Original Run: October 13, 2019 - January 18, 2020 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, Sports Based on the Series Created By: Salmiakki
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Rifle is Beautiful. Reader discretion is advised.***
Competitive rifle shooting isn’t the most popular sport. To tell the truth, most people don’t even realize it is a sport. But for those who play, it is a way of life. As is the case for Hikari Kokura (voiced by Machico).
Hikari loves rifle shooting so much, her choice of school, Chidori High, was dictated by the fact that it had a shooting club; never mind the fact that it required an absurd amount of studying and effort for her to be accepted. Against all the odds, though, Hikari made it in and was instantly disappointed to learn that the shooting club had been disbanded due to lack of interest.
However, Hikari decides to restart the club and is shocked and thrilled to learn other shooting enthusiasts attend Chidori High, fellow first-years Izumi Shibusawa, Erika Meinohama, and Yukio Igarashi (voiced respectively by Akane Kumada, Saki Minami, and Anna Yamaki).
With their team now formed, the girls of the Chidori High Shooting Club are ready to take their skills to the national stage. But they suppose they better get in some good practice first.
Rifle is Beautiful was, surprisingly, a lot of fun.
I’m trying to rack my brain to come up with a counter to what I am about to say, but I think this series was one of the best sports anime I have seen from 2019 (as of the posting of this review); second only to Kono Oto Tomare, which, to be fair, was more musically inclined than it was athletically.
You could argue that isn’t saying much since not many sports anime were released in 2019, or, at least, there weren’t many I covered. Therefore, Rifle is Beautiful managing to sneak its way to the top was more of a natural outcome than it was an earned one. However, I’m willing to go out on a limb for this show and insist it wasn’t as good as it was because of a lack of variety. No, it was as good as it was because it was just good.
Whether intentional or not, Rifle is Beautiful was an effective parody of sports anime while still being a damn strong one in its own right. There is a distinct dramatic air to nearly all entries in this genre. If you’ve seen any sports story from any medium, then you know what I am talking about. The tension of competition; the struggle of practices; the enduring comradery between teammates; the exciting conflict between rivals; the epic thrill of victory; the crushing blow of defeat. I don’t think I have ever seen a sports anime not attempt to hit all those sticking points. That was until this series came along.
Rifle is Beautiful stood out because it was as much a slice-of-life comedy as it was a sports anime. Thus, things never got too serious. That didn’t take away from how much the characters loved their sport. In fact, it was the love of rifle shooting that impressed me the most about this show.
I cannot tell you how many sports stories I have seen that involved a character who was disillusioned by their once passion. All too often, the importance of being the best, of winning, consumed players. I won’t deny a spark can die out in a person. Rifle is Beautiful, though, had the audacious idea that even though there may be a desire to win, that doesn’t mean a sport can’t still be fun.
My favorite aspect of this show was when the Chidori High Shooting Club met other teams. Although there was always a hint of healthy competition, Chidori High’s rivals were never introduced as though they were some dubious supervillain (I’m looking at you Free 3). Instead, it was more like a bunch of high schoolers coming together and bonding over a shared interest.
Almost instantly, the girls of Chidori High would befriend their fellow rifle shooters, and everyone would cheer each other on regardless of affiliation. They all respected one another as athletes. Although there was a fair bit of friendly trash talk, no one school walked around as though they were untouchable and, thus, acted as if others were below their station.
On top of that, there was no overemotional, hard-to-stomach inspirational speak. A pep talk wasn’t happening every five minutes, and players didn’t need constant encouragement. In fact, most people were openly critical and saw things as they were.
Plus, Rifle is Beautiful was more than happy to celebrate a second-place victory because second-place is precisely that, a victory. Yeah, everyone is striving for gold, but silver gets you on the podium too, and it still represents (not devalues) years of dedication and effort.
Also, when you lose, that doesn’t mean everything needs to end. There will be some hard feelings, that’s to be expected, but the world keeps going. If not winning is enough to throw someone off their game indefinitely, then they really did lose the meaning of why they picked up their sport. Rifle is Beautiful said it was okay to both have fun and perform on the national stage. The two are not mutually exclusive.
As a consequence of all this, Rifle is Beautiful was an effective slice-of-life comedy as well. It was a lot of fun to sit through, and it was incredibly difficult to put down. This was, without a doubt, a nice little treat.
Believe it or not, Rifle is Beautiful ran into the same problem Kono Oto Tomare 2nd Season ran into. This series wanted to do a lot of backstory in the middle of competition.
I hope I don’t have to emphasize why this is annoying.
In a sports anime, even in one as tension-less as this one was, an actual match is rather essential. During a series, before a tournament or game, that is when we should be getting the bulk of character development. Concerning the Chidori High girls, that is what happened. However, like it was with Kono Oto Tomare, it was during the climactic showdown that this show though it was a good idea to introduce everyone else.
Granted, Rifle is Beautiful actually mitigated this better than Kono Oto Tomare because it was a much less serious story. Nevertheless, there were plenty of skippable moments throughout. In this instance, perhaps it would have been better if this series played more towards its slice-of-life side than to its sports anime side.
Additionally, even though I don’t like it, I understand why some sports anime use CGI. Many entries in this genre are fast-paced, high action affairs, so a bit of computer help can be expected. That doesn’t mean it should look like crap (like it often is), but it is expected. Rifle is Beautiful not only had CGI, but it was also painfully obvious, as well as out of place with the rest of the show’s animation style.
Be that as it may, Rifle is Beautiful’s CGI wasn’t nearly as cringey as I have seen others be in the past.
Now, don’t be shocked, but that is all I have to say negatively about this show. As a slice-of-life, it was enjoyable, but I wouldn’t call it spectacular. As a sports anime, though, it did a lot of things right, and it succeeded in standing out in quite the crowded field.
Color me impressed. This was a delightful surprise.
Here was a sports anime that not only poked fun at its own genre but actually managed to do quite well in it, too.
The characters were fun, the show was funny, and it was an all-around great time.
Without question, Rifle is Beautiful has earned a recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Rifle is Beautiful? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.