In the late 19th century, genius misfit and inventor Appare Sorano and skilled samurai Kosame Ishikki find themselves stranded in the middle of the ocean when Appare attempts to flee Japan to avoid arrest for a series of inventions gone wrong. Rescued by a passing steamship, the two wind up in Los Angeles, with no money to charter a ship back home and in need of a job to make ends meet. As luck would have it, Appare and Kosame discover the upcoming Trans-America Wild Race, an automobile race from Los Angeles to New York through the American landscape that awards the winners a massive cash prize. The race presents them both with an opportunity to get what they want – for Kosame, the prize money means a ticket back home to Japan, and for Appare, the competition provides the perfect opportunity to build his own automobile. What follows is fierce race from one side of the United States to the other, as Appare and Kosame contend with rival racers and bandits as they charge towards the finish line.
Appare-Ranman! is an original anime series from P.A. Works, the studio behind one of my favourite anime films of all time, Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms. With its carefully-paced narrative, fun character interactions and abundance of action, P.A. Works has delivered another outstanding addition to their filmography with Appare-Ranman!, which has quickly climbed the ranks of my favourite anime series. There is not one factor that propels Appare-Ranman! into this category, as the sum of the series’ parts all work well together to make an extremely entertaining and engaging package.
Appare-Ranman! has a great sense of humour, with many of its characters having a hilarious dry wit or can-do attitude throughout the series despite the exaggerated scenarios they find themselves in. This includes Appare creating an automobile out of the remnants of boat, and each of the characters taking part in the race derailing the official pole position selection for the competition starting order with a series of spontaneous mini competitions, including a gun fight. The setting of the show in the late 19th century also gives it a unique and enticing visual aesthetic that pairs Americana such as diners, desert towns and cowboys with Japanese dojos and samurai. It’s a great visual and narrative match that gives the viewer a fish out of water scenario with Appare and Kosame as they arrive in America, and then continues to set the tone for an eclectic and fun show as the series progresses.
The cast of characters in Appare-Ranman! and the space the series gives them to be full-realised and grow is astounding. The progression of Appare and Kosame’s friendship from supposedly incompatible acquaintances to trusted teammates is a lot of fun to watch play out on screen, and feels completely earned. Appare’s shut-in persona is challenged by being out in the world and needing to make decisions that will affect the people around him, and Kosame’s reserved attitude towards Appare and underlying trauma from his past are elements that work seamlessly into the overall narrative and are shaped by the events of the plot. This character progression is supported by the show placing a lot of its character establishment in the first half of the series before the Trans-America Wild Race, taking the time to introduce the core cast and what motivates them and then exploring those elements further during the race itself. As a result, Appare and Kosame’s companion Hototo’s quest to avenge his family, and rival racer Jing Xialian’s desire to prove herself in a male-dominated field are introduced early and then play important parts of the characters’ growth and feed into the direction of the overall narrative. This smart storytelling ensures that the core cast of characters are well established, and that the audience understands the variety of different reasons the characters have for taking part in the Trans-America Wild Race. The result is a smooth narrative that feels tangibly impacted by its characters and their choices, and fun sense of camaraderie between the racers as the series progresses, with a seamless transition from a competition between rival racers to a race based on respect for fellow competitors.
Appare-Ranman! is an adrenaline-packed adventure filled with action, drama and an infectious sense of camaraderie between the rival racers. The series’ late 19th century setting which sees Japanese characters navigating the American landscape gives it a unique feel and its humour and smart character narratives keep the show entertaining and engaging. Appare-Ranman! has quickly shot up the ranks as one of my favourite anime series, and it should be on any anime lover’s watch list.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.
©2020 KADOKAWA/P.A.WORKS/APPARE Partners