplock completely disappears into Majima, allowing for his crazed monologues to feel like a performance within a performance.
Lycoris Recoil is a must watch for fans of any series that mixes high-octane action with slice-of-life storytelling. It is easily an anime of the year contender. All 13 episodes are available to stream both subbed and dubbed on Crunchyroll.