Review for Aoharu x Machinegun Collection
It’s Ouran High School Host Club, but with guns! Actually, I really hope that it isn’t. But when the first episode introduces a school girl who disguises herself as a boy, wandering into a host club, and then co-opted by the tall blond hunk into a club to pay off the extensive breakages that occur, it’s hard not to draw comparisons. The only difference at this point is that she’s drafted into an Airsoft ‘toy’ gun club instead of the host club, to use her superior ‘combat’ skills to make the club the best in Japan. As I said, I really do hope that Aoharu x Machinegun goes off in another direction, as there are certain shows out there that don’t need to be remade or ripped off, so perfect were they the first time, and Ouran High School Host Club is one of them.
Hotaru Tachibana is the student council president with an overactive sense of justice in high school, always picking fights with bullies and standing up for the oppressed. That might be why she always dresses as a boy. When her friend Kanae shows up at school without her lunch money, and mentions that she lost it at a host club, Hotaru gets the wrong idea and storms off seeking justice from the evil host who fleeced her friend.
Storming into the club, she somehow gets drawn into a duel with host Masamune Matsuoka, only he insists that they use Airsoft replica guns. Hotaru not only loses the duel, but winds up damaging the club, racking up quite a debt. But she’s shown native talent with the gun, and Masamune insists that she join his Airsoft club, Toy GunGun and pay off the debt by winning at team matches, alongside Masamune and erotic manga author Toru Yukimura. The one snag is that Toy GunGun is a boys only club. You’ve guessed it... No one knows that she’s a girl.
13 episodes of Aoharu x Machinegun are presented across two Blu-ray discs from All the Anime. The show is also available on DVD.
1. Let’s Get This Deathless Death Match Started
2. I Said We Didn’t Need Teammates, Didn’t I?
3. Because It’s Gonna Be Your Best Partner
4. That Kid Isn’t Cut Out for That Tournament
5. I Don’t Wanna Leave This Team
6. A Storm is Coming
7. I Have to Crush That Hope Quickly
8. What Controls Your Heart Now
9. That’s Why I’m Cool!
10. I Want to Fight With These People
11. Let’s Do Something Fun
12. I Won’t Give Up This Spot
13. This is a Battlefield for Beasts!
Aoharu x Machinegun gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs which is clear and sharp, with strong consistent colours. The animation is strong and fluid, and there is a whole lot of stylish Airsoft action to convey, while the character designs are individual and memorable while conforming to the mainstream anime norms. Detail levels are excellent, and digital banding is minimal. All in all, this is a top-notch presentation of an anime on Blu-ray.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with subtitles and signs locked to the appropriate tracks. I was happy with the original track, happy enough to not even try the English, beyond checking that it existed. The dialogue is clear throughout, the music suits the story well, and the action comes across well with a little Prologic magic. It isn’t as immersive as it could have been given the story, but it is a character comedy rather than a tense, nerve tingling thriller. I wonder how an Airsoft match would have sounded given the full Dolby Atmos...
The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typographical errors.
The discs present their content with static menus, and each episode is followed by a translated English credit scroll.
The extras are on disc 2, and amount to 1:32 of preview for the show, the textless opening and two textless closings, and further trailers for My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, TOO!, RE-KAN!, RIN-NE, and Log Horizon Season 2.
It’s not Ouran High School Host Club. Hotaru pays off her debt by the start of episode 3, and by then she’s so enamoured of survival gaming, Airsoft, that she chooses to be part of team Toy GunGun thereafter, although finding the ideal opportunity to reveal that she’s actually a girl is a lot harder to come by. The deceptive nature of the story doesn’t stop there, as thereafter you’re given the impression that it’s a show about the rivalry between two Airsoft teams, Toy GunGun and Hoshishiro, and that it’s all about revenge and justice given that Hoshishiro are patently evil and sadistic. Only it turns out to be just half the story, and in the end Aoharu x Machinegun is all about personality, about lack of confidence and perceived inadequacy causing difficulties in relating to people, and about healing the social trauma that results. What starts off as a big concept, action comedy drama becomes something a lot smaller in scale and intimate, and the show is actually better as a result. It makes you care about the characters, and invest in their issues.
Toy GunGun is a bit of an oddball group, Masamune Matsuoka is the leader, works at a host club by day, and enjoys Airsoft in his off-time. He’s obviously popular with girls, has a natural confidence and clear leadership qualities. Toru Yukimura on the other hand is a geek, a writer of erotic manga, who can spend days locked away playing erotic videogames. He doesn’t make friends easily, indeed it seems Masamune is his only friend, and he initially gets protective and jealous when Hotaru shows up, until they become friends too. And then there is Hotaru, a high school girl who has to pretend to be a boy so that she can stay in Toy GunGun, a natural tomboy with an inflated sense of justice who is ready to pick fights to stay true to her ideals.
At first glance, and despite an initially friendly encounter, Hoshishiro are built up to be the villains of the piece. They’re a team of hospital employees, two doctors and a nurse, and leader of the group Midori certainly does have a sadistic personality, which works for the byplay between him and his teammates Fujimori and Ichi (Fujimori being a masochist and Ichi being a bit of both). Naturally they bring that style to the way they play, and it’s easy to see them as the bad guys. They certainly entertain with their approach to gaming.
The heart of the story is really about Masamune Matsuoka, his obsession with Toy GunGun beating Hoshishiro, and with him personally besting Midori, an obsession that has consumed him for several years now, but which is really an outward expression of his neuroses, which keep him trapped in a cycle of low confidence and an inability to trust. Hotaru is the perfect member for the team. With her belief in justice, she’s just what the team wants against Hoshishiro. With her almost psychopathic bloodlust when she’s ‘fighting’, she’s what Masamune wants against Midori. But it’s her refusal to give up which is what Masamune doesn’t even know that he needs.
Aoharu x Machinegun has an excellent and engaging character arc to it, some wonderfully animated Airsoft action, warm and engaging comedy, and it ticks along at an entertaining pace. The one annoyance is that it’s a show that really is holding out hope for a second season, as through the thirteen episodes, the penny never drops.