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.
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.