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.
- Animated by studio Madhouse, the king of anime studios, so it looks nice.
- Directed by Koujina Hiroshi, someone with a most unimpressive roster (Grenadier, Kiba, Nougami Neuro). Ok, his latest work on the remake of Hunter x Hunter is not bad but he surely is not a guy you will look forward to see.
- Based on the story by some nobodies who never had any other of their works adapted.
Rainbow could have been a great social drama if it was serious about what it is about and didn’t aim for cheap plot twists that dumb it down to almost mediocrity. It is still an above average show for its quirky dark atmosphere yet it did the mistake of adding lots of immature elements instead of remaining a serious drama show for the mature audience. Could it be an attempt to sell to a broader audience? Based on the opinions most have about it, it worked for those accustomed to silly shows (the majority) and not for those who are sophisticated snobs (the minority). Most saw something that isn’t about lolis and ecchi and superpowers and cheery colors for a change and immediately liked it for standing out a bit more. So sure, it worked appeal-wise by sacrificing elegance. Though I’m not going easy on it for this.
In a nutshell, Rainbow is about a bunch of Shonen characters thrown in a dark Seinen setting. We have this group of positive-thinking idealistic boys sent to a prison run by sadistic assholes for reasons that sound harsh today but excused in a world were fear and hatred have taken over. From the get-go, the story is trying to lure the audience with a huge contrast; having extreme child innocence pitting with extreme cruel reality. This gimmick works all the time as the majority of fans goggle up anything that has to do with children suffering.
So anyways, the plot is basically about watching how these boys are constantly tormented by their cruel society and how they cope with it by remaining true to their ideals. It is all very good on a superficial level; you see how they stay close to one another for support, share their pain and dreams, form strong bonds and together face off anything the assholes in the prison think of in order to laugh with their misery.
Going deeper unfortunately shows how the whole deal is rather shallow and eventually retarded. We see the ever-present theme of all shonen “love and friendship are the most awesome powers in the universe”. As much as one wants to just be content with that, eventually the most important personal problems in anyone’s life can be and are only solved with mostly personal effort and persistence. Friends are just emotional support and back-up help; the actual resolution is yours alone. The show doesn’t go into that at all; it is “friendship is everything” all the way and that makes it annoying after awhile.
The second thing that looks bad is the actual personalities of the characters. The boys are presented TOO good while the warden and his main prison guard are plain assholes for us to hate them in 5 seconds. That is all too cheap as there isn’t much gray in here. The juvenile heroes end up looking all heroic with their polarized goodness while the adults with any form of authority are sadistic bastards and all that without much to excuse it. They were just born this way; it runs in the genes or something. Again, too simplistic to really care after awhile.
The third thing is their behaviors. THEY MAKE NO SENSE. You will see numerous scenes where the characters will be talking and acting in a completely fake way, as if you are watching Power Rangers. It will be something like this:
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!
WTF is that crap? Despite the seemingly dark and serious setting, this ain’t any more mature than Pokemon level. Yet it goes further more into Idiotland with several scenes where the characters deliberately are allowed to be frakked over again and again, when they could simply solve all their problems by being more active. They will let themselves be stabbed without fighting back or take the blame for things they didn’t do and all that for some impossible to understand shallow morality. The show is trying to tell you that taking the blame and suffering of the entire world on your back, even when you don’t deserve it, makes you a good guy. It’s as if you are a good guy for letting yourself being a human punch bag and this way the sadistic assholes won’t go torture some other poor soul. What a crock! How about giving those idiots a lesson and punching them back for a change? What? You will become like them this way? Even if you go after the bad guys? And don’t tell me there are no good or bad people because the show is clearly separating them into such all the time.
But it’s not like I hated everything about the show. In fact, the first half was quite entertaining despite the above mishaps. The production values are very good in animation, artwork and soundtrack while the setting is not about the usual lolis/superpowers. Character figures kinda ruin it as they are all made to look stupid (naive kids and psychotic prison guards) with accompanying fake-sounding voices. The initial episodes were also very good while showing the backdrop of each boy and its general path in life so far.
The second half though was a pain in the butt. After watching the completely retarded way of how one of them got his ass kicked when he could very easily WIN AND BRING JUSTICE AND HAPPINESS TO THE WORLD then the rest of the show is just repeating with far less exciting situations. After the initial shock and exposition are done, you are not left with anything of importance to look at, other than more overblown and improbable drama. It was just unbearable to stand. And surely, using the nurse as a narrator was just stupid. What was such a person doing in that prison anyway? Why is she so kind and stuff? Genes again, right?
Bottom line. Rainbow is NOT a different anime. Its atmosphere just looks uncommon for the time it came out; it otherwise follows a very specific and tested formula. It is also NOT a masterpiece as its drama is completely based on retarded characters who act immaturely or sadistically so lots of emoness can be shoehorned. Despite its dark setting and lack of humor it is overall very superficial and unrealistic, full of shonen ideology that is not appealing to the more demanding audience. I only recommend this anime to people who got fed up with harem shows or fighting shonens. Those who want something mature and serious better keep away.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks interesting)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 4/4 (memorable opening song and fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 5/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still spoken off)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much overblown drama)
Memorability 3/4 (tragic to the point of comedy and thus easily remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 2/2 (sounds great)
Story 1/3 (good ideas but hardly exploited properly)
Characters 0/4 (they are dumb and unrealistic)
RAINBOW-anime is definitve the most touching anime I've ever seen!
The story about their unbreakable bonds and their kindness made me cry (it's true, so please don't joke about it).
The characters are quite unique about their past.
Sometimes it can be quite disgusting.
But something in this anime made me, how would I say, stuck? No... Interested!
Story - 9
Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin (Rainbow for short), as the synopsis tells us, is set in Japan a decade after WWII ended. The longer-term effects of war are apparent everywhere; from abject poverty, broken families - from both post-traumatic mental illness and death - to the desperation of many being exploited by the heartless few. We see all of this in Rainbow, it is an extremely well-rounded account of how lives can be affected by war. However, it's not all doom and gloom, and that's one of the strongest features of this series; we are also shown hope, resilience and the strength of trust and friendship in careful measure.
Rainbow follows the story of seven main protagonists, six of which are 16 years old, while the other is 17, all of whom are sent to a boys' disciplinary school for what are explored through the series and shown to be, petty and/or 'noble' crimes of necessity.
The 'spine' of the group is quickly established as Bro or 'An-chan', (Rokurouta Sakuragi) the 17 year old inmate who has been kept at the school for a year already. He cements the group's trust in himself and each other with his brand of uncompromising tough love, wisdom and physical and mental resilience. The seven quickly forge a deep friendship, though not without conflict, which is challenged frequently by the initial negative force they must contend with, the sadistic guard, Ishihara and the more subtle, calculated villainy of the perverted, predatory school doctor, Gisuke Sasaki. The central theme of the boys all 'coming to each other's rescue' and 'taking one for the team' is quickly established as they prove both their devotion to their friendship and to their own futures by self-sacrifice and team work - and a lot of blood. The story moves on, but the boys still often come to each other's aid, no matter what, all in aid of helping each other reach their goals and work through their past trials/demons and right wrongs when they can.
The story is very well woven, and I was very pleasantly surprised as the story moved on that the forward movement of the characters on their journeys as friends and individuals becoming adults was kept interesting and fresh - and not too depressing. The rays of sunshine are always there, but there is definitely enough pain and toil to keep the viewer from feeling too 'safe' from whatever lies around the corner.
Animation - 9.5
The animation is finely designed, clean and creative. The characters are all well defined as separate entities with their physical attributes and corresponding strengths- which are also tied subtly as relevant to their individual dreams for the future.
There is a lot of violence in Rainbow. There's a consistent theme of violence to cause pain in both sadistic and survival contexts (and also with boxing as an undercurrent to the story and bond between Bro and Mario). However, the violence is done with an almost beautiful execution; fight scenes are fluid and are tailored toward the particular plot feature it is a part of. Overall, the violence (both sexual and physical) plays its part as a constant narrative of endurance, resilience, and often self-sacrifice, without seeming out of place or gratuitous. The sexual violence isn't crude, but is visually blunt enough to evoke disgust/revusion/sympathy where appropriate.
I must give another kudos to the production team for managing to distinguish Bro and Mario from each other throughout their developments. Their physical appearance and personality differ strongly enough to do each justice as separate characters but enough in common to show their 'crossover' in role and their own special connection by the end of the series (without touching spoiler territory).
Sound - 9
Firstly, I absolutely adore the intro to this series, and I ashamedly admit that I skip most opening sequences on any series almost every episode - something I'm now trying not to do lest I miss another gem like this one. The intro music to Rainbow is an emo rock track I'm not familiar with, and I don't particularly enjoy that style of music, but it was perfect for this intro. It's more about animation, I know, but the sequence of art paired with the music is gorgeous. It tells the tale itself and gives an insight into the characters and the beauty they see in their otherwise pretty dismal circumstances in snips that make you fall in love with their unshakeable hope and determination and curious to see how it unfolds.
The VAs were well cast, and add a seamless dimension of personality to each character's individuality.
Characters - 9.5
The characters undoubtedly make this series what it is. The viewer is continually getting to know each character throughout. They're all very different in personality, in history and in their future paths, and the forward movement smoothly changes the flavour of the story and the focus. I could go through the main characters - and I'd love to wax lyrical about all of them - but I couldn't do that kind of analysis justice without spoilers or otherwise running out of superlatives and boring the pants off anyone reading this review.
There is one common characteristic for each of the seven boys, and that is their hearts of gold. No matter who they touch, they are always looking out for others as well as each member of the group. However, they don't live in each other's pockets and are independent and savvy in their own ways, if this weren't the case, it would be unrealistic and jarring. They do their own thing a lot of the time, and cross paths naturally, with bouts of close contact when a need/occasion arises. They also aren't painted as flawless paragons of virtue; they are all real, and make mistakes, and sometimes reject each other. But they all seem to have an infallible ability to cotton on to what they need to do for each other, often selflessly and in concert to varying degrees.
Overall - 9.5
It's difficult to impart some of the finer points and highlights of why I prized this series so much without giving away spoilers or getting half into storylines that have been growing from the start and doing them no justice. This isn't a 'complicated' anime, but it is woven quite finely with tendrils overlapping and complementing each other all over the place.
This is an affecting anime with its roots in emotion, resilience, personal growth and the power of deep bonds. If you're a fan of mature, confronting anime or seinen with these elements, do check this out. But I wouldn't warn people away from this series unless they really don't like violence, drama or adult themes. Even then, they could find an exception here...
I will almost certainly rewatch this down the track.
Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin had the unfortunate luck of being released in the same season as megahits Angel Beats!, Kaichou wa Maid-sama! and K-On!! (a good season for exclamation marks it seems). And although this meant a lot less viewers, it was also quite a blessing. You see, people had grown tired of these shows where cute girls played such an important role. And thus, fans immediately praised the show for its real and gritty portrayal of life in post-WWII Japan. What a difference it was in comparison to all those moe blobs! This is what anime needed, a big dose of realism and sadness. No more shows rife with clichés and uninspiring moe characters. It basically came down to the fact that it was different and everyone agreed that different was good. It was a breath of fresh air and thus a masterpiece. Well… I’m not here to say that Rainbow is a bad anime, not at all. On the contrary, it’s one of the better shows I’ve seen these couple of years. But is it an absolute masterpiece? A brilliant commentary on social injustice? A beautifully crafted story about the struggles of growing up and adulthood? Not quite. And here’s why.
(WARNING: this review might contain some spoilers. If you haven’t seen this show yet or only seen up to episode 15, proceed at your own risk)
Rainbow tells the story of seven young boys who, through the twisted paths of Fate, end up in the same cell of a disciplinary school. They soon form an unbreakable friendship, a fire-forged bond, with cool and level-headed Rokurouta Sakuragi (aka Bro) as their leader. But life is cruel and life in a detention center is even crueler. The show follows their struggles with a sadistic guard, a perverted doctor and life in general. And they stick with each other through it all. In fact, they go to such extreme lengths for each other that the makers should’ve named this ‘Bromance: the anime’. And here lies my first problem. While others may disagree, their friendship struck me as over the top cheesy and idealized. Granted, the situation might have pushed them into this relationship, but the anime doesn’t really give us a reason for it. They meet and bam! A month later they’d even die for each other. That’s why I liked the second half more (a rather unpopular opinion, it seems). The boys are more mature and their friendship makes more sense. There’s still a lot of bromance being thrown around, but it seems to work better in an everyday situation than in the prison setting. In a way you could say that the first half is more of a build-up, a prologue if you will, to the second half.
Of course, if you’re more drawn to the whole prison setting, you might find the second half, which is more about their lives after getting back out, a bit boring or ordinary. I’d advise you to stick around though, as this is where most of character development finds place.
I’m not gonna lie. Bro annoyed the fuck out of me. It’s not that I hated him. It’s that I hated his image, what he represented. He was so perfect, even in his imperfections. And of course all the other boys fawned over him all the time. In a way he reminded me of Kamina, but a bit more one-dimensional. And all the other boys are Simon then, I guess. Mario in particular grows as a character after Bro’s death. You’d think they’d all be broken little birds after what they’ve gone through, but somehow, they manage to go on with their lives. Most of them get their own character arc, but unfortunately this is not the case for Soldier and Cabbage. Though the latter does get an episode dedicated to him, we don’t really learn much from it. And Soldier doesn’t even get that! Quite a shame, as he seemed to be one of the more interesting characters.
One of the major disappointments were this series’ villains and that’s because they’re too evil. There’s not really much to them, except that they’re evil and you should totally hate them. No nuance, no nothing. I wish the creators had given them somewhat more depth, even just a little.
It’s pretty and clean, befitting the tone of the series. Well, not really ‘pretty’ pretty, but you know, nicely animated and stuff. Okay, fine, I’m not an expert so I have no idea what I’m talking about. It doesn’t look like crap and that’s all I need. There are quite some stylized stills thrown in here and there for extra drama.
The voice acting is pretty much on spot. Joe’s VA sounded quite monotone at times, though he makes up for it by singing this amazing song in the second half of the anime. There’s also a female narrator, pointing out some obvious things. Some people hated this aspect, but I really enjoyed listening to her. It was quite soothing.
OP is freakin’ amazing. ED wasn’t really my cup of tea, but (as with all other things) fit the series to a T. It reminded me of the kind of music my dad would listen to, not something you hear often for anime. Can’t really say much on the BGM, since that’s not really something I pay attention to, but there is a fun little jazz song in the second half and of course Joe’s emotional song.
I guess I just came into this with the wrong expectations, hoping that it would be something like Barefoot Gen, exposing all of the cruelties of life. I wanted it to make me scream out in rage because of the injustice, the pain, the struggle. Instead I got a gritty, but nonetheless bright and hopeful tale about manly camaraderie. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, I still felt a little bit cheated. Having said that, Rainbow is a must see if you’re looking for a darker story about friendship and growing up. Or if you’re looking for the most epic bromance ever.