Timing is a very curious thing because just a few weeks ago I updated my series of posts about magical girl anime and I left off that series with a comment about a lack of an equivalent magical boy genre. Pretty much the same day those posts were scheduled for reposting and I came across Fairy Ranmaru on Crunchyroll, realised it had aired in the Spring 2021 season and had literally just come to a conclusion.
With an open weekend ahead of me and a fierce desire to do as little as humanly possible and to recharge, a binge watch of this action/slice of life/magic anime (as described on MAL) seemed to be in order.
Fairy Ranmaru: Anata no Kokoro Otasuke Shimasu is kind of a hot mess.
I found it interesting in re-reading the tags on Fairy Ranmaru that it isn’t described as a comedy or parody which made me wonder if I was meant to be taking this story seriously. I kind of hope I wasn’t because as a flipped take on magical girls and the over-sexualised transformation sequences and costumes these boys had taking it seriously was more or less out of the question.
And then the plot threw itself off a cliff in the final act. Without specific spoilers I’m just going to point out that somehow everything just ends up being forgiven and they all go back to following rules that make no sense given the reason they were created and nobody actually really seems to have progressed or changed…
So if the purpose was to take this story seriously, then this anime was a mis-fire because the narrative is full of holes and there’s little satisfaction in seeing it play out.
However, in terms of just being engaging, bewildering, over-the-top, sparkly, intriguing, and a nostalgia trip all kind of blended into one less than stellar package, Fairy Ranmaru actually succeeds.
To put it bluntly, it is a fun watch but not a good one.
Of course, the fun factor really only exists for those who are tolerant of the standard magical girl tropes because this anime is going to pack in a lot of them.
We have a group of 5 fairy boys all from a different fairy clan with their own colour and weaponry. There’s some clashing personalities within the group but when push comes to shove they all come together and let the power of friendship/love do its thing. It is very Sailor Moon-esque (and like every other magical girl series ever) but they weren’t really content with just that.
The boys essentially just kind of wander around, go to school, hang out at their bar, until they come across someone who is feeling a bit sad or down and then they more or less tell them to give them their hearts, go through a magic door leading to an over-the-top transformation sequence before we end up in kind of a Madoka Magica-esque witch realm which I guess is reflective of the heart of the person causing the distress.
Any of these ‘clients’ or problems could have been interesting but largely they just kind of happen, escalate within about two scenes and then the client is either crying or attempting suicide before we jump into the transformation sequence. Fairy Ranmaru then follows this with a repeated animation of the focus boy of the week running and singing before we get to the magic door thing (there’s a lot of down time in these episodes which is reminiscent of 1990’s anime but we’re in 2021).
The realms they fight in are visually very cool and each one has a distinct style. In terms of visuals, these areas were probably the strongest parts of each episode.
There’s an attempt at character development by usually linking the fairy boy’s own personal history and trauma but again too little time is spent on this outside of Uruu and Homura (the water and fire fairies) and for the most part ends up being pretty shallow.
We then get another repeated animation after the fight where the fairy boy summons a key and unlocks the villain of the week’s heart and then breaks it somehow collecting ‘attachment’ in the process.
The whole key hole and unlocking people’s hearts gave me a direct flashback to Shugo Chara but it made infinitely more sense there.
I mean sure, the characters all kind of peering through key holes in to the fight sequence and the humans who were at the centre of the conflict being mere spectators was interesting, but there were just so many questions. Like why they ended up collecting ‘attachment’ from the villain and not the victim who was potentially the one with the warm fuzzy feelings? Are they really trying to rebuild the fairy kingdom using the emotions of basic human scum?
Oh yeah, I forget, the reason they are doing all this in Fairy Ranmaru is apparently there was some cataclysmic event that destroyed the fairy kingdom, or nearly destroyed it. And it had something to do with every single character’s father’s issues, except for the characters who were apparently alive and more or less the same age when it all went down… I guess they are fairies but they really don’t explain all that.
We do of course, because it is using the magical girl tropes, have a Queen of the fairies that the boys are serving and her supporting staff member who basically provide commentary and ominous warnings throughout the series before the point at which the plot ceases making any sense. Honestly, these two characters did nothing for me and I’m pretty sure you could hack their scenes out of this anime and it would still mostly make as much sense as it does.
We also have a kind of villain character who is either spectating the downfall of various humans or causing it (unclear), but he’s certainly hindering the other fairies at times before making ominous statements and disappearing. That’s kind of his M.O. until we get to near the end of Fairy Ranmaru and suddenly he decides to stick around.
However, I’m pretty sure anyone who watched the first episode knows that the plot of this story isn’t going to be its strength. Nor should we expect our characters to really get deep and meaningful. What we have here are 5 different pretty boys who each have some issues to overcome and in the process this anime is going to stuff them into super-tight outfits, show off their six packs and other assets, and really just try to be some very solid eye-candy with a little bit of romance thrown in for the fun.
That said, we now have some more anime characters with wings for the list.
If that is what you are wanting to see, Fairy Ranmaru gets fan service just right (or at least pretty explicitly). Cue endless sparkles, and a nice slow panning camera over those rippling muscles from head to chest to toes before we see each arm, leg and then the rest of the body encased in an outfit that is pretty suggestive anyway.
And in case there was any confusion about what they were doing here we also get a nice slow-motion pose as they transition from running to flying that most definitely makes sure you know this isn’t just coincidence, they are putting these boys on display.
Which is something magical girl anime have been doing to young female characters for a very long time and it passes almost without notice because its just part of the genre. Fairy Ranmaru kind of reminded me of that meme that went around a fair few years back that had all the male super-heroes from Marvel or whatever posed in the same way female super-heroes are posed.
That said, I’m not entirely sure they were doing this so much as commentary as for comedic exaggeration or maybe the team behind this really just had a muscle fetish and were trying to appeal to that audience.
Like with everything else in Fairy Ranmaru there’s just not enough substance or consistency to really know what they were trying to get at. There’s lots of ideas and lots of things that happen. Some of it looks like it wants to lead to a point and various ideas emerge but nothing really sticks. And by the time the story limps to a conclusion any basic messages have been lost in the confusion of trying to figure out what any of the characters were thinking when they made their final choices.
Honestly, I did enjoy binge watching this. I wanted more from Ranmaru as a main character. I wanted the plot to make more sense. I wanted some deeper explorations into the various character’s personalities and issues. I wanted the final conflict to actually feel satisfying and I really wanted a better resolution. But… I didn’t ever feel like turning this off.
Maybe it is just nostalgia for classic magical girl stories and the curiosity of the gender swap or maybe it was because that while these boys don’t get enough time to really be fleshed out they are still fun to spend time with, but I had fun.
And sometimes, fun is enough.
That said, if you find the first episode of Fairy Ranmaru painful or end up staring at your screen incredulously, walk away. This series will not get any better or worse from start to finish. It just is.
As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on Fairy Ranmaru so feel free to leave us a comment below.
Images from: Fairy Ranmaru: Anata no Kokoro Otasuke Shimasu. Dir. M Hishida + K Kobayashi. Studio Comet. 2021
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