The past couple years haven't been so great for KyoAni. It's hard to deny that they've lost the influence and momentum they had back in the mid-to-late 2000's, and their work as of late has largely ranged from mediocrity to the flat-out bad (yes, I'm looking at Kyoukai no Kanata). Most of these issues can be attributed to their weakness in writing drama, which, thankfully, is nearly non-existent in their most recent series, Amaburi.
Amaburi (officially "Amagi Brilliant Park", which doesn't roll off the tongue nearly as well) sticks instead to KyoAni's strengths. While it's lacking in drama and shirtless bishounens, as a light-hearted slice-of-life about a group of idiots managing an amusement park, it's well worth a watch. It also has Isuzu, who is maybe, just maybe, one of the most attractive heroines in anime, if hot anime ladies is your sort of thing. A self-proclaimed genius high school boy is tasked with attracting 100,000 visitors in the next two weeks to an amusement park or else the park will be forced to close.
That said, anyone potentially interested in the show should be warned that the first episode is by far the worst. In it, the busty heroine (Isuzu) drags the cynical protagonist (Kanie) to the dilapidated amusement park that she manages, in the hopes that the former child actor, who, by the way, has absolutely zero experience in business management, will save the park from ruin. He begrudgingly accepts the offer, of course, and vows to meet the 500,000-visitors-in-four-months deadline so that the park will not be closed. At the end of the episode, Kanie also receives an abrupt kiss and a random superpower (which is not shown or mentioned again until several episodes later), because, uh, reasons?
But a cost of this silliness is that the show spends more time on the animals and park mascots than it does the human characters. And the mascots (who wear their costumes so frequently that they must be fused to their body) are nowhere near as interesting as Kanie or Isuzu, considering that many of them are based on a single trope. There's an otaku masquerading as some sort of squirrel-thing, an easily-angered shark who turns into a hell-demon when doused in water, a sheep who acts like a street thug, and so on and so forth. Sure, these characters add a great deal of energy to the show and make the park feel more alive, but after their second or third appearance, it's not likely you will appreciate their presence all too much. A few of them even show up dozens of times, and by that point it feels like the show is stretching its jokes way too thin. Granted, though, the commercial scene in the final episode is pretty damn hilarious.
However, the fact that the two are high school kids and yet somehow able to run a massive multi-million dollar business on their own is inexcusable nonsense. I'm sorry, but 16-year-olds are nowhere near experienced enough to tackle such a huge responsibility. This is especially evident when Kanie makes asinine decisions like charging only 30yen (equivalent to 30 cents) for park admission, with all the rides being free of charge, as if this wouldn't immediately drive the park to ruin with an insurmountable amount of debt. Isuzu also occasionally shows up wearing an office lady outfit, and I couldn't help but groan every single time. If you want to write adult characters then, please, just bloody write them. It's not like it's particularly difficult to make the characters a few years older-- say, 19 or 20-- rather than forcing them to be high school students when it makes absolutely zero sense in the context of the story. It's like KyoAni is deathly afraid of writing characters past the age of seventeen (perhaps they think their fans will set fire to their studio if they dare try). I'm getting very tired of it. The world does exist outside the confines of high school.
The art is about what you would expect from any KyoAni anime, which is to say that it looks great. The sound is much more noteworthy as it is what gives the show the majority of its energy. There's a ton of classy jazz music playing in the background, and the OP is the sort of thing that will get stuck in your brain immediately after hearing it for the first time. I spent a few of my college classes with "MAGIC HEART" screaming in my head and it was both delightful and horrifying.
It's hard to get rid of the feeling that Amaburi is one long prologue to what will probably be a second season. There's subtle hints of romance between Kanie and Isuzu-- the kind that KyoAni loves to expand upon-- and the story abruptly ends with a light-hearted episode that would normally have been stuck in as an OVA. There's a lot of potential for the second season to be superior to the first, and if KyoAni doesn't create one I would be very surprised. And perhaps a little disappointed.
Amaburi is best approached with minimal expectations. If you're expecting another big hit from KyoAni, then Amaburi is certainly not going to be that. If you're OK with just having a few laughs at silly nonsense (and if you're a guy, a few erections from Isuzu's scenes), then you'll probably enjoy your time with the show. It's not a great anime, perhaps not even a good one, but there's more than enough enjoyable content in here to warrant a watch. If nothing else, at least it's not Kyoukai no Kanata.