Monday 4 April 2016

First Impressions: Space Patrol Luluco

Space Patrol Luluco

If there's one anime director these days you can guarantee will turn heads it's Hiroyuki Imaishi. Responsible for Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Kill la Kill and more, this man has branded anime with a distinct style of over the top weirdness for many years now - whether it be with the team at Gainax or in his new home at the head of studio Trigger. Last year's Japan Animator Expo short Sex & Violence with Machspeed showed that Imaishi is far from losing his touch with the absurd, and he's hopefully set to follow that up this year with Space Patrol Luluco. While Kiznaiver may be the full-length Trigger series this anime season that everyone's talking about, Luluco instead offers rapid bursts of comedy in short 10-minute episodes. And there's room for both on any fan's watchlist.

13-year old Luluco lives with her father in the town of Ogiukobo, a place where humans and aliens have learnt to co-exist. When Luluco's father accidentally eats a pill that freezes him in a block of ice, she takes him to the Space Patrol Office (where she works) for help. What she doesn't expect is to be drafted into the force in exchange, acting as an undercover agent in her school - a place where the Space Patrol usually have no authority. Armed with a rather egregious spacesuit that grants her the ability to transform into a gun, Luluco's dreams of not standing out from the crowd are about to be dashed!

The first thing any viewer will notice about Space Patrol Luluco is that it is definitely an Imaishi show. Even if you aren't familiar with his name, his distinct sense of character design, colours and aesthetics are strewn all across this series - making it easily recognisable to someone who may even only have a passing familiarity with his works. Longtime fans might even notice some of the less obvious cameos of his previous works from over the years - from the obviously Inferno Cop-inspired Chief Over Justice to the as-yet-unrevealed male main character in the show, who bears a close similarity to Imaishi's concept designs for Panty & Stocking's Panty (which in turn shared several design cues with Gurren Lagann's Viral). But most importantly, Space Patrol Luluco is a series bubbling with a beautiful pastel palette. It's a series intended to be bright and colourful in design as well as tone, and at the very least it's achieved that wonderfully.

The actual content of the show however is something that won't be to everyone's tastes. Imashi's comedy style ultimately amounts to a lot of noise and juvenile jokes at a rapid-fire pace, often beating jokes ten-feet into the ground before moving onto the next one. It's a style that has it's detractors for obvious reasons, so this first episode will be pretty good indication of whether or not this show is going to be worthy of commitment. However one thing in its defence is that its probably best suited to this kind of format - the ten minutes not being too much to outstay its welcome but at the same time enough to satisfy on a weekly basis. There's very little to say about the characters at this point other than Luluco herself, and even then it's the same basic comedy anime female-traits that have been done over and over again. It's doubtful Space Patrol Luluco will be a show to break new ground, but Imiashi's obviously in his element with these kind of productions and shows no signs of slowing down. Half his audience will probably be screaming "if it isn't broken don't fix it", while the other will continue to ponder whether the man is continuing a downward spiral into a creative rut.

Undoubtedly Space Patrol Luluco won't be a series for everyone. It's short-episode status will almost ensure that it's overlooked by some, and those who do decide to give it a shot might not warm up to Imaishi's tailored brand of comedy. Trigger fans however should be hooked from the get-go, and those who do get a kick of its completely over the top nature will find themselves in for a pretty wild ride. Best to get strapped in early.

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