Fairy Ranmaru – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser April 8, 20210 Comments
action shot of Ranmaru driving his sword into a sparkling figure's heart

Content Warnings: Online harassment; attempted suicide.

What’s it about? Five powerful warriors representing each fairy clan have been sent to earth in order to gather “attachment” for their queen. They’re happy to solve their clients’ problems—in exchange for their heart.

After a lavish and exceptionally bulge-forward trailer, a lot of us at Team AniFem were looking forward to what Peter termed “Mahou Mike.” And while there are some bumpy spots that keep this from being the inclusively horny ray of personified sunshine that is Magic Mike XXL, I did spend most of the episode with a slightly baffled grin.

one figure possessively wrappe daround another tied up in red string
Where am I? Is this 2006? I CAN’T GO BACK.

It’s worth noting that this is, first and foremost, a beefcake fanservice show; the kind where every main character proudly introduces himself with a line of dialogue explicitly laying out which archetype he conforms to. If you’re here more for goofy magical boys but not the kind of poppin’ abs and rippling triceps that would make Utsumi proud, you might have a better time with the (slightly) more restrained Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!. Said fanservice also exists on a weird logic continuum: our heroes are magical beings of indeterminate age who are posing as high school students but who also transform into older, buffer designs to do battle in those skimpy, package-framing thongs. It’s a creative solution to doing high school stories while also keeping the fanservice of grown-ups, I’ll give them that.

The actual case-of-the-week setup actually takes me back to the good hilarious old days of Weiss Kreuz, a 1998 anime about angsty, vaguely homoerotic assassins that was an extremely early instance of a franchise built primarily as a marketing vehicle for its voice talent. The Fairy Ranmaru boys might live in a bar/café rather than a flower shop, but it’s definitely an inheritor of that noble tradition—complete with the five leads singing both the opening and ending.

It certainly looks shinier, though. The transformation sequences are stylish as hell and the process of solving the Case-of-the-Week’s problems involves a journey into their mindscape, something that would be incredibly My Shit even if weren’t rendered in the eerie mixed-media style popularized by Madoka Magica so many years ago. The fight scene itself is a bit odd and disjointed, as if the pre-planned footage of various special attacks was loosely strung together by unfocused camera swings. That said, those pre-prepped cuts look real cool and sparkly, and the whole thing goes so hard that I was willing to smile and nod along with the sparklepalooza.

a blushing Jyuka. subtitle: You're the one who's beautiful, Uruu-kun
Yeah. Okay. Call me when you do something with this.

The plot does sadly bring some of the tired baggage of ’90s otome shows with it. It revolves around helping a girl being cyberbullied by a popular classmate who’s jealous her ex decided to ask the first girl out instead. It’s handled somewhat simplistically (with literal magic), but I honestly can’t fault the audience fantasy of wanting a gallant protector who’ll swoop in and save you from the hell of bullying. But besides these two girls, the only other women who appear on screen are anonymous hangers-on of the main villain and that’s… not great.

It feels a bit early to say that the show will have a “women in competition” vibe throughout—the fact that this episode is called “romance” makes me think future episodes might focus on other types of relationships too—but it left something of a bad taste in my mouth. Especially since the episode ends with a passing “karmic justice” shot of the popular girl being harassed via groupchat while girl-of-the-week happily smooches her new boyfriend. It’s honestly pretty dark, given that we saw the same kind of thing drive the first girl to attempt suicide.

a crying girl looking at a screen full of hateful and suicide-baiting comments. subtitle: What did I do wrong?!

There’s also a weirdly normative note to the list of Fairy Laws recited early in the episode, which note specifically that fairies aren’t allowed to fall in love or have sex with “the opposite sex.” It’s possible the show will ironize this to some extent, since the school the boys have infiltrated already has a very chipper anthem about how it’s a beautiful place “with no dark side at all.” But it’s an unpleasantly exclusionary note that jars against the great gender-nonconforming looks our leads are rocking in combat and makes things like the Green Ranger Jyuka blushing and calling the Blue Ranger Uruu beautiful feel cynical rather than sincerely in-character.

That said, I can’t deny that I’m absolutely ready to give this three episodes to prove itself. It’s silly and weird and just a little nostalgic, and right now that’s enough. If nothing else, I highly recommend giving the show’s ending theme—which features the main cast rendered in the style of religious iconography and their transformed identities naked and trussed up in shibari—a look. Whether or not the show as a whole tanks, it remains two minutes of pure gift.

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