「Over the rainbow」

It was pretty ambitious of the writers to slip in one more arc for Mario and go from start to finish in a mere episode, but they managed to pull it off and wrap up the second of four major manga arcs with this adaptation. Thanks to the established characters from previous arcs and the lead-in from Suppon and Lily’s arc just prior, this finale also brought some nice closure to Sakuragi’s story. Starting off with Jeffrey introducing Mario to a Japanese-speaking boxing trainer named Jimmy (Utsumi Kenji) and the subsequent referral to Higashida (Ishizuka Unshou) — the same doctor who examined Suppon — the eventual surgery on Mario’s right-hand for a slim chance to box again brought memories of Sakuragi back into the picture. It’s no secret that they’ve been playing up Mario as the successor of An-chan’s spirit and his love of boxing, so it was nice to see the story come back to that aspect. Mario’s encounter with An-chan’s mother provided a touching side to the story, as did the boxing shoes she bought for her son that he never got to use. All that proved to be beautiful setup to my favorite part of the episode — Mario’s return to the ring.

The instrumental version of coldrain’s “We’re not alone” played upon Mario’s entrance to the ring got me pretty pumped up, and everyone’s anticipation over whether Mario could throw a right punch resulted in some awesome build-up towards it. I just loved how everyone was freaking out about Mario not fighting back at first too, except for Heitai who calmly realized that Mario was smiling and enjoying every second of it. When Mario actually went on the offense and started with his trusty left, Kyabetsu’s scream for a right punch led to quite the spectacle as the music continued playing in the background. It literally felt like a lifelong hurdle had finally been overcome when Mario destroyed his opponent and didn’t have anything holding him back. Coupled with the memory of An-chan, the crowds shouts of excitement with Akito, Tanaka, Jeffrey, and Higashida looking on made Mario’s convincing win feel like the culmination of everyone’s bonds and hard work had reached its highest point. Simply awesome.

I honestly had no idea how the producers would conclude this adaptation in one episode, but they sure as hell didn’t disappoint. Just when I thought things were over, they slipped in a scene with Mario at their tree of dreams, where he was reporting to An-chan on how well everyone was doing. While there is still much more story to be told from the manga, the appearance of Sakuragi in spirit and Mario telling him that he’s inherited his dream of becoming a world champ gave a lot of good closure to the series. Leaving off with Sakuragi’s rhetorical question about what life without happiness is, the ending reminded me exactly what I loved about this series — the powerful depiction of bonds in a very cruel world.


Final Impressions:

Back when I was writing the Spring 2010 Preview and read through a bit of the RAINBOW manga, I felt like I had found the hidden gem of the season. As such, I really wanted pass on that finding to readers and give it some well-deserved limelight, particularly to the viewers who feel that anime has degenerated to nothing more than “moe crap”, “naked girls”, or “fan-service garbage”. Given the lack of discussion my posts generated over the course of its six month run, I’m inclined to believe that I was unsuccessful for the most part; however, the type of discussion that they did generate usually made up for that, since it showed that there were some viewers out there with the open-mindedness to give a series of this kind an honest chance and were getting into it as much as I was.

Beginning with the dark prison-like setting in the Shonan reform institute and Sakuragi showing the boys some tough love to teach them how to survive, the series got out the door on a drastically different foot than anything that the was airing at the time (and probably most of the anime out there). Naturally, the appeal wasn’t in watching Mario and the others continually suffer in such dire times, but overcome them despite how everything was against them. The powerful story following the seven guys from Block 2 Cell 6 who supported one another in the face of corrupt jailers and doctors was unlike anything that I had seen in an anime. It was verging on drama levels that I’d expect from a live-action series or a movie, and had me as captivated as I was disturbed by how they didn’t hold back in the depiction of torture or rape. Props out to MADHOUSE for throwing up a disclaimer at the start of every episode and adhering to the source material in that regard.

The first half of the series involving everyone’s time in Shonan and the hardships they endured usually had me on the edge of my seat every episode. The fire caused by Baremoto in episodes three and four, the inmates of Block 1 Cell 8 crushing Mario’s right-hand in episode five, the torture Sakuragi endured in episode seven, and the prison break in episode eight. It was one hell of a roller coaster ride every step of the way, which left me in disbelief when it came to a crashing halt in episode twelve with Sakuragi’s needless death. I wasn’t the least bit happy about that turn of events, but the fact that I was so emotionally caught up should say something about how caught up in the story I was at the time. By the time the second half of the series rolled around and the boys were all released, I was actually relieved that the drama had dwindled a fair bit. As a result, the latter half of the series wasn’t quite as compelling as the first half, but still had moments of desperate struggle that were strikingly reminiscent.

If there’s one thing to tell people who are considering checking this series out, it’s to not let the title fool them. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows here, but the bonds of these seven teenagers go on to show that brighter days are within their reach. Interestingly enough, I sometimes get criticized for covering too many fan-service-filled shows in my attempt to showcase them in a proper, unbiased view that looks beyond the surface, yet those same critics don’t seem to look at shows like this that I watch and cover right alongside them. So the next time anyone gets on my case for being open-minded when approaching all series — no matter how cliché they may seem — I’ll have to ask them if they’ve seen RAINBOW. It is one of the most un-anime-like anime I’ve ever seen and deserves praise for breaking free of the stereotypes that are generally associated with the medium. If you know someone who wants a heart-wrenching yet inspiring anime series, you can’t really do them wrong by suggesting this one.


    1. I haven’t read them myself to be honest. What I do know is that this second arc concludes in Showa Year 33 (1958) as depicted in this episode, whereas the third one takes place from 1960 to 1964.

      The fourth and final arc covers the three years before the boys get thrown into Shonan from 1953 to 1955 (the first arc takes place from 1955 to 1956), as well as their later years from 1964 to 1968 when the series ends.

      In total, their story spans about 15 years, spread over 22 volumes and 235 chapters.

    2. I’ve read the manga to the second-to-last volume. The final volume is yet to come out in my country.

      The rest of the manga, as far as I remember, consists of Heitai’s arc, Meg’s arc, Setsuko’s arc, and the final arc about a man who once knew An-chan, which also serves as the epilogue. The details go as follows:

      (quite long, and spoilers of course)

      Show Spoiler ▼

      I do hope there will be a second season for this series. I find Setsuko’s arc a bit over-the-top in terms of possibility and action, but Meg’s arc is the most captivating and romantic.

  1. Thanks for blogging Rainbow all the way Divine!
    Like Goblo said, it really is a shame we couldn’t see Heitai’s arc. Too bad “anime-only viewers” of rainbow will miss out what this arc will bring/show and conclude. Especially for Heitai, Joe and Megu. I strongly recommend to check out the manga for anyone wo liked the anime.Anyway, we can always hope/have the illusion that we’ll see another season of Rainbow sometime in the (near) future.

  2. I will definitely give the manga a go after having watched this series. It was hardly flawless from start ’til finish – but it was damn good at times.

    Sometimes it admittably was a bit overdramatic, and almost cheesy, and it didn’t always feel highly original. But then you remembered that it was indeed an ANIME series you were watching, and not a Hollywood drama – and with this realisation, things suddenly feel… well, groundbreaking is a very strong word, and I’m not sure whether this show deserves that epithet or not.

    But it’s pretty different. You’re absolutely right in that it feels very “un-anime-like”.

    Final rating for this series: 7/10

  3. It actually hurt to watch this show most times. I almost always feel happy while watching anime–I’m enthralled by action or I’m laughing or I’m rooting for somebody to do something.

    RAINBOW made me feel like shit, and it wasn’t even talking to me personally like Grave of the Fireflies did, which made me feel like shit for being an American.

    No, it made me feel like shit because I, like everybody I know, has complained about how bad my situation was at some point or another, but then I see that these fictional characters are gritting their teeth and charging ahead after they’ve had real horrors done to them, and that something good is over the hill; however, getting up that hill is sometimes the hardest thing you ever have to do.

    This is a series will probably get the yearly rewatch from me, I just have to balance it out with something VERY VERY HAPPY at the same time.

  4. This show was just ~ so so for me. I’ll give the story b+, but animation and the expedite of scenes were weak (in regards to the “painted mural” scenes that were shown every episode with a girl talking about their determination or hardships). Those scenes just undermines the feelings expressed by the story by stating the obvious in a cheesy way.

  5. From the prison to the boxing ring it was always a good watch. I didnt post after every episode I watched but I always read your thoughts on each episode. I enjoyed watching Rainbow for not trying to be like every other anime out there.

  6. Having An-chan mother was totally unexpected. I can’t recall if I posted to every review but I did watch the whole thing. The three things that bother me are: An-chan dead, Setsuko marriage and Baremoto love. They bother me because is not what I wanted for them. However once everything is said and done every minute of Rainbow was worth it! The best thing I liked of the whole series is that no one strike rich. Everyone had a “normal” ending and are struggling to live and strive with the curves that life throws at them. My most dramatic moment of the series was when Mario confronted Ishihara (spelling?) at the docks. The moment I enjoyed the most was Lily hitting Suppon. It saddens me to see Rainbow ending; but the teachings from the boys of cell 6 will always live.

    Island Esper
  7. Bravo Divine.

    I didn’t comment at all during watching the Series. I found it better to just chat it out with my friends (whom I convinced to watch Rainbow). I have to tank you though, since it was your coverage of the first episode that dug me in to watch the entire Series – and readjusted my faith in Anime. Rainbow not only rose tha bar and shouted “Not everything is Moe and Fanservice!” but its story was so god and compelling you just forget about everything else. It was an anime with an surprisingly good plot and depth, not what you normally see everyday (and nowdays.

    You’ve done a marvelous job, thank you ^^

  8. I tried to watch this show, but after Mario got his hand crushed and I saw the previews filled witn An-chan being tortured, I couldn’t take it anymore. I just felt so depressed after every episode and the show had the feel of a hopeless inescapable abyss. Thank you for your coverage. I’m glad I was able to root for these guys through your posts, and watch them as they progressed through the series. Maybe someday I’ll be able to actually watch the show… but i doubt it. It may sound pretentious, but despite the quality of this anime, I like rainbows. Now I’m going to end on this note: I miss you Sakuragi-san.

  9. “…particularly to the viewers who feel that anime has degenerated to nothing more than “moe crap”, “naked girls”, or “fan-service garbage”.”

    Well i’m a moe fan, but i liked this series too. I watch every kind of anime so no matter what kind of drawing or animations are, if the show is entertain i still continue to watch it. 🙂

  10. I love the series upto Sakuragi’s death. I feel like after they left the institute it went down hill. Maybe, like Divine said, because it lost some of its super uptight drama? That’s what had me coming back every time to watch it though ha. None the less, I would recommend at least the first 13 episodes to anybody.

  11. At first, I’d like to admit to have left this show after a couple of episodes. There were simply way too much pain and sorrow for me to watch. Eventually after I’ve continued reading D’s impressions of this show being steadily positive, I’ve given it a second chance and boy, am I glad I did so.
    Not to discard the fact the episodes made me grind my teeth and curse at the unfairness the boys had to go through, I’ve also been standing up from the edge of my seat to shout a hell yeah every time something good happened to one of them. Tears, smile and curses after, I’ve continued watching them, hoping there will be some light at the end of their struggles.
    For me, this series is now a classic and a true emotional ride. If anyone had any doubts about what anime can bring in terms of dramatic impact, Rainbow is certainly right up there.
    Thank you again, D, in keeping on posting about this series. I’m sure it’s not getting the attention it should deserve right now. I do wish it becomes a reference for anime lovers.
    An-chan would be proud of his boys. I certainly would bow low in respect to each of them.

  12. Best series of the past 2 seasons, probably…. Not surprising looking at the crappy competition made up of wimpy time-travelers in ugly green suits, badly adapted horror with weird hair, schoolgirs (who can’t play) owning guitars they’re not supposed to be able to afford, and some 3rd rate title about toddlers with perverted brains.

    Never read the manga before, but I might now.

    Ugh, upcoming anime season looks pretty bollocks as well 🙁 …. Seriously, we need another Mushishi or Baccano!!

  13. When this series came out, I was watching a few other anime series. I finally got around to taking a look at Rainbow and I became hooked from the start. The opening song rocked & created the emotional mood of the series. No glitz. Just deep & true story arcs that wrung out your heart & made you want to see more. I love this series. I’m sad to see it end.

  14. No love for “Soldier”? Seriously, I am bummed out! They gave the fat guy his own little mini-arc! I was always curious about Soldiers story, and what was going on in the opening credits..

  15. LOL YEAH Divne next time a fool tells you only watch and cover moe stuff ask him if he fucking watched Rainbow.I’m crying right now, this was the best anime I watched this year and it’s getting into my favorite anime of all time list along with Kara no Kyoukai and others.I’m gonna read the manga asap, and maybe get the dvds.
    Seriously, that right punch Mario threw is the best punch ever since the invention of rocket punch.

  16. *my first comment to this site after who-knows-how-long*

    Divine, I agree with you. This is a very touching anime. One can never go wrong about learning true friendship through this series.

    I decided to watched this show during the Summer session because there was no other show to watch (besides Bleach and Sengoku BASARA 2), and in three to four days I managed to catch up until the latest episode (ep 22 at that time). Simply because I love the intensity and honesty the series has portrayed, despite the “manly tears” and sometimes cheesy storyline. How about a second season, Madhouse? That’ll be lovely.

  17. In this series it differs from the usual anime/manga series as it depicts the hardships, cruel and sadistic world both in prison and the outside world. I absolutely admired Anchan for his inspiring confidant words to Mario and the others.
    The first couple of episodes made my heart stop to the point of breaking down in tears. The pain, suffering and torment these boys suffered made me crack. I literally had to only watch one episode a day to keep myself from being depressed o.o But Anchan was the one bright thing in that anime. The heart and soul of the series, besides Mario.
    In the later halves of the series, it lost it touch but then again when released life is filled with spirals that one must learn to accept and acknowledge.
    Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin has been the best anime of this year for me.


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