Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 13
Genre: Slice Of Life Drama / Sci-Fi
Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 08 Apr 2006
revised 09 Jul 2006
Easily the best show I had never heard of. An unusual combination that works, this is the show responsible for my obsession with Hokkaido.
After chasing a falling star in the woods behind her house, shy and lonely Tsubasa Shiina’s life changes dramatically when an exact replica of herself appears after a battle with a monster in a crashed spacecraft.
From that brief summary, Figure 17 sounds like it should be a sci-fi adventure about fighting aliens… nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s much more than that. For starters, each episode is 45 minutes long. This allows a slower pace, and lends an almost theatrical feel to the show. When originally aired on Japanese TV, it ran one episode per month. Second, while one would expect a genre pairing like this to use the slice of life as a plot device for the sci-fi, it’s actually the reverse. The science fiction elements of the story are there to allow the slice of life story to flourish. Unusual indeed.
The easiest way to describe Figure 17 goes something like this: following the everyday life of two 10 year old girls, toss in the video game Metroid, add a dash of the movie Aliens, and there you have it. Still sounds odd, doesn’t it?
Yet somehow, the result is an unqualified success. The main story involves the relationship and daily lives of Tsubasa and her newfound twin, named Hikaru. Hikaru is as outgoing and carefree as Tsubasa is shy and reserved. The secondary story is the science fiction angle, where the humanoid alien Tsubasa met at the crash site and her Figure form (when Tsubasa and Hikaru join together as a cybernetic being) look for and battle the alien monsters that fell from the spacecraft as it crashed to Earth. Two very different stories, but somehow it all seems natural.
Figure 17 takes place in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. This is an area of unspoiled countryside and quiet farm life, with cold winters and snow-capped mountains, comparable to Vermont in the United States. This is a welcome break from yet another anime series set in Tokyo. The length of the episodes allows for a very laid back narrative, letting events unfold without rushing them. There is also very little background music compared to many other shows, but when there is BGM it is always appropriate and simply enhances the drama (or action) on screen. Figure 17 is a show meant to be absorbed in its simplicity.
In the end, Figure 17 is an absolute gem of a series that is easy to overlook. It’s one of those shows I wished would never end; the world it creates is easy to get lost in, and you feel as if you’re a part of the characters’ lives. If you’re looking for a show that’s off the beaten path, but still gives the best of them some serious competition, look no further.