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Figure 17 Review

Figure 17 aired back in 2001 under a fairly uncommon format – it consists of 13 episodes, but each episode is about double the length of a typical anime episode.  So in terms of actual length, it is more or less the equivalent of a common 26-episode series.  The story revolves around Tsubasa, a girl from Tokyo who has moved to rural Hokkaido and finds herself having trouble fitting in (not helped by her reserved demeanor).  One day, she stumbles upon a crashed alien ship and discovers a man fighting for his life against a giant, violent creature.  The creature corners Tsubasa inside the ship, where she accidentally breaks a vial, the contents of which merge with Tsubasa to form a “Figure”, which is essentially a sort of transformation that the characters undergo for battle.  After their battle concludes, the Figure separates, but as the vial had broken, the other half manifests itself as a duplication of Tsubasa.  Essentially, she gains a twin sister.

There are two halves to Figure 17.  The first is a portrayal of a girl and her “twin” living in a small town, making friends, going to school, living alone with only a father – that sort of thing.  The other is a sci-fi story about two girls with a power to merge into “Figures” and their battle, along with the surviving members of the crashed ship, against enemy monsters called “Maguar”.  These two parts of the story, however, exist in separate planes for much of the anime.  I am not exaggerating – several episodes follow a similar format where the first half will focus on the everyday lives of Tsubasa and Hikaru (her twin), while the second half will then make a complete switch and feel more like a sci-fi action show.  If you were to drop someone into either half, it wouldn’t be too hard to convince them that the other did not exist.  That is simply how unrelated these two sides of the story often feel – not always, but often enough.  Of course, as one would expect, the sci-fi plot does drive the show forward, and the two angles do merge into one by the end.  Just be aware that there is a very two-faced quality to the series.

If you have similar tastes as I do, I think there is a strong possibility that you will not be very interested when the show switches into “action” mode, particularly since the plot just doesn’t feel original enough.  However, there are plenty of positive aspects to the show to make up for that.  The characters are likable, the slice-of-life portions are enjoyable for fans of that genre, and watching the development of the main character, Tsubasa, will give a certain degree of satisfaction as well.  While the main characters are young girls, they are portrayed in a realistic manner, and not just as ‘moe’-pets for otaku viewers.  In the end, Tsubasa, along with Hikaru, are the anchors for this show for anyone who isn’t drawn into the second sci-fi plotline, which includes myself.  I’m sure their very familiar elementary school classroom with elicit some nostalgia from older viewers as well.  For all the monster-killing that goes on, it’s the slow-paced scenes of childhood that stole the show.

Technically speaking, the artwork is generally quite pleasant.  The segments which focus on the girls’ daily lives often feature some lush, green environments and warm colors.  The action sequences typically are the opposite, with dark hues and a generally unwelcome palette, and weren’t of much interest to me.  The Maguar are predictable in their appearance, you’ve probably defeated several creatures that resemble them in video games in your youth.  The voice acting is generally of good quality, but the music does tend to get a little grating.  Most of this is due to the action music during the battle sequences.  As I mentioned above, they tend to resemble action pieces from shounen action shows, and are perhaps the most childish element of this anime.  There is a main theme to the series which is quite “hummable”, but it is used so often that I image some listeners will get tired of hearing it so repetitively.

Figure 17 isn’t remarkable, and doesn’t exactly have universal appeal – there are a lot of moments throughout the anime that I felt like skipping past in order to get to what I considered the next “enjoyable” section.  While the plot isn’t particularly mindblowing and the action sequences feel juvenile – the endearing characters and portrayal of their lives and growing bond is enough for Figure to get a reasonable recommendation from me.  The anime isn’t particularly well-known, and while it might be an overstatement to call it a “hidden gem”, it still remains superior to a lot of the junk that is aired these days, so a trial run of an episode or two wouldn’t be a bad idea.

5 responses so far

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5 Responses to “Figure 17 Review”

  1. Carlon Feb 16th 2010

    I dropped this early on, found the action scenes too boring, and they were half of the anime, after all…

  2. Protoon Mar 29th 2010

    I didn’t know that you only recently saw this series. Personally I found it to be my first favorite ever when I saw it back in 2004, and it remains one of my favorite series ever. Back then I found the sci-fi plot to be, while not completely original, it was engaging, and the slice of life portions of the plot happened to be one of my first encounters with such a genre. The relationship betweem the two sisters is really endearing for me (mind you, real, well played sisterly/brotherly love is one of my favorite anime themes, and I think there is no series that plays it better than this one), and how their dynamics evolve over time remains one of my favorite points.

    Tsubasa’s character is quite interesting for me for example. Her characters really evolves over the course of the series… and unlike most other anime out there, it’s not always in the right direction. Sometimes she realistically de evolves into her shier, introverted shell without it feeling a step backwards but a natural progression of the character plot.

    Overall, I rewatch this series from time to time (And it remains the series I’ve rewatched the most, over 5 times). However I always stop before the last 3 episodes. The last segment remains one of the single most painful and bittersweet endings I’ve ever encountered, and I don’t think I’d be able to stomach it a second time. I was left an emotional mush for several days after watching the ending.

  3. Theowneon Mar 29th 2010

    I agree that the slice-of-life portions were very endearing, as was the portrayal of sibling relations. I suppose I just have a very low tolerance for most action sequences, and a result was very uninterested when the show went into its (in my opinion) fairly generic sci-fi segments, which do take up a bulk of the anime.

  4. Protoon Mar 30th 2010

    Well, I guess in these cases it helps to have a large array of interests. In my case I didn’t mind the action sequences, and at most times I found them to be quite good and a good source of drama for the story. :p

  5. A made up nameon Jan 9th 2012

    I would give the slice-of-life parts a 5/5. I regret not having watched this ten years ago. The ending is so bittersweet that I don’t know what to rate it. I was also left an emotional mush. I really like the way it ends but I also think it could have been happier. The action parts were repetitive and I often felt like skipping them. They were just a monster attacks, it’s stronger than the last one, the good guys win, the story returns to the real drama. I recommend watching the series again except for the final episode. It’s really good, but the ending is sad.

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