Appare-Ranman is an original anime by P.A. Works that has a lot of promise—it takes the premise of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 7: Steel Ball Run, the main character of Dr. Stone, the steampunk technology of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, and the pure chaos of that old Hanna-Barbera cartoon Wacky Races and ties them together with a distinctive style all its own. Fittingly, the story takes place in the early days of the Meiji era (1868 – 1912), which was characterized by an upheaval of traditional Japanese society and the integration of foreign concepts that would rapidly modernize and change the country for good. Let’s have a closer look at Appare-Ranman’s unique take on the Meiji era!
Steampunk, But Different
This series takes plenty of cues from the steampunk subculture, particularly with Appare’s ramshackle car that he retrofitted from his homemade steamboat. However, it also brings in early gasoline-powered vehicles and other strange inventions to emphasize the clashing cultures and tech levels that actually existed at the time. The racers aren’t just competing to see which person will cross the finish line first, but which of their technologies will win out over the others. Of course, Appare is fascinated by all of them!
Historical Issues Echo Modern Ones
Similarly to Rurouni Kenshin, which is also set in the Meiji era, this anime’s central theme seems to be about letting go of the past and moving forward on your own terms. Appare shuns his family business to focus entirely on tinkering with machinery and aspiring racer Xia Lian struggles against the sexism that keeps her out of the driver’s seat, while Appare’s samurai chaperone Kosame quickly finds himself to be the product of a bygone era and must reinvent himself for the modern world while still holding onto the traditional values that matter to him.
But these issues didn’t only affect people in the 1800s, they’re universal struggles that happen even today. Anyone who sets out on their own will have to figure out where they belong in a world that’s much larger than the bubble where they grew up, and many of us are scrambling to adjust to a new normal where the coronavirus has forced us out of the stability we once took for granted. Could Appare-Ranman inspire us to find our place in this shifting society?
It’s early days yet for Appare-Ranman and, unfortunately, there won’t be more than three episodes until the anime picks back up after the coronavirus hiatus. It’s an ironic situation to be sure, but we’re confident that P.A. Works can deliver the high-octane action and subtle social commentary promised in its way-too-catchy OP. After all, they made Angel Beats and Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, so they’ve got this! They also made Another, Glasslip, and Fairy Gone, but... don’t worry about it, it’s fine.
What did you think of our analysis? What are your hopes for Appare-Ranman, and how do you like its interpretation of the Meiji era? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!