Primary school girl moves from Tokyo to Hokkaido on account of her single father deciding to go there to train as a baker. Cute slice-of-life scenes ensue! And for the majority of each double-length episode, that's all there is to the story – Tsubasa goes to school, plays sports, does homework assignments, watches cows being born and stuff like that, all the while accompanied by her liquid-based alien doppelganger 'twin sister'. I kid you not.
As well as the innocent slice-of-life side to Figure 17, there's also a sci-fi action 'protect the world from evil alien invaders' story running in the background. Tsubasa gets mixed up with it all in the first episode, ends up merging with a living liquid called a Riberus, and for reasons unknown Hikaru is born. But aside from this initial major event, and the final showdown in the last episode, the battles against the Maguya were very much a sidestory, making up less than a quarter of most eps. The Maguya were terrifying plant/insect/nightmare hybrids, all teeth, tentacles and eyestalks ('Family friendly tag'? You sure about that?), and they continually evolved and got stronger, forcing the heroes to come up with new attack methods of their own. Though these parts of the ep weren't boring, they did feel a bit rushed, and the contrast with the moe-cuteness made it seem like I was watching two different series!
Figure 17 aired one episode per month, as opposed to the usual weekly episodes, and the series itself reflected this passage of time - a year goes by in-series between the first episode and the last, starting and ending in the winter, and the changing seasons determine what events the characters take part in at school or in their free time in each episode. I love little details like that!
Tsubasa is a very shy and quiet main character at the start of the series, whereas Hikaru (despite sharing her looks and memories) is far more confident and active. As the series goes by, she helps build her 'sister's confidence and encourages her to do things that she wouldn't have done before. Their classmates were also brilliantly introduced and developed as the series went by, each with very different personalities. This made the happy, fun times enjoyable to watch, and the sad or dramatic times far more emotional than I'd have expected at the start.
The main reason I didn't give it a full 10 is, again, the alien-fighting subplot. Agents DD and Ordina just didn't receive anywhere near as much character development, so were a bit boring.
Animation and Sound
The animation in Figure 17 was of fairly high quality, which I assume is down to the fact it aired monthly instead of every week. Unfortunately, it was produced in 2001 at a resolution of somewhere around 360p – I'm not going to deduct points for that, but if you're planning on watching it, bear in mind that it's not going to look amazing on a 1080p screen (especially given the quality of fansub encodes back then as well!)
I really loved the opening and ending themes, a lot. The background music was nice enough, though there wasn't a lot of variety, the same two tracks or variations on them kept cropping up over and over, hence the lower rating.
As a slice-of-life series, Figure 17 was one of the best I've ever seen, likely due to its longer running time and great character development. I'm just not sure it needed the aliens, their cover-story that they were twins raised separately would have worked just as well as a plot.
Remember in Cardcaptor Sakura where the slice of life moments and the character interactions were the only thing that mattered? It was also a mahou shojo show but the battles were just fluff, an excuse to see Sakura in moe clothes and for Shaoran to be tagging along for some reason. Well Figure 17 is also like that; it has action and a somewhat serious premise but it ends up being good only for its “normal” moments and not its supernatural.
Animated by studio OLM, which has made many series but none managed to be great. Most people remember it only for its work on the fabled Utawaremono, which for me wasn’t that good either. Directed by Takahashi Naohito, who also made the Berserk anime adaptation. He isn’t exactly a talented one but does try to offer something different in each of his works. Not too much though.
So in the story a bioorganic weapon is accidentally thrown on Earth and DD, a space police officer, uses his special Figure 17 weapon to destroy the numerous planet-killing plants that have scattered on Japan. A passing girl named Tsubasa unconditionally fuses her DNA with Figure 17 and the result is an identical looking person like her. Having to use her as an alias while looking for the alien threat, DD asks from Tsubasa to cooperate and pretend she is her twin sister Hikaru. He also brainwashes a few relatives to make them believe the cover easier. After that, the plot is about the two girls experiencing various cultural and rural events half the time and battling the devastating Maguar alien plants in the other half.
It all sounds too corny but in practice the show is a step higher than the average mahou shojo. Not that it is even a mahou shojo, there is absolutely no magic involved; everything has its scientific explanation. It’s just that like in Cardcaptor Sakura the slice of life moments end up being far more interesting than saving the world from the threat of the plants. And truly, the switch from the calm everyday life to the hard action against killer plants looks almost like two different shows entirely. I guess the animators opted for some sort of ecology-pro story where you get to enjoy the green pastures long enough for you to care about being saved by the alien superhero.
Ok, nothing bad in that but the action part left me indifferent. Not because the action was bad; in the contrary the battles have far more strategy in them than most action shows. It’s just that the Maguar plants were completely empty of personality and presence in general. I didn’t care in the least if they were there at all and thus without motivation to hate something other than mook monsters I simply didn’t like the action part. I understand that they truly were mindless weapons of mass destruction without personality who were activated without a further purpose by some alien villain but that still didn’t make me care. Not only that but they also didn’t seem to affect the actual lives of the far more colourful and interesting lives of Tsubasa’s friends and relatives; thus again it’s like I was watching a different show. But as I said, the action scenes are very well made; they just feel irrelevant to the rest of the anime.
Back to the meat of the show, the normal everyday lives of the two girls is actually very well done, as they interact with many people and Hikaru is constantly learning new things. It was so cute and sweet and all. At one point we even have a death of one of their friends from a complete accident, which gives the show a very dramatic switch and again makes you wonder what the hell are the aliens even doing in this series.
A minus in the “normal” side of the show is a news reporter who is constantly looking for proof of the alien threat. A lot of time is spent on him speculating things we already know if they are true or not and in effect count as dead time. Even after he was proven right in the finale, he still didn’t offer anything to the show other that lots of boring intermissions. Shoo with you man; I wanna see the girls learning how to milk a cow.
In a similar notion, what’s with the opening video? It makes you think you will see some sort of heavy action show. I love that song and I even feel it has Buzuki (Greek acoustic guitar) for a few seconds but man, the merits of the anime are NOT in the action.
Other than that, the production values are average to good as nothing is given too much or too little attention to ever feel bad or good. The atmosphere of the everyday life is very sweet even if nothing major is going on and the action scenes have choreography and strategy rarely encountered in a show that is mostly for young teens rather than kids or elder teens.
I loved the normal parts and the action had choreography but the alien villains were completely uninteresting and the reporter was just eating away precious time. It is not a bad show but seeing it from afar you think it was made by two different teams, one making the everyday life and one making the action and the alien technology explanations. Plus it’s not like it has a great story or great characters; it’s just nice to look if your expectations are not too high.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (nice blend of sci-fi action with simple everyday life)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (very good greenery backgrounds and sci-fi decorations)
Animation 2/2 (the action scenes have choreography and strategy)
Visual Effects 1/2 (simple)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (good but not great)
Music Themes 3/4 (gotta love the main music theme but it does feel a bit out of place)
Sound Effects 2/3 (nice but not great)
STORY SECTION: 8/10
Premise 2/2 (nice blend of sci-fi action with simple everyday life)
Pacing 1/2 (the action parts and the reporter’s search for the aliens make it feel slow)
Complexity 1/2 (it tried to expand to many different characters but only the alien officer and the girls are interesting)
Plausibility 2/2 (gives a scientific explanation for all the alien gizmos and the strategies used in battle)
Conclusion 2/2 (rather cheesy but solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Presence 2/2 (strong, especially of the girls)
Personality 1/2 (generic)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic)
Development 1/2 (simple)
Catharsis 2/2 (rather cheesy but solid)
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low; not much to expect from a second view)
Memorability 3/4 (high; it has an interesting way to show things)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
Art 0/1 (looks typical)
Sound 1/2 (I liked the opening song, nothing else though)
Story 1/3 (nice ideas but generic presentation)
Characters 2/4 (they are typical but likable)
Brigadoon Marin to Melan
I have only watched up to the 2nd episode. Then: Dropped.
First of all, I think its a slow paced anime. That isnt a bad thing depending on what you like. I dont mind slow animes as long as during the slowness they give you something to think about. This, being a rather childish anime, it doesnt give you a lot to think about.
warning: some spoiling info (if it was me, i wouldnt care... but just in case)
The story... is basically about an alien that crash lands on earth carrying multiple monster aliens, and the guy alien, which looks just like a human (... i know... right? If you want a more realistic alien anime, i advise level e). This guy alien.. well from his planet they have these liquid metal life forms, that he can combine with for a power suit.. but even though he wears it, he cant beat the aliens alone... although he tries... lol The main girl ends up fusing with one of these metal life forms, and since she is human, the life form takes the shape of her (so = twin when not equiped). When the girl and the twin are formed... they grow to about middle school/high school looking girl = more boobs, better body, super hero.. lol
anyways... i dont want to bad mouth this anime, but it just wasnt for me. It probably gets better though... If anyone can vouche (agree or disagree), then please leave a reply briefly explaining what you think.