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"Do you like yourself right now?"
Figure17: Tsubasa & Hikaru, is about a shy, introverted little girl named Tsubasa, taken out to the Hokkaido countryside by her father as he pursues his dream of becoming a baker. When, one night, she stumbles upon a crashed spacecraft - and then the pilot in a losing fight against its monstrous cargo - she herself is very nearly killed, saved only by a random accident involving the ship's emergency 'Figure', a kind of biomechanical battle suit. Due to said accident, however, when the suit separates from her again it cannot return to storage, and instead copies Tsubasa's form. Tsubasa suddenly finds herself with a twin sister.
Figure17 is an unusual anime, not least in that it seems impossible to fit into a genre. It combines elements of Slice of Life, with Magical Girl, Sci-Fi, Drama... Also, the creators chose to use thirteen 45-minutes episodes, originally aired once a month, rather than the more standard twenty-six 25-minute episodes once a week. This leads to much gentler pacing, the anime taking time to very deliberately explore its characters, not to mention animation quality one would normally expect to find only in an OVA.
While there are significant action elements, particularly in the battles against the Maguar, the story is really about Tsubasa and Hikaru's life together, and the gift of their new relationship as sisters. A great deal of time is spent emphasising the characters' fragility, especially as children - something which adds a serious element of tension to anything dangerous, with the at times followed up implication that, being as these, again, are children, ill will very likely come of their having to participate in combat. Attention is often placed heavily on the child's perspective, too.
An extremely well designed anime, with very well considered and developed characters, and a Tear Jerker warning throughout - for both happy and sad reasons.
This series provides examples of:
- Adaptive Ability: Arguably the greatest problem in dealing with the Maguar is the fact that each one adapts countermeasures against the method used to kill the previous one making the next one in sequence all that much harder to kill. As a result, virtually every battle is both brutal and costly and forces the protagonists to come up with still more methods of dispatching the beasts.
- Adults Are Useless: Partially subverted. DD's carelessness transporting the Maguar gems got the Earth into this situation, and he has trouble fighting the Maguar at first. Later on in the series he joins up with Oldeena and they become a competent support team to Tsubasa/Hikaru, even going so far as to take down a Maguar without needing their help at all.
- Aliens in Cardiff: In rural Hokkaido, in this case.
- Anime First
- Anyone Can Die: The Maguar are very dangerous, and all those fighting them come close to being killed by the creatures. Indeed, one of the two protagonists dies in the end as a result of engaging one, and one of their school friends dies in the middle of the series, though not as a result of fighting Maguar.
- Artificial Human: Hikaru is a malfunctioning 'Figure', a form of biomechanical combat armour. In her case, she was an emergency unit that was smashed while the first Maguar was trying to kill Tsubasa, who was pressed against the wall underneath its case, and whose contents proceeded to spill over her and spontaneously activate. With no capsule to return to, however, the Figure instead cloned its user to make a form for itself, resulting in Hikaru, Tsubasa's artificial twin sister.
- Bittersweet Ending: As the end of the anime approaches, the biggest question in the closing few episodes is whether or not Hikaru will survive. Being as the little energy remaining to her failing body was being spent to keep her alive, in the hope she might be taken back by DD and Oldina for preservation, the entirety of her role in the final battle is gruelling to watch.
- Of course, if Hikaru would have survived, she still would have had to leave Tsubasa behind. But at least she would have lived.
- Call to Agriculture: Tsubasa's father. Well, it's a countryside bakery, but it's close enough.
- Combat Tentacles: The Maguar's primary means of defending themselves.
- Empathic Weapon: 'Figures'. Technically armour, but they enable combat on a level far beyond their user's normal limits when used. All Figures are implied to be sentient, on some level, however true personality and life seems only to be achieved in Hikaru's case after the spillage > cloning incident. Most Figures are, however, capable of making a conscious self-sacrifice in order to rescue their user from a lethal blow, destroying themselves in the process.
- Fish Out of Water: DD, especially in the second episode, has a rather hilarious case of this, not helped by the fact that he has to rely on two children ( This troper's favourite moment is when he's seen checking out Tsubasa's TV in the background ).
- Fusion Dance: Using a Figure functions rather like this, and given Hikaru is a Figure, but requires Tsubasa to take such a form, the two of them are quite a literal case.
- Grand Finale: A surprisingly epic one, in which the two lead characters fight the mother Maguar in space.
- Heroic Sacrifice: DD's Figure early in the anime does this to save its user, and later, Hikaru attempts to do the same for Tsubasa, but Tsubasa somehow repairs and forces them to continue fighting. This might, however, be the reason Hikaru's power started fading away, leading to her final heroic sacrifice at the end...
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Sort of. Tsubasa and Hikaru love each other to bits; in their minds, Hikaru's especially, they're the best thing that ever happened to each other. Neither even seems bothered by their ability to become Figure17 - but both of them, especially Tsubasa, just want the whole god-awful job of hunting down Maguar to be over with, and are hit increasingly hard by each abortive declaration that it's over.
- Intrepid Reporter: A reporter stumbles across a meadow killed by a Maguar's poison, and investigates further, taking a sample left in the monster's wake to a scientist friend for analysis and generally chasing the story throughout the plot.
- Kari Wahlgren: Tsubasa's english voice
- Lara Jill Miller: Hikaru's english voice, credited as Willow Armstrong
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: DD and Oldina have the ability to wipe out everybody's memories of certain events.
- Latex Space Suit: Figures seem almost to be made of this, somehow.
- Lensman Arms Race: A good deal of the plot focuses on DD and Oldina's attempts to design weapons to defeat the Maguar, who adapt constantly based on past experience.
- Magical Girl: While not really a Magical Girl anime, the transformation to Figure17 by the twins is certainly reminiscent of the Magical Girl genre, as are some of the plot elements. Her combat style, however, is generally rather different from the typical Magical Girl, largely involving turning one's limbs into spikes and trying to shove them through the nearest enemy. Any other combat ability is given by technology, such as energy cannons or knives. Combat is also rather more brutal and cringe-inducing than the classic Magical Girl scuffle.
- During the school play, we get to see Tsubasa in the role of a Dark Magical Girl, too.
- Monster of the Week: Maguar play this role early on in the anime, however after episode seven or so, things start to lose their pattern, with some episodes spent without a single sign of a Maguar and others dedicated to particularly important fights. All of them, however, are part of the larger continuity.
- Multiple Demographic Appeal: It's very hard to figure out just who Figure17's target audience was supposed to be...
- Powered Armor: The Figures, including Hikaru, are a kind of sentient powered armor.
- Puni Plush: Somewhat present in the general art style, but only to a very limited extent; enough that characters still look their actual age.
- Rubber Forehead Aliens: DD and Oldina, possibly bordering on Human Aliens. DD is only noticeable as a non-human due to his eye and hair colour, and his funky eyebrows. Oldina could pass as human pretty much without any disguise.
- Although their language is more than a little inhuman, prior to DD making use of a Universal Translator. It doesn't really sound as if a human could make those noises.
- School Play: A particularly enjoyable example, not just due to ( thanks to the 45 minutes an episode format ) the viewers being able to watch what was a pretty enjoyable, original play by Tsubasa and Hikaru's class, but also due to the role the performance plays in the overall plot. Hikaru wants desperately to be allowed to stay on Earth to make this one last memory with Tsubasa before DD and Oldina take her back to their home civilisation, and during one scene, where one of the twin princesses ( the play was written by Shou, specifically for the two of them to be the lead characters ) pleads with her sister to remember her, after her memory is wiped with magic, Hikaru breaks down crying, knowing they will soon have to remove all memories of DD, Oldina, the Maguar and herself from everyone they've come into contact with - including Tsubasa.
- Second Episode Morning: Tsubasa wakes up in bed after her first encounter with DD and the Maguar, thinking at first that it was all just a dream. Obviously, it wasn't.
- Squee: Any positive interactions between Tsubasa and Hikaru, or indeed between them and their father, or Hikaru's discovering she has all of Tsubasa's feelings and memories for her family. A prominent example being the two of them singing out vowels, as they'd been taught in a recent lesson, whilst in the bath together. Not to mention the pictures preceding and ending the mid-episode breaks, and an awesomely sweet moment when Hikaru sees the photograph of Tsubasa's dead mother, describing it as the 'First time I've ever felt so warm'.
- Stealth in Space: Oldina's ship remains undetected in Earth orbit, despite at one point firing a gigantic laser cannon at a Maguar ( see below ).
- Very likely it was using the same technologies as DD used to render his smaller starship undetectable in the first episode, and surround it with a 'you don't want to look here' field. So also DD's ship, too.
- Transformation Sequence: Tsubasa and Hikaru's transformations, albeit relatively brief ( and more and more abridged as the series goes on ). Also generally averts the oddity of enemies just standing and watching the process: the twins always transform somewhere out of harm's way, before entering a dangerous situation, and 'proper' Figures seem to be able to activate fast enough to respond to danger immediately.
- Twelve-Episode Anime: One of the unusual things about Figure17 was the decision by the creators to create thirteen, 45 minute long episodes to be aired once a month. This allowed much gentler pacing and far, far deeper character development than usual, not to mention animation and art of a standard not usually seen outside OVAs.
- Wave Motion Gun / Kill Sat: Oldina's starship, parked in orbit and being itself a mothership / factory vessel compared to DD's little transport shuttle, has one of these, which is used to relatively little effect as a Space-to-Surface weapon. It's also the site of the final battle.