Lingalind is enclosed by the Wall. The Wall covers, protects, cultivates, and nurtures the land. The Wall is God. One day in Edger, a village on the outskirts, a mysterious man named Back Arrow appears. Arrow has no memory, but he claims that all he knows is that “I came from outside the Wall.” Arrow tries to go beyond the Wall to regain his memories but is pulled into one conflict after another.
Back Arrow is a throwback to the times when anime were mostly mecha adventures and sci-fi without much of a concern when it came to plot or sociopolitical messages. It’s made specifically for people like me who don’t relate with highschools, moe, or isekai, and we just want to see some damn giant robot action goddammit! Me and an another old-school mecha fan were watching it weekly while it was airing and we had so much fun with it as a blast from the past. It had so many things going on besides the robots action; it included adventure, war epics amongst different civilizations, mystery, and even got a bit metaphysical in the last episodes. I kept seeing it as a tribute to Xenogears, one of my favorite videogames from the late 90s.Nostalgia and personal preferences aside though, it’s not well written at all and it rushes through every conflict and concept for the sake of having a twist in almost every episode. Despite having great variety in civilizations and sci-fi ideas, there is hardly any proper build up and you will barely see something before it’s over and something else comes along. Power ups are instant, the tone changes abruptly from comedy to drama, explanations regarding how something works are given after that something has been used, and the plot twists have close to no logical explanation. The authors were just throwing in as much as they could without bothering to give them the time to get fleshed out, or to make sense, or to last long enough for the people who are supposed to be the target audience. But as a whole the main issue is the very fast pacing. The show could have easily been three times as long, although that would also mean the animation studio would waste three times as much money on something that very few would bother to watch. Because in case you didn’t notice, mecha have been out of favor ever since the Millennial generation was proven to be more fond of battle harems and school moeshit. Hence why Back Arrow was not given the attention it deserved. It was a tribute to the stuff generation X liked 40 years ago. Since there are very few of us left who still like mecha and not isekai nonsense there was very little incentive to bother much with a project that was doomed to be overlooked by 99.9% of the viewerbase. Also artwork and animation are just above average, thus Back Arrow couldn’t even win the sakuga audience just by being the best possible looking thing of the season. It’s quite enjoyable if you shut off your brain and you see it as a tongue in cheek type of show that never tries to be more than crazy stuff happening all the time, but I’m not going to call it a good show when its conflicts are resolved in a hurry, most explanations for how something works are made up on the spot, and even then they are something cheap such as ‘he willed it into happening’ or ‘he was brainwashed or he forgot he could do it’. It was a cool one time diversion from the graveyard that is modern anime and that’s it.
Time to talk about this absolute gigachad of an anime. I've given it about a week since I finished, and NOW I feel it is best to discuss Back Arrow. I said immediately after finishing it that I gave it a 9 out of 10, and I haven't backed down from that score. This is one of the most incredible shows I've seen in a long-ass time, but before I can get to any of that, I want to talk about the credentials on it.Back Arrow is an original 24-episode anime that aired from the Winter to the Spring of 2021. It was directed by Gorou Taniguchi (Planetes, Infinite Ryvius, Gun x Sword, and most famously Code Geass) with lead writer Kazuki Nakashima (RE: Cutie Honey, Kamen Rider Fourze, Kill la Kill, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann). An independent studio called Studio VOLN handled the production, and in a twist of pure intrigue, Back Arrow is their sole original work as of the moment I'm writing this. It also has music by the motherfucker himself, Kouhei Tanaka (One Piece, Gravity Rush, Gunbuster, Diebuster, and Sakura Wars). Beyond even the insanity of those three put together, we have the spectacular casting for the characters.Yuki Kaji brought an excellent spirit to the protagonist Back Arrow, not to mention Tomokazu Seki (Dr. Sola) AND Tomokazu Sugita (Shu Bi) hitting their roles out of the ballpark. It was a lot of fun getting to watch Sugita get to play a genius who knew he fucking was one. That's not all, though. On the other side, we have both Kenyu Horiuchi (Zetsu Daidan) and motherfucking Ryoutarou Okiayu (Kai Rhodan). Lastly, on my list of favorite voice actors is Shinichiro Miki as Rudolf Conductore who acts as a central figure in the plot to move it along behind the scenes, ala Adam from Symphogear (same roles, too). Overall, I would say the voicework throughout the show is excellent, not even because of how stacked it was with excellent V.A.s. There's this character in the show who is constantly followed by a choir, like, a literal choir. When he bade them sing, they sang, and this plays up the drama spectacularly.Speaking of, the music throughout the show was really good. As expected by Kouhei Tanaka, but at the same, it was just kind of serviceable. You see, orchestral music is a safe bet most of the time. Really good orchestral music can add a lot to the underlying aesthetic and artistic value like what Tanaka did with Gravity Rush. However, in the case of Back Arrow, I felt it was good and that was that. If you juxtapose it with a similar anime like TTGL, even if Back Arrow is written way better, TTGL hits an aesthetic mark that gives it power on a higher plane. Aesthetics, more often than not, speak to general audiences better than pure narrative ambition, and this extends to the visuals.I'd say the visuals were far more inspired than the musical composition. Whenever you got to see one of those big-ass CGI mechas, they always looked like they came from a tokusatsu-turned-anime design spectrum, with even the ways they moved about playing to the hamminess of shit like Ultraman and Kamen Rider. Some designs were sleek and cool, especially Arrow's Muga with its elastic qualities. It even goes through semi-transformations, and I don't want to spoil any of these, but they're badass. Lastly, on this note, I love the character designs. There's something to the clashy aesthetics shown throughout its world, from the Chinese Imperial Rekka, the European Lutoh, and the Old West-inspired Edger Village. Combine these aspects with a pretty interesting world as it is and you have a recipe for fun.FINALLY! I can talk about the world and narrative. The story is set in a world called Lingalind, surrounded by a wall that the denizens call their God. In comes Back Arrow with no memory of who he is or why he's there, other than the knowledge that he is from beyond, a heresy in that world. Further, he wants to find his way back, and the only way he figures he can is by tearing the wall down. Putting himself at odds with the entire world, he simply sees for himself a prospect that must be overcome, and to do this he takes on the help of the people from Edger Village.People in Lingalind have access to technology given to them by the wall itself. This technology works in tandem with the conviction streams that flow beneath the land. Some of this technology allows them to don massive bodies of armor called Briheights that materialize the very conviction of the wielder themself. Each Briheight appears different depending on the conviction of the warrior, and this fills the land with varying interesting Briheights we're granted to see. However, if one Brighight warrior defeats another, even though it does no mortal harm to the opponent, the destruction of their conviction kills them. In comes Back Arrow once more, a Briheight warrior with no conviction who can defeat others without killing them, but it is unheard of that someone with no conviction can don the massive bodies.The story constantly has us questioning who or what Back Arrow really is, and until you get to the truth of the matter much later in the show, you get to watch how much chaos Arrow can wreak in modern Lingalind society. His presence always has a consequence, for his convictionless identity is the perfect foil for the world around him. That said, despite no conviction, Back Arrow holds up a strong philosophy for himself that rubs onto others quite easily in a similar manner to Kamina from TTGL. They are quite similar to each other, but I would give greater depth to Arrow. I want to take a moment and talk about one of the things that disappointed me about TTGL from my latest rewatch which is further deepened by how well Back Arrow handles its character writing. You see, in TTGL, Kamina has this effect on the rest of the cast that ultimately steers the plot in motion, but this is due to how he acts and talks about himself. He's brash, sexist, perverted, and kind of an all-around asshole, but his ability to keep standing up in the face of death was what truly drove everyone around him into action. It was only until Kamina admitted his reliance on Simon, who in turn relied on him, that grounded his character and ultimately made him feel human. This didn't change the fact that it was all those other qualities he had that kept the plot moving. To eventually see it embraced left a bad taste in my mouth. Characters would start acting like him, and I hated how these things were never addressed other than through violent jokes enacted through Yoko (who is 14, holy shit).On the other hand, Arrow echoes the same hard-headed sentimentality that Kamina preached, ending even in the acceptance of contradiction, which is something I particularly enjoy. He exists, makes the plot move forward, and yet lacks the objectifying qualities that made Kamina tick. Nor was Arrow the type of protagonist who forced the other characters to work under his same rules, even if he objected to the actions of others. This is because Back Arrow has a cast of characters that actually have motives, beliefs, and paths they wish to forge. No one exists solely for the sake of serving as a plot device, and I really appreciate that.Lastly, it's time to talk about the meaning of the plot. What is Back Arrow trying to tell us? What I adore about Back Arrow is just how much it reaffirms a belief I already have. It wants us to know that there's always a different way of doing things. Nothing is ever so cut-and-dry that you must choose between one thing or the other, and the people that force this concept on you are trying to apply an agenda that only serves themselves. If you do not fight against this system, then the world will eventually be consumed in a matter of basic ethics that don't offer any singular truth. If you look to the world around you just as much as you seek within yourself for the answer, you will learn many more things that will aid you in life. So, never give up on the hope for a better world.
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