Shelf Life Aoharu x Machinegun
by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,
It's that magical time of Black Friday/Cyber Monday/General Holiday Season sales, and I hope you've already found some good deals if bargain-hunting is your thing. Since I moved into a new apartment a few months ago, I've been buying boring things like a rice cooker and a vacuum cleaner. If you're looking for the most up-to-date anime pricing, it's worth noting that I generally put the new release lists for Shelf Life together on Saturday, so it may be worth double-checking my info against our encyclopedia this week. Whether you're in the middle of a spending spree or just going about your day like normal, welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Aoharu x Machinegun
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Shelf Life Reviews
Gabriella takes a look at Aoharu x Machinegun for this week's review. The series tries to bring some new twists to the "airsoft club" premise, but does it succeed?
When Aoharu x Machinegun first aired last year, the immediate impression it garnered was “Ouran High School Host Club, but with guns.” While that comparison is accurate for the first episode, most of the similarities go away after that. The two shows have the same setup – an androgynous girl is forced to join a playboy's club after being scammed into some debt – but past that, they part ways rather quickly. For one, the host club angle was just an incidental part of one character's backstory in Aoharu, not the permanent setup. It's not a reverse harem – there are only two guys in Hotaru's crew – and she comes around to them very quickly, forgoing her debt as an incentive. The two shows are most similar in their heroines, who both serve as androgynous straight women (in the comedic sense) in a subculture inhabited by strange, eccentric men. Even then, their personalities and character conflicts are very different. Ouran's Haruhi is calm and collected to the point of unflappable stoicism, whereas Aoharu's Hotaru is loud, impulsive, and assertive. And while Haruhi's fellow club members catch wise to her (accidental) crossdressing early on, Hotaru has to keep lying to them about her gender for fear of being kicked out of the club. While the Ouran comparison is useful for describing Aoharu x Machinegun's initial setup, the two shows develop very different conflicts and are completely dissimilar in tone. It also sets tough expectations for Aoharu x Machinegun, because it's nowhere near as interesting or accessible as Ouran.
Once the “like Ouran, but…” angle is gone, Aoharu x Machinegun amounts to shounen-ai/shoujo tropes layered over a fairly realistic depiction of what it's like to play airsoft. We've gotten a few shows like this in the past. Upotte!, Sabagebu!, and Stella Women's Academy represent an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of “guns as sport” in Japan. But while these anime slather “gun fandom” in moe tropes for an audience of otaku, Aoharu x Machinegun is the first I've seen to try and do this for girls, filling a very specific niche. In terms of the airsoft angle, it's actually a fairly realistic depiction of the sport, minus a little bit of anime “power mode” nonsense. The characters spend a lot of time geeking out over actual guns and engaging in tactical battles. I'm not into survival games at all, so none of this did anything for me. However, if you're hankering for a show on the topic, but put off by the moe aesthetic utilized by those aforementioned anime, this might be worth checking out. These are really the only circumstances in which I can recommend Aoharu x Machinegun, which is largely unremarkable otherwise.
In terms of its secondary appeal – shounen-ai and shoujo – the show is lackluster. Aoharu x Machinegun tries to play both genre angles simultaneously. “Girl recruited into activity alongside hot boys” is a textbook shoujo premise, while the guys are quickly paired with each other according to BL seme/uke dynamics. As characters, the boys themselves are pretty cliché. From ToyGunGun, Masamune is a confident playboy with secret abandonment issues, while Tohru is an amalgam of different types of pervert character tropes. (He's sadistic, likes porn, exudes gay panic subtext, etc.) The villain, Midori, is the most unique character – he's a totally well-adjusted and even upstanding guy outside of the battlefield, but he'll sadistically torment people once a game starts up. He isn't made out to be the typical anime sociopath, but rather a nice enough guy with a compartmentalized mean streak.
The heroine, Hotaru, also had potential. She's an androgynous girl who's not only unfeminine, but actively masculine. It's a type that I haven't seen for a romantic shoujo heroine before, and I like it. Her struggle is about wanting to prove her worth as a new member of a group of people who keep getting tied down by their own nasty baggage. This is a promising character arc, but she doesn't have a lot of room to grow before the show reaches its untimely conclusion. The ultimate problem is that whatever potential this narrative does have gets squandered by a “read the manga” ending. While it does reach an emotional climax, no ongoing plotlines are resolved at all. A second season doesn't look likely, so if you're still interested after all this, strap in for a thrilling non-conclusion.
The release's dub is bad, but not in a particularly exceptional way. It's just irritating and hyperactive. Some good actors worked on this – I like Monica Rial and Chris Patton in a lot of things – but here, they seem to have been directed to only ever use one tone of voice for every scene regardless of context. Rial's Tohru warbles out a series of stammering shouts, while Patton's Tohru says everything in this strange breathy whisper. Corey Hartzog's Masamune is just sort of stilted. The best performance is probably Greg Ayres' Midori, whose voice suits the character's affect as a mild-mannered scumbag. Overall, I can't recommend this dub. Otherwise, extras include the usual slate of clean openings and endings, as well as the special 13th episode, which is a comedic OVA.
What else can I say? Aoharu x Machinegun is a dull, inconclusive show for a niche within a niche audience. Are you a fujoshi who likes airsoft? No? Then there's not much here for you. Narratively, the most interesting thing about it is the nonstandard heroine and her fear that her new friends will reject her due to her gender – but even that doesn't get to go anywhere. Although it contains some sparks of promise with a few characters who aren't entirely stereotypes, Aoharu x Machinegun is ultimately my least favorite type of show – boring, incomplete, and made for practically nobody. Skip.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Emma:
"Hello my name is Emma and I'm 17. I always feel intimidated when others who are age 30+ send photos of their massive collections (which usually contain classics from before I was even born). Since I'm only a 17 year old girl who's still in her last year of high school, I can't really binge buy (also because I spend money on expensive makeup and clothes like any other ordinary girl). I think I started collecting anime blurays/DVDs around 2014 but other anime merchandise since I was in 1st grade with my scarce birthday money. That brings me to the point that Naruto, Pokemon, and other mainstream anime were the first I watched on Toonami and 4Kids. They would air anime either really late or early in the morning so I would miss important episodes. But also my small mind sometimes couldn't comprehend what was happening, prompting me to ask my brothers. This made me despise some shows like Fullmetal Alchemist (which is now one show I really love) because it was so confusing! Then on one of my birthdays, I got my own laptop leading me to branch out on my own and watch anime like Death note, Ouran HSHC, Pandora Hearts, and Higurashi. So over the years I started to watch more realizing that I've seen and completed 300+ anime. That may not seem significant since I am still young but I'd like to think so. Hopefully next year when I go to college, I can still keep buying anime somehow!"
Looks like you're off to a great start! I see a lot of good shows on those shelves, and you definitely have a more extensive collection than I had when I was 17. Thanks for sharing!
Want to show off your own collection? Send me your photos at [email protected]. Let's see some of those loot piles from all the big sales this year!
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