Three high school girls are putting together a limited-time shop called "PARK" in Japan's Harajuku. One day, aliens come to Earth with the intent to steal the famed district's culture. At the same time, a mysterious girl appears. The three girls band together to defeat the alien threat and protect their beloved Harajuku.
Unlike others who wrote their Urahara reviews after seeing only two episodes, I decided to wait until the halfway point of the series to write my review (isn't it interesting how all the low-score reviews have seen only 2-4 episodes?)
Urahara isn't for everyone, clearly. Many are offput by its unique and colorful art style, saying it "doesn't look like anime". Some are frustrated with its repetitive monster-of-the-week nature, a common structure in magical girl shows, or frustrated with its slow-moving plot.
Personally, I think Urahara is a masterpiece. The art is absolutely wonderful and mesmerising to look at (the only part I don't like are the
character designs, which I think are boring and typical next to these beautifully drawn environents.) As a magical girl anime, it's wonderful, mixing scifi into the genre and taking a unique spin on the genre with new themes.
Urahara's central themes are friendship and cultural appropriation. The strong bond of friendship (possibly more than friendship?) between these three girls is wonderful, with episode 4 (my favorite so far) truly touching my heart. The theme of cultural appropriation is really interesting, and something I have never seen in a magical girl anime before. Urahara's main villains are attempting to "steal" the culture of Harajuku, and the series also touches on real-life issues of appropriation (such as westerners reposting the art of Japanese artists without credit).
Urahara is more slice-of-life than I had expected in its first half, but several scenes (such as the mysterious end of episode 4) point to the plot really evolving later on in the series, which is confirmed in the end of episode 6. In both this sense, the colorful art style, the heartwarming friendships, and the alien theme, Urahara strongly reminds me of the critically-acclaimed Tsuritama.
If you like girly magical girl anime such as Precure, or friendship-focused anime such as Tsuritama, this is the show for you. If you want an action-packed fast-moving scifi, look somewhere else. If you want a show that will cater to a male audience, look somewhere else. The genre tags on Urahara are misleading, because Urahara is a Shoujo anime at its finest!
I honestly have no idea why I stuck on watching this, knowing that the 3 episode guideline has already broke down since Episode 1, and am feeling like now's a good time to drop this travesty of an abomination.
Have you watched Akiba's Trip The Animation? (Spring 2017 season)
Take that, add the CGDCT moe factor with the sugar, spice and everything nice, you'll get Urahara. One obvious thing to get out of the way, there is ABSOLUTELY no originality towards the storytelling (well, aside from what the creators intend to do anyways).
Moe girls? Check.
Insane amounts of food just to get their attention? Check.
Having a fried ebi
as your Master? Check.
BUT YET, somehow the characters are easy but also difficult to understand at the same time. Unappealing (don't say appalling) and uninteresting, nothing much to say about the cast.
If there's a good thing about this show, EMT Squared has envisioned the help of the studio Shirogumi with its art and visual designs to help along with the animation, and I gotta say that the environment of Harajuku is made within a 3D space that looks lush and watchable. Even during boss fights with the Scoopers, when they burst after defeat, candy starts to form from the waste, so you know where the focus lies in its attention to detail.
The OST ends up being decent at best (aside from the cheesy OP which is by far the best for the show), and they were made like "you know, we have to input this to get our desired result" and such nonsense.
Verdict (after Ep 4):
Need I say more? Even with the good looking art and decent sound, the story just outright EPIC FAILs for me, because what I got out of this show is nothing but the feeling of watching another clone Akiba's Trip (of which the former was WAY better), and just wasting close to an hour's time watching this and catching up with other promising shows this season.
If you try to judge this show from a purely technical standpoint, you'd probably conclude it's not that good; The art style is rough and the animation is anything but fluid. It looks low-budget, and it may very well be low-budget, but I feel like from a design standpoint, it absolutely works. It's an aesthetic that works wonderfully with with the premise, themes and messages within Urahara, specifically the positive view it has on the process of creating art as means of expression rather than as a laborious process to achieve a high technical standard for other people to consume.
This is a
stylish and eccentric show which takes a ton of risks and feels like it has been made with nothing but passion. It's one of the most unusual anime I've seen in quite a while and I can't help but tune in every week to watch another episode. It's a show which leans much more on its general themes, light-hearted aesthetic and charming characters than on trying to tell any kind of complex story. It's also very family-friendly as far as anime goes and would fit right in with the children's cartoons that aired on TV in the late 90s/early 00s, although that's definitely not to say that *only* children will enjoy it, since I think there's a lot in it to appreciate for mature adults as well.
The opening and ending themes are also some of my favourite of this anime season, looking great and being very catchy.
TL;DR - A quirky and charming show that's a little rough around the edges.
Imagine Kemono Friends but replace animals with Line stickers as inspiration.
This is an anime designed by an engineer to answer questions such as
What's the lowest frame rate you can cover with cute static things?
How low can the stakes be before people give up? How little violence gives the idea of "victory" and "defeat"?
How much consistency does "cuteness" need to be read as such? Is it enough to keep a saturation level and just use any color instead of a designed color pallet?
How little character development can you pass per episode while still giving the idea of an overarching plot?
How much of the character is
an stereotypical voice over a basic template?
I'm not dissing the show, it sounds weird but it's evident that it exists to test the boundaries in the lower end of anime production. Everything from designs to voice actors are things any studio could come up with and you've seen a million times before better. Ideally, after this show we'll see a boom of even more content inoffensive enough to appeal to anyone with one or two original ideas that make it look not generic.
I personally find this extremely interesting, not content to watch but a social experiment that predicts what's to come.