Rainbow could have been a great social drama if it was serious. It remains somewhat above average for not being about schools, lolis, videogames, ecchi, and superpowers, things that we got sick and tired of seeing. Despite its dark atmosphere, it’s not mature, since it constantly rubs the victim card in your face. I mean, sure, all dramas are meant to make us feel sorry for the characters by being powerless before the problems they face, but subtlety is what separates mediocrity from brilliance, which is something Rainbow lacks entirely.
NO GREY ZONE
There is no gray zone when you have a bunch of positive-thinking idealistic Shonen characters thrown in a dark Seinen setting, ruled by one-dimensional sadistic assholes who are evil … because they are evil. The juvenile heroes are looking all heroic with their ultra goodness, while the adults pass as bastards because they have authority. The only exception is a nurse, who also has the role of the narrator, and even she acts in a ridiculously gentle way that makes her completely good. Is everybody born this way; does it run in their DNA or something? Half the time it felt like I was watching a badly written fairy tale.
Warden: Cry! Suffer! I want to see your pain! Mwahaha! I am so evil!
Hero: No, I will never cry! My friends give me strength and justice will win in the end for a better future! Rainbows and canaries and pretty flowers for everybody!
FOCUSED BUT MONOTONIC
The setting excuses the cruelty, since it has been taken over by fear and hatred, so the contrast between child innocence and harsh reality works on a superficial level. But it ends up being far more about sensationalism than a character study, or a social critique. The characters are monolithic in their ideals, and the setting is stuck in a glacial state of misery. All you are left with is sobbing at bad things happening to good people. The show is focused on what it wants to be and doesn’t stray off to random directions, or trying to constantly ruin the drama with slapstick comedy or fan service. It’s not that all we see is young people being tormented by sadistic bailiffs either. In the second half, we see how they are fixing their broken lives after they get out of prison. That’s cool but the big question is, how exactly can they fix their lives with the way they are thinking and acting?
POWER OF FRIENDSHIP
They are coping with their problems, but the way they do it, is by trusting friendship and being passive. Even when they don’t need to be. Being powerless is not the same as being passive; the latter is about having power but not doing something with it. There is this boxer, who acts as the leader of the boys; he is their role model, and the one that keeps them together and motivates them to keep going. He is also pretty strong, and can kick the crap out of anyone who tries to split them with raw force. And yet he constantly acts as if using violence is evil and that it should be avoided because you will become a monster. Even when said violence is the only option you are left with. Does that sound like a very shonen thing to say? Yes it is. Because that is what our main characters are, naïve children who think love and friendship are the most awesome powers in the universe.
It’s not like the show abuses this notion, by turning mortal enemies into allies with a simple friendship speech. In fact, midway in the show this mentality screws up one of them for using it. But it’s not like they learned anything from it; they just keep trusting friendship like retards. They never realize that it’s personal effort and persistence that helps you achieve your goals. Friends are emotional support and back-up help; the actual resolve is yours alone. The show doesn’t go into that at all; it’s as if having friendship automatically achieves your goals, even if you don’t do a damn thing.
I was constantly given the impression that by taking the blame and suffering of the entire world on your back, you become a good guy, even if you don’t deserve it. Why? Because you let yourself being a human punching bag, and this way the sadistic assholes won’t go torture some other poor soul? Instead of kicking the crap out of the bad guys and solving the problem forever? As you see, the lack of a grey zone is the show’s undoing. Everybody is so easily separated into good or bad, and we are never given the impression someone can flip flop between the two sides. So you might as well use violence to beat evil and let goodness triumph.
If you don’t believe me, check how pretty much everybody agrees that the second half of the show is far less interesting. It was working superficially while the boys were powerless and mistreated in prison, but the moment they got out and were free to do anything they like, the drama evaporates because they now have far more control. Which means, you never felt sorry for them as characters. You were feeling sad for the bad things that were happening to a bunch of simplistic caricatures. And you never cared about the state of the world either. It’s just there, as a thing.
Despite its dark setting and lack of humor, Rainbow is overblown in drama, superficial in themes, and unrealistic in ideals. It appeals only to people who are accustomed to cheery things. Or harems full of beta males who want to deflower their sisters. It is uncommon for not doing such a thing modern anime are full of, but that is far from enough to make it anything more than just above average.
This anime is probably one of the most realistic animes I've seen. The story is gritty, the characters are wonderfully real, and the settings, though at times very hard take, were as real and as well developed as the characters themselves.
The story is centered around 7 boys who were sent to a reformatory in the 50's, who become the best of friends willing to do anything for one another. It shows you the struggles and their hardships, their achivements and defeats (at times just stay alive) and the sacrifices they made for the sake of the kind of friendship most people would envy. It's an emotional rollercoaster to watch this anime, one minute you're laughing the next on the verge of tears.
Story: It starts off with six teenagers being inducted into a boy's juvenile prison around ten years after World War II in Japan. They join a guy who has already been there for two years and share his cell. After some initial hostility, they all become friends and together survive the extreme harshness of the juvenile school.
And when I say 'extreme harshness,' I mean crippling beatings, forced starvation, and sexual advances by an old creepy guy. So without giving anything away, the first half is how they get through all of that in the juvenile prison and enter the real world, with strong aspirations to do whatever it is they have their mind set on doing.
The second half of the show is all about them coming of age and starting up in real careers, whether that's what they had planned on or not. The second half starts off with them planning revenge on the people that had tormented them in the first half, but after that, it's mostly a bunch of little mini-arcs, each centering on different members of the group. Time and time again their friendships and wills are tested, and they always pull through for each other.
Animation: I love the animation style of the show. It's gritty and dark in places, especially in the first half of the show, but the scenery and the character designs are amazing. As weird as this is to point out, I love the detail that scars and old... ness... are drawn. And the scenery in the 'touching' scenes is just absolutely beautiful.
The bits where the narrator pauses it on a still get annoying after a while, but the filter effect that's put on top of whatever still always looks pretty cool and makes whatever the still is, no matter how dark in nature, look pretty.
Sound: I'm not much of a 'sound' girl, but the voice acting was great (... except for the Americans, who all sounded vaguely Australian). I can instantly tell which of the group was speaking just from hearing the voices, and the creepy people have suitably creepy voices.
The OP was fine, nothing extremely mind-blowing or anything, but they did make good use of the instrumental in the last episode. The EP was pretty, but once again, nothing mind-blowing.
Characters: Everyone in the main group has a deep and thought out backstory, filled with reasons why they were there and in some cases, why they're distrustful initially. Well, mostly... Cabbage and Solidier always felt a little less thought-out to me.
Mario and Turtle get the most focus in the second half, with one of the two always in someone's else's arc as the support. Everyone else gets a wrap-up arc and a nice epilogue, except for Solider, who they basically go, "He became a solidier in the SDF like he wanted." At the very least for everyone it says what they did to get in the prison.
Overall: To compare it to the manga, the manga goes a little more in detail with the squicky parts (... like the anal examination, you're welcome for that visual), but it also gives a little more character development. Whether you read the manga or watch the anime, though, it's an awesome anime with a lot of substance.
Angst for the sake of angst is one of the things that appeals to a certain audience. There is a huge difference between that and tragedy. What we have here is not tragedy. There are tragic circumstances in Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin and yet it manages to slip into melodramatic angst rather than give anything deeper. The whole grim and gritty premise with grim and gritty characters in grim and gritty situations just becomes repetitive.
Oh I get it. Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin tries to overdose us on testosterone and bromance. Everything from the opening theme to the backstories through background art and color palette is screaming (sometimes quite literally) "this is dark and definitely not childish! SERIOUSLY!" so hard that it ends up having the reverse effect. Oh, and that narration is not only over the top, it is nearly comically so. But "oh, the drama!!1".
I usually don't have a problem with these types of shows. I really don't. Yet somehow Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin manages to hit so many of the cliches of these types of stories that I can't help but be annoyed. It's not the animation, though it feels like a checklist of all the right things to fit the premise. The villains are villanous, the good guys are a fearlesss band of brothers, the women just want the strong men to be strong, and the viewer just wants to get more than an endless tough guy act from every single protagonist. Unfortunately, the last one stings.
Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin just tries too hard to be cool to actually be cool. It tries so hard to be dark that instead it numbs the viewer to the drama and nears parody territory. In general, there are no half measures nor subtleties at all. All in all, the show ends up feeling two dimensional. There is no doubt that it is extremely well produced. There is a vision behind it all, and it is executed in a straight up fashion. There aren't any metaphors, there is no philosophy, there are no gentle hints. This is a show that repeatedly hits you over the head, and is not quite proud of it.
Writing (Story and Characters):
We get it, "BRO IS AWESOME!!!1!". God that gets tired after five episodes, after ten it makes you cringe, and by the half of the series it makes you wish that people would just shut up about it. That summarizes the first half of Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin. This isn't a joke, unfortunately. Unbelievably, after the first fourteen episodes the average viewer will be begging for some fluff, slice of life, anything. Just anything to help get over the monotony.
Oh, we get to break the monotony all right. With more forced drama and angst. Lets just add more rape to backstories of new characters while we're at it. And of course thank bro for it. Because bros are awesome. At this point in the show you either have to absolutely be in awe of the flat characters with no development, or will start banging your head against the nearest hard surface. Oh, we get our share of romance, of course even that has to be a fight. Singing? Fight, and lets throw in some prostitution and gangsters. Guy wants to join a gang to follow it up. Then prostitution and broken hearts. And so on, and so on, and so bloody on.
You get the point. The plot is simplistic, blunt, and forcefully angsty. Luckily, it becomes more diverse in the second half and adds a more light hearted feel (kinda). The characters get development from one dimensional into simply flat in the second half. It is done by a seperate arc for each one chasing their dream and whatnot. Of course, this backfires spectacularly due to the over the top nature of the first half. It feels like the show simmers down instead of building up.
Overall, the writing is structured wrong, when it's character driven the characters don't really hold up, and the hit with a hammer approach of the start makes the more laid back approach that comes later seem boring because the tension never builds up to the hammer->face levels, just at the regular blunt force trauma approach. Still, there is a kind of charm to the obviousness of it all. I can understand why people would like the obvious Seinen approach to the writing. Still, it feels messy and in the end left me unsatisfied.
Art (Animation and Sound):
Madhouse know what they're doing. The artwork is gritty and the character designs distinctive. The soundtrack fits the show like a glove, and the voice acting is quite dramatic while not quite going over the top most of the time. Really, everything is very strong from a technical perspective. And yet, Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin doesn't quite have a strong wow-factor that most Madhouse productions have in recent years.
Getting that retro feel to the animation was important in order to connect Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin to the era in which it is set. It is just as smooth as it needs to be, relying a bit on still frames for dramatic effect, but still mostly devoid of other gimmicky shots. The camera angles and character designs are simple yet effective, and the backgrounds find a nice balance between detail and simple elegance. There is not much of the oversaturated color that Madhouse seems to have adopted since, but that is probably due to keeping everything grittier. All in all, the animation is very effective, even though at times the still frames and gritty personality to it are annoying.
Simple and to the point seems to be the guiding light to the artwork, and the sound follows through with this. Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin's soundtrack is a bit towards the cliche side but fits the atmosphere of the writing and animation, even though in and of itself it is not particularly memorable. The voice acting does get over the top, especially when the "BRO!@!@!" shouts are coming, but manages to be restrained for the most part (with the exception of the short one, whose voice manages to be completely annoying and over the top throughout every single word). The effects manage to be superbly used, though use of ambient sounds could have lended more to the gritty feel of the show. Still, a good showing overall.
The artwork brings the story life it doesn't deserve. The direction of it is nothing special, but the execution of the visual aspect is top tier and the sound is very effective. Yes, gimmicky stuff like the narration is annoying. But overall, the art is the strongest part of Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin and gives it a lot of added value that it really doesn't deserve.
Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin is badly structured, with mediocre writing, and characters that are rather flat. If there is any message it is that bromance conquers all. No one gets a full resolution, there are no happy ends (only semi-happy ones), and at too many points is there forced angst and drama. And yet, it remains an above average view, and should be highly recommended for people who finally graduated from Shounen to the next logical stepping stone.
I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT, EXCEPT THE SCENES WITH ISHIHARA AND MISTER FAT CHILD MOLESTER
This anime is a true masterpiece, and should be watched by everyone. I honestly put it in 2nd place of my top five anime, where my first is Kiseiju -sei no kakuritsu-. Oh jeebus, you don't need an explanation, just go watch it!