Friday, August 30, 2019

REVIEW: Aoharu x Machinegun: Complete Collection (anime TV series)

Aoharu x Machinegun is a 13-episode action/sports/comedy series. It's licensed by Sentai Filmworks.


Hotaru is a tomboy high school student with a strong sense of justice. A misunderstanding prompts her to engage in an airsoft (shooting sport that uses plastic pellets instead of real bullets) duel against Matsuoka, one of the hosts at a host club. Matsuoka, who has no idea Hotaru is a girl, sees her as a diamond in the rough - although she knows nothing about airsoft and has never used a gun before, she has good instincts and a ferocious bloodlust. He asks her to join his airsoft team, Toy Gun Gun, as a way to repay the damage she caused during their duel.

Hotaru is a miserable shot and has a lot to learn about teamwork, but it isn't long before she comes to love airsoft. However, it's going to take more than a love of the sport to win against Hoshishiro, a team that's brought Toy Gun Gun (and Matsuoka in particular) to its knees more than once.

Ohh, why did I get this? I own and have read (although never reviewed) several volumes of the manga. I recalled that it looked really nice and had some great moments, but also that it never truly grabbed me and that some of the gun fetishization made me a little uncomfortable. Well, sometimes an anime adaptation can smooth out a series' rough edges and make it better. Unfortunately, that wasn't really the case here.

The characters looked good, if not particularly unique. Also, I loved the moments when Hotaru's switch flipped and she turned psychotically dangerous, even if they didn't really gel with her usual "nice and earnest kid" attitude and behavior.

That said, the bulk of this series was boring, and Hotaru was kind of annoying. I took a long break halfway through because I just lost interest. Now that I've finally seen the whole thing, I don't know that I can say it was worth it. The explanation for the clash between Matsuoka and Midori felt incomplete - I gathered that they'd engaged in friendly competition when they were younger, but what caused their relationship to sour so badly? And the issue of Hotaru's mistaken gender was never resolved. Sure, in the last couple episodes she told herself that she could finally tell them the truth, but she was never actually shown doing so, and viewers never got to see whether it would have an effect on her place in Toy Gun Gun (Matsuoka had a rule about not allowing women on the team).

It bugged me that Hotaru showed almost no signs of improvement. She was about as good at airsoft at the end of the series as she was at the beginning, which is to say that she had good instincts and a high level of ferocity in certain situations but was an absolutely terrible shot. And she continued to make stupid mistakes, like forgetting the safety on her gun. The episode where Matsuoka got mad at her for not listening to him and following his instructions was painful to watch, because she kept charging into battle without realizing that she needed to take some time to hang back, watch more experienced players in action, and learn.

Matsuoka, meanwhile, needed a smack upside the head. I really appreciated the way Yukimura stood up to him near the end of the series, calling him out on his cowardliness and his tendency to take him (Yukimura) for granted. Yukimura, a long-time friend and teammate of Matsuoka's, was generally my favorite of the three Toy Gun Gun members, despite his status as series pervert (he's a creator of erotic manga and tends to have porn strewn about his apartment).

The best part of the series was the TGC match between Toy Gun Gun and Hoshishiro, particularly the one-on-one battles between Hotaru and Fujimon, as well as Yukimura and Ichi. It's too bad that there's so much annoying and/or boring stuff to wade through to get to that point. And then the actual match ended pretty quickly, with the show limping to a lackluster non-ending. All in all, I really should have used my money for something else, although there's some comfort in knowing that I bought this during a really good Sentai Filmworks sale at Right Stuf.

I watched the whole series in Japanese with English subtitles, although I did rewatch one of the later episodes with the English dub turned on. Personally, I thought the dub was painful - most of the casting seemed off, and there were frequent name mispronunciations (it's really not that hard to say "Hotaru" correctly).


In keeping with most of their releases, Sentai Filmworks included only the most bare-bones extras: clean opening animation, clean closing animation, and a Japanese preview for Aoharu x Machinegun.

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