Amagi Brilliant Park, Vol. 4

By Shouji Gatou and Yuka Nakajima. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Elizabeth Ellis.

I’m still trying to figure out why I find Amagi Brilliant Park so hard to like but difficult to drop. Part of it may simply be an issue that I have with several light novel series, notably Index: the author is trying to be funny but I’m not laughing. As with the third volume, this book consists of one long story and several shorter ones. The long story gives us a deeper look at Bando Biino, one of the part-time staffers we’ve met before, whose gag was that she always wound up bloody due to accidents. The story behind this could actually be very depressing and chilling if the author wanted to (and the afterword hints that he was talked out of doing so), as it turns out that she’s under a very nasty curse that influences all of those around her. The trouble is that the resolution to this is a) a sexually harassing doctor who isn’t as funny as the author imagines, and b) a ritual that is really a parody of TV quiz shows, which is DIRE.

The problem is that when the author isn’t trying to be funny, this is actually rather good. Biino’s situation is horrible, and seeing her perky optimism slowly break down is devastating. We even get some depth added to Tiramii, the lecherous dog mascot thing, who takes a non-lecherous (mostly) shine to Biino and resolves to help her. There’s also some intriguing stuff with Seiya, who spends much of the story irritated at Biino but not to the extent that he actually does anything about it, which is hinted to be due to his strong resolve – the curse can’t make him abuse her. And then we see Biino’s brother, who has now been released from an institution he was put into after trying to kill her, now out, recovered, and ready to love his sister – they’re not really related! – and you just have to facepalm. It feels like I’m reading something where the dials are set in precisely the wrong positions to be fun.

The rest of the short stories run along the same lines. The best shows a curious (and possibly jealous) Isuzu tailing Seiya as he goes to a meeting with what turns out to be his stepsister, who is trying (unsuccessfully) to patch things up between him and his father. Seiya is normally default obnoxious, and it’s nice to see that this comes from a very real difficult childhood, which is not simply easily resolved by a cute little sister type. The one story played entirely for comedy involves one of the park’s staff (a dinosaur mascot thing) trying to make a promotional video of the park, and being told to make it less dull. This is done for pure comedy, which sometimes does actually work (Isuzu’s ongoing reactions) and sometimes doesn’t (everything else).

It’s possible that I’m just a grumpy cuss, and certainly those who watched the anime and enjoyed it should like this. But I really think the author’s strengths lie in more dramatic writing, and all Amagi Brilliant Park does is make me miss Full Metal Panic.

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