The Spring 2021 Preview Guide
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Fairy Ranmaru ?
What is this?
This world is all about do or die. There ain't no paradise. You go down once and you're out. This world is filled with people who suffer believing that. Hey, you there. Are you really going to pretend not to notice? We, however, cannot do that. Let us wipe away your tears. We'll put that smile back on your face. But it's not going to be for free. Please come by Bar F. Have no fear. We don't need any money. There's only one thing that we want... "We'll take your heart!!"
How was the first episode?
“What is this?” That is the main question I asked myself again and again while watching this anime. Other questions included “who is it made for?” and “what is its purpose?”
I mean, I understand the basic plot. Five fairies are sent to earth to gather strong emotions and send them back to their queen. But... why are they pretending to be high schoolers? Why do none of the them know how to do their job? Why do they magically transform into completely different-looking people? And why are their costumes more along the lines of the standard female magical girl outfit (sans the skirts)?
Now, this anime obviously looks beautiful, with an astounding amount of detail throughout. Moreover, when it goes full Madoka Magica with cut-out animation in the final battle, it looks more than a little creepy. However, I don't think this is supposed to be a horror anime or even a psychological thriller. The silly costumes, not very intelligent main characters, and off-the-wall setup would be right at home in a comedy, but there's nothing funny in this first episode either (unless buff men in revealing dress-like clothing is the peak of humor in your eyes, I guess). Maybe the fact that it takes itself seriously is supposed to be the joke? I honestly don't know.
This episode is perplexing even if we focus on just its self-contained plot. A girl is being cyberbullied by her crush's ex-girlfriend and is contemplating suicide. Luckily our hero is on hand to go into the shared consciousness between her and the bully and defeat the bully by giving her a taste of her own medicine. Not only is it weird in and of itself, but what's the intended message here? If you don't give into cyberbullying and kill yourself, a magic fairy will come along and solve all your problems by making the bully get bullied instead?
I'm honestly baffled by this show and have no interest to continue watching it. Whatever the target audience is for this one, I am clearly not it.
Anime is no stranger to horniness. But Fairy Ranmaru, this new original Magical Boy anime from the creators of King of Prism, isn't your old garden-variety horny. This show is FUCKY. The main cast is introduced nipples first in the opening scene, lined up and naked before the Queen of Fairies. They all transform into muscular, clearly older bodies, many sporting eye-catchingly prominent crotch bulges. The ED animation features the entire cast naked and strewn up in bondage ropes, including one of them with his entire ass proudly on screen.
I don't want to be reductive and say that sex appeal is all the show is offering, though. It's just the most immediate and easily marketable aspect, judging by all the, y'know, marketing. But at the same time that is also the hump (no, not that kind) viewers will have to get over if you're to enjoy whatever else Fairy Ranmaru has to offer. There's a lot of baldly sexual imagery, subtext, and regular old text in this premiere, and if that's not your bag then you are best looking elsewhere. But if you're into sexy dudes in ludicrous outfits saving the day with the power of love and barely concealed genitalia, you're in for a fun time.
Outside of that, this premiere sets up a fairly standard, but generally intriguing magical boy/girl premise. A quintet of fairies have been selected to set up base in the human world and find hearts in need of saving. A mysterious bad guy lurks in the shadows creating monsters from people's darkest impulses. Cue fancy transformation sequence and a requisite fight. The difference comes in the sheer style oozing from every facet of this premiere. The boys don't just transform, they get a full-on musical number expressing who they are as they fly through space. The monster is more akin to a Witch's Labyrinth from Madoka Magica, a swirling mass of free-association imagery and surreal animation to personify a particular character's baggage. It's a striking, energetic introduction that leaves me genuinely interested to see more of this, outside of just the novelty.
Granted, I'm unsure just how long that style can sustain itself on momentum alone. There does need to be at least a little meat to this story that isn't chiseled onto the abdomens of the main characters, and while not bad, the story this premiere tells is pretty slight. Hopefully that's just a consequence of having to establish the whole premise at once, because otherwise it's a a blast. It's bawdy, ridiculous, and knows exactly what it's doing. With a wink and a crotch thrust, Fairy Ranmaru invites you into its world.
Fairy Ranmaru knows exactly the audience it wants to ensnare, and it's cramming all of the sauciest tricks in the book to set its trap. Here we have a show where a gaggle of frequently nude dudes who also happen to be literal magic faeries are recruited to run a bar on Earth while fighting off the forces of corruption by transforming into even beefier men, all of whom share overwhelming amounts of sexual tension with one another. Fairy Ranmaru even goes out of its way to point out that the boys' restrictions on carnal indulgence only apply to dalliances with the opposite sex, while making sure to give us scenes where one of the boys calls the other beautiful and then immediately proceeds to nosh on a big old carrot. This is an anime that has come to the accurate conclusion that subtext is for cowards.
I have no particular interest in scantily-clad magical boys, at least not in terms of their sex appeal, but I can appreciate what Fairy Ranmaru is selling, here (they even get nipples for their transformation sequences!). My real issues with the show come from its struggles to work particularly well as an interesting take on the usual magical hero trappings. The twisted otherworlds that the fairies fight their enemies in bear an uncanny resemblance to the iconic Witch Labyrinths that Gekidan Inu Curry created for Madoka Magica…except they're less good here. The transformation sequences and action scenes hearken back to similar anime…except less good. Even the big musical number is a letdown, consisting mostly of repeating walk cycles and mediocre music.
What kills the show for me the most is the characters, who feel more like generic pretty boys culled from the Extras pile of an idol anime. They are not even "characters" so much as they are walking golem made up of familiar vocal intonation, fashion sets, and hairstyles. For being the title character, Ranmaru Ai is the worst of the bunch. His usual self is sleepy, detached, and almost monosyllabic. When he transforms, he simply becomes a beautiful but featureless cipher.
At the end of the day, while I wanted to love Fairy Ranmaru, I ended up only finding it okay. For a series like this, I'd want it to blow me away with kickass, campy spectacle. This premiere didn't do a lot to impress me in that regard. Who knows, though? Maybe if the rest of the cast can prove to be a little more interesting, and the drama gets turned up a notch or three, Fairy Ranmaru will settle into a decent groove for itself this spring.
If you went into Fairy Ranmaru expecting something similar to the previous magical boy series Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, I wouldn't blame you. It's not like the genre is a common one, and the human character designs are similar, down to the white gakuran-style school uniforms. You also wouldn't be totally wrong, but not totally right either. It's not totally clear what Fairy Ranmaru is doing right now, but it's clearly a lot.
Maybe not if you just take everything at surface value. The plot is fairly basic: a group of fairies run a bar, attend high school, and help humans in order to collect “attachments.” When they use magic, they transform and use their powers to dispatch bad guys. There are villain-of-the-week episodic stories (this time about a girl getting cyberbullied to the point of being suicidal by her classmate) as well as hints at a larger ongoing plot in the background. Pretty basic stuff, right?
But then you look a little closer, and you see some of the, ahem, artistic choices the show makes. The boys' transformed looks are from a totally different character designer from their day-to-day forms, so they look completely different. Most obviously, their battle looks show a whole bunch of skin, not to mention the muscles under that skin, as shown off in a fully-naked transformation sequence. One of them basically looks like a male Blue Rose from Tiger & Bunny. Also, they have prominent crotch bulges. The beautifully drawn closing animation has a lot of them strung up in shibari-style bondage. So it's not just a silly magical boy show, but also a beefcakey manservice show.
But then! You look even closer (perhaps peeking through your fingers, after being so scandalized by the bulges, of course) and realize there's a lot of Buddhist philosophy packed into the writing and imagery. Their Ten Laws, forbidding them from doing things like getting in relationships with the opposite sex, indulging in addictive substances, or holding grudges, are the same as the ones Buddhist monks must follow. There's also a lot of religious iconography mixed in with the bondage in the ending. I have little more than a base level of understanding of the religion myself, so I can't unpack it entirely, but I also find it interesting that they're fairies, when the fey folk are best known for their amoral, hedonistic culture.
So, yeah, don't be fooled by the absurd premise. There's a ton of stuff happening in Fairy Ranmaru. Will it come together into a cohesive whole, using its imagery and unorthodox design choices to advance its themes? Or will it ultimately turn out to be a big mess with a bunch of stuff thrown together without much thought? I have no idea, but I can't wait to find out!
I…I'm not entirely sure what I just watched. I'm pretty sure it involved a guy in a speedo and chaps at one point, and quite possibly another one in short-shorts fighting the evils of social media with his mighty sword. There was also a ridiculously-named school involved. Welcome to Fairy Ranmaru, everyone.
It isn't hard to guess that this is a magical boys show that's trading pretty heavily in both parody and BDSM imagery, and yes, that's almost as weird as it sounds. The plot follows five fairy men, one from each of the five elemental clans, who are sent to the human realm to capture “attachment” and send it back to the loli queen of Faerie. Attachment to what? Who cares! The show assumes you're here for the attractively muscular young men with prolonged and very naked transformation sequences which include the elusive male nipple rendered in loving detail. Oh, and also to watch them potentially break the Ten Fairy Rules (or at least the eleventh, which as Regency romances put it, is “thou shalt not get found out”), which include things like “love” and “lust” carefully tailored to feed the fujoshi/danshi by specifying that those are only forbidden with the opposite sex! I really have to admire how blatantly this episode goes after its audience.
The story for the episode is an at times uneasy mix of serious and silly. The outright lunacy with which the story progresses throws caution and sometimes sense to the wind, but it also seems to be set on tackling an honest-to-god problem – cyber bullying. The girl of the episode is being attacked on what is quite obviously Twitter as well as through text messages, and the classmate who's orchestrating it is clearly the class popular girl and arbiter of taste for 2-A. When the Main Girl is on the verge of killing herself because of the cyberbullying, Ranmaru (the one in the shorts) flies to her rescue by diving headfirst into what I assume to be the online world that links Main Girl and Mean Girl, and I love the way it looks like a garbage dump filled with words. Then Ranmaru stabs his key into Mean Girl's keyhole and destroys her and I'm back to not quite knowing what to think. I appreciate wanting to handle a serious topic with a dose of scantily-clad male; I'm just not sure how well it comes together.
That almost doesn't matter, because I can already tell that this is going to be my WTF Watch of the season. I may not be sure what this episode really was, but damned if I don't want to see more to figure it out.
The animation studio behind the later seasons of Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is back with a new variation on magical boys in what I can only describe as "fairy guys run a host club while also attending high school and are magical boys." Compared to Cute High Earth Defense Club, Fairy Ranmaru leans more into the beefcake variety and is decidedly more overt in its sexy shenanigans, if such a thing is possible.
Admittedly, the plot basics aren't clear at this point. Neither the participating magical fairy boys (differentiated by element) nor the audience really knows what they're doing on Earth other than collecting "attachment," a sort of overwhelming emotional energy of any sort. I became a little less confused when I realized that the already stuffed premise is also taking notes from Buddhism. I am not well-versed in this area and there are a lot of different factions, but the concept of upādāna (attachment) is considered a hurdle to achieving serenity and enlightenment. Additionally, each episode appears to be named after the carnal sins.
I don't think we're supposed to take this juxtaposition seriously. If anything, it's another layer of silliness on top of the ridiculous sundae. The battle sequences, which I could describe as some kind of metaphysical traveling, seem partially inspired by the Labyrinths of Madoka Magica and the duel opening sequence of Utena. There's a lot of visual interest, an insert song, and then hacking and slashing through a mixed media space dominated by the evils of Twitter. If anything, the most difficult part of watching Fairy Ranmaru is settling on what to gawk at. Is it the over-the-top transformation sequences? The oddly religious subtext? How unapologetically gay it all is? The ending sequence combines classic Buddhist imagery with scores of bondage.
Suffice to say, I'm intrigued, but Fairy Ranmaru already had a full cart at "fairy boys that transform while working at a bar." Add in all the rest and I'm not sure if it'll be able to maintain any sense of cohesion once the novelty wears off.
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