If AMAIM: Warrior at the Borderline was the mecha anime series from this season that was trying to sell hesitant viewers on Japanese conservative talking points in an anime context, Rumble Garanndoll feels much more like a move in the opposite direction. It’s a mecha anime series, leaning more towards the super robot side of things, which also feels like it’s more overtly anti-fascist, but with a more comedic, otaku-focused take.
The premise is in the world of the series, before the current Emperor (Reiwa) could ascend, Japan was invaded by forces from a parallel universe Japan, where the Showa period (which, it bears mentioning, includes the Second World War) never ended, and indeed where the Imperial Japanese government won the war. Japan is now occupied by a fascist government with attitudes of the past – and much of modern Japanese culture is banned as being depraved, degenerate, and corrupt.
However, there is a resistance movement pushing back against them, calling themselves Arahabaki, and operating out of Akihabara. Our audience perspective character and protagonist is Hosomichi Kudō, a young man who works as a Host in an underground host club, as he has a massive amount of debt to a loan shark, and if he can’t pay the money, his organs may be taken as payment (and the rest of him used as fish bait). However, he ends up becoming the co-pilot of Arahabaki’s super robot, the Garandoll – which requires a pilot and a human battery, whose enthusiasm will power the robot and its ability to succeed in combat. In this case, Kudō and a trio of Battery Girls – Mecha fangirl Rin Akagi, aspiring idol Yuki Aoba, and hacker Misa Kuroki – will have to combine their powers to save Akihabara.
It is to the show’s credit that their depiction of Otaku Culture is not completely uncritical. The mechanics and staff of Arahabaki are resentful of Kudō getting to team up with the various battery girls, but also lack the courage to go forth and fight themselves, as a sort of Internet Tough Guy. Similarly, during an Akihabara open house in the midpoint of the series, Rin takes a newcomer on a tour of Akihabara, and also has to very unsubtly steer them away from some of the more debauched and risque elements of anime fandom, the elements that make you have to stick an asterisk on a particular anime or manga recommendation.
While the show also doesn’t get into the atrocities carried out by the Imperial Japanese government during the Second World War, the show also does make it clear that they were fascist, and that the world that they came from was likely a very terrible place – the response from the cast when they learn that the occupation forces came from a world where the fascists literally took over the world is very much a more polite form of “Well, fuck that!”
Ultimately, the show very much presents an idealistic message that the power of Fandom can serve as a solid and powerful weapon against Fascism. While Fandom has also been weaponized by fascism, through movements like Goobergob (using an alternative name to avoid Google search alerts), and sub-groups in other fandoms, such as Furries, Star Wars, and even Star Trek fandom, I also do appreciate the sentiment, and hope people will take that message to heart.
Also, I also really hope that Rumble Garanndoll does make it into a future Super Robot Wars game, because I think they could get some really good metatextual humor out of it.
Rumble Garanndoll is currently available for streaming on Funimation.
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