For just a second, pretend you’re living in a nation of unmatched peace. There is virtually zero physical conflict in the daily life of the average citizen. When seeing a gun, your instinct is that it must be a toy rather than a dangerous weapon.
But there is a catch. Within the government is a secret military, designed to take out terrorist threats before they are able to strike. Called the Lycoris, this military is formed up of orphaned children with no family and, therefore, no way to be traced to a single household. These children are trained from a young age to be soldiers, with precision and lethality at the forefront.
Now, this is ethically a precarious argument. Logic dictates that child soldiers are bad, a sentiment I’m sure most people understand. But on the other hand, children that lack a place in the world are given a divine purpose and are actively making the country a better place. Again on the first side, is it really okay for the government to effectively have unmitigated access to control society?
The tension between these theoretical ideals is put into motion in the anime “Lycoris Recoil,” which follows two of these soldiers. Chisato Nishikigi (voiced by Chika Anzai) is one of the greatest Lycoris of all time, with inhuman perceptive ability that allows her to dodge bullets at close range. However, she has sworn off killing, opting to use non-lethal bullets in violent scenarios. She also sees helping others as her duty, and she does odd jobs around town while serving as the hostess for the LycoReco café. Meanwhile, Takina Inoue (Shion Wakayama) is a lethal shooter who is supremely efficient in her movements. However, when she ends up stationed with Chisato, the two are at a standstill. Chisato’s daily life working at a café and helping people in her community is a far cry from the world of violence that the two of them were raised in.
The two embark on one of the best relationship developments I’ve ever seen. Chisato teaches Takina how to have an identity outside of the Lycoris system, enjoying the various sightseeing opportunities in town like aquariums and snow. Meanwhile, Takina points out the inefficiencies in how they run the café, as well as how wasteful Chisato is in combat. The two help each other and become inseparable before long.
The show gently transitions us over time by having less and less casual scenes between Chisato, Takina and the rest of the café. Instead, we are exposed to the insidious forces lurking beneath the peaceful society. A sinister individual has been alerted to the identity of the Lycoris and is set on exposing them to the world, claiming that the one-sided control the Lycoris have over society has skewed the balance. The exposure of the Lycoris, from their perspective, is fighting on behalf of the weak and restoring society to the way it should be.
So, Chisato and Takina are pitted against the villain, each side with their very own god-given talent for battle. “Lycoris Recoil” does a phenomenal job of shedding doubt on the ideologies of the hero, making it just as thought-provoking as it is eye-catching. At the end of it all, the two sides might have more in common than they would like to admit.