The Spring 2010 Anime Preview Guide Christopher Macdonald
Apr 11th 2010
Rainbow opens with a disclaimer from the production staff that reads, "We believe that the explicit scenes of this animated work are rather important in bringing ut the atmosphere of this time period." This warning about the brutality that is depicted in the anime is well deserved.
In post-war Japan six teenagers are sent to a juvenile detention facility for violent behavior. From the moment we first see them, when they are shackled, with their faces covered, we know this is going to be a rough story. By the end of the first episode not only is this assumption fact confirmed, but it's driven home with all the discreteness of a high explosive (and by the end of this series I expect a few atomic bombs). It's quickly made clear to us, right before they're savagely violated, that these kids aren't really bad, they're just products of a rotten environment. Several of them are in their current predicament because they attacked adults who were abusing weaker individuals, and others were just petty criminals trying to survive. Once in their group cell, the six boys meet their seventh cellmate, another 17-year-old who has been in the facility for a while. "Bro," as they come to know him, quickly establishes himself as the benevolent alpha-male.
Obviously this is going to be a coming-of-age-under-harsh-circumstances tale. Think of it as a cross between Sleepers and Now and Then, Here and There. It's obvious that our seven protagonists are going to endure horrific situation after horrific situation during their two-year detention, and that through it we'll hopefully be exposed to both the beauty and the darkest corners of the human psyche. I don't expect anything particularly new from Rainbow, but I really want to see it for the particulars. How many of the boys will survive (mostly) intact, will any of them turn into monsters like their captors, what kind of abuse will they be subjected to, will they come up with some sort of scheme to get revenge or escape, or will they just try to survive?
Production values for this show are adequately high. The animation in this show is quite interesting. The opening segment in the bus and just after the "delinquents" exit the bus is exquisite, yet the one and only action scene in the entire episode is about as animated as an old episode of Speed Racer. This isn't to say the scene is poorly animated, but rather the animators made a stylistic choice that would focus the viewers attention from the visual action and to the psychological implications and the ongoing narrative. The art is superb, and highly detailed, but far from gorgeous. Again, a stylistic decision, the production staff are telling a gritty story about abused youth, so there are no pretty boys here, just malnourished, scarred teenagers. I was very impressed by the level of emotion the creators were able to portray in the brown eyes of one of the boys who had the rest of his face covered by a mask.
I have high expectations for this show, but if you're to enjoy it, you best be prepared to see characters that you become attached to subjected to constant physical and mental violation. The protagonists might "win" by the end of this, but it certainly won't be a feel-good story.
Senkou no Night Raid
To be perfectly honest, I'm not yet certain what to think about Night Raid. It's one of those shows that doesn't give a whole lot away in the first episode. The main characters, there appear to be four of them, are a group of super-powered special agents working for the Japanese military in Shanghai during the early part of the Chinese civil war. The first episode focuses mostly on a night-time extraction mission where the viewer gets a glimpse of the agents' special powers. The rest of the episode is mostly dedicated to set-up and well crafted expository dialog that makes it clear that Night Raid is not likely to be a fast-paced, action-only adventure. This is going to be a thinking man's (or woman's) show with deep political intrigue and unexpected plot twists, occasionally punctuated by explosive action sequences.
As necessary for a show of this type, production values are quite good. The character designs make each character look distinct without resorting to foolish hair colors and styles and the art is decent although not mind blowingly gorgeous. Most importantly, when it comes to the aforementioned action scenes, they didn't skimp; everything is fluid the characters and backgrounds are fully animated and detailed. In short, this is a perfect example of how this sort of series should be animated, with most of the animation budget clearly being focussed on the action scenes. This works fine since most of the episode is much more calm and driven by dialog as opposed to action.
Of the four main characters, the one we've been the most exposed to as of episode one is Aoi, a cocky and brash but apparently quite intelligent telekinetic who fits the mold for a lead character quite well. This is not to say that he's a cookie cutter sterotype, but rather that he's likable and has qualities that the show's target audience is likely to be attracted to. In short, he's just the kind of kind we all wish we could be from time to time, and that makes the show as a whole much more attractive to the viewer. Aoi's team-mates, Yukina, Kazura and Natsume have yet to receive much attention outside of their contributions to the mission, but from what little we've seen, each has a distinct personality and hopefully each character will be given plenty of focus during the series relatively short 13-episode run.
It's honestly too early to say if this is going to be a good show or not, but it certainly has a lot of potential and will ultimately be either the highlight of the season or the season's biggest disappointment.
Understandably, many people find the very premise of this show rather disturbing and are unable to look beyond this issue. Assuming, just for a minute, that the viewer can get over their issues with the premise, or is actually a fan of sister complex anime, then this show is ... pretty horrible regardless. The creators seem to have written the script for KissXSis by deciding on a premise, coming up with a list of key events, and then drawing a straight line from A to Z with no thought for story or character development. Speaking of the characters, the main players are the protagonist, Kei who is meant to be your average Japanese high school boy, and his older (step)sisters, Ako and Riko, who are average high-school bishoujo. Aside from the fact that the target audience is supposed to be envious of Kei, the viewer really isn't given any reason to care about what happens to Kei or his sisters. They have about as much depth as a blank sheet of tracing paper. The supporting cast isn't much better. All of Kei's male classmates are average Japanese high-school boys (Just like Kei). His female classmates have a tiny bit of variety, but it's limited to the usual stereotypes (most notable so far were the bashful girl, and the small energetic girl).
There is one attempt at a dramatic moment in the first episode when the sisters try to help Kei, only to have him unknowingly berate them for causing trouble. Kei however conveniently learns of their good intentions and the situation is quickly resolved. Unfortunately the entire situation and its resolution is so superficial that it is about as moving as a clinical analysis of cellular mitosis. The near-complete lack of depth is a critical flaw here, even the most die-hard fan of sister complex anime will probably tire of the repeated OMG!!! AWKWARD SITUATION jokes, so unless real character and story development starts in episode 2, this show is a complete dud.
The only reason to watch this is if you are completely addicted to sister complex shows and are in desperate need of a fix. Even then I would recommend you opt for the withdrawal symptoms instead; KissxSis might provide a quick fix but it will be a bad trip.
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