Original Run: April 10, 2020 - September 25, 2020 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Historical
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Appare-Ranman. Reader discretion is advised***
Around the turn of the twentieth century, the world is on the verge of a new technological age. Progress is coming at a rate never before seen. For one Appare Sorano (voiced by Natsuki Hanae), Japan’s slow adaptation to this trend is beyond frustrating. However, he doesn’t really know how to convince others of his views and prefers to just do things his way.
Due to Appare’s apathetic attitude to conventional society, Kosame Isshiki (voiced by Seiichirou Yamashita) is charged with keeping an eye on the impulsive dreamer.
One day, due to a series of unlike events, Appare and Kosame become stranded at sea. Fortunately, they are rescued by a steamship heading to Los Angeles. Once in port, Appare instantly falls in love with how advanced the rising automobile industry is becoming. His sense of adventure is then further peaked when he hears about the grueling Trans-America Wild Race that challenges racers to drive across the entire United States.
Appare, to Kosame’s chagrin, signs up. But as the race looms, little do the pair realize how dangerous the journey will be.
If you want to know what a hidden gem looks like, I give you Appare-Ranman. This series was fun, like, a lot of freaking fun. I don’t know why but I somehow got it in my head that this show, with its bright colors and flamboyant character designs, was a cash grab anime meant for younger audiences.
I was wrong, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
First and foremost, Appare-Ranman cared more about story and excitement than it did about historical accuracy. Let’s just say there were quite a few inconsistencies throughout this show. But let’s be frank; you’re probably not watching this series for a history lesson.
This show had the air of both a Western and samurai film. Although these two genres are not dissimilar, throwing in an anime-styled car race across the United States’ still developing interior was defiantly a gamble. A gamble that paid off in spades.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the 1908 New York to Paris auto race (no, I didn’t miswrite that) served as inspiration for Appare-Ranman. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I highly suggest you look into it because that event got pretty wild. So while this show had inaccuracies and unlikelihoods, a cartoonishly absurd car race through the wilderness was not one of them.
And having now used it, the word “absurd” is an apt way to describe this series, and I don’t mean that as an insult. Appare-Ranman prioritized entertainment value above all else. Thus, when there was a choice between the ridiculous but fun and the correct, this show went with the former.
Yeah, a turn of the twentieth-century automobile might have been a clunky metal box that topped out at around 50 miles per hour, at best, while being driven by wealthy gentlemen of the age. Therefore, that would have been the more “proper” way to go. But why do that when you can have fast-moving, spike laden, machine-gun-toting tanks speeding across the American Southwest? And while we’re at it, why not have drivers range from super-genius to skilled samurai to martial arts expert to gunslinger? To me, at least, that sounds a lot more interesting than following a bunch of prim and proper rich boys.
With the sheer amount of variety in Appare-Ranman, there was never a dull moment; I was shocked by how thoroughly this series held my attention. This narrative naturally escalated into more significant and more threatening directions. While things may have been crazy, they were never random. At its core, this show always maintained a logical progression.
And of all Appare-Ranman’s surprises, the aspect that impressed me the most had to be the characters – as in the entire cast was phenomenal.
I can’t say who my favorite character was. Everyone had at least one quality that made them memorable. Instead, I prefer to list a few of my favorite character moments. Certain scenes were so utterly dominated by a single individual that it’s impossible to determine an outright best. In no particular order:
- Jing Xialian (voiced by Sora Amamiya) had her qualification race.
- Any time Dylan G. Oldin and TJ (voiced respectively by Takahiro Sakurai and Tomokazu Sugita) fought was awesome.
- The time when the racers assaulted a heavily fortified ghost town was a blast.
- Kosame Isshiki had his full-on Yojimbo moment when he completely wrecked house against a group of outlaw ass-hats.
Like I said, there was never a dull moment.
To finish this section, I want to talk about sequels. More specifically, would I like to see Appare-Ranman get one? Although I think there are places for a second story to go, overall, a follow-up would have me worried. This was a fantastic standalone series; it was entirely self-contained. Plus, I do not believe a Part 2 can recapture the genuine surprise I got from this show.
Still, if a second season did come, you better believe I’ll be reviewing it.
As long as it was the backgrounds and if the racers weren’t in their cars, this series looked pretty damn good. During the races, though, the animation employed some rather piss poor CGI. Fortunately, the actual substance of the races was thrilling enough on its own. Thus, Appare-Ranman didn’t need to rely on its art style.
I say that, but I do have to make one notable exception.
I did not care for the titular Appare’s character design. I didn’t mind his outfit or hair, but rather, it was the two little red dots on the sides of his mouth. I don’t know why I found them so distracting. They sort of looked like fangs, and they never allowed his face to properly show his deadeye expressions. Perhaps there was a Japanese cultural reason behind their existence. I don’t believe that to be the case, and I only suggested it because they were such a poor choice.
Aside from that, though, I don’t have much else to criticize about this series. Like I’ve been saying throughout the review, Appare-Ranman took me by surprise.
I don’t want to sell you short and say that there wasn’t anything wrong with this show; it’s certainly not the best anime I’ve seen this year. However, it was pretty damn solid. Therefore, I guess I’m just going to have to end things here.
I was ready to power through this series at the start. Never in a million years did I think this show would have my full, undivided attention. But it did, and I’m thankful to have gotten around to it.
The story was silly, exciting, funny, and, at times, quite heartfelt. The characters were all kinds of fun, and they brought so much life and personality to this narrative. The animation, while not always great, was still well done often enough. There were a lot of things to like about this one.
I said it at the top:
If you want to know what I consider to be a hidden gem, this is your answer.
Appare-Ranman has earned a massive recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Appare-Ranman? 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.