Of the past two cours’ mecha anime, Back Arrow is probably the oddest of the bunch. Like Real Robot anime, it has warring factions with what are, effectively, mass production mecha, with ace customs for more prominent named characters. Like Super Robot anime, no fucks are given as to the mechanics of how this works, to the point of the mechs effectively running on Gurren Lagann-style Hot-Blooded Gumption (fitting since Kazuki Nakashima, who wrote Gurren Lagann, wrote this) And, like Space Runaway Ideon, there are some mysteries about the source of this technology that lean towards the sinister.
The Back Arrow follows the residents of the soon-to-be-former town of Edgar, in the land of Lingalind, which is ringed by a massive wall which is utterly impassible. Occasionally, capsule called Rakuho occasionally fall from the sky, bringing provisions, technology, and circlets called Bind Warpers that allow people to summon giant mechs called Briheights, with powers and abilities based on the controller’s conviction – what they believe in more than anything else.
A Rakuho falls on Edgar, bearing with it (long with some of the usual stuff) an amnesiac naked mad. The man gets nicknamed “Back Arrow” after he mishears one of the villagers calling him a dumbass (Bakayaro – localized in the dub to “Blunt Arrow”) Due to his amnesia, he’s able to manifest a Briheight without having a conviction, allowing him to defeat opponent’s Briheight without killing the pilot, and allowing him to develop various special abilities.
The writing on the show is remarkably solid. We have your progressively over-the-top mech fights with serious Gurren Lagann energy – plus internal and external political maneuvering, and the Ideon sense that there is something wrong about what’s going on – but handled without the dark and oppressive death march that was one of Ideon’s defining traits.
The animation is also very solid – the character designs are generally good – and the CGI that’s used for the Briheights works out very well.
If I have a complaint about the show, there’s a chunk in the middle of the show’s second half that is basically one Diablous Ex Machina after another, which gets frustrating and tedious. The payoff makes up for it – but it was certainly onerous watching week by week, and there’s no certainty that this won’t be rectified by binge watching.
Back Arrow is currently available for streaming on Funimation.
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