'Amagi Brilliant Park' is a thrill ride well worth admission

Weird, wild, and ultimately wonderful
Posted at 12:48 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 14:50:08-05

Year: 2014
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Episodes: 13 (plus 1 OVA)

If you've played Rollercoaster Tycoon or fed yourself a steady diet of abandoned theme park YouTube videos you've probably thought about what it'd be like to take charge of a theme park.

That's the concept behind "Amagi Brilliant Park." Seiya Kanie is a former child actor now living a normal life as a high schooler when he's approached by the mysterious transfer student, has a musket shoved in his face, and is asked to come along with her to AmaBri, an ailing amusement park with failing maintenance and paltry visitor numbers.

He has been chosen by the Princess of Mapleland, Princess Latifa, to take over as the park manager. Why he was chosen is not really explained but more important is the fact that he has about three months to bring in 500,000 visitors to the park before it is shut down permanently. And, because the majority of the workers are actual denizens of this fantasy "Mapleland" who thrive off the magic generated by the happiness of guests, that means some would die, others would go jobless.

Everything about this has a childlike wonder to it from the main premise to the magical fantasy nonsense. Seeing these cutesy mascots are actual "people" who go out and drink and have marital issues is kind of hilarious. There are fairies and dragons and a talking samurai dolphin — all of which are played as just regular people just trying to entertain guests and have fun. That translates to a fun time for the viewer. The situations become increasingly ridiculous and even the characters understand how stupid it all is. That self-awareness, something I feel a lot of anime miss (especially shows with this sort of plot), makes "Amagi Brilliant Park" all the better.

And while the park's denizens are great, it's the main characters who keep you invested. Kanie, Isuzu Sento, and Princess Latifa's unwavering quest to reinvent the park and return it to its former glory has infectious emotional stakes. You'll be rooting for them the whole time.

Most of the episodes are stand-alone adventures where Kanie explores random facets of the park or everyone works together to solve a major infrastructure issue. Most of the time these escalate to ridiculous proportions, like a gate to Mapleland opening and allowing a pirate ship into the waterpark. All the guests think its part of the show while the workers are trying to defeat the evil captain.

It's all presented with gorgeous animation and a great soundtrack. Kyoto Animation, to me, has been the king of this kind of comedy/slice-of-life/magical realism series and this is one of their best, most accessible series to get a taste of what they're all about.

An emotionally charged and tense conclusion should be where the series closes the gates but instead it continues and throws out a final episode that feels like it should have been anywhere else. Some series like to run out of story and just keep going and while episode 13 is hilarious, it isn't what I would have gone out on.

"Amagi Brilliant Park" will never be considered an anime classic like KyoAni's "K-On" or "Haruhi Suzumiya" but it's well worth a watch regardless. While it does occasionally fall into generic anime trappings insofar as suggestive content is concerned, it's mostly a wholesome, funny, and easily bingeable experince.

3 out of 4 Stars

Amagi Brilliant Park is available through Sentai Filmworks.

Need more anime suggestions? How about "Carole & Tuesday"?

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