Anime Review: Lycoris Recoil

Lycoris Recoil is something of a modern retooling of a genre that we haven’t seen in a while – the Girls With Guns anime series. In particular, Lycoris Recoil in this case has a mix of “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” as a recurring B-plot, with the conspiracy thriller elements covering the series A-plots, with action informed now not by the John Woo films of years past, but the modern John Wick films. All of this works tremendously well.

The series is set in a near-future Tokyo, where officially there is little-to-no violent crime. In large part this is due to a top-secret government agency code-named “Direct Attack” (or DA), who basically sends special ops teams of highly trained special operatives who are all teenage girls, called “Lycoris”, who are sent to… deal with drug and gun deals, along with hostage situations and other terrorist actions under the radar, while keeping the truth of all of this from the public through various cover-ups.

Takina Inoue holding a squad automatic weapon in Lycoris Recoil

The two Lycoris agents the show follows are Chisato Nishikigi and Takina Inoue. Takina was reprimanded and re-assigned to a listening post in Alaska re-assigned one of Direct Attacks’ field offices after – when a raid on an arms deal went bad, in order to save another Lycoris agent who was held hostage Takina took a SAW (that is, a Squad Automatic Weapon) the dealers were planning to sell and gunned them all down with it. The field office in question is under the cover of the coffee shop “LycoReco”, which is where Chisato is assigned. Chisato was one of DA’s most promicing field agents – she has just one problem: she refuses to use deadly force, to the point of using less-efficient bursting impact rounds rather than using lethal ordinance. Together… say it with me now… they fight crime!

Again, the fight scenes in this show are fantastic – it’s tremendously clear that the animators working on this film looked at John Wick and said “what if we did that, but with a high school girl in a school uniform?” It all looks tremendous.

Chisato Nishikigi aims at a target in Lycoris Recoil

Further, the show also does a great job of getting across the characters’ personalities through how they fight. Chisato has a knack for observing where opponents are aiming and dodging out of the way to such a degree that it looks like she’s dodging bullets. Consequently, she’s developed a very flashy, showy way of fighting that fits with the fact that she can get away with it mostly unscathed (though man her hair gets shot a lot), and allowing her to close and make sure she can take down her opponents without killing them. Takina is a better ranged fighter, hitting shots from longer distances, so her fighting style is more precise and deliberate. Both of these also play into their personalities – Chisato is cheerful and energetic, while Takina is calm, collected, and a little aloof – and is more willing to use deadly force, though Chisato rubs off on her enough that she uses her accuracy to go more for disarming shots and kneecaps.

The conspiracy thriller aspect of the plot goes in some interesting directions, but never quite far enough. The show is pretty clear at coming across that DA, both the Lycoris and their male counterparts – LilyBell, are actually pretty societally bad. LycoReco is able to do some good, but that’s in spite of the Powers That Be – they’re very much on the outside. However, they never quite go far enough in interrogating the concept. The series antagonist, Majima, recognizes how this is wrong, and seeks to call attention to it – but it’s more out of his own desire to cause chaos, as a means to an end.

There are enough loose ends to work with to allow for a second season of the show, if A1 Pictures decides they want one, since this is an anime-original concept. Certainly the show seems to have gotten something of a fan following (including an endorsement from Hideo Kojima), in addition to cosplay of the characters already showing up at the World Cosplay Summit in Japan this year. So, hopefully this is enough buzz for Chisato, Takina, and company to return in a later series.

Lycoris Recoil is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

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