And so it is that Assault Lily Bouquet, one of the new anime debuting this season , has finished its third episode. The pseudo-magical-girl anime is made by Studio Shaft, and even has its own mobile game coming out.
Three episodes in, how is the anime holding up? Let’s find out.
At a first glance, I feel personally attacked by the premise of Assault Lily. In this world, young girls become Lillies, magically-endowed super soldiers who fight off bizarre creatures called Huges. They do this using CHARMs: Massive mechanical weapons so laughably oversized you’d swear this was a Monster Hunter anime. I don’t think you could come up with a more perfect checklist of things to get me interested, since this has a sampling of all the flavors I like.
Despite magic being at play the anime actually uses it in a more grounded sense. Aside from girls having unique abilities there’s no actual spellcasting here. It’s really more of a hand-wave to explain how 100-pound girls are swinging around greatswords that, conservatively estimating, probably weigh about as much as a bus. On their quest to defeat the Huges they also thoroughly defeat the laws of physics, with jumps and flips that would make Newton cry in his grave and Kamiya cry in ecstasy.
Assault Lily is one of those “made for gacha” properties, similar to Love Live and BanG Dream. By that I mean it’s got way too many characters in it, enough that there’s bound to be someone in here who you’ll like. They also cover a variety of tropes, so all your bases will be covered.
The main character of this anime is a girl named Riri. For those not familiar with the Japanese language this is one of the most obnoxious levels of wordplay in the series, as Riri is spelt the same way you’d say Lily. On top of that the school’s name is Yurigaoka, which also has Lily as part of its name. On top of that she’s also paired with a girl called Yuyu, and guess what word you get when you combine their names. Yuri.
For the most part Riri is actually a pretty passable character. She’s got the perfect mix of personalities to be a harem protagonist- bland enough to not overpower the members of her harem, and dumb enough to never realize how many women are tripping over each other to be with her.
She’s got that sort of down-to-earth appeal that really works, and I think with a cast as huge as this one it helps to have a milquetoast protagonist. One of the biggest flaws you can have for a show where everyone’s fighting for your attention is that the protagonist, aka your self-insert, starts competing as well.
The show establishes its main trinity pretty early on, with the rich, noble and perverted Kaede as well as the shy but smart Fumi. The three have an okay chemistry with each other, though we haven’t really gotten any good enough filler moments to really see how well they gel together when there’s no plot to deal with.
There’s also the main girl Riri is paired with, Yuyu. She’s cold, she’s dour, and she’s also strict. Unlike the three girls Yuyu is actually a senior, and her relationship with Riri is part of the school’s Schutzengel system.
What’s a Schutzengel, I hear you ask? Basically students can become each other’s “sisters”, though the implication seems to be that they’re a lot more romantically attached than famillial.
Early on we’ve also started to see bits of the rest of the supporting cast, though there aren’t any particular standouts. For the most part a lot of these characters give off really color-by-numbers personalities, though again that’s also because the first three episodes have been focused on the main characters. There’s at least two more Schutzengel pairings, and from what little we’ve seen (or pieced together from the OP and ED sequences) it looks like these characters, for better or worse, will be what the anime is most remembered for.
For what little we know of it, I love the world of Assault Lily Bouquet. It has a very tropey setting- European-themed all-girls school with “sisterhood” bonds, strange unique monsters, mechanical weapons. These are all extremely powerful elements on their own, so its great to see them come together like they do in Assault Lily.
There’s also the show’s actual direction. The anime is directed by Shouji Saeki, who’s worked on various Gainax productions like End of Evangelion and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. While not near those levels of hype or horror, there is a certain strength to how Assault Lily frames its shots.
The first episode is especially good for this, since really sells the Huge in a way that they’re huge threats, but not in a way that makes you question the point of the Lillies in the first place.
On the character side, I really love the little flourishes they’ve added. As a prestigious girl’s school, every Lily speaks in a very formal tone. It’s an old trope of the unrefined girl having to learn formality, but it’s fun. It’s never the main focus of an episode too, so that does help it from being stale.
The idea that even the most serious of characters just so happens to also be a stickler for spick an span attire is a great way to tell you about the characteristics this school passes on to its students, after all.
The action sequences in Assault Lily Bouquet are probably its crowning highlight. The CHARMs in the game are all insanely cool, with many of them transforming between gigantic melee weapons and guns. We’ve only gotten two real big fights so far- a fight from episode 1 and a big one from episode 3.
The fights feel quite videogamey, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In episode 1 for example, the fight against the Huge is almost entirely boarded in wide shots- full body shots so you can see the whole characters. The characters themselves while not fluidly animated, are still done so in a way that they always feel high energy.
Honestly, some people may gripe about that, but I’m all in. Too many people confuse “good animation” with having a 3d camera flying around the room, it feels good to watch an action sequence that’s just well-directed shots placed next to each other.
Another thing I have to hand to this anime is how the fights are full of action, but not violence. Even when things started to get really bad in episode 3, the show avoids indulging in overly gratuitous displays of violence. As more anime think horrible violence is the key to looking grown up, it’s nice to see one that still elicits emotion without resorting to that.
The, Uh. Tones.
Okay so now we address the elephant in the room. Assault Lily Bouquet has possibly the most blatant Lesbian overtones since Kakegurui. Even ignoring the Yuri wordplay, a laughable amount of this anime’s runtime is spent showing the girls fawn over each other, especially any time Riri is involved. For some reason, the girl is just a giant beacon that causes every girl to dote on her. and you know what, power to you for that.
Thankfully, the anime does get a one-up on many fanservicey anime by actually addressing the issue. There are characters who actually address the possibility of same-sex relationships, which is a great thing since it helps the anime feel less like mindless titillation. The problem with a lot of gay-baiting in anime is writers often chicken out from actually talking about it, instead going with a weak “we want you to decide for yourself” route. It’s 2020, you can say they’re girlfriends.
Yet despite that, the anime does still feel incredibly, well, fanservicey. There’s a lot of focus on Riri’s thighs, for example, and just random shots of the characters chests and even feet. Obviously, Anime as a medium has been full of this stuff for a while now, so I’m not about to suggest this one anime should be the one to radically alter the paradigm. But still, it wouldn’t kill you to just. Chill.
Although, the Kakegurui comparison is more apt than ever here. Because Kakegurui is absolutely rife with pointlessly fanservicey shots, it’s a great yardstick to measure for “too far”. By that metric, Assault Lily is more of a “potential red flag” than outright car wreck.
That being said, I’m glad the anime goes on to portray the girls as more than a rotating roster of kabe-dons. A lot of side characters are shown being intimate without being titillating, such as cuddling or just clinging to each other’s arms. It’s no great love story but reclaiming girl-on-girl romance from being just a genre of porn is a fight won one step at a time.
So, three episodes in, where are we? The third episode puts an end to a plot thread I’m so glad didn’t go on for the whole season. Yuyu is ready to open up to Riri, and it looks like we’re going to get a steady week-to-week plot with some focus on different side characters.
Personally, I like Assault Lily Bouquet. I’m a huge fan of Revue Starlight’s “Combat girls” approach, so there’s a lot of reasons for me to stay with this one. That being said, comparing it to Revue Starlight is probably unfair to the anime, because it certainly lacks a lot of what made Starlight so appealing. Even without the bombastic musical numbers, what we’ve seen of the characters so far just isn’t as gripping as it is with Revue Starlight.
There’s also the side problem that Yuyu and Riri are actually kind of boring leads. Yuyu has a generic “I used to be happy and now I’m not” backstory and Riri is but a vehicle to tell you how assertive a character next to her is. The best way for the show to keep me hooked on their relationship is actually if we dive into Yuyu as a person outside of the one scene they keep flashing back to.
As long as we don’t go to space, Assault Lily Bouquet has a lot of potential to be a really great anime. No, seriously. Don’t go to space. I beg of you.