Back Arrow is bursting at the seams with exuberance and I enjoyed that a lot.
Back Arrow (Bakku Arō) 2021
For me, it’s wildly over the top and dead sincere at the same time, leaping between those two contrasting extremes. In that way I guess you could say that there’s a mix of aspects from shows like TTGL and Gun x Sword, among others.
A while back, Lita and I did a ‘first reactions‘ kinda collab and I’m happy to say my response to the show remained quite favourable indeed.
Now, in other reviews I’ve definitely criticised stuff that hops between extremes (or wildly contrasting tones) but obviously I don’t always have a problem with it. I thought Back Arrow shifted in such a way that I was expecting things to be a bit off-the-wall from the beginning, and so it didn’t bother me.
All the shounen tropes and clichés (and bizarre humour) are out in full force in Back Arrow (the choir! the wine bottles!), declarations shouted with clenched fists, escalating battles and a huge finish.
It was hard to believe in a way, but as the last few episodes unveiled new and more gigantic surprises in terms of that escalation, I was swept up in the sense of fun – all the amps go up to 11 here.
In terms of fav characters, Shu stands out for me, since he forges his own path, though I will say that his key betrayal actually seems poorly handled in respect to another character, considering the supposed importance of a certain flashback. That’s probably pretty vague if you haven’t seen Back Arrow but I was hoping to avoid spoilers.
So I’ve written a few paragraphs now without mentioning the plot but it includes some of the big stakes I’m looking for: save the world and know thyself, along with a big enough cast that a few folks get to live out different aspects of each.
I can see how this show might fail to meet the needs of some audiences – some of the key anime that Back Arrow is channelling across its 24 episodes were now released generations ago.
And to be honest, there is a strangely childish part of me that really enjoys the fact that Back Arrow seems to be almost a cult show already.
That’s actually a bad thing, though – I want Back Arrow to be more popular so that more shows like it get made.
I’m excited to share another collaboration – this time on Back Arrow, where Lita Kino and I ask each other about the first three episodes. (Spoilers – we think you should check it out :D)
Thanks to Lita for diving in to Back Arrow with me too! If you haven’t already (or even if you have) you should visit Lita here at Anime Corner 🙂
Lita: Thank you Ash for the opportunity to collab with you. Even though our first idea went to pot. I really hope people give Back Arrow a try because I think it’s a great first time show for people who don’t watch mecha or wish to try to because it’s so less serious and more emphasis on fun with itself.
1. What were you expecting before going in to ‘Back Arrow’?
The only expectation I had was a strong western setting terms of the background terrain, costumes etc. There was nothing I would ask for. I wanted to watch this not just because it’s mecha and I love it. Reminded me so much of Gun x Sword while the western settings are similar for me, Back Arrow is a curveball thrower. This series portrays itself as primarily fun majority of the time, this is something distinct within the first three episodes, it establishes. Introduction of the main protagonist Back Arrow arising from Rakuho, suffering amnesia with only memory of coming from beyond the wall.
Instead of this moment drawing on Back Arrow’s unfortunate circumstances with strong emotional emphasis. Back Arrow decides to go beyond the wall, without worrying about anything else. All the people from Edgar village staring at this strange man, butt naked. You feel like you are following an idiot of a protagonist and it works brilliantly for this series. It’s hysterical the first three episodes have been. I love series that serve up from what you expect like this, Back Arrow doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
2. I was curious about how you’re responding to Shu after these first 3 episodes? Definitely feels like he’s holding the most back.
Shu is just full of mystery but he is an amusing man. Making a copy of the royal records had me laughing, but he is a man of science. That instinct and drive to do what it takes to grasp his goals. There is an underlying motive here but damn he is amusing.
3. How are you finding the designs of the suits? (I’m getting a slight Power Rangers feel, which is fun.)
I LOVE this series concept regarding it’s mecha suits known as Briheight’s. The design of them reminds me of Gridman’s from SSS.Gridman but with a funky take. Concept of wielding these mechas based on your conviction is cool, each Briheight I’ve seen so far, really reflects the pilot as a person and personality. Mixture of conviction and becoming a pilot’s reflection, these mecha’s are definitely unique. This is another realm into the connection between man and machine.
1. We have a tradition of the main protagonist who has amnesia at the start. Normally there has been a strong emphasis and heartfelt plea at the start, also determination to discover who they are again. But we have a very lax protagonist who is just taking everything in hindsight as it comes. It’s this a refreshing approach to this protagonist tradition?
I think so, yeah. There’s sort of a refusal of the Call to Adventure – Arrow just wants to get on with own quest for the Wall and I’ve found that interesting. It feels like he’ll soften over time, but kicking off with an amnesiac who doesn’t seem to be very worried about that memory loss is interesting. Instead, he just dives into any situation with blind faith. Or conviction 😀
2. I have yet to complete Back Arrowyet but the western centre reminds me so much of Gun x Sword. Been a long time since a western themed mecha has appeared. I think the outskirts of rocky and dune sand, the bright western costume designs look great. Do you think the western feel is there for Back Arrow?
It reminds me of Gun x Sword too, which makes me pretty happy. (In fact, the moment I saw Elsha and Atlee, I felt like two halves of Wendy had appeared onscreen :D).
Agree! It feels like it’s been quite a while since a mecha show featured the western setting and isn’t it perfect for allowing the colours of the Briheights to pop too? I love the tropes I’ve seen so far, the village in distress, the stranger arriving to help etc. Really hoping they continue and that there’s a focus on stand-offs and duels.
3. I looked on MyAnimeList and this series has been rated 5 out of 10. I wonder if this is because people were expecting a series western here but the plot is pretty loose and so are the characters. This series is about fun 80% of the time, not what anyone was expecting. Do you like the loose fun factor here and the plot is throwing curveballs of absurdity as to where it may go?
I wondered about that too. If I think about something similar in tone from Kazuki Nakashima, like TTGL perhaps, then that show’s already 14 years old – that’s pretty much an entire generation ago, I guess.
And so maybe significant portions of current audiences just aren’t used to a show like Back Arrow?
Loose and fun is a pretty perfect description, yeah and maybe people did want something different? For me, I’m loving every second of how over the top it can be and I’m really looking forward to more curveballs, yes! For one, (I’m very curious about the Granedger and wonder what surprises it’ll hold in store.)
So, folks – tell us, are you watching Back Arrow? Planning to perhaps?
If you’re already watching it, how are you finding it so far? (Beyond the first three episodes the show continues to do more absurdist stuff and raise the stakes on the action too, I’m still enjoying it a lot for sure :D)
The taciturn hero* is certainly one of my favourite types, so having ‘Van of the Dawn’ fit that mould was nearly all I needed to confirm that I’d enjoy GunxSword – that, and this post from Scott at Mechanical Anime, which got me interested in the first place 🙂
This anime is one I missed when it was ‘current’, and it lands during what I think of as one big wave of anime popularity in the mid-2000s, back when things like Bleach and Naruto were dominating.
But this isn’t as neatly defined as those shows. GunxSword is hard (but fun) to categorise, and I’m not sure I’ll manage it fully but I think it combines action, mecha, western, science-fiction and comedy in a fairly wild, ‘try anything’ approach, with the episodes held together by a strong quest narrative.
Two main characters, unlikely duo Van and Wendy, are searching a semi-dystopian world, looking for ‘Claw’ – the silver-tongued manipulator and psychopathic villain. Van for revenge and for Wendy, it’s more of a doubt-filled search, as she struggles to learn why the shadowy Claw has abducted her brother.
These twin threads pulled me through the episodic and the connected episodes alike. Hints and clues were spread out nicely, interwoven with character-building episodes, as the cast expanded quite steadily. And GunxSword becomes a real ensemble by the final confrontation too, which is something I loved because I like to see heroes bounce off those different character types.
Even though the story is ultimately serious and at times basically adult rather than aimed at teens perhaps, there’s a lot of oddball, even goofy stuff. More, the mix of mecha and gunslinger feel allows a heap of classic western/samurai tropes to sit along side the huge struggles of huge robots**.
I think of this especially with the range of characters that Van and co encounter on their travels, like Captain Kaiji, or the mafia don’s kid (and that car!), even Wendy’s turtle or Carmen99’s yoyo are small examples that would sell the idea of the show as a comedy – well, those and above all else, the moustache-fetish guys.
(But when you look at the relationship between the lead characters, the series is a bit more like a drama, and most folks are perhaps ruled by their doubts or their flaws, but somehow manage to pull together.)
Now, it’s hard for me to be certain of this, but fifteen years ago, it seemed that studios and other backers were a little happier to take risks on works that weren’t adaptations. Not sure if that’s a fault of my memory, or a lack of wide viewing habits on my part, but I don’t know if anything quite like GunxSword would get a twenty-six episode run today. (Maybe it’d be more of a single cour, a ‘see what happens before we commit further’ kinda thing?)
GunxSword is often compared to Trigun and there are definitely similarities in setting, and in the wandering, the episodic feel and at times goofy humour, but the tone and use of technology are certainly different here. (The OST is also more varied too).
So, is this one for you?
Hard to say… if you prefer dead-serious kinda mech anime then probably not, but if you’re after something fun, this might be worth chasing down.
* Having said that, Van can be a straight up jerk too, and it can take him a little long to see beyond his pursuit of revenge.
** On that note, I really liked the way Gorō Taniguchi revealed the scale of the robots/armour throughout too, especially via choice of angle and camera position in many of the battles.
Sometimes I find myself being a little harder on recent shows if they don’t break a whole lot of new ground.
It’s something I shouldn’t do, I feel like I have to fight that impulse both as a viewer and when reviewing a series, because I don’t think that Originality!!!! is the most important metric available.
Instead, I’m more interested in whether I was drawn into the world, whether I responded to the characters and whether existing tropes and conventions are refreshed or handled in an satisfying manner, whether the art style, design or settings chosen make me stop and recognise just how beautiful or impressive they really are.
And so having said all that, I still
found myself in two minds about Revisions.
It definitely echoes Neon Genesis and other classics specifically in some ways but on a smaller scale.
Elsewhere it’s more ‘generally familiar’, from character design (that Voltron-esque colour scheme of the body suits) to other common mecha tropes, but the time travel aspect added a nice complication to the plot.
Having the main character Daisuke both suffer a hero complex and be ridiculed for it allowed extra conflict between the young heroes, though that aspect of the storyline kinda swung a little violently from polar opposites in the short span. Maybe the manga spreads that aspect out more smoothly?
Still, the pacing was brisk and the animation itself kept me watching; especially the designs of the Civilians and the suits/the String Puppets themselves all felt both ‘on brand’ for the genre but also distinctive enough.
I did find the occasional close up here and there to reveal that cel-shaded look to the CGI that I’m not a huge fan of, but it was nothing glaring.
Great music throughout, especially the ending theme and with a few satisfying twists in the story, not too many instances of ‘out of place’ fan service (I guess) and overall I did enjoy it.
The writing was pretty effective at showing the unsurprising cowardice contrasted with the welcome heroism of humanity in a largely dystopian setting. It also pulled back away from the kids and their struggles to spend a bit of time on managing a city on limited resources, which I found interesting, though would hardly be everyone’s key memory of the series 😀