This Week in Anime
Appare-Ranman Is Off to the Races!

by Nicholas Dupree & Monique Thomas,

One of the many productions delayed due to COVID-19, P.A. Works' Appare-Ranman! is back in full force. If you've been sleeping on this series, you're missing out on one of the best ensemble comedies of the year. See why Nick and Nicky can't get enough of Appare and Kosame and their race across the wild, wild west!

This series is currently streaming on FunimationNow!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Nick
And now, here they are! The most daredevil group of daffy dorks to ever whirl their wheels in This Week In Anime! Competing for the title of the world's weebiest racer. The cars are approaching the starting line: The first up is the NICKel & Dime Coup driven by the Nefarious Nerds Nicky & Nick. And awayyyyyyy they go!
Nicky

Hold on to your butts to the rest of you non-samurai folks cuz today we'll be covering the outrageous racing series: Appare-Ranman!
It only took, oh, 5 months and a plague-related delay, but it's finally here! Just up front, I've also been handling the episode reviews for this show so if you'd a more formal collection of my thoughts, go there. In short though, Appare-Ranman! is a super fun show that I look forward to every week, and please do not ask me to explain its character designs.

God, the character designs, you can give or take some of the racial-ized theming but at the very least they're all equally weird and NONE OF THEM are explained.
I'm of two minds on them. On the one hand, I'm all for a variety of silhouettes and styles to give these often larger than life personalities equal visual panache. On the other hand, holy shit it's a choice to have your only black character wear a noose around his neck in the early 1900s. But on the third hand, TJ is still cool as all fuck.
It would be worse if the narrative wasn't totally dedicated to making me love every single one of these dorks.
That's the beauty of AR. It lures you in with the premise of Anime Wacky Races, and then blindsides you with the ensemble comedy of the year.
Also even more ironic that one of the best dorks is actually the one technically dressed the most sensibly...as sensible as a regular Japanese swordsman in 1900s United States can get.
Hey, Kosame didn't ask to be isekai'd into the wild west. He kinda just stumbled into it when this mad scientist twerp shenanigan'd his steamboat into crossing the Pacific.
One day Kosame was just minding his own business swinging a wooden sword as you do and the next day they're lost at sea with no food or supplies lookin' like a couple of turkeys.
Also, again, don't ask me what those marks on Appare's mouth are. It's been 10 episodes and I still have no clue.
It's Kabuki make-up that apparently NEVER WASHES OFF. Just like Jing Xianlian's permanent eye make-up that she doesn't take off even when she goes to sleep.
Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's a serious but conveniently confined skin condition.
Anyways, Appare and Kosame get picked up by a wandering steamboat, which immediately brings into question wtf is a language barrier in this show anyways, and end up AAALLL the way across the ocean to Los Angeles with no money and therefore no way to get back home.
Listen, don't try to make too munch sense of AR's world. I'm still not sure what time period this is supposed to be, and the answer is it's in Fantasy Western time where there are still cowboys but also portable boombox record players.
CORRECTION: A BOOMBOX THAT PLAYS RAP AND JAZZ MUSIC COMBO
So yeah, any verisimilitude went out the window by the time I saw Appare on a battle segway in the OP. Now I'm just along for the ride.

Specifically a cross country ride in a steam-powered car made out of a boat.
I mean, how else is a aspiring young engineering genius supposed to make a ludicrous amount of fat cash overseas in a relatively short period of time? The stock market? Patents? Booooriiiing. This strangely-dressed boy is gonna stumble into Thomas Edison's humble abode unannounced via pack mule FOR NO REASON, instead.
It's actually for a very important reason: so Edison can steal yet another "invention" from somebody else.

But yeah, what follows is some cartoon hijinks that's somehow only enhanced by the (relatively) grounded character and world animation. There's something just supremely charming about how this show mixes familiar, broad humor with just enough deadpan to make it work. It helps that while the cast is awash in differing personalities, almost none of their banter is ever mean spirited.
Despite how sketchy some of them look, many of the opponents get chummy with each other pretty quickly! Which is pretty fortunate for our duo because they need all the help they can get building a vehicle from scratch to race across a totally unfamiliar country, all the way from LA to the Big Apple!!
Their first and greatest ally is Hototo, a little boy whose design first made me cringe out of my skin, but his personality won me over the minute he told Kosame to piss off.
Hototo agrees to be a guide for ole Lewis and Clark here in exchange for helping the youngster find and get revenge on the mysteriously tattooed man who murdered his father and took their land.

Tbf I wasn't quite sure where they were gonna go with Hototo's whole FOR HONOR plot but I'm really glad he has great rapport with the rest of the cast on top of being cute to boot.

Also: they would literally starve without him.
Oh right, yeah. So AR isn't entirely separate from reality. While its storylines aren't grappling with the kind of institutionalized racism and sexism of the US during...well always really, it does at least acknowledge those things were factors. So even if Hototo's backstory isn't about the US government uprooting Natives, it's still acknowledging the abuse First Nations folk faced in some fashion.
Yeah, the other character who deals with that is Xianlian, a Chinese-American woman who wants to be the first female driver. While she's got some Chun-Li elements here and there, the show does a really good job of making you root for her to prove she's a worthy rival and racer.

I point this out because I think any other anime would treat these characters as a sideshow, their unique stories on their own but the show goes beyond these characters struggles in order to really make you care about them and feel like they're good friends.
Much like Hototo's story Xianlian's is certainly simplified - it amounts to like 1 misogynistic prick who thinks women can't drive, and a bunch of her coworkers who immediately admit they're wrong and decide to never be sexist again when she proves them wrong. But as a way of establishing both her motivation and her dynamic with the rest of the cast, it works well. Also Kosame is totally smitten.

I have to agree with Kosame.
Gotta love a woman who can kick a dude's mustache off.
Or one that knows how to play Mario Kart before video games are even invented yet.
So yeah, AR isn't exactly pushing boundaries, but it offers just enough of a grounding force to the cast to make them lovable. Though Al could maybe learn to keep his mouth shut sometimes.

Careful dude, she will kick your pasty white ass all the way back to Britain.
Speaking of grounding, I think it's time we start talking about the cars. Al here is actually the wealthy prince of a European company called BNW, the WacDonalds of European manufacturing. BNW is also one of the three big companies invested in the race.
Yeah it turns out this whole race is a big excuse for car manufacturers to show off their cars and...I guess kick off the infrastructural design of the US as a country to revolve around cars. Which is gonna turn out real bad for the environment in a century or so but for now it sounds real cool.
I guess that's also part of what makes Appare's weird bulky hybrid steam-punk engine so interesting! He's not quite a Senku Ishigami for me, but he invokes the same kind of spirit and sense of adventure that science has to offer. Also, they both want to go to the moon.

Someone please tell me who they think would win a science battle, I am waiting.
Something I dig about Appare is that while he does fit the mold of the eccentric, logic-driven inventor character, it's clear that's more of a coping mechanism for not being great with talking to people. At his heart, Appare is just as hot blooded and emotional as any other member of the cast.
Anytime he has the chance to be an asshole, they totally turn it around right when you really expect him to go through with it even if it's an ultra-risky move. That kind of crazy-gamble is the stuff that really make him feel like a hero among the cast on top of the ability to calculate the trajectory of a bunch of oncoming rocks about to crush their heads.
I also love when he basically makes up excuses for why it's the "logical" thing to do the right thing. Hototo's gone missing right before the next leg of the race? Oh no, I just so happen to need to tune the engine before we leave. What a coincidence!
Kosame also pretty much says it best, even though he makes all these wild claims he's not at all bluffing about his abilities or his determination.
It's a smart way of making our main group feel like a real found family, especially contrasted with the even more out-there weirdos they're racing against. Like TJ.
You forgot TJ's Boyfriend, Dylan. They're two of the gunslingers labeled with the title The Thousand Three.
I just love how other extended cast members have tragic backstories or surprising reveals, and then TJ is just...TJ. He's here for a good time, not a long time, and if that includes getting in gunkata fights with his alcoholic ex then all the better!
Dylan is pretty strapping, at least.

Literally.

Where he's from they call him GunTits McGee
Though I think my favorite of the Thousand Three is the wonderfully named:

Or rather, the guy who bluff checks his way into being Gil for a few episodes before revealing himself to be a towering, buff Disney Princess.
Surprised how much of these villainous gunslingers are great with kids.
Don't let the Bad Brothers' name fool ya folks, these are Grade A Good Brothers.
They're good hombres. Even though they literally tried to get everyone killed.
Now now, they just wanted to blow up a few cars, and if somebody died well that's their fault for not dodging dynamite better. Though them being thwarted doesn't mean this race doesn't have a body count. Cuz it turns out the REAL Gil T. Cigar sent some pals to interrupt everything, and in the process gives us the best episode of the show so far and proves that Kosame is absolutely Best Boy.
Again, strangely in this big cast of Whacky and Fun characters, the real strength of the show is making this everyman steel-wielding meathead stand out with the rest of them. Kosame is not only great to be a straight-man or a butt-monkey depending on the situation and it's still GENUINELY FUNNY (a rarity in anime, I know), he's also capable of being this really strong and heart-felt emotional center for the other characters.
Also let's be real. You put a samurai in the wild west. The one fucking thing every person watching wants to see is a sword vs gun standoff. And by god Appare-Ranman! delivers.

I don't even care that that's not how shotguns work. That fucking RULES.
Which is why it's all the more severe when Kosame TAKES A FUCKIN' BULLET for his pal in his own squishy center.
Ah shit, that's right. The REAL Gil The Snake shows up to interrupt the Heavyweight Title Match race and fucks everybody's shit all the way up in the process.
And wreck shit he does, I'm certain this was all of our faces rubbernecking the whole disaster.
He really is just the perfect wrestling heel. His motivation is technically money, but you can tell immediately that he's really doing it for kicks. Even as he'd dodging bullets he never loses that smug ass grin and gravel-throated Kenjiro Tsuda growl.

Just look at that asshole with his arrogant butt chin and evil sharingan. God I want Daniel Bryan to come out of nowhere and suplex him.
There's a couple things I want to happen to Gil but I can't really describe them without making the column X-rated. But man, watching him come out of nowhere and fucking stomp on everything for chaos is one of the most fun things about watching a series while it's still going.
But as you mentioned it's not JUST beat down. Because in maybe the most shocking twist in the show so far, it looks like for once Hollywood gunshot wounds didn't apply.

There's still maybe some wiggle room for obfuscation, but by the looks of everything at the end of episode 10, Kosame's fucking dead and I'm pretty sure even Appare can't figure out how to frankenstein him back.
What's this cast of wacky weirdos supposed to do when you kill their everyman, I don't even know? But the show has actually done a good job of dealing with some themes about loss and trying to protect those you care about in the way good anime does. So I'm pretty excited to see how the show plans to fuel these emotions for a spectacular race to the finish.
I'm still a little suspect that they'll pull some switcheroo on us at the last minute, but that's mostly because I've been burned like that before (Hey, Listeners) but with just 3 episodes left AR has easily become my most anticipated show of the season, and a contender for my favorites of the year.
AR has easily speed one of my top spots in an actually pretty good season and not just because mostly everything else got delayed due to the world burning. If you haven't checked out the show already, I highly recommend you hop on it and let it drive it's way into your heart.
It's not revolutionary, but it's excellently executed, broadly appealing comedy and action that I find really charming. I mean, just look at this tiny girl made of ribbons and frills toss back tequila. How can you say no to that?

It's just a good and fun ride the whole time. Full Steam Ahead!!

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