The Fall 2019 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Chidori RSC ?
What is this?
Hikari Kokura just barely made it into Chidori High School, which was her goal since she had heard that it had a Rifle Shooting Club and she adores the sport. However, she quickly learns that the club is being shut down due to a lack of membership. With the help of close friend (and fellow shooter) Izumi, she tracks down the half-Russian Erika and by chance encounters Yukio, two girls whom Hikari had previously competed against in middle school. They agree to help Hikari reconstitute the club. The four girls all swiftly become friends as they practice their shared hobby. Chidori RSC is based on a manga and streams on HIDIVE at 11 a.m. on Sundays.
How was the first episode?
Japan has possibly the most restrictive gun control laws among all democratic countries, but that hasn't prevented series specifically focused on gun use from being a regular occurrence in anime over the years. (And I'm not even counting series where guns are commonly-used as part of a bigger action scenario.) Chidori RSC, which is based on the manga Rifle is Beautiful, is 2019's entry in that class, and it's definitely taking the familiar “cute girls do guns” route.
To be clear, the title doesn't refer to actual rifles or even the airsoft guns which have been featured in previous series like 2013's Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3 or 2015's Sabagebu! It instead refers to a type of laser-target rifle which would probably be commonly-associated with Laser Tag in the West. The first half of the series provides a primer for what is apparently an uncommon but developing sport in Japan, where the lasers are aimed at targets which electronically score on accuracy. The episode even explains the particulars of the uniforms used in the sport and uses their characteristic stiffness for some of its jokes.
For all of that attention to detail, the first episode is much more a sketch comedy than anything else. Though it starts with the premise of the Rifle Shooting Club being shut down, the writing wastes no time on the set-up; the four members of the club are assembled within the first third of the episode and they're already getting down to club business by the 7:30 mark. That's probably because the series has no interest in the drama of club formation; it just wants to get to the jokes as soon as possible. It uses its standard complement of personalities – the Ditz, the Tsundere, Level-Head Girl, and Emotionless Girl – for all sorts of light, playful humor, some of which involves the sport but a fair amount of which would fall into the normal “cute girls do cute things” realm. Some of it is pretty funny, too, especially the scenes where two other characters imagine what Erika is actually like based on her archetype. The humor isn't totally innocent, but what little it has in the fan service vein is very mild.
Beyond the fine attention to equipment detail, the artistic merits are nothing special, so this series is going to ride mostly on the cute/comical interactions of the girls with each other and the sport which gathers them together. The opener suggests that rival teams will pop up eventually, but on the whole the series looks like a light-hearted diversion with enough humor to make it work.
My biggest problem with Chidori RSC has nothing to do with its execution, per se. For a slice-of-life anime about a quartet of girls putting an after school club together, Chidori RSC is about as functional a premiere as you could expect. We spend a few minutes on the obligatory “Will there be enoug members to save the floundering club?” setup, which is brushed aside almost as soon as it is brought up. Then, our bubbly heroine Hikari goes through the motions of introducing the other three girls that we're going to be following, complete with their one-line archetype summary: Izumi is the dependable friend, Erika is the competitive, brash redhead (she looks like she's perpetually cosplaying Asuka from Evangelion), and then there's Yukio, who is the quiet one. She also happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to an Evangelion girl, Rei Ayanami, though it is difficult to say whether her and Erika's designs are deliberate shoutouts or the results of twenty years of character design clichés circling back to their origins, like a moe ouroboros.
Either way, the plot, characters, and production of Chidori RSC are all blandly competent, to the point where there isn't much to say about them. For a slice-of-life show, this amorphousness will either mean the show is totally pointless or agreeably cozy, depending on your perspective. There's occasionally a dovetail into obvious, if tame, fanservice – the girls spend a conspicuous amount of time talking about their boobs, and how much their gun suits make them sweat. Still, if all you are looking for in Chidori RSC is a weekly opportunity to watch a gaggle of girls engage in airy chatter about this and that and the other, then this anime will probably be right up your alley. Personally, these kinds of hangout shows depend on having either a very strong cast or an interesting central hook – or, ideally, both of those things. I couldn't care less about these girls on their own, unfortunately, which means that Chidori RSC's entertainment value for me lies in how much enthusiasm it can have me muster for it's club's core focus: Laser rifle shooting competitions.
I'll be honest: I don't see the point of this pastime at all. I understand that Japan's strict gun control laws mean that anyone interested in recreational shooting is going to need to find creative ways to indulge in the pastime, but even a vehemently anti-gun softboy like me has to wonder what the point of target shooting is when the fake guns you are using are little more than gussied up laser pointers. I might have absolutely no interest in shooting real guns myself, but even I understand that there are mechanics and physical skill that go into firing them. Airsoft and paintball at least retain the knowledge of mechanics, physics, and so on that firing a real gun entails. Even a laser-tag competition requires quick thinking, accuracy, and endurance. These beam rifles, though, just don't make for interesting subject matter for a show. They just quietly stand in one place, hold their breath, and shoot a laser at a target. I imagine it would be more fun to watch them all try to beat each other at playing the old NES Duck Hunt game. Devotees of the genre might find Chidori RSC to be a worthwhile addition to the fall lineup, but more casual viewers would do better to seek out shows with less niche appeal.
Chidori RSC clocks in as our presumably final slice of life show of the season, offering all of the familiarity and charm you'd expect from a mid-tier club show. Centered on the exuberant Hikari Kokura, Chidori RSC's club of choice focuses on rifle shooting, and its premiere offers a familiar but reasonably executed rendition of a staple anime genre.
This episode runs through its “our club is going to be shut down” phase so quickly I almost wondered why they included that conflict at all, before settling into familiar hangout shenanigans starring its four leads. Those leads will likely feel equally familiar; Hikari is the energetic but very stupid leader, Izumi is her level-headed friend, Erika is the proud tsundere one, and Yukio is the quiet blue-haired one. It's abundantly clear that Chidori RSC is based on a four panel comic; there's no real sense of continuity or narrative progression across this episode's scenes, and most skits simply abruptly cut from punchline to a different scene. Even this show's focus on rifle shooting doesn't really separate it from the genre pack; though they spend a great deal of time explaining the mechanics of laser rifle shooting, their hobby mostly just serves as material for gags, rather than a source of drama or character insight.
That said, while Chidori RSC is highly predictable and frankly kind of dull in terms of its writing, it's quite charming in terms of visual execution. Hikari's big ribbons essentially act as expressive rabbit ears, and are matched with her very funny facial expressions to great effect. Expression work is a consistent strength of this episode, and I appreciated the show's regular shifts into various other visual punchlines, like when Hikari responds to disappointing news by actually crumbling like an old statute. Additionally, the overall team develop a reasonably convincing group dynamic across this episode, giving this episode's second half a fairly inviting atmosphere.
Between its stilted scene transitions, uneven jokes, and total predictability of structure and characterization, it's unlikely that Chidori RSC will hold much appeal for non-genre enthusiasts. That said, if you're a fan of club slice of life shows like this, there's also nothing particularly wrong with this one; it's a just-below-average example of the genre in basically every regard. Worth checking out if you're a genre fan, an easy skip if not.
Chidori RSC wins for the show I checked the amount of time left on the most this preview guide. Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for “cute girls” shows, and an even lower one for media that cutseyfies or fetishizes weapons, although I wouldn't necessarily class this show as the latter. That's a point in its favor – although Chidori RSC is about a sport I don't care anything about and does spend most of its first episode reminding us of how adorable its four heroines are, it isn't fetishizing the sport of rifle shooting particularly. It even goes out of its way to remind us several times that the girls are using beam rifles, which fire lasers, rather than live ammunition. That feels a lot less offensive than the premise could have been, and it's certainly something I personally appreciate.
Sadly, that's about all it has going for it. The plot feels very much cobbled together in order to show us how cute and precious the girls are, with the shooting more a method of cuteness delivery than a salient piece of the story right now. To this end it leans on tired old tropes like the girls comparing their breast sizes (maybe it's just my experience, but I've never seen real live females do this) and using that as an excuse for Erika to grope Hikari, or pointing out that Yukio only looks scary because she somehow manages to not let a single emotion cross her face. It's nice that Izumi, at least, has something she likes outside of shooting, but Hikari is such an annoying mix of hoary characteristics that she could be plunked down in any show needing a perky, not-real-bright, clumsy character and fit right in, enormous red hair ribbon and all.
Also an issue is the way that there are virtually no obstacles to anything in this episode. Hikari has no sooner learned that the RSC club has been done away with than she's got enough people to bring it back; when her shooting jacket doesn't fit, Erika just happens to have a closetful of coats that would fit her perfectly. The stakes are incredibly low, and while that may change going forward, it's not doing anything to help this episode drum up my interest in continuing any further.
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