by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Good news: Kosame's not dead! Bad news: Gun shots still hurt a lot. And while Appare-Ranman! has played fast and loose with things before, it at least doesn't pretend that getting a bullet in the gut in the early 1900s is something you just sleep off, as our resident samurai is left clinging to life after nearly bleeding out in the desert. So while the worst tragedy's been averted, Appare himself is left wracked with guilt and shocked by seeing his closest companion nearly give his life for him. This causes a crisis of purpose for the egghead, and in a particularly heartbreaking scene he decides to not fix up their car or pursue Gil. After all, it was his idea to take part in this race to begin with, all because he wanted to show off his skills as an engineer, and so to Appare it's as if he caused everything bad that's happened to them.
Ever the older brother, Kosame manages to help get his friend out of that cycle of blame (after an uncharacteristically cheeky bit of playing dead) through a surprisingly poignant analogy. Seems the hospital they're at has this newfangled medical practice called a blood transfusion, and that's the method that ultimately kept Kosame alive – to use his words, technology and invention put a stop to Gil's power to kill them. For Appare, who's spent his engineering career inventing for its own sake, it's a revelation. Even if he does believe he got them into this mess to begin with, the answer isn't to give up on his passion, but to dedicate that passion to work that can help people. Appare obviously isn't a doctor, but what if he used his mechanical skills to, let's say, repair all the busted cars of the other racers and help them go after Gil to rescue the hostages? That's something he could be proud of outside of just admiring his own work. It's a really sweet through-line that wouldn't feel out of place in Dr. Stone, another series with a dogged determination to always find the humanity in science and invention, and I consider it the standout moment of this episode.
It's not all Appare though, as the other characters are also left reeling and licking wounds after getting stomped by Gil. Al has the most immediate approach: The moment they're back in town he sets to getting his car running again, even if that means no brakes and ramping over a blown up bridge. He stays pretty calm and polite through it, but the fact he's pushing this hard shows just how worried he is about Sofia, which is sweet. Meanwhile Dylan and TJ commiserate over getting their butts kicked, and it's revealed the two were actually partners in crime back in the day, and TJ even had a thing for Dylan's sweetheart Claudine. That both adds a layer of irony to their introductory gun fight back in episode 5 (and TJ's now very questionable line about Dylan's locket making him a “closet pervert” too) and gives the gunslingers just a little more depth. That said I'm not too wild about half the cast now having motivations driven by dead or kidnapped women, and I sure hope that Sofia gets to contribute something to her own rescue mission. You can't tell me someone who can handle 30 shots of tequila can't at least take care of herself in a fight. And amongst all this Seth, the uptight businessman in charge of the whole race, finally returns to his engineer roots to help out too. While he's barely a tertiary character, the moment is indicative of AR's empathy and admiration for even its least important cast members.
Otherwise this is a pretty solid lull point before our big final confrontation with the villains, though as I say that I'm kind of shocked at how little the actual racing part of this show has factored into its overall story or appeal. What we've gotten instead is certainly charming as all get out, so I'm not complaining. Considering the fact that this show was originally conceived as a cross-country golf tournament, it makes sense that the racing is more of a plot vehicle, I suppose. Appare-Ranman! may not be an anime version of Burnout, but if it can stick the landing it'll prove to be a pretty great trip nonetheless.
Appare-Ranman! is currently streaming on Funimation.
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