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April 12, 2010

Rainbow has me torn. I like it because it’s trying to do something different within the bounds of anime. I don’t like it because it’s playing up the sort of crap that I don’t like in live action movies.

I like gritty, dark, cynical, nasty movies. My top five from last decade consists of the following movies:

Battle Royale, No Country for Old Men, Oldboy, Suicide Club, Children of Men

All of those movies present bleak, pathetic, dire views of the world. Not unlike Rainbow. The difference is the same difference between No Country for Old Men and, say, the movie that Rainbow most resembles: The Shawshank Redemption.

When I first saw Shawshank, I liked it. Maybe even loved it. But that was when I was in high school and when I was far more apt to fall for its formula. It presents a situation that’s firmly rooted in reality and is trying to evoke an emotional feeling in the viewer by showing injustice in the real world. The shit that goes on in Shawshank is terrible and it should piss you off that the prison system is fucked up and corrupted.

At the same time, that’s no longer my idea of entertainment. I watch movies to have fun. I watch anime to have fun. My definition of “having fun” is pretty broad, since it can cover everything from silly stuff like the Speed Racer live action movie to, well, stuff like No Country. I may enjoy seeing a cynical view of the world, but I like that cynicism to be rooted in something wholly fictional. While No Country is set in 1980 Texas, it presents a story that only feels real. It’s events are completely fictional and, quite frankly, could never happen in reality. It certainly seems like something that could happen, but it never has and never will happen.

Shawshank, along with Rainbow, present situations that are essentially “based on a true story.” Their stories aren’t literally based on someone’s account of that period in time, but they depict events that could happen. I strongly dislike that style of storytelling. I don’t like biographies. I don’t like “based on true stories.” I rarely get as much out of a movie if I know that the events really took place.

I like that “barrier” between fiction and reality. I’m not looking for a depiction of real events or life-like events, I’m looking for fiction that plays as a metaphor for broad ideas that apply to reality. Children of Men, for example, is a sci-fi movie, but it hits on universal concepts like immigration and criticises both the “left” and the “right” of politics, exposing both sides of being equally capable of churning out radical extremists that fuck up everything for everyone else. Children of Men does all of this without playing off of real events.

That’s why I’m not really digging Rainbow despite it hitting certain buttons. I actually like the melodrama. That nasty warden dude is pretty awesome. I love his Joker-like smile, since it enhances his sinisterness. And the “doctor” is just as creepy in his “I’m nice to you so you don’t fight when I come to your room at night to give you a personal exam” sort of way. I liked how we were introduced to each character, seeing them get their asses kicked and freezing the screen to give us their nickname and a short description of their mixed-up life that led to this point.

I also like that the group of boys seem to be a mix of “can’t help but be criminal” types and “screwed over by the system” types. They all did something that’s illegal. Some couldn’t help but turn to crime because of their lot in life while others ended up criminals for crossing the wrong people.

If all of this was taking place in, say, some space orphanage on the frontier of space or some ancient Greek city-state, I’d probably eat it up. But the very fact that the series is trying to expose a relatively recent period in history and “educate” modern audiences about that facet of history is a bit of a turn-off for all of the reasons I detailed above. It’s one thing if I was getting all of this from a History Channel hour-long special and it’s another when someone’s trying to shovel it down my throat by means of an anime series.

It just isn’t what I’m looking for.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Taka permalink
    April 12, 2010 9:50 PM

    I feel like they could resolve a lot of these Shawshank Redemption vibes if they just got rid of the narration. Hayashibara Megumi is awesome and all but the narration she gives turns the sap way up for Rainbow. Why not just let the characters play out their lives in the prison. Why do we have to know that they are spiraling into hell?

  2. Pikachuxx permalink
    April 9, 2011 6:04 PM

    A year late, but does this mean you wouldn’t be into great anime like Versailles no Bara? Or goodish anime like Hetalia?

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