I do not have any introduction in mind for this next review so let us just get to it as we take a look at URAHARA.
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi
Themes: Harajuku, Creativity, Imagination.
Number of episodes: 12
Plot Summary: Three high school girls are putting together a limited-time shop called “PARK” in Japan’s Harajuku. One day, aliens called Scoopers come to Earth with the intent to steal the famed district’s culture. At the same time, a mysterious girl appears. The three girls band together to defeat the alien threat and protect their beloved Harajuku.
One important thing to keep in mind from the start. A LOT happens in the first episode, including plot exposition, who the three heroines are, where they came from and what they do, who the Scoopers are and what they are after etc. Let us not forget the initially overwhelming animation.
Let us continue with said animation because it is easily the highlight of the show, or to be the precise the first thing that will draw viewers in. It is all over the place with its character designs ranging from childlike simplicity to the complex and possibly insane. You know you are in for a ride when one of the characters is a talking fried shrimp who accompanies a little girl with fried boots and they both introduced themselves after coming out of a baby bottle shaped escape ship. Aside from the wacky designs there are the varied kinds of animation styles including comic book style split screen. Think something similar to Kuchuu Buranko but not as crazy. The soundtrack fits what the show is going for and both and OP (especially) and ED are solid listens.
I mentioned creativity and imagination above because they are the driving force of the show. The Scoopers want to rob the Earth of all its creativity and original designs (including historical landmarks, as is the norm for alien invaders) and our three heroines’ get their powers using by activating the Amatsumara morphers using their imagination. Not only that but the trio’s activities, cool battle tactics, triumphs, failures and other obstacles are all tied to their creativity and imagination including their relationships/interactions with others, each other and themselves. Without giving too much away the show starts off formulaic in the trio vs Scooper battles but as it progresses it becomes a serious exploration of the human mind…again tied to the aforementioned obstacles. Also while it may seem easy to figure things out expect the unexpected, as cliche as that sounds.
As far as my personal thoughts on it before and after the tonal shift I think the show is solid. It reminded me of another anime and anime movie I watched. Those being Rolling Girls and Summer Wars (Kuchuu Buranko does not count because that is more an artistic choice rather than a main draw. Good show though). To me both were more style than substance, meaning they looked really good and the action scenes were visual treats but as far as the story went SW was average and RG did not grab me at all. URAHARA has both a delightfully crazy style and a good plot that kept my interest till the end.
Of the main trio I would say my favorite is Mari. Yes the first reason is because she is the sexiest of the three in my eyes. The other reason being I find her sass, self-confidence, attention to detail and frequent use of sarcasm charming. Reminds me of a valley girl. Plus her initial cynical view to everything around her when the Scoopers invaded was kinda believable for someone like her. Then we have Kotoko, the “nerd” of the group who enjoys tinkering with gadgets and goes into long tangents explaining every detail about enemy patterns, designs, strategies, food etc. It is quite adorable because of how into it she is. Lastly is the (most likely) team captain Rito. She is a bit shy and soft-spoken but mondo cool to the max once we get to know her better. As I said above however, there is more to this trio than their lovable traits which are slowly revealed leading up to…stuff down the line. Yes…stuff. (Hint: PG Version of a popular female themed sub-genre). The side-characters do their job well, especially a personal favorite blue haired cutie.
Not much to say about yuri this time around. There was some shipping material early on but it did not go anywhere.
Overall URAHARA is a solid watch. Its premiere may overwhelm viewers but give it time, stick around and you may be surprised, possibly finding greater enjoyment in the show than I did. The animation is easily the initial draw. The action scenes I do not know who to recommend the show to other than people wanting to watch something…different and interesting.