If you were to combine Strike Witches, Symphogear, and some Nanoha, you’d probably end up with something vaguely similar to Vividred Operation. That may sound interesting, but the end result is something that feels more like a cheap imitation, rather than a spirited homage.
Thanks to the Manifestation Engine, a complex that collects energy from the sky and distributes it worldwide, humanity no longer has to fight over natural resources, seeing as the engine provides 95% of the world’s energy consumption. Seven years after an accident that saw his daughter injured and resulted in him being outcast, Dr. Kenjirou Isshiki’s greatest creation has finally been completed. This is convenient because the greatest threat to humanity’s existence has emerged and is intent on destroying the Manifestation Engine, effectively ending the world. It’s up to Dr. Isshiki’s granddaughter, Akane, to harness the power of friendship and use the Vivid System (a defense system that gives its users the means to fight the invaders) to protect the Manifestation Engine and mankind.
Vividred Operation goes the undesirable route of championing “the power of friendship overcomes all”, which is every bit as corny as it sounds. There just aren’t very many original ideas here, and even though VO has moments where it tries to come off as serious and dramatic, there’s too much ridiculousness going on to invoke that type of atmosphere for very long. It seemed to me that Vividred Operation had a bit of an identity crisis. On one hand, it skewed young by championing the power of friendship and togetherness, but it also turned on the ecchi and featured a massive amount of fanservice. Even the girls’ weapons have ecchi names. Naked Rang, Naked Impact, Naked Blade, Naked Collider… so much nakedness. Think of the children!!! However you slice it, the story feels like the discarded hand-me-downs from other, better anime. Maybe not terrible, but certainly not good.
To me, the cast of characters was definitely the biggest strength of the series. Akane, Aoi, Wakaba, and Himawari make up a quality quartet, and with Rei thrown in for good measure, they’re easily the highlight of the series. Akane is the energetic and slightly dense main character, Aoi is Akane’s sweet best friend that’s also somewhat sickly, Wakaba is the prideful kendo master, and Himawari is the socially awkward super hacker. Rei is the mysterious outsider with a cold exterior that Akane and the other girls try to befriend. While familiar character archetypes abound, the entertainment factor they provide remains pretty high. And what anime would be complete without a living stuffed otter and an enigmatic talking crow? Who says there’s no originality?!?!?! So, the characters are nearly as unoriginal as the story, but I’d rather have unoriginal characters who are amusing and entertaining than wholly original ones who are bland and insipid. They’re nothing you likely haven’t seen before, but the cast overcomes the tired narrative and makes things more interesting.
The very first thing that needs to be mentioned regarding the animation is the fact that there are an ungodly number of ass shots throughout the dozen episodes. Unsurprisingly, the director of Vividred Operation also directed Strike Witches, so it’s clear where all the fanservice comes from. Akane and the rest of the main girls are middle schoolers, but that never stopped Japan before, so they’re fair game, I guess. Moving on, VO looks like what we’ve largely come to expect from a modern anime. It’s nothing amazing or groundbreaking, and there are times when the visual fidelity noticeably dips down, but overall, we get a colorful and vibrant anime that has its share of up and downs.
Audio-wise, the music left much to be desired. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily bad, but it’s about as meh and run-of-the-mill as you can get. One thing that was very nice about the audio was the number of EDs present. There were six of them, and they managed to retain the same light and upbeat theme as the rest of the show. Voice acting is also well-done, with Ayane Sakura (Akane) bringing her usual ‘A’ game, though the rest of the seiyuus also do a nice job. Even though I didn’t find the music in general to be particularly special, quality voice acting and some snazzy themes help to somewhat make up for that minor disappointment.
At first glance, you’d think that there could be a decent chance of yuri in this, but other than the peculiar “docking” sequence that the girls go through in order to combine and join forces, there isn’t that much to get excited about. During said sequence, Akane kisses one of the girls on the forehead (or vice versa), and they share each other’s consciousness and memories. That sounds pretty interesting in word form, but it’s far less so in reality. Given the willingness to show so much ass on screen, it’s kind of perplexing that the yuri wasn’t given the same treatment. Talk about a missed opportunity. With friendship being the overriding theme of the series, I imagine some people would be anxious to read more into the girls’ friendships, but other than perhaps Wakaba x Himawari, it’s a stretch for me to see anything more than close friendships between any of the other girls.
Despite all the negative things said earlier in the review, Vividred Operation still manages to be surprisingly enjoyable. If you can shut your brain off and see past it’s flaws, there’s a somewhat fun anime that’s waiting to be seen.