Rio: Rainbow Gate
Number of Episodes: TBA
Production Company: Xebec
Background Information: Rio Rollins is a dealer at the Howard Resort Hotel casino who is also known as the "Goddess of Victory." She embarks on a quest to collect 13 special cards called "Gates" which will allow her to earn the title of "Most Valuable Casino Dealer."
Episode Summary: Young rich girl Mint arrives at the Howard Resort Hotel with her faithful stuffed bear, Choco, in tow. Almost immediately she begins to catch wind of a beloved card dealer named Rio, who apparently has the ability to relieve tension at the hotel's casino with her very presence and bring luck to all who meet her. Mint seeks out Rio, but after they meet they're confronted by a gang of men who are out to steal Choco right from Mint's clutches.
After being rebuked once, the leader of the thugs, a collector named Orlin Dunhill, challenges Rio to a duel wherein he wins the stuffed animal and gets to see Rio take her clothes off if he wins. Luckily Rio's luck runs deep and she's able to become one with the game of poker being played, so Orlin doesn't even have a chance. In the end, she's able to save Mint, comfort Orlin and send him on his way to a new life, and retain her dignity... that is, until Mint trips and accidentally tears Rio's dress to pieces.
Thoughts: Now, as an avid fan of the anime medium, I've been surprised by how many times premises that sound completely ludicrous can turn out to be entertaining or even good. There are quite a few examples, including "Kids wear magic glasses and battle on the internet" (Dennou Coil) or "Magic guy comes to your house and clears up your ghost problem while probably killing you in the process" (Mononoke). It's not entirely in my nature to dismiss a series outright even if the premise sounds dubious at best. Unfortunately, there are instances where speculation proves to be woefully correct, and this is one of them; while Rio isn't really the most offensive anime out there (in fact, for an ecchi fanservice anime it's relatively tame) it's certainly one of the more stupidly-executed shows to come out in recent memory.
Perhaps this isn't fair, but I had my suspicions about this anime back when I heard that it was based not on a manga, book, or video game, but a slot machine. At least most manga and novels can be said to revolve around some sort of discernable narrative, making them relatively easy to convert into an animated series. A slot machine is, well, just that; it's something created with the sole purpose of taking users' money and, occasionally giving it back in larger sums. Dress that up in whatever clothing you like, but the basic mechanism is generally about the same no matter where you go or what character is featured on the screen. But leave it to Japan to make something out of nothing; the same animation industry that's able to create animated cash-cows from card games and turn the countries of the world into cartoon bishounen beloved the world over shouldn't surprise us when it transforms plotless gambling games into anime series with characters and stories (however shallow they may be). Unfortunately that's about the extent of the praise I'm able to give this episode because, while it might be impressive to create an anime inspired by nothing more complicated than a casino game, the execution is what can best be described as dumb.
Despite the show only just being broadcast earlier today, already I've heard more than one person comment on the stupidity of featuring a character who works for a casino, yet who consistently causes that casino to lose money by granting the players luck. Now, this is clearly a fantasy anime; any show which features a woman with the magical power to grant luck has already separated itself from reality. In spite of that, it's this little logical lapse that kind of dismantles the premise before it can really bear fruit. Speaking of fruits, though, the flimsy premise is good enough at featuring a whole lot of melons, by which I mean the giant pairs of breasts stuffed into the female characters' ludicrous costumes. As with the rest of the show, the characters' bodily proportions certainly aren't the worst I've ever seen, but they are homogenously buxom (except for Mint; thank goodness for small miracles). Rio is consistently the victim of leering camera angles and over-imaginative bursts of animation, but her casino compatriots are also forced to dress in silly bunny girl outfits and slinky dresses which might as well not be there to begin with. I like to imagine that, when series like this are in the planning stages, the creators realize that what they're making is nothing but fluff and hope that if they include enough pairs of breasts no one will notice or care. I actually suspect that may not be far from the truth, come to think of it.
Putting aside the show's breast obsession for a moment, the rest of the plot is comical enough that I seriously wonder if a lot of it isn't intentional parody of... something. There are some definite magical-girl (woman?) moments; when Rio confronts Orlin during the card game, she undergoes some sort of transformation which doesn't so much result in a costume change as it does in her being naked, surrounded by playing cards and mathematical equations (perhaps her secret power is to count cards?). There are also a couple of moments which are reminiscent of The Legend of Koizumi in how over-the-top and hot-blooded the gambling becomes. Rio's entrance to the game is even comical in-and-of-itself; she arrives in a bridal gown, to symbolically represent her becoming "one-with-the-game." This certainly isn't the kind of show that I would ever watch seriously, but I have to admit that, because its concept and execution are so weird and so unabashedly stupid, I am tempted to peek in now-and-again just for the promise of some quick, easy laughs.
The quality of the show's animation is barely worth mentioning. The execution isn't bad but it's not memorably good either. As mentioned earlier, the only really decent animation of note is devoted to rendering the bounce of Rio's breasts as she walks, which does a good job of summing up the show pretty succinctly. The character designs all have a very... I'd like to say generic quality, but more than that they seem as if they could have come from some anime from the late 90's or early 2000's (which isn't to say that anime from that time period looked bad, it just makes it seem as if the staff was unmotivated to do anything differently). It's a very dated aesthetic that does a good job of revealing the cheapness of the production and the lack of ambition on the part of the creators.
There's nothing that really stands out about Rio: Rainbow Gate beyond its inherent silliness; the first episode is good for a few cheap laughs, but it's not really the type of thing that stands up well on its own (limited) merits. Even the sexiness of the characters, upon which the show seems to rely for much of its appeal, is mediocre at best. In short, no one needs to take a gamble on this one.
- The first episode is good for a few cheap laughs.
- Everything about the production is mediocre and many aspects are laughable.
- The good animation is wasted on Rio's breasts (which have more screen time than her face).
Recommended? While I can see how this might be entertaining in a "so-bad-it's-good" kind of way, I can't possibly give it a serious recommendation. To sum up as I saw stated elsewhere, just because Japan can seem to make an anime out of anything doesn't mean that they necessarily should.