RIO: RAINBOW GATE
Rio Rainbow Gate is a comedy and gambling-centric anime series produced by Xebec studio in the spring 2011 season lineup. It was the #2 runner-up in Dream’s Ani-crap voter poll and my first run in participating with the ani-crap “challenge.”
As implied already, the whole premise of the series essentially boils down to gambling; Rio Rollins, the lead female character of the series is a dealer known to those around her as the “Goddess of victory” at Howard Resort. She strives to follow the footsteps of her missing mother to become MVCD (Most Valuable Casino Dealer). To accomplish this she must collect all 13 special magical “Gate” cards, which are obtained through various battles between gamblers. Par for the course, everything from minor setbacks to full blown conflict that happens throughout the series is related to some form of gambling whether the “battle of the day” is Black Jack, pinball, Target Practice, even slot machines, and more.
Carlos Santos, during his preview of the series last spring on ANN, remarked how new anime fans are often indoctrinated with the idea that "Japan can make a cartoon out of anything." But just because they can, doesn't mean they should.” I couldn’t agree more with what he said… The series has a tendency of not only making gambling central to everything that takes place, but also creates back to back moments where I’m wondering more about how Rio’s able to do the job of a dealer and maintain it when her ability makes herself and all those around her impossibly lucky (to the extreme which would almost guarantee tanking any casino in reality), as well as having several children participating in these gambling battles.
If the plot of the series had any redeeming qualities – flimsy as it may be at the get go - with its strange obsession over gambling, the second aspect of the series pretty much ruined it. This series is very fan service heavy, and while it doesn’t make any effort to push the envelope spectacularly (even the bluray edition isn’t especially “revealing”), the series just hits you with it back to back to back to back to back to back with scene after scene of scantily dressed female cast members in everything ranging from bunny suits, to revealing dresses, and swimsuits. I literally could not see more than 5 minutes consecutively where there wasn’t some kind of fan service, and this series made a concerted effort to squeeze into everything including the card battles. In one of the episodes Rio battles with her childhood friend Rina in a game of target practice whereby if the shooter misses, the clothing is gradually stripped (this idea is repeated late into the series). I’m pretty tolerant of fanservice in general, and often look for series with some level of it… but this series was just overload.
Visually the series wasn’t bad but it wasn’t anything special either. Some CGI is used for the fight scenes throughout the series resulting in moments where the animation is relatively fluid and appealing, but it’s mostly average. The character designs are bland and forgettable, even with the female cast from which we receive most of the series’ fanservice. The music track hits a high note to match with the casino jazz, however it’s hardly enough on its own to make the series shine… mostly provides empty glitz and glamor
The characters themselves are also fairly bland; while the series does take the time to detail some of Rio’s and Rina’s histories it does too little and tries far too late for any emotion to register genuinely to me at least, and with the profuse fanservice and hit-or-miss comedy in the mix I found myself unable to take these attempts at bringing the plot together seriously, ideed the ultimate conflict is explained as capturing the MVCP after all 13 cards are collected to do “evil things” totally unspecified or even developed until events were rushed at the end.
Overall, there's nothing in Rio: Rainbow Gate that I haven't seen before. The quantity of fan service and quality of plot put it the same league as the countless otaku pandering series that I've already seen to death when you ignore things specific to its gambling premise, and when you include this gambling element the series goes from typically lacking substance to just bizarre and brainless.... one of the series types that I easily forget. Sometimes I give enough leeway where I’ll give the series a passing grade if it has decent fanservice despite a very weak plot; but this one even ratchets fanservice to the point where it simply gets old fast. It's not that the series is seriously offensive, it's that the execution of what the series tries to accomplish leaves a lot to be desired even among series it shares a lot of common ground with; certainly I believe at least in this case that less is more particularly when it comes down to the fact that 90% of the animation time is blatant fanservice.
If you don’t mind the weak plot or the excessive fanservice, maybe this series is for you, certainly while brainless it’s not the lowest of the absolute low, but I certainly feel that this series was too weird, and mainly something created out of boredom… if the animemikomi.org rating scale is of any help in determining a score, I’d place this series at a borderline watch/avoid.