Another one of the casualties of COVID-19 hitting Japan, Appare-Ranman!, went under most people’s radars due to its production being pushed back from Spring to Summer. A fast-paced Wacky Races-style anime with a large cast of entertaining characters, Appare-Ranman! quickly became one of my favorite anime of the season.
An original anime by Masakazu Hashimoto and produced by P.A. Works (Angel Beats!, Sakura Quest), Appare-Ranman! follows genius engineer Appare Sorano and samurai Kosame Isshiki after they are stranded in Los Angeles in the early 1900s. With no way to return to Japan, the two decide to take part in the “Trans-America Wild Race,” the first-place prize of which being large enough to pay for their trip home. Along the way, they meet the young Native American Hotato, who seeks revenge on the man who killed his father and raided his village. The race forces the three of them to face all kinds of dangerous people including the other race participants as they attempt to win first place with a custom car Appare built from scratch.
The characters each have distinct personalities. Whether it be lone female racer, Xing Xialian, the notorious Bad Brothers, or the members of the legendary “Thousand Three,” Dylan the Hero, Crazy TJ and Gil the Butcher, each one brings a unique dynamic to the race. Appare, Kosame and Hotato will have to face each of them on the road to victory. Gil, as the main antagonist of Appare-Ranman!, has a charismatic but clear villainous presence when compared to the show’s other immoral characters. He makes TJ almost seem sane.
P.A. Works is most well known for their creative animation, so I was worried that the race would feel too much like Initial D. Luckily, the wide range of motion and use of 3D camera movement allowed the racing to feel dynamic. The staff behind Appare-Ranman! did a fantastic job designing each car so that they would feel incredibly distinct from each other when in motion. The designs for the cars also fit the drivers perfectly. Appare’s feels like a mod podge of different pieces as he built his car completely from scratch with his own two hands. The Bad Brothers’ car has a monstrous design with huge front wheels with spikes on the end, showing how they wish to be perceived by the rest of the racers, even if their personalities aren’t as bad as they would lead you to believe. Al Lyon, TJ and Dylan’s cars were all built by the companies sponsoring them, yet they each have a flavor to them that matches the driver. The amount of work put into the art direction and style of Appare-Ranman! is incredible, but this should come as no surprise based off of P.A Works previous shows.
Funimation’s English dub for Appare-Ranman! was incredibly diverse, pulling actors from all sorts of backgrounds across the country to voice this crazy cast of characters. ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) director Caitlin Glass (Sakura Quest, Fruits Basket) and script writer Tyler Walker (Ace Attorney, Dr. Stone) did a fantastic job helping to bring these characters to life in English. Lee George brought a surprising amount of emotional depth to Appare that I never expected. Ivan Jasso’s voice brought some serious range with his portrayal of Kosame, making his sound stoic yet loose and even fatherly at times. The rest of the cast, especially Emi Lo as Hotato, Suzie Yueng as Xialian, Brandon McInnis as Al, Ace Anderson as TJ, Cris George as Chase and Xanthe Huynh as Sofia, were all amazing. However, I must give special props to Brandon Potter who easily stole the show in all of his scenes.
Appare-Ranman! was an incredibly fun watch. While the show could have benefitted from a second season due to the abrupt ending of the race, it still was a wild ride that left me feeling surprisingly emotional in certain episodes. I am excited to see what Hashimoto makes next.