Rokka started out looking like a generic fantasy/adventure story, and I truly had planned to not bother with it at all as a result. Given the glut of fantasy/adventure stories that the 90’s gave us, and the time period in which I started out as a fan, I tend to feel like I’ve experienced it enough already. But, hey, when you live with another weirdo anime lover, you end up checking stuff out often that you wouldn’t have otherwise. In this case, it worked pretty well, too.
Rokka – Braves of the Six Flowers – begins as a fantasy/adventure but quickly becomes a mystery/thriller instead, as a locked room mystery is introduced that itself is part of a larger scenario akin to They Were Eleven (and if you haven’t seen that one, and you liked Rokka, you should definitely check it out), as our protagonists are distressed to realize they number seven and not the six dictated by tradition/prophecy. So, instead of a standard story about going off to defeat a demon lord, we have an absorbing narrative which keeps the viewer guessing just about until the very end.
I’ve seen some criticism of Rokka arguing that it isn’t really a mystery, per se, because it allegedly changes the rules as it goes along. But it isn’t that rules change – Rokka never tells us something that it later contradicts. Nor are we deprived of the necessary pieces; it really just is that it’s difficult to work out the meaning of some of these pieces or that they’re important at all (spoiler alert: we’re tipped off, for example, early on that the temperature in the area is higher than is usual, and it’s also demonstrated that the temperature has dropped after the barrier is activated since Flamie is cold and Adlet feels it’s necessary to build a fire for warmth). If this were enough to disqualify something as mystery, this would wipe out a pretty huge chunk of the fiction from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction – Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayres would certainly see a lot of their efforts wiped out.
This isn’t to say that there are no criticisms to be leveled against the show. Some of the episodes look embarrassingly terrible, so much so that I often was thinking, “I sure hope they fix this for the home release.” Nachetanya, the bunny girl, starts off as a prominent member of the cast only to become a third-stringer by the midpoint, which proves frustrating given that she starts off so strongly. The pacing sometimes gets a little weird. And the motivation for the fake Brave, when revealed, feels incredibly insubstantial, enough so that even other really generic potential motivators (they’re holding my little brother hostage! I’m in love with one of the villains!) would’ve been an improvement by comparison.
It also needs to be acknowledged that half of the final episode is simply bad. I don’t want to spoil it, but suffice to say that there’s a final twist, maybe intended as a hook for a second season, that simply made me angry. Part of it was that this twist also introduced an element that is so mind-numbingly-mediocre-LN crap that, well, it pissed me off! Rokka was on the whole not of the generic LN bent that having such a thing dropped in at the end could only tick me off.
However, it does remain a solid show, and it was my third favorite series of the summer season (without the poor showing at the end, it would’ve likely managed to tie with Gakkou Gurashi… well, assuming Gakkou Gurashi doesn’t shit the bed in the final frame!). If you like mysteries, this should be right up your alley, and as of September 26th, the whole series will be streaming for non-paying subscribers on Crunchyroll (and I can vouch that it is available on that platform in at least the U.S., Canada, Croatia, Montenegro, France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Belgium, and Saudi Arabia).