Our stage is set in New York City, and just hearing that context can make you think of Marvel comics. In fact, all of The Reflection is reminiscent of Marvel-type comics. The thick lines, backgrounds, setting, and heroes all remind you of Inhumans (terrigen mists) and the X-Men (Magneto ideals, subjugating the mutated) comics. There is even a Shield-like organization that appears to clean up the mess after the heroes have finished their work. Believe it or not, American comics are actually quite popular overseas, resulting in a live action Spider-Man show back in 1978 and quite a few manga and anime either inspired or directly connected with American comics (usually Marvel). Because of this direct homage to U.S. superhero comics, I really believe that The Reflection will become a great starter anime for new fans.
As a show, The Reflection works on a few fronts. It is delivering a commentary on society as a whole as well as American culture. The stark, thick lines and simple animation make the show stand out in the current anime market where most shows look to be in the same vein. There is also the story of tightly costumed heroes with different styles- which isn’t the typical sentai trope, though it’s becoming far more common since My Hero Academia become so popular with kids and adults alike. It’s also got bits of humor dispersed in a very Marvel comics kind of way (think Brian Michael Bendis’ Spider-Man).
The first episode throws us into the world without much background, only that a fight in New York City is being broadcast all around the world. There’s a fantastic sequence of action between a man who looks a lot like Man-Bat, a frog-person, and a robotic hero we later know as I-Guy. During the fighting there are ginormous pictures of American flags projected on the buildings in what seems to be a Times Square location, and as the brawl continues the flags are replaced with faces in the crowd, onomatopoeia describing the battle, and even a song that begins to emit from the towers. It’s inferenced that I-Guy was the one performing this light show, and it’s likely that he was attempting to entice cheers and interaction from the crowd by using patriotism as a part of his gimmick.
During miscellaneous cuts throughout I-Guy’s conflict, we are also shown X-On who has the ability to copy other’s powers (and looks very much like X-visor Scott Summers) and a Kitty Pryde-type photographer with the ability to teleport short distances. We are given a bit of an introduction into the world in regards to how these characters meet, their general personalities, powers, and an idea of the persisting villains in this world. It’s actually refreshing to be thrown into the action instead of beginning the series with a focus on the how and why of the situation.
Just before we close out the show with backstory on the Reflection phenomena, our big bads grace us with their presence. A Kitana-looking woman frees her henchmen with her thin, paper-like tentacles. While sits on a rooftop we hear her Magneto philosophy where she sees the growing unrest in between the unaffected and affected by the Reflection. I’m not sure if she sees their powers as the next step in human evolution since they all received these abilities from an encounter of the fourth kind, but I do believe she sees those with powers as above those without. Unfortunately, this opinion does hold some water because those who were affected “positively” by the Reflection are now superhuman in some way- even if that superhuman ability lead to some slight deformation; if you survived the Reflection and received powers, you are stronger than those who did not.
Finally, we are informed about a close encounter event dubbed “the Reflection:” three years ago a strange mist and light rained down across the world without anyone knowing why. It was possibly alien, though it’s completely unknown where, how, and why this phenomena occurred. We are also unsure of how far this spread- was it just in the U.S?
At the end of the day, many people died from the Reflection encounter, while many others have developed mutations. Some people use these mutations for villainous purposes, some heroic. This is a new age of humanity created and affected by some outside force.
The Reflection is a stand out this season, and I really can’t suggest you watch it enough. The first episode a tab rough, but bear with it. With the dynamic camera angles and interesting art style it’s sure to please. I can’t wait to see where this show goes, though I am a little worried it’ll be too closely referencing X-Men to a point where it becomes far too predictable. While emulating comics will garner The Reflection fans big and small, any issues with simplistic story elements or tired tropes will hinder the anime much like those same ideas hinder the U.S. comic industry.