Review: Aoharu X Machinegun Complete Series (DVD)

Hotaru Tachibana is a high school student with a strong sense of justice, and often attacks first and asks questions later. This is the case when Tachibana storms into a host club with the intent of avenging her wronged friend, and is challenged to an airsoft gun duel by the club’s most popular host, Masamune Matsuoka. After Tachibana causes significant damage to the club in her quest for vengeance, Matsuoka makes her join his airsoft team Toy Gun Gun in order to pay off the debt. A few airsoft games are a small price to pay for erasing what she owes, but things get more complicated when Matsuoko reveals that Toy Gun Gun has a no-girl policy, and has completely failed to realise that short-haired, fist-throwing Tachibana is a girl. Now Tachibana has to hide this fact from Matsuoka and his teammate, the erotic manga artist Toru Yukimura, or she won’t be able to pay off her debt. To make matters worse, Tachibana actually starts to like playing airsoft, and is caught in the tricky situation of telling her new friends the truth, or losing her place in the team.

Aoharu X Machinegun has a strong Ouran High School Host Club vibe from the first episode, but this disappears quickly and the debt and host-club aspect of the show are dropped almost immediately. All that’s left after that is the fact that Matsuoka and Yukimura are unaware that Tachibana is a girl. From there, Aoharu X Machinegun creates its own identity by focusing on the Tachibana’s introduction to playing airsoft and her relationships with the people that play it. There’s not much content outside of the airsoft matches, so don’t expect any beach episodes that are often staples of anime. It’s basically all airsoft all the time, with the members of Toy Gun Gun mostly meeting with each other to train, buy airsoft equipment, or take part in matches.

Tonally, Aoharu X Machinegun is kind of all over the place. At first it’s extremely silly and the show is full of heightened levels of violence, such as when Tachibana launches herself off the ground and creates a small crater or when she punches a wall so hard she leaves a massive dent. Yukimura’s love for erotic manga and video games also makes him and his actions the butt of a few jokes due to his fanaticism. Despite some of the more sexual jokes getting old fast and bordering on frustrating, Aoharu X Machinegun still manages to have a fun atmosphere, with some fast-paced and interesting action sequences, peppered with the usual friendship and inspirational speeches before, during, and after matches. That being said, the show often has a serious case of mood whiplash and these silly moments are punctuated with scenes of emotional intensity, and there’s several mentions of sadism and masochism thanks to Yukimura’s hobbies and because of the character Nagamasa Midori, a member of the airsoft team Hoshishiro. Midori is a fun character, but on the airsoft field he is brutal, and this is pretty obvious by his actions towards other characters and how he dominates them on and off the field. All these elements jumbled together in one anime makes for a sometimes confusing, but nonetheless fun time if you’re not too concerned with fluctuating tones.

The thirteenth and final episode of Aoharu X Machinegun is a special that involves the characters going to an airsoft match where their opponents are cosplayers (with some really creative cosplays, including the Statue of Liberty and a Christmas tree). It’s ridiculously hilarious, and after watching it a part of me wishes that the whole show matched the tone of that episode just because of how fun it was. Then again, the fluctuating intensity of the tones in Aoharu X Machinegun are what makes it memorable, but at least the last episode was bursting with humour and went out with a bang.

I have personally described Aoharu X Machinegun as Ouran High School Host Club with airsoft guns to friends, but truthfully the show is a lot more than that. It’s complicated tonally, and there are some intense moments where some characters intimidate and hurt each other. Because of this, the show has a strong identity (even if it’s sometimes confusing) and overall, it makes for a fun ride. Fair warning that episode 12, the end of the main story and character arc, seems to come out of nowhere and cuts off awkwardly. From some research I know that this is because it is the only place in the manga the show is based on could end without moving onto the next arc, but it’s still a little underwhelming after the events of the last airsoft match of the show. Still, Aoharu X Machinegun is a lot of fun, and if you even have the slightest interest in it from this review, I urge you to check it out.

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A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.