First Look: Lycoris Recoil


Anime Original by A-1 Pictures
Streaming on Crunchyroll


The facade of Japan’s low crime rate is upheld by a secret group of school girl assassins, called “lycoris”. A lycoris named Takina disobeys orders on a mission and gets reassigned to work with a legendary lycoris named Chisato…who runs a cafe in the city?


Jel’s verdict: WOW! COOL GUNS!!

When I first read the description of this series, I thought it was going to be about cute girls running a cafe and solving random, low stakes problems around town. In some ways, I was not wrong, however I was also not expecting to see several people murdered in the first few minutes of the episode. It’s a striking introduction that immediately gets you thinking.

Contrasting violence with cute anime girls is nothing new, so what pulled me in was the potential themes Lycoris Recoil is exploring. The lycoris’ brutality is not depicted in a good light. Chisato is successful at reducing crime because she cares about people and has a positive impact on the community. She only uses non-lethal methods to deal with incidents if necessary. I’m not going to claim that the author is saying defund the police, but I do think there is some critique of law enforcement going on here. You might even extend that critique to Japanese nationalism, with their low crime rate being officially credited to the “kind and gentle” nature of the Japanese people, rather than a secret organization of killers.

That said, for an episode that claims violence is bad, they sure do try to make it look cool. Yeah yeah, you shouldn’t shoot people, but check out this schoolgirl hip firing an M60 (Gee’s note:) a PKM “Pulemyot Kalashnikova! Even Chisato’s non-lethal combat is presented as if she is actually shooting the bad guys, complete with fake sprays of blood. This leads me to believe I am probably giving Lycoris Recoil too much credit and ultimately their message will be “WOW! COOL GUNS!!”. Maybe at best, we’ll get a naively optimistic take on the power of kindness. Either way, I found this to be an interesting first episode, and I’m willing to stick with it for now.


Gee’s verdict: JK-47

I’m not ready to fully rally behind Lycoris Recoil just yet, but there is something in the bones of this show that have me deeply intrigued beyond just the classic appeal of the girls with guns anime subgenre. The first two minutes are a highly effective introduction to the setting of the anime, opening with a stark montage of adolescent government spooks in schoolgirl uniforms surreptitiously disappearing criminals with lethal force to the complete ignorance of the wider populace. For all its cutesy aesthetic and presentation, there’s something else going on in this anime, and I want to know more.

The plot of big city girl cop Takina being kicked out to the suburbs to help out small town girl cop Chisato is a well worn premise, but it’s in the details that make me hope Lycoris Recoil might be doing something more interesting. In a world where these girl cops are given unrestricted license to commit secret state sanctioned murder, Chisato’s insistence on community outreach, small scale problem solving, and non lethal conflict prevention almost feels like a mild criticism of the rise of the police state. Especially when contrasted with Takina’s readiness to meet every problem with lethal force, regardless of scale. It obviously remains to be seen if Lycoris Recoil will actually have the bravery to commit to that as an overarching narrative theme, but at least for now, it remains a tantalizing piece of bait in an otherwise pulpy story about school girls solving problems with overwhelming firepower. To be sure, this is an anime that fetishizes the gun. It isn’t the first, and it certainly won’t be the last. The girls with guns subgenre appeals to some primordial part of the anime brain.

The question then is if Lycoris Recoil is interested in telling a more interesting story with that foundation, or if it’s going to simply rely on the same pulpy exploitative tropes of its forbearers. There’s honestly nothing wrong with the latter. As a military and firearms enthusiast, I can’t deny the appeal. However, if it’s simply going to be a surface level story about girls with guns, then it needs to make it more apparent so I can set my expectations accordingly.

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