Anime Review: Back Arrow – Is It That Bad?

Oh so my name’s Back Arrow?

If you recalled, 2020 ended with some MASSIVE announcements. Dozens of mecha series will premiere – both original and sequels and adaptations – and we will get at least 1-2 shows each season. 2021 is an exciting and explosive year – but it also means steep competition if you want to stand out and make a long lasting impression and potentially getting a sequel or something. Unfortunately, Back Arrow didn’t manage to accomplish that – despite it being the opening volley of 2021 – premiering on 8 January, it started the mecha wave of 2021. Even more, it features some extremely heavy-hitting production staff, including Goro Taniguchi (Code Geass, SCryEd), Kazuki Nakashima (Promare), and Kohei Tanaka (Sakura Wars, Brave series).

Back Arrow features a blank-slate protagonist – who suddenly was dropped into a strange world with no memories, no knowledge of anything and, on top of all, no clothes. He is no different from a wild, naked monkey that descended upon the village of Edger – a poor village caught between the power struggles of powerful nations. The protagonist may have no property to his name, but what he does have is a fiery heart and fighting instinct – as he saved the Edger village from soldiers. He took the phrase “bakayaro” and turned it into Back Arrow as his name and began his journey to protect his friends and their village, as well as finding out who he is and the truth of this world – a world surrounded by insurmountable walls.

In terms of plot, it is quite a unique concept. Presenting a new and unique world is a difficult task to pull off. However, Back Arrow had 24 episodes to pull it off – which is definitely more than enough. The world of Lingalind certainly has its idiosyncrasies – however, it still has many stereotypical elements from classic medieval-ish series – we have powerful dictator nation, and a peaceful nation, a neutral nation, we have vastly different terrains, but nothing too surprising. It’s like Taniguchi and Kazuki took ancient China and Egypt and just throw them into a blender. Although the basic premise are quite “textbook”, the interaction between the power-that-bes as well as the “higher power” makes the series quite interesting. As we’ve mentioned many times before, conventional and traditional stuff can be good if done right.

Back Arrow’s progression is quite similar to an JRPG game – like a Tales of game for example. You started out small, saving villagers, kicking some bandit asses, then it escalated into taking on an entire regime with scheming officials and fighting a war involving the armies of two nations, and finally, you guessed it! Taking on God – the creator of this “world”. The first few arcs are quite nice, however, the ending arc is a bit “confusing” in terms of conclusion. As we learn a lot about how Linggalind works, but not its true nature and how it relates to the “outside world”. The ending left a lot to interpretation and I guessed the creators banked on it getting a continuation, but sadly it was never meant to be. They have exhausted the potential of the world but didn’t tie the last knot that could have made it much more fulfilling.

Back Arrow includes many characters with large impact

[Back Arrow – aka Bakayaro!!]
Back Arrow is the namesake character of the show – so he naturally get the most development. Although it is easy to cram a lot of development into a literal “blank slate” character. He also falls into the category of “child of god” character – where he was intentionally sent to this world to unmask its secret. He started out with a very typical reckless and positive attitude, believing that he can just wing it no matter what happen. Although he did have a unique subversion – to fight in this world, one needs resolve to manifest a BriHeight – the main fighting mecha of this series – but Back Arrow is literally a blank slate and he hasn’t got any real purpose to pursue. And so he did the sensible thing that any shounen protag would have done in that situation – resolve to protect his friends…not. Back Arrow just went “My resolution is that I have no resolution” and just transform into a BriHeight anyway. It certainly is a good way to subvert expectation since everyone was expecting a Code Geass style or something.

No matter, Back Arrow was able to establish a great initial rapport and an interesting premise for viewers to follow. Soon after, he slowly discover more about human relationship and what it means to live by your own will. Furthermore, he started out as a “bakayaro” – basically a guy with no knowledge about how things work, especially the politics of Lingalind and how the world works. But with each adversaries faced and allies gained, he slowly grasp more and more knowledge. Shu Bi – a character we will discussed below – played a huge role in helping him developed, as well as other characters.

[Kai Rhodan]
The Char to Back Arrow’s Amuro. Kai is Back Arrow’s antithesis. He is also a brash and reckless guy, who believe in “might makes right”. But instead of deepening relationships and finding out the truth, he was chasing after military strength. But after some time, even he was starting to change. His fondness of his deputy – Ren Sin – allow him to see through the need for strength – because she too was blinded by it.

Kai also has the advantage of being close friends with Shu Bi – a genius tactician. Although he is sometimes used in Shu Bi’s scheme instead, but thanks to that, he began to change his mindset and began to question everything – especially his Emperor’s creed of ultimate strength. As a rival to Back Arrow, he made a nice to push each other further. His BriHeight is also a perfect opposition to Back Arrow’s Muga.

[Shu Bi]
No doubt the saviour of the series. As the series go on, Shu Bi is the person who pushes the plot forward the most. He basically plays for both teams to satisfy his curiosity to find out the truth of Lingalind – which is no doubt the overarching “purpose” of the series. His high IQ and his skills of getting his way with everyone really remind us of the charismatic tactician Lelouch – which is probably Taniguchi’s idea.

Shuu isn’t a man of action, but rather clever words. He acts as the exposition of the series, figuring out secrets and facts from hints scattered, giving us the lore of Lingalind and its people. He also become the “instigator” of character development, especially for Bit, Back Arrow and Kai. His words seems nonchalant, but subtly stir up determination from the aforementioned characters, spurring them into action and clear their doubts for them. It is hard to gauge his importance, since he isn’t a main character, but his contribution to the plot and development is abundant than most. It isn’t wrong to say he carry most of the show.

[Elsha & Atlee]
The main “heroines” of the series. Elsha and Atlee both have very distinct personalities, but they still follow an “archetype”. Elsha is the tomboy (I mean, she dresses like a cowgirl), and Atlee is the deredere gentle type. Even so, they didn’t get much screentime nor highlight. Elsha was indifferent at first, but she slowly grew fond of Back Arrow, and Atlee is fond of him from the start. And most of their development involve helping him by doing some support work. It’s a shame since their BriHeights aren’t bad in design and gimmick, but they are very under-utilized.

[Zetsu Daidan]
The “antagonist” for most of the series. Zetsu Daidan is Master Asia on steroid, mixed in with F91’s Iron Mask’s ambition but without the pathetic cuck part. He’s an old man alright, but he’s a fiery one. He’s undeterred by everyone and made his ambition known far and wide. Even so, he inspires his soldiers who serve him. Of course, his motto and resolution is “Might makes right!” which Kai used to looked up to. He is the Emperor that everyone admire and fear. Furthermore, he’s just so natural about expressing his strength that it makes him quite charismatic. One cannot help but chant “Zetsu! Zetsu! Zetsu Daidan!” in his presence. A very typical but very fun antagonist to watch on screen.

[Supreme Rudolf]
The “Oracle” of the series – Rudolf is basically an agent of Lingalind’s creator – able to arbitrate events and pulling the strings behind all the major events. Being voiced by the charismatic Shinichiro Miki really gives him an intimidating aura. Really, I don’t know if Shinichiro Miki is suited to a heroic playboy type or the sinister villain type – maybe both. But he at least acted as a good trigger for Back Arrow and his team to peer beyond the veiled wall of Lingalind.

[Bit Namital]
An honorable mention for me. Bit is basically the original village idiot where he’s a scaredy cat and want to find the cheapest way out. Basically Saji Crossroad. His character arc did took a while to bear fruit but it was very satisfying. This also remind me of Vandread where the scaredy cat turns out to be the battleship helmsman. Bit turning the entire Edger battleship into a BriHeight is an awesome moment – remind me of the Arc Gurren Lagann.


We got a decent mix of 3D and 2D. The BriHeights are CG and move very fluidly, makes sense since they are very much their users enlarged like Ultraman. Back Arrow’s BriHeight – Muga – is a martial art type with some special abilities like Kameha…I mean energy blasts. There are some G Gundam moment where he unleashes a flurry of kicks and punches, which is quite satisfying to watch since they have a certain weight to them. Kai’s BriHeight is more for the flashy fire effect type. And of course, Zetsu’s explosive BriHeight is no slouch. He basically represent the “old man an shounen anime” tropes and just wreck stuff all over the place.

BriHeight combat is similar to martial arts CQC, as well as fantasy JRPG fight. Some BriHeights can fly, shoot energy projectiles, or even create illusions and clones etc… It is definitely a mix of G Gundam and Granbelm or RayEarth. The combat scenes where they mix 2D character and 3D BriHeights are very well done and doesn’t feel off at all. In terms of animation quality, Back Arrow is definitely above average.

Hang on to your seats when you hear who’s designing the BriHeight – it’s Master Hidetaka Tenjin. That’s right, another star joined the staff as mecha designer. The illustrious and phenomenal artists who designed a plethora of Gunpla and Macross boxes, illustrations and art. It really surprised us that he was the designer for the BriHeights as most of his work are illustrations of existing design. This is the first time Master Tenjin has been named a lead mecha designer, and he did a fine job at it. The design remind me of Tekkaman Blade, but with more shiny clear parts. The BriHeight reflect the users and Back Arrow’s BriHeight is…well, just a giant dude – cause he’s just a guy. But over time, his form evolved and unlocked more abilities as time go by. There are no specs sheet for his BriHeight so the abilities he gained are quite random, but it always help to save the day.

Kai’s BriHeight is a general style, just like himself. The one with the most impact on me is definitely Zetsu and Prax. Zetsu’s is the embodiment of “don’t mess with the old badass”. Like Captain Yamamoto or Master Asia, his BriHeight is ver…reserved and elderly, carrying a majestic aura but when he “awakens”, it’s all hell break loose. Prax’s BriHeight is an elegant sky-knight. One of the most “mech-like” BriHeight in the show. The funnel fan in me really like her fighting style and aesthetic.

Back Arrow is packed with magnificent talent – like LiSA, Eir AOI and Flow. The OPs and EDs are very good on their own. However, they didn’t strike me as a breakthrough OST as the promotional material claimed to be. The songs remind me of Code Geass – but the stories and characters aren’t up to that hype, so it kind fell a bit flat.


All in all, Back Arrow is a star-studded series with a lot of talents in all areas – however, they played it too safe by making the series predictable and stereotypical. The characters are quite one dimensional, even though their development is adequate, but they don’t branch out from the formulaic style. But sometimes, it’s still entertaining to watch the most textbook of series – and Back Arrow is just that. Enough brain-teasers mixed with some great action, Matrix plot with fantasy elements. The mecha design is unique and the soundtrack is adequate. The series is definitely a missed opportunity due to many factors – but definitely not because it was “bad”. If you want a simle series to chill with, then Back Arrow is a good choice.

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