15 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Rainbow episode 1

You’re going to have to bear with me on this review because I’ll be going on on a bit of a tangent on the attitude of some critics who follow the mantra of “it’s dark violent and serious, therefore it must be good”. Remember, this is coming from someone who doesn’t like moe and fanservice shows. The fact that Rainbow tries to do something different from your standard anime is commendable but not what a review should be solely based on. Because Rainbow is a very flawed work.

Lets talk for a minute about Monster. It’s a very good anime, there’s no denying that, but so many of the reviews seem to focus on the fact that because it’s dark and dreary that means its automatically better than anything else. That thinking process isn’t that far away from people liking moe anime because it’s moe or liking an anime just because it has a tsundere character in it. Monster is a flawed piece of work. It’s too methodical about exploring the plot that it gets bogged down in uninteresting side stories for large periods of its run. But it’s dark and gritty and features adults and therefore is an untouchable masterpiece.

With Rainbow the flaws are far more pronounced. There’s not an ounce of subtlety in the writing or directing. The prison guard is horribly overacted to the point that I couldn’t take any scene with him in seriously at all and the constant narrating of how everything is going to get even worse induces severe eye-rolling tendencies. There are some good things of course. With Madhouse doing the animation it’s pretty unsurprising to see animation and artwork done as well as this and…umm…I actually can’t think of any other praise. I was going to say they set the scene well but that would be a total lie. It was horribly overdone and in desperate need of a clever hand at the directing side of things to give us some smart foreshadowing that does not consist of a voice-over explaining how miserable life will be for these boys.

If the elitists of the anime world keep praising every dark and dreary anime that comes out, the rest of anime fandom will miss out on the actual good stuff. I had a little go at Monster earlier but that’s an example of one of the better dark and dreary anime. Rainbow is not. Maybe I’m being a little too harsh but at the same time I would bet my house on both of the upcoming Noitamina anime being better directed and more interesting than this.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted April 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Well your idea of a top tier serious anime is Death Note, so we know where your credibility on serious anime is.

    There’s been one episode. Yes, this anime has flaws… neither the OP or ED songs are any good, they were too general and hand-wavy with the characters’ respective crimes when they were introduced and that scene towards the end strained credibility slightly. I have no idea what you could have wanted from the guard. I thought the character was completely (and chillingly) believable, so I can’t see what could have been achieved by taking the edge out of his abuse and hatred.

    Nonetheless, this has only been one episode, and as far as I can see, none of these complaints are going to have a major bearing if the rest of the series maintains a standard that I think it has the potential to reach. It has a long way to go, and first episodes are rarely good indicators for story-driven series. But it’s a visceral show and at this stage, no other series this season matches this show for atmosphere and ambition. The gutsiness of this show to take on this sort of subject matter and be, to a fair degree, unflinching with its approach, is pretty admirable.

  2. Posted April 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    I normally don’t go for anime that are too dark and dreary, but I liked the first episode of Rainbow. I’m not very picky of course, and as long as a series catches my attention for whatever reason, I don’t really care about its flaws. I agree with Sorrow-kun that it’s hard to judge a series just by the first episode. But I definitely agree with your point about elitists thinking all dark/serious anime is good and all moe is crap (just look at the ratings that ANN gave Rainbow compared to others on their spring preview guide).

  3. Posted April 12, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I do agree that the attitude of “dark + serious + violent = automatically awesome” (it’s what led to so many shitty comics and movies in the ’90s in the wake of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen in the ’80s), and some of the praise Rainbow is getting right now is a bit over the top. At the same time, though, there’s lots of knee-jerk reaction in the opposite direction — that because Rainbow is trying for a dark, serious atmosphere, that only elitists who get into depressing fiction will enjoy it.

    There are definitely flaws with this first episode. The narration is hokey (though at least it’s Megumi Hayashibara being hokey :p), the ending is slightly over the top and only the boxer dude has any real personality at the moment. At the same time, though, there IS potential here; the story is at least showing itself to be willing to do something to separate itself from everything else, even if the first episode doesn’t entirely achieve that. But, frankly, I don’t think ANY series this season that I’ve seen had a first episode that stood out above and beyond the others.

    Also, and I know you acknowledge Monster’s worth at the end, but it isn’t a great series because it’s dark and dreary — it’s great because it has a brain and is willing to challenge the viewer without sacrificing a strong, entertaining story. It’s definitely flawed — EVERY series is flawed in some way; there is no such thing as a perfect series — but for many people the good far outweighs the bad in Monster.

    Anyway, tl;dr elitists vs. regular fans is a silly argument that both sides get way too caught up in.

  4. Posted April 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Argh, in that first sentence, I meant that I agree with you that the attitude of “dark + serious + violent = automatically awesome” is dumb. I seriously think I make at least one silly typo in every comment I make. :p

  5. Posted April 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    You know… some of us actually like Monster’s methodical-ness and love its side stories because we find those emotional and impacting. Not just because it’s tone is darker or anything. Heck, I can probably rattle off a few dark shows that never quite appealed to me.

    Also… b-b-b-b-baka! I’m not leaving this comment just because y-y-y-you told me to! I-I-I just had t-t-time on my hands! hrrmmfff!!

  6. Taka
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Tsundere Zzeroparticle is sugoi kawaii.

    I knew what type of series Rainbow was going to be from about 2minutes in. As soon as that bitchy little kid through her precious dolly out the window at the mean murders I knew. These protagonists were going to be wrongfully abused and all sorts of prejudices were going to come into play here.

    Still though, It’s tough to say exactly where they are going to go with that. I don’t think the first episode is any better than most of the others this season.

    I did love the BGM in the final scene.

    Also I’m currently watching Monster. I appreciate it a lot more when I don’t marathon it.

  7. Scamp
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    @Sorrow-kun

    Bringing Death Note into the discussion = fail

    You don’t really judge a show based on its potential from the first episode, although that comes into account. You look at how well it was done because that sets the standerd and gives you an idea how good the crew working behind the show are. This episode wasn’t well done so that doesn’t fill me with confidence that the rest of the show will be that good either.

    @Yumeka

    Actually some of the ANN reviewers gave a rather fair review of Rainbow, pointing out that while it does ‘go there’ it still has flaws.

    @Shinmaru

    The reason you get knee-jerk reactions the other way is precisely because of the knee-jerk reactions of the elitists.

    Besides, first episodes rarely blow you away. My general mantra is that the first episode tells you if a show will be crap, the second episode tells you if the show will be good. The first episode points out sucky directing and other flaws like that.

    @zzeroparticle

    When you say lots of people act in a certain way you will instantly get people saying ‘hey, I don’t act that way!’. But really, you found those side stories interesting? The dull ploding through entire episodes just to prove an extremely minor plot point. Have an entire backstory of a character just so Temna can’t shoot in the woods. Well, each to their own I guess

    Also stop making me blush

    @Taka

    I went through Monster in batches. I would watch 10 excellent episodes in quick succession only for the plot to get bogged down and I’d move through them at a snails pace until something interesting started to happen again.

  8. Posted April 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I did.

    The story about the guy who tried to get birds to land on him? I could understand the argument that it’s pointless, but I’ll still disagree with it since Tenma understood its value to the old man and didn’t want to violate the sanctity of the forest even if doing so finishes off a greater evil.

    Or the former psychologist who was once at Kinderheim and now raises children by providing them with loving care? Pointless, sure, but I felt it was very heartwarming and once again, reminds us never to act upon preconceptions until we have all the data.

    Maybe Monster just appeals to my sentimental and optimistic side. The dark/dreary aspect is cool and all, but what makes Monster enjoyable for me was in seeing that though people have the “monster” inside them, they can overcome it and in the end, there is goodness in humanity after all.

    (I’m also assuming that the two side stories outlined above are what you’d consider pointless. If not, you’ll have to pick some examples for me to explain why I found it to be good.)

  9. Scamp
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    @zzeroparticle

    Yeah most of those types of stories I didn’t really enjoy. Some of them were excellent…I can’t remember any off the top of my head though…

    Monster is such a big anime that it has many overarcing themes, plots and character developments. My main problem I guess was I never found Temna that interesting a character to watch. My favourite part of Monster was that 15-20 episode period with that ex-alcoholic detective and the retired Vampire, a story that Temna didn’t show up in until nearly two thirds of the way through.

    Johan drove the story for me. Learning about his character and what made him tick was the highlight of Monster, although I also enjoyed the personal battle Runge had trying to come to terms with the possibility he might be wrong about something. So you can see why I the other plotlines bored me

  10. Posted April 13, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Just got around to this now, but I agree about parts of it being over the top. The narration especially; I felt it should have been either not used at all or much more sparingly, maybe to just introduce the time period and that characters’ backgrounds. The guard was overacted, which I could have excused if it only happened once. Though his overt cruelty is a nice contrast with the doctor’s cruelty with a smile.

    People can jump to conclusions either way, but there really wasn’t enough in the first episode to call it one way or the other in my opinion. To me it looks promising, being a big fan of dreary and depressing shows, and I’m expecting some sort of mostly bitter bittersweet ending to it all, like maybe only one or two of the boys makes it out without being either killed or stressed to the point of suicide or no longer being able to function normally. But it’ll take some time to see. But if the narration is as frequent as this episode it’s going to take away from things a lot unless there’s a damn good reason for it, like the narrator is an important character or something.

  11. Posted April 14, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    I only like two types of narration: Where the narrator sets the scene at the beginning and then gets the hell out of the way (like in Gurren Lagann), or when the narrator is ridiculously over-the-top and essentially another character (you get this a lot in super robot shows, but Hayate the Combat Butler’s narrator is another good example of this).

  12. Posted April 14, 2010 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting to see different views on Rainbow. For one, I think everybody agrees that the narration was not only over-the-top but also perhaps unnecessary. It kind of struck me as a more laconic version of the narration in The Third. The guard might have been too radical, if you will, but I wouldn’t honestly think of a nice guard beating the snot out of these bunch of kids. Probably the most problematic for most viewers was the dramatization of nearly every scene (especially the last scene).
    All criticisms aside, I thought the first episode was good. Sure, criticize me of being the elitist who thinks that all dreary anime are good, but what struck me as the most compelling was its raw emotion. Sure, I expect a bit more subtlety, but a show that focuses on imprisoned boys who haven’t finished puberty should be anything but calm. They’ve been humiliated, disgraced, called garbage by nearly everyone around them. They’ve been sexually tortured and physically beaten. Centering around such a situation, the show did well in portraying the raw emotions–and that’s why I think it shows promise as a good/great show this season.

  13. Scamp
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    People are writing intelligent comments so they deserve an intelligent reply on my behalf. Watch this space, I’ll write something more meaningful when my mind is in the right place

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