「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.
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.