The Power of Three More: Amagi Brilliant Park

I don’t always try to find something to say about every series I have watched. There’s just nothing especially special about, say, Komori-san Can’t Decline, at least from my perspectives as writer/animator/social scientist.

From my overage perspective, Komori-san has a real problem, that being that three-quarters of the gags revolve around the enormous breasts of a middle school girl. That gives a new meaning to “gag.” But that’s just me.

But sometimes, when I think about a series I haven’t thought about in a while, I remember something I hadn’t thought of or see something I hadn’t seen before. I watched Amagi Brilliant Park quite a while ago, and as I was thinking about story and character and animation and the sorts of things I talk about here, I realized there was something there I hadn’t noticed while I was watching it, and that was that the main characters formed a new form of trio I hadn’t noticed or talked about before.

The reason I keep seeing these character trios is because they’re formulas that work to either drive plot or conflict. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. A character is supposed to have a function in the story. There’s a limit to how many pair-types there are, so trios expand the writer’s opportunities.

So, anyway, what happens in Amagi Brilliant Park is that washed-up child actor Seiya is recruited by Izusu, a pleasant and charming young lady that keeps a musket hidden in her…well, we don’t know where she keeps that thing. Just don’t talk to your Freudian friends about it. They’ll look at you funny.

Anyway, it seems that the titular Amagi Brilliant Park has been on hard times recently, and the ownership has threatened to close it down if attendance doesn’t increase past a certain point. Being a former child actor now in high school, Seiya seems perfect for solving this problem. (Yeah. Not. Maybe if he was in grad school working for his MBA…)

The park, though, is run by Princess Latifah, and the gimmick is this: the strange animals running around, playing with the kids, are actual real live strange animals from another world. Yes, Amagi Brilliant Park is MIB Headquarters!*

Amagi Brilliant Park

Front row, from left: Latifah, Seiya, Izusu. Where the heck does Izusu keep that musket?

But let’s look at the three of them, starting with Latifah. Yes, she’s a real princess, at least in that other world, and she has certain powers that allow her to run the park and help Seiya somewhat. But she’s also very frail, and as the power around the park fails she becomes even frailer. She faints several times, and is bedridden in at least one point. She needs a lot of physically strong people around her.

Izusu is Latifah’s guard, the muscle, so to speak. Plus she has the musket hidden in her…Damn, where DOES she keep that musket! It shoots magic bullets, by the way. But she’s devoted to Latifah and would give her life to protect her princess.

Seiya, it turns out, is pretty good at promotions, and therefore just the fellow to save the park, which, of course, means he is the character that drives the meta-plot (Overcoming the Beast, the beast in this case being the park’s financial bankers). He completes the trio: Princess, Protector, Protagonist.

The Protagonist is the key to the situation. That person (note I avoided saying “he” for reasons we’ll see in a minute) will drive the meta-plot, or is at least indispensable to resolving it.

The Princess is relatively weak, and must be protected, the equivalent of the King in chess. The plot will always be in peril to the extent there is some viable threat to the Princess. That creates an additional source of conflict in the meta-plot, i.e., not just “Will they make it or will they not?” but also “Will SHE make it or will she not?”

The Protector guards the Princess against ANYTHING. That includes both the Protagonist and the Princess herself. BOOM! Instant conflict between Protagonist and Protector. Just add musket.

You can see how the tension sneaks in there. The Princess needs the Protagonist, to do the things she is too weak to do herself. That pushes the two of them toward each other (not necessarily romantically, but in terms of the plot). The Protector has to keep them apart in order to protect the Princess. It’s a simple formula and it works well. As silly as Amagi Brilliant Park is, you like (or at least I liked) Latifah, Izusu, and Seiya, in part because, while there was conflict between them, it was motivated by their individual desires to do what was best. Even though I thought the story was more than a little screwy and the outcome based on the single dumbest plot hole I’ve seen in a while (SPOILER: The problem is the park is losing money, so Seiya has to bring in X number of visitors. He does that by making admission and everything else free. He gets the number of visitors, but no one seems to notice that by doing that the park loses EVEN MORE MONEY.) I liked the three of them and was rooting for them to pull it off.

It didn’t hurt that Seiya developed a genuine respect for Latifah, or that Izusu fell hard for him but couldn’t let herself show it. The former made him more likable and the latter drove more conflict in the story, but they weren’t essential to the plot.

I wasn’t convinced this trio was a trope, though, until I thought about Full Metal Panic. Think about it:

Tessa, the teen-aged commander.
Sosuke, the tough commando.
Chidori, the girl with the powerz.

Sure enough. Princess, Protector, Protagonist is a real thing.

Of course, that’s not all they are, at least not in Amagi. Seiya is the brains of the operation, Izusu, the muscle, Latifah, the heart of park, if you like. They’re Mind, Body, Soul as well. The two-in-one combination helps to make them a little more complex, especially in the case of Seiya, who not only has the brains and imagination to save the park (Mind) but comes to care very much for Latifah and wish to be her hero (Protagonist). The Protagonist role motivates his Mind role.

To me this stuff is getting interesting, but I suspect it’s getting to be time to talk about something else for a while 🙂 No character discussions next week, I promise.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

*MIB Headquarters: Men In Black? It’s a movie? You’ve heard of movies, right? Anyway, there are always a bunch of screwy aliens hanging out at MIB headquarters. Some of them are pretty cool (vide Frank the Pug).

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