A Closer Look at RAINBOW Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin

If you’ve given up on RAINBOW Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin, which I almost did, it deserves another chance.

Although I’ve joked about RNRS’s seriousness before, it’s infinitely more watchable than your average anime series. Whether or not it’s your cup of tea — whether or not you enjoy 24 minutes of angst every week — there’s one thing going for this anime: it wants to dream a little bigger. The bottom line here isn’t about money nor is it about broad appeal. This isn’t a show engineered from the ground up to reap in DVD sales and related cash-ins like seiyuu vocal CDs.

Why yes... I WILL pay to hear "Hare Hare Yukai" for the billionth time.

No one’s going to go out and buy a figurine of Sakuragi Rokurouta. You don’t have to like RNRS, but you can still respect its efforts. To put it another way, I don’t personally prefer to watch war epics like Saving Private Ryan or Apocalypse Now, but I can still respect these movies for not being the latest Bride Wars or Transformers flick.

What is RNRS about? It’s an anime adaptation of a manga series of the same name. It’s a story of six young men struggling to survive in Japan’s tough post-WW2 period. These guys have real concerns that go beyond “my two sisters keep trying to seduce me” or “I’m so awesome that my only flaw is my virginity.” There are themes of abandonment and abuse, but also solidarity and sacrifice. When Joe falls into despair over his sister’s recent adoption, the rest of the guys create a distraction just so Joe could escape.

They must have known beforehand that they would suffer a brutal beating for the ruse, but they also understood that, in a situation such as theirs, hope is fleeting:

For the dregs of society like us, the moment we stop risking our lives for even the slimmest of chances, we become losers.

When you’re as trapped as they are, you have to cherish every single chance for happiness that comes your way. Joe’s opportunity to escape and reunite with his sister is something greater and more important than the physical pain his friends willingly endured. It wasn’t a sacrifice he could personally request from them, but it was a sacrifice most of them understood and were willing to make on their own. As a result, the guys in this anime don’t just become chums with one another; bonds are created out of the necessity for survival.

I’m not saying that RNRS is perfect; it certainly has its fair share of flaws. For starters, it relies far too much on sexual abuse to create drama. In the first episode, we learn that the prison doctor is a lecherous old man who enjoys anally violating the juvenile delinquents. In the second episode, we learn of Joe’s abuse at the hands of the lady who runs the orphanage.

To compound matters, the man adopting Joe’s sister creepily remarks,

Maybe rape was a daily occurrence for youths to fear in 1950s Japan — I wouldn’t know. I do know that the frequent usage of any trauma can and will desensitize the audience to its effect. If RNRS is only portraying the truth, it runs the risk of having its message completely lost on its viewers through blunt reptition. If RNRS is merely exaggerating for effect, that’s completely unnecessary as the subject matter found here is already more brutal than most other shows combined.

Another issue plagues RNRS: adults seem completely untrustworthy. They all look like ghouls and goblins and they do nothing but take advantage of young people.

This one-sided portrayal potentially cheapens the anime’s efforts. One might suspect that RNRS is more in love with its depressing atmosphere than in trying to deliver gritty realism. On the other hand, I don’t think this is necessarily an issue for the show if taken from a different angle. You could argue that to these seven young men, this is truly how adults appear. Thanks to their troubled pasts, they can only view the world from a certain perspective, one that renders authority figures as complete ogres.

Doesn’t RNRS seem a little too serious? Isn’t the drama, at times, a little overwrought? Maybe, but what it doesn’t do outweighs its negatives: the anime doesn’t assume that I have the mentality of a hormonal 16 year old whose daily activities consist of making such comments:

What happened to good ‘ol bloomers? D:

I heard that they were actually outlawed or changed into fugly bloomer/shorts hybrids or something, and now girls have to wear those or gym shorts and sweats like the guys D:

I don’t wanna live in a world without skin tight bloomers.

What if Madhouse decides one day that it doesn’t want to go off the beaten path anymore? Madhouse isn’t perfect — I didn’t like Kobato one bit — but Madhouse is often willing to step outside its comfort zones. So what if the studio finally admits that shows like RNRS and Aoi Bungaku just aren’t worth the trouble to produce anymore? I sometimes joke that we’ll one day be doomed to an Idiocracy-like future for anime, where the latest hit is just some twin-tails loli blushing and farting simultaneously onscreen for the entire length of each episode (the soundtrack will no doubt top the charts for weeks). Yes, I realize my argument is guilty of the slippery slope fallacy, but that doesn’t mean this horrific future is an impossibility.

Give RAINBOW Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin another chance. Few shows this season has as much humanity as this anime.

And if you like it, support it.

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26 Replies to “A Closer Look at RAINBOW Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin”

  1. This series is decent but it would be much better if they actually tried to make it realistic. With the concept it has, it would be amazing.

    What annoys me the most are the character designs for the “villain” characters. It’s like they’re trying to say, “This is the bad guy. He’s always hideous and you’ll be able to spot him a mile away, and you know he’s gonna take the first chance he gets to beat or sexually defile you.” None of the bad guys have been given a single moment where you’d think they were normal; it’s like they’re crazy 24/7.

    1. I generally agree, but I still want to give the anime some leeway. From the delinquents’ perspective, I just can’t imagine how they would perceive authority figures any other way. Isn’t it still a little cheap? Yeah, probably, but it doesn’t detract so much that I’d stop watching the anime.

    2. in the manga, ishihara does look more normal, but it’s still too obvious to tell that he is evil from the beginning. u r totally right, bad guys look good most of the time in real life, and they usually present their own arguments to support what they do and saying they’re doing good.

    3. Not true, the doctor actually looked like a good guy in the beginning. But yeeah their are som guys that look bad right away, il give you that.

  2. I would add Mouryou no Hako to Madhouse’s list of solid shows that don’t fall in line with the usual stuff studios put out. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, especially as it did finally get fully subbed.

    1. Oh I’ve seen and written about it. I’m not particularly proud of my efforts in extolling the anime, but yes, I did love Moryo no Hako as well.

    2. To add to this, Madhouse is within the realm of Studio 4C and Ghibli in my opinion. Madhouse’s just not quite there. Production IG would be a distant fourth.

      1. Y’know, if you liked Mouryou no Hako, you may want to check out the first book from the series of which Mouryou no Hako was the second installation. The book is Summer of the Ubume, and I personally found it to be an extremely good read. It’s actually been translated as well, so it isn’t as if I’m sending you out after an untranslated book.

        I’m not sure anything will ever be able to be quite up to Ghibli’s standard… Hayao Miyazaki really is a genius, and he’s done a pretty solid job of attracting and picking out good talent throughout the years, which bodes well for Ghibli after he is gone (I hope that doesn’t sound too callous). I think Ghibli is just flat-out in a league of its own.

        Madhouse’s propensity for adult characters really helps it, too, I believe. Which is kind of an odd thing to mention in response to a post on RAINBOW since the adults in that are pretty monstrous, but Madhouse remains one of the few studios willing to animate fully fleshed-out adults.

        1. Summer of the Ubume

          The problem with me is that I’ll see an interesting book and buy it… only to see another interesting book five minutes later and buy that. The end result is the stack of books on my printer right now and a hefty hole in my bank account where money used to be. When I ever quit being lazy and burn through these books, I’ll consider more.

          Madhouse’s propensity for adult characters really helps it, too, I believe.

          Not only that, but Madhouse isn’t afraid to make anime where high schoolers aren’t in the spotlight. It doesn’t sound impressive by itself, but compared to other studios, it’s a godsend. Inability is one thing; some studios just refuse to step outside their comfort zones when we know they’re immensely talented.

          On a slight tangent, I’m curious how Madhouse will handle the adaptation for High School of the Dead.

  3. If this was post-WW2, I think it makes sense in regards to context.

    The director of Battle Royale series sums it up after the war he could no longer trust adults. These kids were taught that they had to willingly give their lives to crash a plane against heavily armed US ships.

    1. That’s a good point I hadn’t yet considered. The effects of war linger through most of these episodes despite the fact that it’s “peactime.” Hell, distrust appeared long before the war ended:

      I cannot praise Japan any longer. The war is not to protect the country but the inevitable result of the way Japan has developed into a nation. … I feel that I have to accept the fate of my generation to fight in the war and die. I call it ‘fate’, since we have to go to the battlefield to die without being able to express our opinions, criticize and argue pros and cons of issues, and behave with principles, that is after being deprived of my own agency…. To die in the war, to die at the demand of the nation – I have no intention whatsoever to praise it; it is a great tragedy. — Hayashi Tadao

  4. My main issue with Rainbow is its over-the-top nature to bring forth melodrama and its portrayal of wicked people as caricatures instead of real people with depraved personalities. For me it simply devalues the depressing atmosphere and intensity of the setting.

    That is not to say that I hate Rainbow. I still follow it, and sometimes even get that ”FUCK YEAH, AWESOME” feeling of heart-warming bromance. I still keep track of it, unlike another god-awful (overrated) show that starts with a ”K” and its with ”ON!!”.

    1. unlike another god-awful (overrated) show that starts with a ”K” and its with ”ON!!”.

      You’d be surprised how far this extends if you don’t include the exclamation marks. Kanon for starters.

  5. Heh, I’m enjoying Rainbow because I like my weekly dose of angst and drama. I’ll admit the gloom does go overboard sometimes, and at times it seems like torture porn with all the violence and sexual assaults. But nonetheless, like the comparison you made with the movies, I can respect it and enjoy it for its good points and because it’s not like any other anime currently airing.

    “Another issue plagues RNRS: adults seem completely untrustworthy. They all look like ghouls and goblins and they do nothing but take advantage of young people.”

    I’m not sure how many episodes you’ve watched, but in the past few episodes some good adult characters were introduced (Kumagai-sensei and the nurse who takes care of Mario).

    1. I’m not sure how many episodes you’ve watched, but in the past few episodes some good adult characters were introduced (Kumagai-sensei and the nurse who takes care of Mario).

      It was more of a generalized statement.

  6. Please don’t remind me of Kanon. I deleted the entire show after the 100th ”UGUU~”. I mean, someone must be emotionally stunted if he finds infantilized girls acting like fuckable pets to be arousing. But then again, it’s mainly aimed at a demographic who proudly carry their pillow-chans in public as symbols of martyrdom.

    1. It wasn’t ALL bad. Kanon was pretty funny… looking.

      This is also why the KyoAni remake sucked. Don’t change what ain’t broken, man.

  7. I think Rainbow was amazing, the story was pretty original, the character development was great enough where they could’ve expanded into another season. The ending left me wanting more but I was satisfied with the way they left it. No anime have perfect aspects your going to slack in some areas like all harem animes you know where there heading too and the events (always without a doubt a beach episode). Still out of 10 easily a 8

  8. most of the feeling this show gave me wasn’t even like anime. It felt like I was watching an animated series of a really depressing show, but yeah, the bad guys felt unrealistic. And 2 of the protagonists, (I only remmember their nicknames) cabbage and soldier have no depth and the latter doesn’t even have development or his own arc.

  9. Just finished watching this show today. I think this show isn’t bad but it surely doesn’t deserve more than 7/10 in my opinion. I was expecting a dank, complex story about prison life for these kids especially in the time period they live in– I expected it to be harsh. But it just goes for shock value to get you to riled up or sympathetic.
    Best I’ve seen this series offer was the first three or four minutes when all their faces were covered when they were on the bus. After that, things started going downhill.

  10. You successfully predicted the future of Madhouse. I don’t know if I should be depressed it went so downhill or impressed at your psychic abiities

  11. Never watched the anime but gah I hate the manga. For something that aims to be realistic, it has no sense of realism whatsoever. I don’t really care for how one-dimensional the villains are because I have bigger problem with the main characters. It’s a character-driven show and it works for the worst because the main characters are so badly written; both character’s development and the portrayal of how these characters would feel and behave after experiencing all those traumatic events are vastly unrealistic. In a way I don’t think the author of the manga this anime is based on understands human at all. When you shoved an abstract idea about how a group of teenagers in post WW2 ended up unjustly in a prison, you should at least presented set of characters that realistic enough to make the whole idea sympathetic. There are bad shows out there, and there are shows that failed to deliver what it promised, and this show is the latter. Or maybe I expected wrong. Maybe that’s what the author aimed from the first place; to be more hopeful. A manga that deals with dark topic and has realistic characters maybe would feel too depressing.

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