Space Patrol Luluco – One Year Later

To be honest, in the past few years, it’s been harder for anime to really reach out and grab me, draw me in, and get me whole-heartedly invested. I’d say there’s a couple reasons as to why, but that’s another discussion for another time.

One of those exceptions, though, was Space Patrol Luluco. It caught my eye in April of 2016 due to it being a new short-length series created by animation studio Trigger, the animation studio that had recently gained fame for its work on Kill La Kill (and Little Witch Academia, to a lesser extent). When I saw that first episode drop, I was like “sign me up!”

The first episode did really well to draw me in that day due to its fascinating background work, its highly-cartoonish character designs and animations, and its sense of timing for its comedic moments, with a small dosage of overdramatization on top of it.

The series as a whole is hyper, chaotic, dramatic, and aware of all of it.

I wrote my review for Space Patrol Luluco relatively soon after I had finished the series, and even wrote an accompanying piece for it talking about the forces behind the show’s creation (although I feel that’s of my lower quality pieces on this site). It’s been a full year since the release of that final episode, and four days short since the release of my review. I rewatched the entire series today to somewhat celebrate and commemorate the anniversary, so the big question is… what do I think of the show now?

(Warning: since this is my reflection on this series, I’m not going to be devoting paragraphs to explaining the plot/setting, and my discussion is also going to be pretty spoiler-laden. Soooo… yeah.)

Honestly, the show is a lot of fun. If you simply let yourself just get caught up in the action, drama, and the quick, snappy flow from one scene and episode into another, you find yourself in a storm of excitement as everything falls into place in the final two episodes. If you sit down and give thought to everything happening on screen too, the show did its job well enough for things to make a relative amount of sense, although the fast pacing may muddle that.

For my first watch-through last year, I didn’t notice (or give much thought to) Nova’s indifference to everything throughout nearly the entire series (due to him being a Nothingling). Thus, I sensed Luluco’s frustrations with his mixed messages and such as just her “being a flustered teenage kid”. This led to me being a bit more confused as well when the plot twist occurred in episode 10 where his double agentry was unveiled.

This show revels in being dramatic, over-the-top, and ridiculous. This all lended itself well to the comedy of the first episode, and also to quick pacing and tone of the overall series. Indeed, Space Patrol Luluco seemed to be at its weakest point at episode 10 (and also episode 8), which was basically the plot dump episode. The show quite literally had the characters all sit down so the main villain could spout backstories and explanations at them, instead of their usual antics of action-explosions-justice! that was present throughout pretty much the rest of the series.

I could sense the show was trying to add some levity and silliness to it with Midori’s moments in that episode and the Blackholeian’s long-winded descriptions of middle schoolers. As well, honestly, the plot as a whole isn’t nonsensical either. It didn’t seem like it was pulled out of their you-know-where, and the show gives you just enough time for you to think yourself “Huh, I guess that does make sense” before ending the episode or whisking you off to another thing. The plot isn’t the most deep or groundbreaking, and it ends on this “love conquers all” thing we’ve seen many a time before, but it’s overall not bad. For the show’s purposes, it does fine enough. You can tell the creators have more fun with the action-explosions-justice! though.

Thus, after Luluco goes through the essential character development scene in episode 11 and comes back from Hell, the show basically says “okay, back to the fun stuff” and it becomes hyper-awesome-action for the final two episodes. As I said a number of paragraphs ago, though, the hyper-action and overdramatics of it all is really exciting and a lot of fun. To be honest, I think that’s mostly what this show strives to be, is just super-fun, super-action, and over-the-top, and it very well succeeds in that regard.

It also sets up Luluco as Trigger-chan, basically the mascot for the entire animation studio, so that’s cool, I guess. I honestly don’t really fully understand the idea of a company mascot (such as Super Sonico), but hey, whatever.

My feelings towards the episode-long cameos to other series are not as negative as they were in the past. I’ve still yet to watch any of the shows that got cameoed here… Anyway, the cameos, although they definitely do serve to give fans of those shows a wink and a nod, also usually tie in fairly well into the main plot, overall (if not in somewhat contrived ways). Like the rest of Space Patrol Luluco, the cameo episodes are all intense, quick-paced, and usually full of action… with the exception of Episode 8, “The Trap of the Mystical Power”. This episode was slower paced, and everything in it seemed to drag just as much as well. It’s a relatively important episode to the overall plot (although, again, the situations in it are fairly contrived), but it still feels like this show’s other weak point.

All in all, though, I have a lot of positive feelings about this show. Rewatching it all today was a lot of fun, and it got me motivated and excited enough to want to come here and write this reflection!

My biggest hope, now, is that Crunchyroll/Funimation will go ahead and release a physical copy of this show. Since Crunchyroll is on the production committee for this show, they assumedly have all distribution rights outside of east Asia. Short-length anime usually don’t see a physical release, however, but I’m still going to hope for this one!

What are your thoughts on the show, one year later? Has it brought you as much excitement and enjoyment as it brought me? Or maybe you got other feelings out of it? Let me know in the comments!

Additional Thoughts: Space Patrol Luluco’s Production Committee

I won’t always do this “Additional Thoughts” thing, but in this case, I felt there were a few things about this show that I wanted to talk about, that wouldn’t have fit too well in the review (without making it super-long). To that extent, allow me to dump some of these words here.

There is one big thing I want to mention. For those of you who paid close attention to my review, you’ll notice I used the animation studio’s name, Trigger, more than I usually do for a review. This is actually intentional. Trigger’s co-founder, Hiroyuki Imaishi, not only directed this series, but also wrote it too. As it’s an original series, he had more control over what direction this show could go than one would for an adaptation; thus, the presentation of this show fell more onto Trigger’s shoulders than it usually would for an animation studio. Thus, I felt justified in using its name more in my review. This is not a common occurrence for me.

Trigger, though, despite animating and writing the show, still does not have full control over the series; everything they do still has to get approved through the other members of the Production Committee.

What is a Production Committee, you ask? For every anime series out there, there is a Production Committee. A production committee is made up of various companies that come together to make a particular show: the essential members are a music production company (such as Lantis or Aniplex) to provide the music for a show, and a publishing company (such as Pony Canyon or Aniplex) to handle the intellectual rights of the show and generally work to bring the show to the public. Usually, for an adaptation, the book/video game/whatever publisher is on the committee, but not always. Each member company of a committee puts forth a certain amount of money to help produce the show, and in return, they get partial ownership of the show, and get to promote it in their own way.

A music company gets to make and promote the show’s music, a merchandising company gets to make and promote merchandise for the show, a DVD/BD authoring company gets to make and promote the show’s DVDs, and so on. However, in many cases, the production committee does not contain the animation studio. In this case, the animation studio is simply contracted to draw the anime, in the same way that you would contract someone to remodel your kitchen for you.

(Also, another thing to mention is that just as an animation studio is not a must-have for a production committee, a TV station isn’t either. If an animation studio is on the committee, we know that studio will be animating that show, and likewise, if a TV station is on the committee, we know that TV station will be airing that show. If a TV station is not on the production committee, this means the production committee has to shop around and find a TV station to air their anime on.)

So, let’s look at the Production Committee for Space Patrol Luluco:

Good Smile Company (merchandising, leader of committee)
Flying Dog (music production, branch of Victor Entertainment)
Crunchyroll (international rights/publishing)
Bilibili (Chinese online distribution)
AT-X (Japanese TV station)
Ultra Super Pictures (publishing company, joint company held by various animation studios (including Trigger))

The first thing I’m going to be bringing attention to is Ultra Super Pictures. This is the (joint) company behind the ULTRA SUPER ANIME TIME block, which Space Patrol Luluco aired as a part of. Trigger is one of the owners of Ultra Super Pictures, and thus, it was one of the various companies that helped bring Space Patrol Luluco to fruition. However, as Ultra Super Pictures is at the very bottom of the committee, this means that all the other shows contributed more money to producing this show, and also get a bit more of a say in the show’s direction.

Thus, despite being the animation studio behind this show, employing the head writer for it, and being one of the various companies that even helped produce this show, Trigger still doesn’t have absolute control.

However, there is another thing I want to bring attention to in this production committee list, that you probably noticed too: Crunchyroll is on this committee.

For those of you who have never heard of production committees for anime before, you may be like “So? What’s the big deal? Crunchyroll is streaming this show in the West, so doesn’t it kind of make sense their name get put somewhere?” However, that’s not actually true.

I’ll be talking more about the roles of Western anime distributors some point later, but the big thing to know is that, up until 2015, all these Western companies ever did is just license a bunch of Japanese anime shows, and bring them to the United States (or Europe, or Australia, or elsewhere). They don’t actually own the rights to anything in the show (including the dub), they just have the permission of the Production Committee to sell the show in their own region. When it came to making an anime, that was always just something that occurred in Japan, without the say of non-Japanese companies.

This is no longer the case, and Crunchyroll is one of the companies making this happen. By being in Space Patrol Luluco’s Production Committee, this means that Crunchyroll is actually one of the various companies that helped make this show. They didn’t just simply license the show to bring it to the rest of the world, they were with this show from the very start.

It’s actually pretty exciting to see Crunchyroll and Funimation (who is on the Production Committee for My Hero Academia) going to Japan and getting involved with creating anime. These two companies are no longer just licensors or anime streaming sites: they’re now anime producers, they help actually make the stuff. There has been a growing trend within the past year to get Western companies more involved in anime and manga production (as Crunchyroll and Kadokawa has also made an anime co-production deal earlier this year, and Kadokawa bought a 51% stake in Yen Press).

As a Western anime fan, I think it’s pretty cool.

Review: Space Patrol Luluco

As mentioned in my Please Tell Me, Galko-chan! review, I love short-episode anime. It allows me to get my anime enjoyment in a quick drop, and it’s a drop that’s undiluted. So, when I heard that Trigger, of Kill La Kill fame, was going to be making their own short-episode anime, I jumped onto that train so hard, they had to go on an interplanetary adventure through Trigger’s past works to get that train back on course.

What am I talking about? I don’t know, whatever, let’s get going! JUSTICE!

An Introduction

Luluco is a completely normal middle-school girl, living a completely normal life, and that’s all she wants: to be normal. However, she is surrounded by abnormality. She lives in the city of Ogikubo, which Japan sold in an auction (to help its national debt), and now it is the one place on Earth where aliens of all kinds get to live peacefully alongside humans. Her father works for Space Patrol (kind of like an intergalactic INTERPOL), and her mother… well, let’s not talk about her.

Her normal life suddenly comes to an end when her father accidentally swallows an experimental pill from work, and it causes him to literally become encased in ice. Luluco, panicking, brings her dad over to the Space Patrol office, where she becomes enrolled in the Space Patrol herself, to finance the costs of defrosting her dad. Now, whether she likes it or not, she’s a fighter for justice!

The Plot and Characters

Even if you just watch the first episode, you can tell that Space Patrol Luluco is fun, wacky, and will prove to be a journey unlike what we usually get. The first few episodes sets up the show as a silly adventure of Luluco and new-coworker Alpha Omega Nova fighting random space criminals in Ogikubo, and I would’ve been perfectly okay with this show continuing this way to the end. However, Trigger isn’t Trigger if they don’t one-up themselves every new episode. After the first three episodes focus on bringing down a criminal within the school itself, Midori (who later joins the Space Patrol herself in a hilarious dialogue exchange), we get locked into this grandiose plot as Ogikubo gets stolen by space pirates, and this newly-formed trio ends up on a space chase trying to find it and bring it back to Earth.

However, halfway through this arc, the anime puts everything off to the side to spend a few episodes revisiting the worlds of past Trigger-animated shows, such as Kill La Kill, Little Witch Academia, and more. On one hand, it was pretty cool to have these cameos appear and to see the other characters interact with Luluco and the group, and frankly, it was rather hilarious at times. I also can’t say they didn’t have at least some effort to tie these cameos back into the main plot. On the other hand, though, I do wonder if perhaps they spent a bit too much time doing these cameos. That being said, they did wrap it up and bring us back on track relatively quickly in the last cameo-planet-episode. In rewatching the series, though, I’ll probably skip over those episodes.

The last four episodes were made to feel big, cool, and exciting, and that is precisely how they felt too. Everything is on the line and the biggest plot twists are revealed, and it’s honestly kind of amazing. I’d talk in more detail about it, but… spoilers. What kind of surprises me is that the last episodes were able to continue Space Patrol Luluco’s wacky tone, while also having it be emotional too. However, despite how the emotional ending it had, it still felt like it was missing… something.

Whether I didn’t feel as closely connected to Luluco as I thought I did, or there wasn’t that big impact that would’ve really helped, I’m not entirely sure, but as cool as the ending was, I came away from this series thinking that something could’ve made it better. Perhaps it is just a consequence of having the episodes be so short in length.

About the short lengths, Trigger did a pretty good job, in my opinion, of being able to make a comprehensible and fun anime with such a short length. One can’t necessarily expect writers to always be able to squish and fit their ideas into such a short period, but this format worked really well for Space Patrol Luluco.

Overall, the show is a blast. Although it’s at its funniest in the first half as they’re setting up the whole story, Space Patrol Luluco is wacky and humorous throughout; their sense for comedic timing in the first few episodes is pretty great, and even some of the smaller things got me to just fall over laughing. For example, when Luluco, Nova, or Midori are about to capture or pursue a space criminal, their Patrol Suit transforms them (literally) into a gun, magical-girl-transformation-sequence style, and the phrase “Fight for Justice!” being exclaimed every time one of the guns are fired. I had a lot of fun watching the show, from start to finish, and with how short each episode is, I’m beyond eager to share it with my friends by pulling up the first episode. The pacing is a bit fast, but most people should be okay with it.

The anime features a colorful, fun cast of characters, and they do well at having their personalities shine through their words and actions, rather than simply having it be told to the audience (a relatively easy crutch for short-episode anime). Luluco is the innocent, nervous, “normal” girl who finds herself dragged into all these situations, whether she wants to or not. For Nova, everything about him just sparkles; there’s a choral piece that plays whenever he’s in the spotlight, and that song just describes him. Midori is snarky, and usually plays the straight-man in the comedy bits; I’m sure you’ll come to love her by the end of the series. Last to mention here is Chief Over-justice, the chief of the Space Patrol – Ogikubo Branch. He’s… passionate. I’ll give him that.

The Atmosphere

The art and animation for this show is particularly cartoonish; proper anatomy (and physics) goes out the window to create the distinct style of this show, and I think it looks pretty nice. For how wacky and weird this show can be, the cartoonish style works out pretty well, as well as allowing the gun transformations to not look as creepy as they may otherwise be.

This being said, the animation tends to take some shortcuts, having characters stay still except for moving particular parts, or using effects rather than hand-drawn animating to make animation take place. It’s not really a complaint though, as I feel in this case, it’s more of a stylistic choice. Short-episode anime (generally) don’t have the highest of production quality anyway, so it’s even more allowable here. Trigger most definitely upped the quality for episode 13, though, quite fitting for a series finale.

The background art of the earlier episodes tends to be images pasted together in Photoshop with a color washout applied over the whole thing, and although I tend to enjoy the photorealistic backgrounds as a style, I dunno how much of that I would’ve been able to really deal with if the entire series went on like this though. Luckily, as Trigger started the big get-Ogikubo-back arc, they moved away from that and used more hand-drawn backgrounds and such. The background art, like the animation, isn’t exactly the best, but it definitely works for this show’s style, and thus there’s nothing to really complain about at all.

The music of the show tends to be pretty good, if nothing else. There’s about a good five tracks that tend to play a lot throughout the entire series, although you wouldn’t really notice it unless you really paid attention, although episode 10 is in stark contrast to that statement. For me, though, the song I loved the most was the ending theme, Pipo Password. I’m definitely going to buy it on CD. I also really liked the ending animation, even though I usually like flashier things. I also really enjoyed the remixed version of Pipo Password that was played on episode 12. The opening song is also not bad, although I wouldn’t generally listen to it on its own. The opening animation is pretty cool though.

The art and music of Space Patrol Luluco also help with its comedic timing, cutting to a different frame and muting the music altogether to allow a comedic moment to take place. The first episode of the show is particularly good, in my mind, with the comedic timing, and the writing, visuals, and music were all in on the jokes.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

Space Patrol Luluco: it’s cool, it’s wacky, it’s everything you wanted out of a Trigger-animated show, and more, and with only eight minutes per episode, it’s also easy to consume. Fans of past anime that Trigger animated will also appreciate this show, with the various episodes dedicated to cameos, even if these cameos may have gone on just the tiniest bit too long. Overall, this show was a lot of fun, and was definitely one of my favorites for the Spring 2016 season.

With the short length of each episode, I really recommend each person at least watch the first episode, and see what you think. All that’s really at stake for you is just losing eight minutes of your life, it really isn’t much. To be honest, though, if you watch the first episode, I feel like you’ll probably end up watching more. Space Patrol Luluco isn’t a deep, emotional drama, but it’s a lot of fun, and at the end of the day, that’s all it needs to be.

Rating: Great
Recommendation: Watch It
+++ comedy is pretty good, Midori, art style works for this short-episode show
— cameo planet episodes may have gone on a bit long, ending lacked just a tiny bit of substance, opening theme was meh