The Winter 2016 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Rainbow Days ?
What is this?
Natsuki Hashiba has been struck by cupid's arrow...on Christmas! Known by his three friends as Nat-chan, the sensitive soul fell in love with a girl handing out tissues in a Santa suit on Christmas night, so he gave her the muffler he was planning to give his ex before she dumped him. Ever since then, she's been wearing the scarf around everywhere, so Nat-chan is beginning to wonder if she shares his passionate feelings. However, his mischievous buddies Mattsun, Kei-chan, and Tsuyopon aren't the types to let him drift away so easily, so they decide to do everything in their power to give him a hard time about all those butterflies in his stomach. Rainbow Days is based on a manga and can be found streaming on Funimation, Sundays at 10:30 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
Rainbow Days is an inoffensive, by-the-books shojo entry starring four good-looking (although not particularly distinctive) male high school friends who hang out and maybe dabble in a bit of romance with their female classmates. The recently dumped Natsuki is pining after his newly discovered paramour except he doesn't know her name and he's pretty sure she's having an affair with the math teacher. The episode chronicles his attempts to discover her name and if his suspicions are true, all the while making a fool of himself.
The plot is serviceable and light. This isn't Peach Girl-style high drama where one of the buddies develops a drug problem or gets an underage girl pregnant. The boys are cute enough, Natsuki is endearing, and the animation is just competent enough to be unremarkable. Characters stand in a line to talk to one another, appearing exactly at waist level. Every once in a while, a shot changes to a single face before going back. There is no interesting camera work to give scenes a sense of depth or goofy reaction shots to punctuate the show's jokes.
Much of the humor is pulled from schadenfreude at Natsuki's expense as he fails, repeatedly, to properly read situations. He attempts to save the girl he likes (known only as Matsunaga) in the midst of kabe-don with two intimidating foreigners. He pulls a classic "get away from my girl" line that is coolly shot down when she explains that the two men don't speak English. His friends snicker along as audience stand-ins, but this didn't subvert the trope enough for me to get a good laugh, possibly because of delayed comedic timing. Your mileage may vary from mine.
Nothing is trying especially hard here to be outstanding, but nothing is glaringly bad either. I suspect this adaptation was partially greenlit to serve as a promotional tool for the lead voice actors, evidenced by the 13-minute run time and the second-half voice actor segment. Audiences could watch this show for some light romance or to pick their “best guy,” although the latter is a little difficult given how generic the character personalities are.
Alright, Rainbow Days. I wasn't bored by HaruChika. I wasn't bored by Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. I wasn't bored by Nurse Witch KOMUGI R. All of these shows have been accused of feeling boring and pointless by plenty of other folks, but I didn't have that specific issue with any of them. But my god was I absolutely, thunderously, excruciatingly BORED by you. (Stop crying in that screencap! You need to hear the truth, Rainbow Days!)
If you'll forgive the expression, Rainbow Days is basically fujoshi fodder with the nuts cut off, which means it does absolutely nothing for me. Cute-boys-doing-cute-things shows should be campy. They should be trashy. They should be saccharine. They should be goofy! They should be fun and attempt to elicit some emotion from the viewer other than placid mush-mouthed marketability, and in case the second half of the series being a live-action talk-show platform for the voice cast didn't tip you off, Rainbow Days is not making even the slightest effort to shield its nature as a vehicle to sell character goods. Nothing about it is funny, nothing about it is aesthetically engaging, nothing about it is dramatically involving, it's just a big plate of flavorless mush where generic-looking boys talk to each other about one of them maybe starting up a generic romance.
The fact that it's 13 minutes long isn't an excuse. This season already has a surprising number of anime shorts with a ton of personality, from Please Tell Me! Galko-chan to Sekko Boys. (Both are shorter in length than Rainbow Days.) I'm not giving this a 1 because there was anything outlandishly bad about it. I just have to give it a 1 because there was nothing in it that succeeded as entertainment to me, and I can't think of anyone I would recommend it to. Even Prince of Stride, which I wasn't impressed with either, would probably be worth a look for plenty of fangirls. Rainbow Days was just a sad soggy sugar-free void.
Unrelated to anything, the show's opening premise also gave me some unfortunate flashbacks to Itsudatte My Santa. We definitely started this relationship on the wrong foot, Rainbow Days.
Review: Rainbow Days is one of these bishonen series where four pretty boys just hang out and have fun. Hence the main attraction to it is its character designs and the basic, clearly-defined personalities of its male characters, which all fit common genre stereotypes. On those fronts the series should have no problem attracting and keeping its target audience.
What gives the series at least some hope of having appeal beyond its target audience is that its first episode is actually rather funny. Natsuki seems like he should be the kind of guy who would have no trouble with women, and yet he finds himself bumbling around trying to find and get the attention of a quiet girl he first meets when she's passing out advertising freebies and later in his school's Math Prep Room and at a karaoke parlor. Though his friends encourage him, they are almost no help, and in fact seem inclined to entertain themselves with watching his bumbling. The way they take advantage of his problems for their own delight, and the way Natsuki puts himself in some awkward situations by misinterpreting circumstances, is where the humor can come into play (as well as Natsuki's own mortified reactions), but the friends are definitely more playful than mean-spirited about it. The one possible serious plot thread is whether or not the girl in question actually has a relationship with the Math teacher (who is one of the other boy's elder brother) like Natsuki seems to think, but this show is so light-hearted so far that I am sure that will turn out to be innocuous.
The other potentially interesting factor is that the closer suggests that, before everything is said and done, each of the boys is going to have his own turn wooing a girl. Given the personalities of some of the other boys, that could have some lively consequences. The character designs for both genders are pleasing, too, and the overall bright look of the series (especially when watching it right after one of the season's darker offerings, as I am doing with Schwarzes Marken) gives it a cheery feel. This is definitely a fluff piece, and its humor is nowhere near on a Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun level, but hey, it's only a 13 minute time investment.
Accompanying the animated half is a live-action half featuring the series’ lead seiyuu. It pretty much plays out like a typical DVD/BR extra, and this first one at least provides no real insight into the series beyond the fact that the seiyuu are happy to be repeating their roles from previously-produced drama CDs. You won't be missing much if you skip it.
I wasn't really sure what to expect going into Rainbow Days, but “pleasant, inoffensive banter between four close friends” certainly isn't the worst outcome. Rainbow Days’ thirteen minutes of runtime (eleven minus opening and ending) doesn't really leave time for introductions, and so this first episode basically just rambles straight into its slice of life-slash-mild romantic comedy plot, with protagonist Natsuki immediately falling in love with a girl in a Santa outfit and his three male friends giving him well-deserving grief about it. And that's basically all that happens here - Natsuki pursues and then discovers the name of the girl he's crushing on, they cross paths a few times, and Natsuki makes a fool of himself trying to get closer, all while his friends offer bemused commentary on the whole situation.
As far as low-key shoujo goes, Rainbow Days is reasonably endearing, even if it somewhat lacks in hooks. Its very brief running time leaves it almost stranded between a short and a full-length production, and this episode feels like it ends just when things are going to start happening. The production is also pretty bottom-of-the-barrel; the character designs are simplistic and often off-model, there's almost no animation, and the direction and backgrounds are totally flat. It's staged like a basic sitcom, or (more probably) a manga with boring layouts, with basically every shot capturing the characters from straight-on at a middle distance, and very few visual effects or even silly faces to add much variety to the mix. The voice actors do some work to liven up the show's few jokes, but for the most part, this feels like a fairly perfunctory adaptation designed mainly to point people towards the source material.
That said, I didn't dislike my time with Rainbow Days. It was too brief to be boring and pleasant enough, and the four central friends have a nice existing relationship. I like that the premise means these characters already know and like each other, and that their friendship is apparently one of the cornerstones of the narrative (as opposed to many romcoms, where any same-sex friends are generally just occasional cheerleaders for the protagonists’ fumblings). The characters aren't that enthralling, but they like each other, and that's something. That slight innovation isn't enough to keep me watching what looks to be a fairly mundane story without any aesthetic strengths, but it did make Rainbow Days an easy enough watch for one episode.
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