by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Since the very second in episode 2 where Kosame prepared to unsheath his sword against a group of bandits, I've been waiting for Appare-Ranman! to finally indulge in a Samurai vs Cowboy fight. We've gotten plenty of other silly battles like TJ and Dylan's rooftop gunkata match, and we see Al take on bandits with a rapier in the OP, but by god I want to see a man cut a bullet in half with a katana! Well after weeks of teasing that very idea, along with Kosame's traumatic past, things finally come to a head in “Heavy Rain.” Don't worry, it's way better than the video game you just thought of.
We start out with the principal cast coming upon the main pack of racers who had left them behind last episode, and nearly all of them have been killed stone dead by a group of the real Gil T Cigar's henchmen. Richard Reisman, the friendly guy who's been hanging around since the race started, is conveniently the only survivor. Don't worry, if you've also seen any movie ever and immediately realize how suspicious that is, the show makes sure to reveal his involvement in all this by the end of the episode. Another strong aspect of this episode of AR is that, while the writing isn't smugly self-aware, it's quick to anticipate what most viewers will figure out and is polite enough to not waste our time by dragging out reveals.
For instance, when the crew tracks the attackers to a nearby town and nobody's willing to tell them anything, it's plain to see that Gil's crew have some kind of leverage over the residents. Not two minutes later it's revealed that the sheriff is in fact one of Gil's lackies, and also likely the man who killed Hototo's father. Dramatically it's a little underwhelming to think the perpetrator is just some dude who doesn't even get a name this episode, but it's a suitable enough move in the context of this episode's ultimate conclusion (and also might STILL be a red herring with what we learn at the end of the episode) that getting revenge won't give Hototo the closure he seeks, and that it's the friends he's found that are his real salvation.
And what better way to make that point than to finally give Kosame his time to shine as the kid's new big brother? Our resident samurai's been hinting for a while that he has a traumatic reason for never seriously drawing his blade despite years of training, and we finally get the full story. For reasons he still doesn't understand, his mother was killed before his eyes, and he's spent the rest of his life trying to quell the guilt he's felt over it. It's a pretty well-worn tragedy to fall back on, but I like how much it quietly explains about Kosame's previous characterization, especially with how he's reacted to Hototo and tried to coddle him – he's been there, and wants desperately to protect the kid from doing something he'll regret the rest of his life.
So Kosame does it for him in what has to be the standout action scene of the show so far. Determined to protect his companions, he finally draws his sword in earnest, stills his shaking hands to cut down their attackers, and the result is a joyously earnest and cheesy fight that beautifully mixes samurai film choreography with western film gunslinging. The cherry on top is when it's over and Kosame and Hototo share perhaps their first real moment of vulnerability with one another before returning to needling eachother in a decidedly gentler way. It's all so good I can even forgive this being an episode without almost 0 actual car racing.
And of course there's that end-of-episode reveal that, shock of shocks, Richard Reisman is the actual Gil T. Cigar, and he's been hired by someone to destroy the whole race from the inside. Obviously that's not a huge surprise – you don't get Kenjiro Tsuda to voice a 2-bit nice guy who hangs out in the background – but it's still just wonderful to see him reveal his full-on anime villain haircut and evil-looking right eye. Coming off the back of AR's two best episodes, it makes me very excited to see what this show has up its sleeve next.
Appare-Ranman! is currently streaming on Funimation.
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