Upbeat poppy music tinkles in the background as a cheery teenaged girl goes about her morning ritual, brewing coffee and narrating about what a delightful world we live in, with such kind Japanese people. Perfect setup for a heartwarming slice-of-life about working at a traditional café, right? Well, maybe…if it weren’t for the troubling images of the aftermath of terrorism flashing on the television, and even more dissonant, the scenes of daily life in the city that reveal that the only thing keeping life happy and Japanese citizens kind is a roving contingent of trenchcoat-clad teenaged girl assassins who execute, erase, annihilate and otherwise wipe all evildoers off the face of the earth, seemingly without anyone noticing them. One of these assassins, or Lycoris as they are known, is our ebullient barista, Chisato. Another is the monosyllabic super machine gun-wielding Takina, who has only two modes: deadpan and executioner. After Takina jumps the gun and mows down a den of enemies against orders, putting a teammate at risk (or maybe saving her? Depends on how well you think of her aim), she’s downgraded from HQ and farmed out to café LycoReco with the bouncy Chisato. Who, it turns out, is the top Lycoris in the nation, having single-handedly foiled a really significant terrorist attack and gone down in the history books all before the age of 17. As one does. (At least in anime.) Though nowadays she seems far more interested in delivering fresh-ground beans to coffee snob yakuza, helping the local language school find a substitute teacher, and being a nee-san to kindergarteners, refusing even to assassinate bad guys (her gun shoots zip ties and magician smoke instead). Why has Chisato lost her killer edge? And will the overzealous assassin Takina be able to learn from her, as she’s been assigned to do?
This was an interesting first episode. I’m not quite sure what to think, apart from wanting to check out another episode before I decide whether this mash-up of genres and alternate-Japan world-building is genius or just trying too hard to be fresh. There’s quite a lot of dialogue and so many different dynamics, tropes, and dropping of hints as to conspiracies, deceptions, and things not being what they appear, that I found this premiere a bit of a challenge to keep up with, to the point where I almost felt breathless by the time the slice-of-life style ED began to roll (quite abruptly too). But that said, there’s plenty here to grab your attention: the animation is slick, the character design familiar but cleanly done, and there’s a surfeit of intrigue oozing from every scene, if you can be bothered to care. The two leads play off each other well enough like a classic straight man/funny man double act, and when Chisato flips into serious-mode, it makes me think that this could turn into something epic in the style of PsychoPass. But maybe I’m setting the bar too high here, and Takt.op Destiny (with whom Lycoris Recoil shares a seiyuu in Shion Wakayama, who’s solid here as Takina) will prove the better parallel, as a series that opened with a wild splash of creativity and strong artistry, but very quickly disappeared into oblivion.
Lycoris Recoil can be streamed on Crunchyroll.