Hey guys! It’s been a while in the making, but we’re back yet again with another anime review for you guys. I can honestly say that it has been many years since I last reached a point in an anime where I was so engrossed in a moment that I yelled at the screen. There are few anime that have ever managed to get such a reaction from me. Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, based on the light novel series by the same name, is one such anime. This week, we’ll be taking a closer look at this anime, and what it was that drove me to shout at the screen. Was it in enthralled rapture, or something else entirely? Well, to find out, let’s begin this week’s trip down the otaku rabbit hole, so buckle up and let’s get into it.
The story begins with a, quite frankly, beautifully rendered introduction to some of Rokka’s history, in the style of a parchment drawing handed down through the ages. Here, we are introduced to the most fundamental conflict that this world faces; the eternal cycle of death and revival of the Demon Lord. When revived, six heroes are selected and blessed by the powers of the Goddess of Fate and become collectively known as the Six Flowers. In each cycle, there are always six heroes – never more, never less. This sets the audience’s suspicions on high alert and we’re immediately drawn into this world of wonder and intrigue. Over the course of the first few episodes, we are introduced to this world in greater depth, thanks to occasional exposition dumps and the characters discussing world history in such depth that you almost wouldn’t believe that they didn’t live there. This world is one of magic and tragedy, plagued by the envoys of the Demon Lord, the Fiends, while its inhabitants live in constant fear of the day when the Demon Lord will rise once again.
To backtrack a moment, our main protagonist and first Brave – self-appointed “strongest man in the world”, Adlet Meyer. Immediately, he starts his run in the series on a bad foot, with Adlet interrupting a ritual where the winner has the potential to be recognised as a Brave. Using a series of trick weapons, traps and gadgets, he dominates his opponents. But, after a short-lived victory, he is quickly overwhelmed by the royal guards and is swiftly thrown in jail. This well-meaning, overconfident and, at times, grating individual is our protagonist and, sadly, he does little to endear himself. His backstory feels rushed and he does little to prove himself a worthy member of the Braves throughout the adventure.
He is not alone in this journey, however, as he is joined by six other Braves. Nachetanya, princess and Saint of Swords; Hans, the assassin; Goldof, the spearman and childhood friend of Nachetanya; Chamo, the Annoying Brat™ and Saint of Swamps; Maura, the Saint of Mountains and Flamie, our brooding, misunderstood tsundere and Saint of Gunpowder. Now, as you may have noticed, with Adlet included, this cycle, there are a total of seven Braves. Here, we discover the main conflict for the series – why are there seven Braves and who is the imposter?
In a shocking turn of events, while on route to the meet-up point for Braves, a spiritual fog barrier is erected, preventing the Braves from venturing into the land of Fiends and trapping them within a forest. The only possible culprit lurks within the ranks of the Braves, all the while hiding in plain sight.
Adlet is quickly branded as the false Brave and becomes hunted by his fellow Braves. On the run, he must now fight to survive, while seeking the truth behind the barrier and false Brave. Will he survive? Will he win? Who is the fake Brave? Worry not, for all these questions and more will be answered as the series progresses.
At its core, Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers is a mystery story with action elements, but it is a poorly executed one, as characters never feel in true danger and the action is often dialled back in favour of exposition. Sadly, I had my suspicions as to who was the false brave right from the start, and despite all the twists and turns, I was right. This predictability is something that Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers attempts to remedy at many points throughout its tale, and yet I ultimately found myself becoming hyper aware of a certain character and their behaviours (or lack thereof). Admittedly, I had a lot of fun with this anime, appreciating the story well enough to coast along and enjoy the experience, despite its shortcomings. That was, until the final episode, when everything changed. But more on that later.
While a small cast can lend itself to fostering a sense of intimacy, isolation or even claustrophobia, when coupled with a who-done-it story and thick atmosphere of distrust, this can really draw in an audience and keep them engaged episode to episode. However, the main factor that will make or break a series is the likability and robustness of these characters’ personalities. Sadly, Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers has the unenviable task of keeping an audience interested, while never providing meaningful character development to make its cast appear interesting. Characters that receive development are often given little more than shallow and unsatisfyingly bland scenes at best, or at worst, we are told in a conversation that something traumatic has happened in their past, and we are simply expected to sympathise with them. On its own, this is a poor foundation on which to build a show. However, to make matters worse, the Braves on the whole are incredibly unlikable. Adlet in particular is your stereotypical self-obsessed protagonist and comes across as an idiot for most of the series, not only to his fellow Braves, but also to the audience.
Only two Braves really stood out as something more than bland: Hans Humpty, assassin and self-confessed Cat lover, as well as Flamie, our resident gunpowder girl. With his sharp wit and sharper swords, Hans truly feels like someone shaped by his life experiences, and his status as a Brave feels earned, both from an intellectual and physical standpoint. However, while we receive some superficial development for Hans, he is rapidly discarded as the misunderstood “good-guy” character and this is such a waste of potential. Flamie, on the other hand, is a complex character, who receives by far the most character development, growing dramatically from a closed-off, cold individual into someone who cares deeply about her allies. It’s beautifully executed character development at its finest, but even this is sullied in the final act.
My biggest issue with the other Braves steadily worsened as the series progressed as, due to lacking development opportunities, Maura, Goldof, Nachetanya and Chamo all came across as severely one dimensional. Worse still, these characters fell into predictable behaviours that became rapidly stale; Maura the stubborn fool, Goldof the silent hot-head, Nachetanya the psychotic dreamer and Chamo the violent brat. The problem with these characters is that none of them feel truly robust, instead becoming overexaggerated yet bland caricatures of anime tropes that do little to keep you invested. With such a sparse cast, a fantastic premise and ample opportunities to mould something truly spectacular from what they had, what we ended up with is nothing short of a tragic waste of potential.
The visuals are something that you will love or hate. Generally, characters are well animated and their designs are well realised from the light novel. When Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers is at its best, this series is gorgeous, with a fluid, seamless animation style that’s a treat to behold. However, when it comes to the visual presentation, it is a tale of two halves. Sadly, much of this anime is left underdeveloped, instead opting to add detail in high-octane, action set-pieces, or dramatic moments, leaving much of the anime poorly executed. If you can look past these shortcomings, however, the visuals aren’t too big an issue but are definitely something that can mar the overall experience.
Now, something else that I must point out is the use of CG. While far from the most beautiful examples of CG animation you’ll ever come across, it is used to great effect to emphasise the unnatural and fantastic. Fiends are monstrous CG abominations, and when paired with traditional 2D animation, it becomes incredibly jarring – but that’s far from a bad thing. The unnatural feel of these creatures is what makes them all the more horrifying to behold. Additionally, Saint magics are also rendered using CG, further emphasising the otherworldly nature of these abilities. While occasionally ugly and awkward, the use of CG in such an ingenious way is excellent. When it works, it REALLY works and is something that truly allows Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers to build upon its strengths, even if it does miss the mark at times.
Spoiler warning – The reasons I came to dislike this anime
Now for the not so fun part. I must admit, this anime is no masterpiece. However, I was thoroughly enjoying it, and became quite invested in finding out if my theory for what happened was right after all – that was until the final episode. Earlier in the series, Adlet confessed his undying love for Flamie after knowing her for only one day, in a move that felt like a cheap attempt at both character development and at implementing a half-assed love story. This was more than forgivable, however, as Flamie does NOT take this well and attempts to hunt Adlet down regardless – further cementing her as a powerful independent character and as one of my favourite characters in this anime!
One last time, before I move on, I will add that the final episodes of Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers are about to be spoiled, so a Major spoiler warning is now in place.
After Maura’s (fake) announcement that Adlet had mortally wounded Hans, Nachetanya goes berserk, no longer wishing to protect her friend and clear his name, instead wanting nothing more than to tear him limb from limb. While a dramatic change in character by Nachetanya in its own right, this leads to one of the most intense confrontations in the entire series, and here was where I started screaming at the TV. I had desperately wanted this confrontation. At last, this was the payoff to all the tension built throughout the series. It was tense, desperate and claustrophobic with high stakes. But, despite this, there was no fatality, and no major damage done. And as quickly as it had started, it was over. With this battle over and done with, all was finally about to be revealed. While it may seem a little strange that this series invoked such a sense of bloodlust in me, it’s only because we were denied any truly high-stakes battles, and this is and was as close as we could ever get – but still it resulted in a lackluster pay off.
Having unravelled the mystery of the barrier, it is revealed by Adlet that Maura is the traitor – except… she actually isn’t. In a “shocking” twist, it is revealed that sweet, inconspicuous Nachetanya is in fact the false brave and she does… nothing. She calmly explains her plan, and what her ultimate aim was before disappearing.
I have many issues with this. Firstly, in the moments leading up to the reveal, Adlet was painted as a tactical genius and, for the first time, truly felt as though he deserved his status as a Brave. However, when it really mattered, he got it wrong, further driving home the sense that Adlet was the idiot all along, only with an ungodly level of luck. The Nachetanya reveal was an interesting twist, but again lead to little payoff. Despite the sense of shock displayed by the cast, we get little in the way of resolution. This open-ended approach is hardly anything new for anime, however, and it does leave the door wide open for future seasons to build upon, which is never a bad thing. This is a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things, as it does still give a small sense of resolution and we feel as though the Braves have overcome adversity and become stronger and more united as a result.
After all the hardship faced throughout the series, the fog barrier is, at last, dissolved and the Braves prepare themselves for the battle ahead. However, at the final moment, a new character is introduced, the Saint of Blood and friend of Adlet, Rolonia. Here, it is revealed that she too is a Brave. In this one moment, the entire sense of accomplishment is dissolved as there is, yet again, another false Brave in the ranks. This introduction feels rushed and, quite frankly, soured the whole experience for me.
I have since picked up the light novels, and this is indeed how the first volume ends. However, the presence of the Blood Saint does one other thing that I feel is unforgivable. Flamie, the one character that I grew to love, a powerful and complex female character with bombs, gunpowder and bullets aplenty, in the final moments becomes reduced to your stereotypical jealous girlfriend character, rather than the bad-ass character we’ve grown to love.
While I appreciate that Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers has attempted to remain as faithful to the original light novel as humanly possible, the poor execution really left things on a sour note. Due to the fact that there was no second season, this level of open-endedness is far from ideal. The ending I so desperately craved was both given and taken away within a five-minute window. Ultimately, I can’t say anything more, except that this ending could have been executed so much better. Sometimes, less is more and being selective with the content of the final episode could have done wonders for the overall experience.
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers isn’t a bad anime, but it certainly isn’t a good one either. It sits squarely in the realm of mediocre in almost every aspect. To make matters worse is the fact that this anime seems to actively attempt to undo its best features with poorly executed moments and a rushed ending that does little but compound the frustrations of the audience. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend this series to everyone, if you’re OK with its shortcomings and want a first look into the world of Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, then this anime is a decent enough time. If nothing else, this anime has managed to get me to pick up the first volume of the light novel and, honestly, it’s definitely worth a read. The light novels have a total of 6 volumes to continue on long after the point where the anime ends if this world and characters really resonate with you.
Sadly, for all its fun, this is a disappointing experience at almost very turn, and for that I award Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers:
Once again, we’ve reached the end of our journey down the otaku rabbit hole. I hope you guys have enjoyed this review and, until next time, keep it weeby!