WARNING: This review contains some spoilers regarding Rokka – Braves of the Six Flowers.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: six adventurers go on an epic journey to kill a demon god and save the world from assured destruction. Right. So Rokka doesn’t seem to be breaking new ground with its initial premise, but by the halfway point, this seemingly average adventure anime series transforms into a dangerous and deadly whodunit that threatens to dismantle our heroic party before they ever set foot in the demon god’s fortress. Its smart and unique approach to the beginning of this journey sets it apart from many of its contemporaries.
The world of Rokka is one of cyclical destruction. A malevolent force known as the “Demon God” emerges from its slumber, stirring thousands of fiends from their respective sleep and threatening the mortal world. Six braves are selected by the Goddess of Fate in response, and they are tasked with doing battle with the demon god and exiling him back from whence he came. Often these heroes include certain “Saints”, individuals with mastery over a specific element or material, such as the Saint of the Sun, or the Saint of Blood, etc. So far, every group of heroes has been successful, though they have certainly suffered their own losses as a result. The series opens with the demon god’s awakening yet again, and we begin to be introduced to the braves of the current generation.
Adlet Mayer, our main protagonist and self-proclaimed “strongest man in the world”, seems to be an Aztec-inspired Batman. He utilizes numerous weapons and tools to gain the upper hand in fights, and always maintains a positive attitude, a trait which his insane master literally beat into him. His trusting nature sets him up for some particularly nasty backstabs later in the series, but he has all the characteristics of a strong leading character. He is joined by six others on his quest. First is the bubbly Princess Nachetanya, the saint of blades and seemingly naive adventurer who sees the life and death mission as an exciting outing with her new friend Adlet. Goldov is Nachetanya’s personal guard, a steadfast and loyal soldier whose feelings for the princess are nearly impossible to mask. Flamie is a white haired girl who wields a musket and is the newly appointed saint of gunpowder, an aloof figure shrouded in mystery. Chamot is the saint of swamps and an immensely powerful young woman with a penchant for torture and violence. Hans is a skilled assassin who has taken on cat-like movements and mannerisms as a result of his martial art style. Finally, Maura is the saint of the mountain, an older and more experienced woman who is looked to as a resource and mentor for our other heroes.
Now, if you’re as skilled at math as myself, you may have concluded that the Braves that I’ve listed off add up to, not six, but seven. Herein lies the central conflict of the first 13-episode season of Rokka. Upon arriving at the previously agreed upon rendezvous point, something has gone terribly wrong: a trap meant to befuddle and confuse invading fiends has been sprung early, trapping the Braves at the temple, and leaving one Brave too many. One among them is a traitor; someone attempting to assist the demon god with his revival and spell doom for the human race. The question is: who? Over the course of 8 or so episodes, different suspects are scrutinized and subjected to questioning. The arrival to the temple is revisited time and time again, each time revealing another clue, or another question.
Central to its storytelling are the alliances and rivalries that exist within the group. Though they are largely strangers when they meet up, the ordeal they all find themselves in drives them all to be fiercely suspicious of those outside of their respective cliques. Adlet forms an early alliance with Nachetanya, and by extension begrudgingly gains Goldov’s approval. Adlet seems to be the only one to defend Flamie’s actions as well, though she is extremely hesitant to trust or believe him. Maura, Chamot and Hans form the other alliance, Maura’s experience and knowledge being her strongest asset in persuading others in the group to sway in her favor.
This intellectual tug of war is punctuated by brief glimpses into the back stories of two characters in particular: Adlet and Flamie. Perhaps the biggest weakness of this initial season of Rokka is its lack of attention to the motives and histories of the other Braves. The insight we gain from the brief snippets of Adlet and Flamie’s journey until this point help to round out their own alliance, which by the end of the season is undoubtedly the strongest on an emotional level. The only reason I can think of as to why it wasn’t a priority would be that more detailed information on the back-stories of some of our other heroes could have made it easier to find out who the fake Brave was, removing that central element of mystery that is supposed to keep the viewer interested.
Yet another strength of Rokka is that its uniqueness is not just in its storytelling, but also in its art style. The Aztec-inspired artwork is evident from the opening scene, and even the design of the fiends and ceremonial garb set it apart from most of the other shows in my regular lineup. Adlet’s fight scenes in particular are very fluid and impressive; his utilization of smoke bombs, poison needles and science setting him apart from the physical fighters and magic users that make up the rest of the party.
In short, a unique storyline combined with compelling art and interesting heroes makes Rokka one of the better shows of the last season. If you have not yet watched Rokka, I highly suggest you do so. I am personally looking forward to the next season.