Tsubasa Shiina is a 10-year-old girl who recently moved to Hokkaido to live with her father. In school, she is very quiet and unsociable with her classmates. Then one night, she witnesses a UFO crash in the forest near her home. She rushes to the scene and finds the pilot, codenamed "D.D.", in a barely stable condition. Also in the scene is a Maguar, a hideous alien that hatched aboard D.D.'s ship. As the Maguar is close to taking Tsubasa's life, an alien lifeform fuses with her body to form the Riberus battle armor Figure 17, which shortly destroys the alien threat. The life form takes the name Hikaru and turns into an identical twin of Tsubasa. As time passes, Tsubasa becomes more open to everyone around her, thanks to her new twin sister Hikaru. However, with Maguar eggs scattered all over Hokkaido, their ability to form Figure 17 is needed to eliminate all hatched Maguars until backup from D.D.'s home planet arrives on Earth.
There are two aspects within the series. The first is where the characters fight off the Magyua threat one by one. Each fight is different from the last as we see the technology and weaponary being improved and new tatics thought up as each of the Magyua is different and stronger than the last in their own ways, which remains interesting throughout. The second is where Tsubasa struggles to become more self confident, especially during the fights with Magyua. There’s also the life of Tsubasa and Hikaru on the farm and during school as they both support each other and play with their friends during
free time. There is both happy and sad moments which can bring a tear to your eye as the emotion feels realistic. Both aspects flow very well together as both are developments during the series that I felt were perfect. The relation between Tsubasa and Hikaru developing were very sweet and cute moments as they were there for each other.
At first the anime feels quite old for its time as it does appear slightly dull. The picture is too soft and the colours aren’t very good during the first two or so episodes but eventually it gets a lot better. The picture gets more clearer and sharper. There is also very few repeated scenes throughout the series, but everything else is unique and animated well during the given situation, be it calm or a fight with a Magyua. Other than that the animation remains very good without too many complaints. The main character designs are great but a few of the other characters aren’t anything too special but overall it does have its own style without anything excessively cute either. Characters always wear different clothing, keeping it a little more realistic and develops the personality of characters more by the clothing they wear. There is a wide variety of scenery in Figure 17, but most of them are usually natural areas, but many scenes on the farm,in Tsubasa’s school and even some space scenes and other minor locations. They are beautifully designed with a lot of colour that mixes perfectly, nothing that goes out of place and since there are scenes during different times of the day and year add to the variety.
Again at first the quality of sound is quite dull but later improves. Voice acting is great, nothing to complain about there. The anime however didn’t seem to have a wide variety of sound effects at first so those are heard quite alot throughout some time. I also noticed very few sounds started late during the animtation but nothing too major. Background music was fantastic for both aspects of the anime, most that can be easily remembered too. Music for the calm moments had both happy and sad moments, some with a reconisable tune being used that I liked the most, the same goes for the music used during the battles that brought tension and excitement to those bits. I found the track used when the Figure 17 fights the Magyua was the best for these situations, but the other ones were still good.
With the two aspects to the anime, it can be both exciting or upsetting. I enjoyed every moment while watching this one, but I enjoyed the relation between Tsubasa and Hikaru grow the most. It is a serious anime with very light comedy, but filled with emotion that felt realistic thanks to the good voice actors and music helping achieve this too. One of the best anime series I’ve watched in a while, everything about it I felt was really fantastic.
What is Figure 17? That's exactly my question when I first heard about it. I asked everyone I knew, and found only one other person who knew about it. No one seems to know about this obscure yet I first found it while browsing through Saimoe 2002. The first thing that interested me about Figure 17 was how cute the characters in the show are. However, as I watch on, not expecting anything great, Figure 17 somehow evolved into one of my favorite anime of all time.
I see Figure 17 was having two separate stories. One part of Figure 17,
the "main plot," was the story of Tsubasa Shiina's encounter with the aliens at a UFO landing site and her attempts to help destroy the Maguars (alien creatures). The other part is Tsubasa's friendship with Hikaru and their daily lives, either studying/playing in school or helping out their neighbors. It is the second part of Figure 17, the slice-of-life-like adventures and the subtle development of Tsubasa, that is where the series shine most. Eventually, the two stories would combine into an amazing finish.
Most of what Figure 17 is character development, and it excelled at it. However, the alien plot was a bit...bad. Well, it wasn't bad, but it was cliché and uninteresting. In short, characters can use these hourglass devices to transform into a figure, which gets boosted abilities. Tsubasa's case was a bit difference since her figure did not revert back to the hourglass device but into a duplicate of her with her memories. (Don't worry all of this is in the first episode so you are not getting majorly spoiled.) Along with D.D., the alien trying to defeat all the Maguars, Tsubasa and Hikaru would "merge" into Figure 17 to dispatch these creatures.
The action was actually pretty good, but the figure designs (are they naked?) were quite bad, the Maguars had little new moves, but worst of all, the figures had no new moves. In fact, the action was so repetitive (except for the last episode) that the "main plot" seems distracting. I would rather watch Tsubasa and Hikaru spend time with their friends. Taking all things into consideration, the alien plot was definitely necessary for the ending, but they could have reduced the repetition or introduce something new in both sides' attacks.
For an anime that was made in 2001, the art was pretty good. The character designs were exceptionally good...except for the designs of the figures and Maguars. When D.D. first transformed, I expected something more exciting than the silver surfer. Other than that, the animation was solid and every scene was animation well, even the action scenes. In fact, it was just short of amazing, but nothing amazing when it comes to the designs for the "main plot."
The repeating theme song of the series was undoubtedly catchy and encouraging as well. I'm not a big fan of the OP and the ED was about romance (?) which does not really fit the series at all. However, I liked how background music was used in a series. Have you ever watched an anime and realized that without the background music, the show would not be as good? This was the case. It was beyond "just there" and very noticeable as an important part of the series.
I have touched on the amazing character development that took place in this series and now I will expand on it (with minimal spoilers). Tsubasa starts out as a new student in class who just moved into town. She is exceptionally shy, to the point of mild annoyance, not sociable with her classmates which leads to some bullying. Even when some of her classmates try to talk to her, she would not reply and isolate herself even more. Of course, this would all change when Hikaru, her duplicate, transferred into her class.
Of course all of this sounds very corny at this point because it is obvious that somehow Hikaru will help Tsubasa overcome her shyness or something. But it's not really just that simple. Tsubasa's transformation is subtle and gradual. It is not where this event happens which led to Tsubasa being this much braver. In the later half of the series, Tsubasa will undergo some of this transformation on her own and in many ways surprised me quite a bit. What I thought to be just some corny story became a very interesting journey. Someone once said that Figure 17 was like breathing life into its characters. I wholeheartedly agree.
For the most part the alien plot was boring, but I already said so many bad things about it anyways. Episode 1 was actually quite annoying at how Tsubasa was so emo in school (and even at home). Episodes 2-4 were slow but nice to watch, since character development don't happen overnight. Starting from episode 5, an episode mostly dedicated to Tsubasa and Hikari helping out at her father's workplace, the stories revolving around Tsubasa's daily life became amazing. Episode 7 was surely relaxing and nice development, and episodes 9-11 will be some that I will definitely remember.
Figure 17 definitely had its share of sad moments, and anyone who have seen it will not disagree. One thing about Figure 17 is how realistic it is, despite its alien plot. I have watched many anime which had something along the lines of what episodes 9 and 10 showed, but nothing was overdone. At one point, I wanted to scream out, "This is what anime should be," because it took something not original and perfected its presentation. That is truly the magic of Figure 17. Through the sad times and through the fun times, through the tough times and through the relaxing times, Figure 17 is impeccable in its portrayal of human emotions and that is why I enjoyed Figure 17 so much.
Figure 17 may have been spot on in one aspect but that doesn't mean the entire series was perfect. The one indication of something usual about this series is that the "main plot" was often pushed aside for the slice-of-life aspects of the show, and frankly, it was the less enjoyable portion of the series. It seems like the series wanted to explore Tsubasa's development but chose a terrible medium (alien transformation) to show the development. To me, it felt like the action aspect of the show got half-assed.
But the real question is, "Does it matter?" From a technical point of view, the series is not perfect hence the 7 score. However, this would be the series that I would recommend to everyone. It can be relaxing and it is also emotional. And don't forget that Tsubasa and Hikaru and very cute. It is probably enjoyable by a large audience since there is pretty much something for everyone. Why am I reviewing this series? Because this is a series that is memorable. There a many series that delivered the "wow" factor but then become forgettable. But Figure 17 is one that had a lasting impact, and for that I will praise it.
"You can keep dreaming, but this love can never be put into words."
Figure 17 is a thirteen episode anime from the early 2000s. OLM, the same studio behind Gunsmith Cats, Disgaea & Pokemon, was responsible for bringing it to life. It was written by Yonemura Shouji, who also worked on scripting episodes for both Doki Doki Precure & Hunter x Hunter. So, that's all a positive sign as far as I'm concerned. Let's get into it.
Shiina Tsubasa is having a rough time. She's lost her mother and just moved to a new area for her father's work. To top it all of, she's very shy and doesn't make friends easily. At least the place she moves has a
nice dog that she gets to look after. I immediately relate to this character. Change the parent she lost and that's my childhood. One night things change when there's a loud crash. Tsubasa wakes up and finds a UFO with an alien pilot and a hostile alien life form called a Maguar. Maybe it just wants Reese's Pieces? Tsubasa accidentally combines with an alien called a Riberus to take on an armoured form capable of fighting the hostile creature. After the battle, an unusual thing happens. The Riberus takes on Tsubasa's form. She calls herself Hikaru and the newly created twins have to balance their school lives while secretly combating the alien menace before it overwhelms Earth.
Now, my big problem with the narrative is with one specific side story. Namely, the reporter's. Basically, we get segments throughout the series of this researcher turned columnist wandering around the scenes where they've fought Maguar and trying to figure out exactly what happened to cause the ecological damage. And throughout the series I kept wondering how this random dude's story was going to tie into the main plot line. So, how does it ultimately pan out? It doesn't. This character and his bullshit segments could have been completely cut out and it wouldn't have had any impact except to give more time for the characters who matter. Frankly, they could've given us scenes of the dog playing around and those would have been better. At least the dog's cute and interacts with the main cast. Maybe Yonemura thought it would be interesting to get an outsider's perspective (it's not) or maybe he had plans that didn't pan out. Still, ultimately, all the time we spend with this guy is completely pointless.
With that gripe out of the way, there are a lot of positive aspects to the plot. It melds the sci-fi monster hunting aspect with more personal, day to day life drama really well. There are stakes for both elements and there are points where there are problems trying to balance them or where things that happen in one will cause issues with the other. I appreciate that the trained adults can get help from Tsubasa and Hikaru while still coming across as capable in their own right, occasionally even battling the creatures by themselves. That's not something you see often in this type of narrative and it's not something that's easy to pull off. Then we have the ending. I won't spoil it, but it's a strong bittersweet ending. Which works phenomenally in no small part due to the way it foreshadows the tragic elements. And the tragic elements may have made me tear up... a lot.
One of the significant reasons that the marriage of daily life drama and monster hunting works so well is because the characters are so strong. So much of this series is dedicated to Tsubasa's personal growth. Not just as a reluctant heroine who has to come into her own but as an individual learning to cope with things like loss, loneliness and how to tap into her strength. Hikaru is a superb character as well. The "twins" are handled in a semi-complementary way with each one having strengths the other lacks but they also have aspects to their personalities that are very similar. And after the sheer number of twin characters I've seen who are basically one character, this is a refreshing take.
They also have a strong dynamic in spite of them both knowing they aren't actually twins. Normally, I would say that it's unrealistic for them to bond so quickly but Figure 17 makes it work by showing us what Tsubasa's life is like before all of this happens and showing us how isolated she feels. So, it makes sense for her to latch onto a girl who opens up to her and treats her as family.
The side characters also get a good amount of complexity to their characters. Sakura may be one of the strongest representations of those aspects of adolescence that make teenagers difficult to deal with while also showcasing those parts of life that are hard for teenagers which makes her come across as pretty relatable. Even the pointless reporter has depth to him. It's part of the reason his segments waste so much time.
The only things that don't have complexity are the Maguar. We basically learn that they're artificially created but they don't seem to have sentience. They just kind of want to feed and spread.
The character design is pretty nice. It's interesting the way some minor changes between the twins make it readily obvious which one you're looking at even when they're wearing the same outfit. That's a good touch. The armoured Riberus forms are interesting looking. The alien technology is neat looking. The Maguar themselves have some interesting designs. At least, they do at first. After a while, they kind of gave up and started giving you a bunch that basically look the same. To be fair, there is an explanation for it.
The action is pretty well animated, although some of the motion blur and such can be a bit over-used. There's also an action sequence near the end that takes place in tunnels where everything has a red tint. Which was a bit hard on the eyes and not that good looking. When we got to see the tunnels from inside the Riberus and they had normal colours, they looked great. But, unfortunately, most of it is spent with the redness.
The performances are great. Orikasa Fumiko & Yajima Akiko pull off the leads really well. There are also particularly good performances from Koyama Rikiya, Horie Yui & Inoue Kikuko. Although all of the performances are good. The music works quite nicely with the action on screen.
There really isn't any. The crushes we do see among the children are hetero-normative. Although I do appreciate that they're presented subtly.
Areas of Improvement:
1. Cut out the Reporter Segments. This is definitely the most obvious thing, and for good reason. These parts do nothing. I'd honestly replace them with segments giving some spotlight to the side characters who actually spend time with our heroines.
2. Colours for the tunnel scene. I mentioned this a bit when I talked about the artwork, but I'd show the tunnel scene the way you see it from the Riberus perspective instead of with that awful red filter.
3. The Hikaru Question. One thing that comes up in the series is that no Riberus has ever done what Hikaru did. IE: take on a physical form like that. I'd like to see DD and Oldina discuss it from a scientific perspective and from a philosophical perspective. They don't really touch on it that much in the series proper, which seems a bit weird.
The young man who requested this review said this was one of his favourite anime of all time, and I understand why. While it has some problems, most notably those pointless segments, it is a bloody good series. It has a fantastic sense of character, a compelling story, strong acting and artwork. It might not be one of my favourites, but I can respect it and what it does. Personally, I'll give it a solid 8/10.
I had no preconceived notions about this anime when I bought it, but it had me rooted to the spot in the first episode. Not so much for the action sequences, but for the dynamics of the relationship between the 2 girls that become the main characters and watching their friendship develop and Tsubasa slowly finding herself with the prompting of Hikaru.
I enjoyed seeing their interaction with their friends and dailly lives, and how they dealt with the ever sinister threat presented by the Magyars, and how each time Tsubasa finds the courage to stand up and fight when called upon by her "sister".
Sadly, the last few episodes were weepies, but in my case it was tears of joy at seeing our heroine blossom, with cherished memories and the hope of a new life back home in Tokyo.
The background artwork is beautifu, the production is slick, and I was not left with the sense of "to be continued." The only gripe I had was the episode length, at times I felt like I was watching a movie!
It's highly recommended, but only if you are more interested in human relationships than alien invasions.