“No dream is too big for Appare Sorrano, a socially-awkward inventor living in a small rural town in Japan in the late 19th century. Fascinated since childhood by the creation of steamships that can connect people across great distances, he’s learned to make machines of all kinds from various scientific texts. His goal is to sail across the sea, beyond the sky, and ultimately, to the other side of the moon.
Unfortunately, through a string of events, Appare finds himself stranded in the middle of the sea on his mini steamship. Floating alongside him is a skilled but cowardly samurai, Kosame Ishikki, who was tasked to keep his eccentric behavior in check. Just when all hope seems lost, a large steamship saves them and takes them to Los Angeles. With no money or plans, they decide to participate in the “Trans-America Wild Race,” which gives Appare the chance to build his own automobile, and Kosame the opportunity to use the cash prize to return home. However, against rival racers and unknown challenges residing in the wilderness, just how far will this adventure take Appare and Kosame?” MAL Synopsis
Appare-Ranman caught my eye during the summer with its unique character designs and very fluid animation during the fight scenes. So many months later I decided to give it a try and what seemed to be a promising underrated show turned out to be the worst thing any form of media can be. Which is, mediocre.
This shows story skates over a lot of different themes. Those of which are inherent for the period it’s set in and the setting. In the end, though, it fails to give any inciteful meaning or a new take on any of those themes. This story brings up the themes of Japan transitioning into the modern era, the Native Americans vs. Cowboys, Gender roles, and most prominent America’s transition from the wild west into the industrial era, among others. The only one it dives into is America transitioning from a lawless land of freedom to the modern era. That’s all fine and dandy but focusing on that theme and the character (which is the main villain) whose arc revolves around that theme. It derails the fun part of the show, which is the race itself. For a show about something as interesting as a cross country race. The race is just background noise for half of the show and the other half, it just completely gets swept to the side until the big baddie is taken down. Once he’s dealt with they just time skip until the last stretch of the race. Where they try to make it have some climatic ending, but at that point, I couldn’t care about the race at all when I didn’t see the majority of it. It was an odd direction to take and add that to the comically bad writing and character dialogue at times. On that note, the writing was really bad at times, and having all the racers be so buddy-buddy and always helping each other. Made it feel like there was no real rivalry or sense of urgency to win the race. No matter how many characters said otherwise, it was never felt.
The cast is pretty deep and each character is given a good amount of screen time but with every form of media, there are the main characters. The main character is who the show is named after, Appare. The easiest way to describe him is, he is the generic caricature of somebody with “high functioning autism.” His social skills are very lacking. He has a hard time understanding people’s feelings and motivations. He even has a hard time understanding his feelings (which serves as his character development for the show). Appare is also very skilled in engineering and once he’s focused on a goal, he won’t stop until he has achieved it. These characteristics can make his character come off as annoying sometimes, but ultimately I ended up liking him in the end (despite a lot of his lines being cheesy sometimes). Also, his character design is weird (I mean a there are a few weird character designs in this show), and I never really got fully used to it. It seemed weird for the sake of being weird. Kosame is supposed to look over Appare, and he ends up getting dragged to America and helping Appare. I liked Kosame. His character arc, of overcoming his childhood fears and finding a place where he belongs in life, is great. The dynamic he and Appare evolve to have was fun to see.
There was a myriad of other characters in this show. All I can say about them is that they were cool. They had cool character designs and personalities that made them stand out (like my man T.J). Their character motivations are briefly explained here and there, but they’re explained enough for it to carry them throughout the show. All of the motivations fall in line with the themes that I talked about earlier. Jing’s arc is about gender roles and breaking those boundaries. Hototo’s arc deals with revenge and the taking from Native American’s. Those are just two for example. These are all very different semi-complex characters. There are some heartwarming and comfy moments between the whole group that brings them closer together. I liked the idea of these characters, and some of the execution but the overall writing of the show and the direction the show went in brings them down. Also, this show has a bad case of “obvious villain is obvious.” Especially if you watch the dub, the twist of the villain is so obvious. What I do like about the main villain, is that he embodies my favorite theme of the show. Which is the transitional era between the cowboys and the wild west to the more industrial modern era. I loved his whole motivation in regards to that and wanting to stay free in the wild west. Too bad his character is kind of ruined due to him being god-like OP in comparison to the other characters in the show. Like seriously, I can suspend my disbelief and meet all forms of media at their standards but his combat ability just seemed so ridiculous. It took me out of it and made a lot of the fights he’s in just laughable.
The animation is great. It’s what initially attracted me to this show from seeing some random fight scenes. The fights have choreography and are very fluid. The character designs are very unique and stand out from each other. Not much to say but good job to the animators. The music is also pretty good but it does have a sad track that gets used a lot during the sad moments. It’s okay but I feel like it was overused a tad bit. The voice acting in this show left me perplexed. Some of the characters in the dub have thick accents. It’s hard to understand the two English characters in this show at times. It’s too exaggerated and unnecessary.
So yeah, that’s Appare-Ranman. A show with a promising premise and very good animation. That goes in a direction that ultimately puts in the limbo of media. It’s not good enough to be talked about in a positive light or remembered fondly. It’s not bad enough to be made fun of or looked back on as a sort of so bad it’s a good thing. It’s just mediocre, and I doubt I will remember anything about this anime going forward. Which is a shame, cause this really could have been something good or even great. If it was better written. If it took the time to dive into the other themes of the show. If the race was front and center more. There’s a lot of ifs and what-ifs, but I can only speak on what I did watch. And it was just meh.
Appare-Ranman – 5/10