by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Alas, poor Appare, we hardly knew ye. While far from the only show that's been delayed this season (and almost certain to have more company as the weeks go on) it's still a shame to have to hit the brakes on this show just after it got the motor running. But the wheels have fallen off this entire year and as the industry and world at large try to downshift to avoid a total spinout, we'll all just have to strap in and enjoy what we have for now. I promise I'm almost out of car puns.
Anyway, in a vacuum episode 3 works well on what it's aiming for as we expand our ensemble cast with a trio of new additions. First is Hototo, the Native American youngster who we briefly met last week. After rescuing him, Appare and Kosame learn he's on the hunt for the man who stole his family's home and killed his father, with only the assailant's snake tattoo to go off of. We don't learn much beyond that – Kosame's too polite to press the sensitive topic beyond encouraging him to go back to the rest of his family, and Appare's more concerned with his knowledge of eastern US terrain for the upcoming Trans-America race – but Hototo himself quickly establishes a solid rapport with both our leads that makes him a welcome addition. He very much occupies the bratty younger brother role in their makeshift family, going along with Appare's inventing and eccentricities while clashing with Kosame's attempts to coddle him. He gives Kosame a hard time, but only when he feels he's being looked down upon for his age, which makes it feel much more like his worrywart chaperon is bringing it upon himself. The result is a dynamic that has plenty of room for slapstick and snark, but avoids feeling like meanspirited, manufactured sitcom conflict.
There's a similar vibe to the next addition too: the incredibly English and incredibly posh Al Lyon, who shows up with a boatload of car parts and promptly tells our heroes to vacate the storehouse they're living in so he can set up shop. As potentially biting as that bit of gentrification might be, Al himself is presented as less of a meanspirited antagonist and more an out-of-touch potential rival (“If you have nowhere to sleep, you can go to a hotel.” he says) who has to learn to stop resting on his laurels. The third son of the BNW (Definitely not BMW, please don't sue) engineering empire, he's clearly lead a privileged life but the show makes sure to emphasize he's not a total jackass. His right-hand woman Sophia helps a lot in that respect, going along with him for the most part but gently steering him back when he crosses a line. And after he loses his bet with Appare he's quick to honor his side of the deal and own up to his own complacency being the reason he lost. By the end of the episode he's making big shonen rival declarations to beat Appare next time, and it really doesn't seem like there's any hard feelings between the boys. Overall it's a good formula for a likable rival to Appare who you still kind of want to see lose. Plus Sophia's just a delight and I hope she'll get to be involved in racing shenanigans too.
The race they have this episode is also a solid set piece. Simple and short, it works both as comedy and to give us a look into what sets Appare apart as an engineer. Knowing he doesn't have the parts or time to beat Al's souped up racer conventionally, he instead devises a way to just launch his engine (and Kosame) forward to cross the finish line first. It's a goofy plan, but exactly the kind of goofy that promises a lot of fun once we get the entire cast on the raceway, and it's a smart way of having our characters win here without making Al feel like a total chump when the real racing starts. There's a couple of noticeable but overall well-integrated sequences of CG animation throughout, and thankfully they work to make the cars feel fast and wild rather than being distracting.
On the whole this episode feels like Appare-Ranman! growing into itself. The new cast gel well with our established leads while also making for a solid proof of concept for the wacky races to come. Plus they have a steampunk segway now. What's not to love?
Appare-Ranman! is currently streaming on Funimation.
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