I mean… where do I even start?
Well, at the very beginning, I guess, because the opening scene (set one year after the events of the first episode and, I’m assuming, much of the rest of the series), made me feel like I was watching some kind of comedic anime version of Death Race – only in the age of steam engines instead of being set in a sci-fi dystopia. And hey, this is only the first minute or so of the show! We then abruptly transition to apparently late nineteenth-century Japan, where literally everyone except the main character are still dressed in traditional kimono and basically adhering to all the cultural norms you’d expect of old-school Japan.
It’s a rather jarring introduction to the story, to say the least, and just in case it wasn’t already blatantly obvious, Appare-Ranman! appears to have zero interest in historical accuracy of any kind. Possibly more to the point though, get ready for a Japanese interpretation of nineteenth-century America that I guarantee you’ve never seen before – one that’s full (and I do mean full) of incredibly over-the-top and anachronistic cultural stereotypes. Whether these come across as either plain weird and (hopefully intentionally) dumb or outright offensive will depend on your mileage… and/or whether you’re of Chinese or Native American descent. Personally, I’m more or less happy to try and approach everything from a fantastical angle, preferring to think of the show more as a deliberately inspired but still very fictional universe rather than any kind of attempt at realism, or even surrealism for that matter.
For the sake of fairness, I’ll add that it’s clear Appare-Ranman! isn’t in the business of taking itself too seriously. It also has a decent sense of comedic timing. Are the jokes themselves especially original or uproariously funny? No, but they manage to land more often than not anyway, simply because the beats are on point. Plus, for anyone more interested in the production side of things, the show looks pretty nice – the colors are bright and crisp, the animation is fluid, and if you get nothing else from this title, it’s at least fun to look at.
Is it actually good? Possibly not, but so far, it’s interesting enough to warrant another couple of episodes from me.
Note: Regular broadcasting of Appare-Ranman! is scheduled to begin April 10. However, episodes 1 and 2, which I’m reacting to here, were streamed in advance on March 21.