- Titles: APPARE-RANMAN!
- Genre: Action, adventure, comedy, drama, historical, western
- Episodes: 13
- Studio: P.A. Works
No one really understands brilliance except the brilliant. Take Appare for example. The man is clearly a genius. He has an agile mind and a bright creative spark. e thinks logically and doesn’t bother with things that superfluous. Why would anyone? And yet this has gotten him jailed in his hometown and now stranded on the other side of the world with his friend Kosame. And the people in America aren’t that much better, assuming he’s a country hick just because he’s broke and eccentric. Luckily Appare is a master engineer and that’s perfect. Because he can get all the money he needs by winning the Trans-America Wild Race. Now he just needs to convert this old boat into a race car, invent a new hybrid engine that won’t need much fuel since they don’t have money, convince Kosame to come along and beat all the other experienced drivers. Piece of cake! Appare should be counting that prize money in no time, that is if he doesn’t get killed first. The wild west can be a dangerous place after all.
Appare-Ranman! was not what I expected at all. I mean, I’m not sure what I expected but I still know it wasn’t that. Going into anime blind has a couple of potential downsides but it’s also can lead to some really great discoveries. I’m not entirely sure I would have picked up Appare-Ranman based on the official summary but I certainly am glad I did. And the joy of having all my expectations upended is a little thrill onto itself. I thought Appare was a girl…
I don’t have much to say about the production. As in, I thought it was great. It doesn’t take many risks but it also doesn’t have to. The source material already had very colourful and varied character designs which really add a lot to the visuals. The car designs are actually great as well. The rest is more conventional but pretty. So when you put it all together, Appare-Ranman ends up being quite a pretty anime with good animation throughout. I have zero complaints.
Similarly, the cast all do great with their characters but no one stands out too much. The music is well chosen and adds to the atmosphere without being all that noticeable and the soundtrack, complete with a wide array of roaring engines is rich and well used.
Appare-Ranman is one f those productions that is good in a classical and efficient way. I can’t point to one thing and say, there, that’s why this show is good but at the same time, it’s definitely an above-average production. Good Job to P.A. Works on this one.
Story & Characters
In early episodes, we see one of Appare’s prize possessions. From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne. I believe the series is set in the early 20th century and Appare being in Japan, a copy of that book might not have been that available. However, it’s particularly significant because Appare isn’t the type of person to care about things like fiction or entertainment. It’s sort of out of character for him to take interest in a made-up story, let alone treasure it. At least at first glance. But this simple scene, in which Appare lovingly wraps the book to take with him, tells us so much about his character. About his love of adventure and his admiration for dreamers. About how deep down, he holds on to the innocent thought of changing the world and shaping it to our desires. It also subtly telegraphs that the entire series is an homage to Verne. It is a re-imagining of 80 days around the world with a lot of similar narrative beats but completely reinvented.
The scene with the book lasts a few seconds, we see the book again only once in the entire series. And Around the World in 80 days is never mentioned. If you get it, you get it. If you don’t then you can still enjoy the ride.
I wrote all that to hopefully give you a sense of what type of show Appare is. It’s a story written by someone who loves stories. It’s full of inspirations and nods to fiction from all over but it doesn’t feel the need to advertise it. And the references are by no means necessary to enjoy the series. It is after all a tight and exciting adventure pretty much from start to finish. But if you want to dig a bit deeper, there is actually something there. I’m saying I had a great time with Appare-Ranman!
The setting is unusual for anime. In many ways, it’s an anime Western. Complete with cowboys, outlaws and train robberies. I think it’s the first time I ever see a representation of the genre in anime so I found it pretty refreshing. Westerns were the action shonen of their time!
But it’s also full of anachronisms and magical steampunk science. Also, none of the main characters are American. Well, Hototo is since he’s native. He is in fact the most American but the rest are Japanese, Chinese American and German (I think). That’s pretty rare for a western. They weren’t super known for inclusion.
I did mention that I liked the character designs. and I really do. But they take some getting used to. You see, as I said, the cast is very multi-cultural and they really want to bring that across in the costumes. Like Oh boy!, are those on the nose. They look like the village people or something. In the design characters like Hototo and Xialian Jing give the impression of people that have gone to party city and bought the “Indian boy” and “China girl” Halloween costumes. It’s pretty ridiculous.
I think it’s important to point out that there is a difference between well-meaning exaggeration that may look a little shortsighted and actual harmful portrayals in media. Hototo looks like a parody of a Native American, Xialian of a Chinese woman, Al of Anglo Saxon Europeans and Appare and Kosame are like ultra classical Japanese but it’s all in the costumes. None of it seeps into the mindsets or intellectual stereotypes at all. Jing is hardly what you would call submissive, Al is not so inherently greedy and so self-assured as to override everyone else and Hototo isn’t a savage that doesn’t know how to use utensils but can talk to animals or something. They are all just people. And that won me over.
There really was only one aspect that sort of annoyed me in Appare-Ranman and they abandoned it pretty early on. In the early episodes, after we first meet Xialian, there’s a feminist ideal woven through the story. She isn’t allowed to drive because she’s a woman. She doesn’t have her chance at her dream. It’s actually pretty heavy-handed and clumsy. You can’t miss it. But then, she just borrows a car and they do let her race. She only loses because the other guy cheats and then everyone accepts her immediately. That’s it, no questions asked. Literally, as she comes out of the car she gets a standing ovation from the rest of the crew of men and mechanics she was working with and her boss gives her a car and punches her opponent for cheating.
What rubs me the wrong way is that if you are not going to take the time to properly work out these stories, then why put them in? The preachy part was kind of grating and the part where everyone was shown the error of their ways was so easy and instantaneous that it gives the impression that sexism could have been solved right away and women that experience it either never tried to overcome it or simply didn’t have the talent. And I think that’s the opposite of the message they were going for.
I talked about this too much and now it sounds like it’s a huge part of the series. It’s really not. It’s present for about 2 episodes at most. But since it’s the only element I can pick at, I developed it.
Other than that, I really found Appare-Ranman to be a joyous romp. It had all the elements for a classic adventure story. The pacing was great. There was a tongue-in-cheek Thomas Edison cameo. And we all love anime Thomas Edison cameos! What more can you ask for?
You might like this anime if:
You enjoy car racing, westerns, or fun adventures! yeah, I’m casting a wide net. I don’t get why this isn’t higher rated.
My favourite character:
Sofia! C’mon Sofia rocks and we all know it
a Race Car
- Every time Appare insults someone without meaning to – take a sip
- Every time Kosame gets exasperated – sigh
- Every time anyone’s drinking – join them
- Every time someone gets shot in a flashback – take a sip
- Every time Hototo “is not a boy/child” – take a sip
- Every time Americans be sexist or racist – take a sip
- Every time Hototo goes fishing – get some snacks
- Every time Appare doesn’t want to be bothered (unless it’s food) – nod in understanding
- Every time we see a snake tattoo – take a sip
- Every time we see Kosame’s mom – ooohhh
- Every time The race must go on – raise your glass
- Every time anyone blushes – awwww
- Every time we see Claudia – take a sip
- Every time Dylan and Tj bicker – take a sip
- Every time anyone says “Thousand Three” – cower!
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.