TL;DR – to the maintain peace in Tokyo, elite assassins eliminate terrorist and criminal threats while the public are completely unaware. How do they accomplish this? By being teenagers dressed up in school uniforms, of course.
Review (warning: spoilers)
Why is that when a secret organisation trains assassins, said assassins are always viewed by the higher ups as robotic killers, devoid of emotions and feelings who aren’t allowed to think for themselves? Whether that organisation be governmental, criminal or other, the powers that be always treat these elite killers as mere chess pieces on a board, moving them around to take out the other side and be sacrificed as pawns if necessary.
There have been many examples of this including Jason Bourne, Black Widow, the Gray Man, and the Unsullied in Game of Thrones to name a few.
Ultimately, the greatest danger the assassin/soldier/killer faces is not the targets that they seek to take down but their own masters, who seem to have no qualms in disposing their elite killers the moment they start thinking for themselves.
Lycoris Recoil follows a similar path. When Takina Inoue, an elite assassin known as “Lycoris”, is on a mission with a group of other Lycoris assassins to prevent an illegal firearms deal, they are ordered to wait for reinforcements even though the bad dudes has one of the Lycoris hostage and is telling them all to drop their weapons or their colleague gets a bullet in the head. The Lycoris commander orders the team not to surrender but to bunker down, thus indicating that their Lycoris colleague is relegated to collateral damage. This triggers Takina to disobey her orders and take matters into her own hands. She gets her hands on a railgun and lets loose at the bad dudes, killing them all and saving her colleague.
Yes, she saved a life but can’t have her acting against orders and thinking for herself. The fallout of her disobedience is she gets thrown out of the academy and transferred to an undercover branch that operates as a café known as LycoReco. There she meets Chisato Nishikigi and from that moment on, Takina will come to realise that there is more to life than being an elite assassin.
Chisato is the highlight character of the series. Her presence raises the bar on what otherwise would have been a run-of-the-mill action series. We learn that Chisato is not only a Lycoris that is somewhat a black sheep of the academy, but she is also considered their most powerful agent. Chisato is not simply a pawn, but she has navigated the chessboard on her own terms, reached the other side and been crowned a queen.
Not only does she have the superhuman ability to dodge bullets (yes, even at point blank range), but she refuses to use live ammunition. Instead, she opts to use rubber bullets and when she takes on assignments to take down bad guys, she does so without killing them. She operates not as a killer but as a subduer who seeks to incur zero collateral damage at the risk of her own life because her targets are almost always armed and dangerous. This approach is nothing short of mind boggling to Takina who has been trained to kill or be killed.
The primary antagonist in the series is a man named Majima, who reminded me of Spike from Cowboy Bebop but with far less of a conscience. Majima believes it is unnatural that the people of Tokyo are unawares of these elite assassins and seeks to expose them through acts of terrorism. In this way, he believes he will restore balance.
Majima also has ties to Chisato in more ways than one. They both have ties to the Alan Institute; a mysterious organisation that assists gifted individuals who are prevented from reaching their true potential due to barriers such as poverty. Majima also has a unique ability like Chisato’s bullet dodging ability. And Majima holds to his own set of ideals as fiercely as Chisato holds her own.
What adds to the layers of this anime are the characters surrounding Majima, Chisato and Takina. People are much more complex than what they seem and they all hold secrets that when eventually revealed demonstrate the line between good and evil is blurred.
In its simplest form, this anime is about love and friendship between Chisato and Takina, and how that is the purest thing that they hold. On a more complex level, it is about differing and conflicting philosophies and ideologies between various characters and organisations.
The animation is top notch, especially the action sequences involving Chisato. The little details around her movements and how she holds her weapon are genuinely exciting.
I went into watching this anime, knowing nothing about its story, and I came out pleasantly surprised. We need more Chisatos in the world.
8.5 out of 10