Image Source: StudioDEEN on YouTube

While there have been several anime based on American comics in the past, none feel like a comic book quite as much as Stan Lee’s upcoming foray into anime, The Reflection.

On Wednesday here in Tokyo, members of the press were treated to a special showing of upcoming anime The Reflection’s first episode. Anime Now! was on hand to watch it.

Set in a world much like our own, The Reflection is set three years after the titular phenomenon that killed some and gave superpowers to others. While there have been rumblings of the so-called “reflected,” the first episode shows us the fight time a big superpowered battle takes place out in the open.

Image source: アニメ「THE REFLECTION」 on Twitter

In the middle of Times Square, Iron Man-like hero “I-GUY” battles against a bat-like villain and a chameleon-like one. Meanwhile, in the back alleys, a photographer (with powers herself) records the fight between hero “X-On” and a hydrokinetic—before a villain with energy whips draws her into the fight as well.

This action-heavy first episode acts as our introduction to the world. It shows us our heroes and villains battling even as it sets up the status quo—i.e., that the villains clearly have the upper hand overall.

Image source: アニメ「THE REFLECTION」 on Twitter

X-On and I-GUY are more powerful individually than the villains they battle this episode, but the villains are more numerous and better organized. The only support X-On and I-GUY have come in the form of non-powered government agents—agents that aren’t able to keep the captured villains locked up for any meaningful amount of time before other villains arrive and break their companions out.

And making the war even more lopsided, the two top villains waiting in the wings—the metal-controlling Steel Ruler and pyrokinetic Flaming Fury—look to be able to give X-On and I-GUY a run for their money in the raw power department.

While anime is no stranger to superhero stories—even those based on Western comics—none feel quite as much like a comic book as The Reflection does. But more than the content, it is the art style and visual composition that is responsible.

The art style appears inked and painted—with thick outlines around characters and objects. Likewise, there is little in the way of gradient shading: things in shadow are jet black: things in the light are fully colored. This alone would give The Reflection a non-anime feel, but it is the camera work that really stands out.

A vast majority of the shots in the episode are static. There are very few zooms and pans. Characters in each shot may move, but the camera, in general, does not. This gives the anime its comic feel; each shot is basically a panel in the comic. And as comic panels can’t move, our camera can’t either.

Likewise, music is often absent from the anime—unless it’s present in the fictional world itself. I-GUY, for example, hacks the screens in Times Square to play music and show inspirational images—along with a giant “POW” word bubble or similar when he punches a villain.

As much as it is comic-like, there is one thing about The Reflection that feels surprisingly non-comic (and non-anime for that matter). The anime is entirely “show, not tell.” There is no internal monologue showcasing our heroes’ thoughts. There is no narrator setting up the scene for us (outside of a newscaster or two talking to the fictional inhabitants of the world rather than us, the viewers). We learn who are the heroes and who are the villains from their actions in battle more than anything else.

This choice certainly adds to the mystery surrounding the characters. We have to judge them from the outside just like every other citizen in the world of The Reflection. And that, along with the visual presentation and pedigree, makes The Reflection an intriguing watch, to say the least.

The Reflection will premiere on July 22, 2017 and will be watchable with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

Comments (1)
  1. […] then this quick to the point piece. Go ahead, take a look – it’s rather time friendly: The First Episode of The Reflection Really Feels Like an American Comic in Motion Peeking Back At Fate Apocrypha I think the first episode deserves a second look. No seriously, […]

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