Tsubasa is a shy and reserved fourth-grader who is trying to adjust to her new life. When her mother passed away a few months before, her father decided to move them from the city life of Tokyo to the quiet life of a small town in Hokkaido. One day she sees a light in the sky, which she knows is a UFO. Her life is about to change drastically as she joins the aliens DD, Ordina and Hikaru in their mission to save the Earth from the menace of the Magyua. Will Tsubasa have the courage and confidence to fight?
summary by Madoka
Highs: Succeeds at combining character development and action; animation and flawless CGI
Lows: Frustrating pace; borders on Monster of the Week
Figure 17 is a very surprising anime. Unlike most typical action shows, this series gives ample time and attention to both developing its main character as well as advancing the save-the-world theme. The setting for once isn’t even Tokyo, but the less often seen quiet countryside of Hokkaido. All of this combines to make an absorbing, realistic story with great action and visuals to match.
Unlike most anime television series, each episode is forty-five minutes in length and originally aired once a month, which manages to work for and against it. Much more time is available to give the viewer an idea of character backgrounds, daily life and development without having to take away from the action-oriented side of the story. The first episode alone spends the majority of the time on Tsubasa to show her background and personality; other episodes focus more on Tsubasa and Hikaru’s school than the alien menace. This gives Figure 17 a slice of life feel that adds to the story rather than detracts from it.
For action fans this attention to drama will no doubt be frustrating, but the character development that results is well worth it. By the end, Tsubasa is a well-developed, realistic character that almost anyone can identify with. The pacing may be slow in the dramatic scenes, but the action and visuals in others more than compensate. Seamless use of CGI and fluid animation create exciting, suspenseful battle scenes. Breaking up the action by giving time to develop the entire story barely saves it from the dreaded Monster of the Week syndrome.
Figure 17 presents real and identifiable characters against an action-packed backdrop and succeeds to combine the two beautifully. Instead of being a show that doesn’t know if it wants to be drama or action, this series has no such personality crisis. It is a unique, emotional and engaging story that almost any type of viewer will enjoy.
Highs: Quaint, coming-of-age plot and protagonist; episode length
Lows: Hollow secondary characters; slow pacing and action
One of the parts I always enjoy about watching a new anime is being disoriented. The feel of exploring something I’ve never seen, no matter how good or bad, is just a thrill for me. As you can imagine, good anime are better thrills, and Figure 17 is no exception.
This series is divided into two plots: one dealing with the extermination of an alien menace in Hokkaido and the other surrounding the young life of Shiina Tsubasa. The latter takes up the majority of the time and is far more interesting due to the nature of the show. Although lacking a true rustic atmosphere despite the setting, the depiction of Tsubasa’s simple, everyday life may sound mundane and boring. Instead, it’s by activities in school or playing with friends that allow her to gradually break her shy, withdrawn shell and become a rather admirable character by the very end. I honestly believe that a large part of this is due to the unusual episode length; most anime run for 30 minutes, but Figure 17 is a full hour long. After watching, I realized just how rushed many other series are; creators are often forced to cut out key portions that help to build up what the episode may be focusing on. Here, that isn’t the case as there’s plenty of time for Tsubasa and Hikaru to go kill some aliens and finish whatever activity (school play, project, enjoying summer vacation) it is they’re working on in the particular episode.
It’s a shame that some of the abundant amounts of time wasn’t diverted to fleshing out other characters, namely D.D. and Ordina. While not protagonists in the least, their lack of development is part of what makes the sci-fi aspect of this series quasi-boring. Giving them some background beyond “Hi, I’m a space cop from another world” would’ve made it easier to sympathize with them and their task of having to kick some alien posterior. Instead, they’re just there. Another part that makes the sci-fi uninteresting is that the action and pacing are usually sluggish. It isn’t often that I find fight scenes to be a snoozefest, but when they are, they stick out like a sore thumb. The overall pacing, too, isn’t the greatest; while it could use a slight nudge for the dramatic side, it needs a big push for the action.
Slow? Perhaps, but Figure 17 still came as an enjoyable bit of disorientation, which doesn’t happen everyday. Thrills such as this can be poignant and carefully-crafted dramas rather than always having to be an emotional roller coaster or action-packed ride.
Figure 17: Tsubasa and Hikaru can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.