Every season, there are shows that are heavily publicised, generate excessive amounts of hype and garner a large following before even airing. Urara Meirochou was not one of those shows. In all honesty, the only reason I even found this show was by scrolling through a list of the Winter 2017 series. I’ve gotta say that for a show which had no expectations and no real background knowledge, it was more fun than expected. Is it one of the best shows of the season? Well, that depends on a variety of factors.
A SURPRISINGLY ENGAGING STORY WITH ANTICS, DIVINATION AND FOX SPIRITS
SLICE OF LIFE, COMEDY, FANTASY | ANIMATED BY J.C.STAFF | DIR: SUZUKI, YOUHEI
First things first, this show focuses on a cast of young girls and can be described as a “nothing show”. The majority of articles written on this show can be boiled down to the phrase of “why watch this when you can watch that” so I’m going to try and take a different approach when discussing Urara Meirochou
The Premise of the Show
At times, people lose their way in this labyrinth we all travel. But seek out a diviner, and they will surely lend an arrow to your decision. Their mystical powers can provide a guiding beacon. The ones who can wield this power are girls of at least fifteen years in age. Such are the girls of this town of divination: Urara!
At the start of every episode, that paragraph is recited before playing the Opening. Urara Meirochou follows the lives of four young girls who have travelled from across the globe to train in the pursuit of becoming top rank diviners (Urara). Among their training comes incantations, calling of spirits and self discovery – one can only lead others if they first can lead them self.
The show doesn’t take itself too seriously and will often get sidetracked from its own narrative to focus on events such as their local festival. Don’t expect a down to earth supernatural show following the world’s most dedicated students, their daily lives are hectic and usually strayed by more engaging situations.
Variety of characters – albeit nothing new
As with all shows of its genre, the story is led by its characters and this works most effectively when you have a large number of people of distinctly different personalities. This then gives you, as a writer, the ability to try out various character dynamics and see how each individual acts in specific scenarios. While the former is true for this show, it would be a stretch to say this is anything new.
Each character feels incredibly one dimensional yet seem to adjust their personality depending on their situation. In one moment, a shy character suddenly be talking to strangers and the next they’ll be hiding behind their friends again. There is a severe lack of character establishment and a real refusal to flesh any of them out. Within the first episode, each of the four girls are shoehorned into the plot without sparing any time to let the viewer get to know them. This makes character development incredibly hard seeing that, as an audience, it’s difficult to really see what they were like in the first place.
Slow to Start but Satisfying to End
So as a bit of insight into how I write these reviews, I have just deleted about two paragraphs of work because after watching the last two episodes the points made within them have been made redundant. Without a doubt, this show is incredibly slow to begin. There is an incredibly large amount of time where characters are being introduced but for whatever reason are reluctant to be developed on beyond their defined trope – usually relating to their preferred style of divination. When thinking about this show’s impact and memorability within the first half of the season, not much really jumps out at me.
However, the latter half of the season is so strong in comparison that it seems a shame the first was so weak. So obviously for a narrative to be impactful you need to setup your characters and your background to a reasonable amount to provoke an emotional response. That isn’t what I’m complaining about. Where Urara falters is its reluctance to delve into those setups. Clearly demonstrated within the last few episodes, the writers know how to compact a large majority of development within a short amount of time. So it just seems odd that this level of attention was left to the last minute – where the large majority of the show’s audience had already abandoned ship.
Surprisingly Comedic and Perfect for light viewing
Each character has their signature trope but they are never used in a way that is really engaging with the viewer. Having lived in the mountains for her entire life, Chiya naturally draws wild animals to her presence, yet this idea is only ever used for one kind of joke – a character turns around and sees animal crowding her. In addition to this, her character also has this backstory to her surrounding the disappearance of her mother but it is never pushed ahead into something really interesting. Everything in this show is utilised for comedy, but there isn’t enough substance between the jokes to justify a full viewing.
That being said, there are quite a number of moments where I found myself laughing. Compared to other comedies of the season, this was (in my opinion) the weakest of its kind but to say that it got zero laughs out of me would be unfair. Although there were plenty of jokes that fell flat or were just a dull concept to begin with, the scarce number of well written conversations were enjoyable to watch. Surprisingly enough, seeing cute girls do things that you wouldn’t expect cute girls to do, can work in anime. Who would’ve guessed?
Accompanying this point, J.C Staff have done an excellent job of animating this show and should not be blamed for its dull writing. One of the only ways this show excels at its comedy the way it does is through its visual comedy and facial expressions. The art itself is pretty standard and the backgrounds are nice, just nothing to go crazy about. Despite the actual character designs being somewhat uninspired (and a lawsuit away from a copyright claim), Urara is a well animated show and visually appealing. It relies heavily on the filters and backgrounds seen below which makes it perfect for reaction images and light viewing, but not something many people would go out of their way to watch.
An uncomfortable amount of “lewd humour”
For the innocent among you, lewd humour is the concept where something that can be perceived to be adult is used in some way for comedic effect. Akin to the humour experienced in Kuma Miko, when such a young cast is presented in this manner, I personally feel quite ill and is not something I enjoy watching. However, it’s known that these shows get popular as a result of this concept so judging it on its representation wouldn’t be entirely fair.
One aspect where I think this does work however is in the character of Saku (a young woman who is like the leader of police for the town). Her personality is always presented as this cool and calm leader who enforces the law and protects her citizens. As expected, the town is indebted to her and the majority of the townsfolk look up to her in some way or another. Her subordinates however, take it one step further and seem to be completely infatuated by her mere presence. These trio often make for effective comedy as the captain is oblivious to the whole concept and the viewer gets to see how her companions think.
It’s a nice deviation from the main plot and I’m personally disappointed that these characters didn’t receive as much screen time as I had hoped for. The two of them are the perfect level of goofy while maintaining a level of decency as members of the distrait guards. Just seeing the two of them willing to do anything for their leader is a refreshing change of pace and the balance between their genuine care and comedic love for the captain is pretty perfect. (Even if Saku secretly has a thing for Nina fufufu).
All in all, Urara Meirochou is an interesting show that was fun to watch as it aired but wouldn’t be suitable for most viewers. The overall narrative seems to take paths all over the place which often results in an unsatisfying result for the viewer. Visually, the show is engaging and it definitely delivers on the slice of life cuteness front. If you’re interested in spirits and divination then you might get a kick out of this show but be prepared to sift through a large amount of underwhelming scenarios with a group of admittedly cute girls.