Machine-Doll wa Kizutsukanai Review: Battle for Wiseman and Fighting for Revenge
So as it happens, the plan was for me to start making many more posts at a much quicker speed with summer along and all. That’s definitely what I’d intended and if it were up to me, I probably would’ve gotten this post done days ago. Sadly, however, fate is a cruel thing, as I happen to have gotten quite atrociously sick this week. Around Tuesday and Wednesday I somehow or another ended up with a fever (at one point my temperature was about 104 and a half degrees, ick), headaches, a sore throat, coughing, a clogged stuffy nose, and even a tendency to have nosebleeds from both nostrils (which, truth be told, has never before happened in my life). As I’m sure you can imagine, those seriously wore me out and the fever in particular took away any energy I had to get anything done, and while I still don’t feel good, I guess I’m at least feeling decent enough to get back to the blog at last. And with that, it seems I’ll be writing about Machine-Doll wa Kizutsukanai, a series I finished quite a while ago given it was one of those one-cour fall series. Scary to think that it’s essentially been half a year since I watched it (senior year was truly most unfortunate) and there might be quite a bit I’ve forgotten since then. What I can say is that Machine-Doll is a pretty enjoyable series, though terribly limited by its 12-episode runtime. It has some interesting ideas and I was certainly entertained week after week, though I can’t help but feel that it either lacked the necessary time to expand on some details or didn’t spend enough time on them to begin with.
In the world of Machine-Doll, people use magic alongside technology and a variety of weapons. Among the most notable examples of this are automatons, machine dolls of sorts that carry magical circuits, giving them personalities and the ability to fight alongside their partners, known as puppeteers. As such, it is only natural that Machine-Doll revolves around such a pair. The main characters are Raishin Akabane, a puppeteer from the prestigious Akabane clan, and Yaya, a powerful automaton that closely resembles a human and is deeply in love with Raishin. Raishin and Yaya travel from Japan to Walpurgis Academy, a school for puppeteers and automatons. The most competent students are allowed to participate in the Night Party, a competition in which the puppeteer/automaton pairs battle each other to prove who is strongest and to obtain the title of Wiseman, the strongest puppeteer of great status. Raishin wishes to enter the Night Party himself, though he must prove himself as his test results are poor and is, in accordance with his rank, called Second Last. More than the fame or recognition that come along with the title of Wiseman, however, Raishin is focused on improving his skills and aiming for the top to get revenge for his family, as the killer is one of those that attends the school.
Interestingly enough, the anime’s story doesn’t quite focus on these. Rather, the anime is structured into three different arcs that, while slowly and subtly inching closer to the larger goals of the main characters, are largely ordeals and conflicts contained to the arcs they take place in. The three arcs introduce some of the different characters that will team up with Raishin and Yaya as well as those more important to the primary issue facing them. To avoid spoiling too much (as the arcs are short so it’s difficult to explain much), the first arc is a more mystery-oriented story dealing with a malicious killer, the second arc introduces a pair of siblings and their circumstances and focuses on how Raishin deals with the automaton company they are associated with, and the third arc revolves around Raishin’s attempts to stop one of the major characters from killing the school headmaster. A common element among all three of the arcs, however, is action, and Yaya as well as many other automatons battle routinely throughout the anime. While the arcs themselves are pretty straightforward and easy to follow, however, many of the details are not nearly so simple. This is largely because of the anime’s short length and lack of explanation on many fronts. There is quite a bit of terminology and jargon unique to the Machine-Doll world, and unfortunately not all of it is adequately explained, which can be quite confusing. The details about Raishin’s backstory are also very ambiguous and aside from the basic idea of what took place, little is truly known about why or how it happened. Furthermore, the exact nature of Yaya’s combat abilities isn’t discussed by the anime, making it difficult to tell just how her powers work or how powerful she is capable of becoming. The pacing is certainly an issue as far as the storytelling as each arc is limited to 4 episodes to work with on top of attempting to fit in material more relevant to Raishin’s revenge as well as bits that seem to allude to what is ahead for the series. Sadly, it remains yet to be seen if there shall be a season 2, and while I would undoubtedly watch one if it is released, much will be left up in the air without the elaboration it would provide.
Machine-Doll has a relatively likable cast of characters, though most are lacking in development. Raishin feels like a pretty ordinary protagonist, skilled at combat though not great with book smarts and a caring person on the whole. While the revenge aspect of his character is also present, too little of it is explained to show just how many dimensions it adds to his largely simplistic character. Yaya is a loyal and dedicated automaton to Raishin, to the point of obsessive love and a constant habit of trying to seduce Raishin, much to his dismay. She often gets jealous when Raishin is with other girls and wishes to be his wife. While Yaya’s origins do become more important as the anime goes on, this too is a mysterious aspect of the story that is only given the bare minimum of screentime. As such, Yaya’s character is also quite simple, though more colorful than Raishin, and she remains static throughout the anime for the most part. Another important pair is Charlotte Belew and her automaton Sigmund, who I found myself more fond of than the two leads. Charlotte is a skilled puppeteer with a tsundere personality, though much more is revealed about her backstory and circumstances as the story progresses. While she may appear to be a straightforward character early on, she is fleshed out more than many of the other characters in the anime. Sigmund is a dragon automaton that often stays in a very small form but can transform into a large dragon in order to battle. Sigmund acts not only as a partner to Charlotte but also as a guide and mentor of sorts, giving his input and advice to Charlotte and sharing his honest observations to her, sometimes to her annoyance. There are other recurring characters such as Frey and Loki (who appear and get most of their characterization in the second arc), Kimberly (Raishin’s teacher), Irori and Komurasaki (Yaya’s sisters of sorts), and Shouko (Yaya’s creator), though they don’t get a great deal of characterization throughout and the other characters have even less than that. In spite of that, however, the characters are quite entertaining to watch and often amusing, largely when the characters misunderstand and overreact to Raishin’s supposed “perverted” behavior despite its nonexistence. Even if most of the characters aren’t especially deep, they’re still fairly likable and are at least sufficient given what was covered in the story. That said though, the series would benefit much more from significant development, and if a season 2 is indeed adapted then I truly hope development is ahead.
Machine-Doll has some interesting ideas at work: the automaton battle system, the application of magic within the series’s setting, the contrast (or in some cases, lack thereof) between humans and automatons, the revenge aspect, family conflict (of many, many different kinds for the major characters, in fact), and likely even more I’ve forgotten. However, the big problem is that the scope here is way too big for a 12 episode anime, and it goes without saying that it’s nigh impossible to bring the most out of all of those aspects with such a limited time frame. While Machine-Doll is still quite an enjoyable watch, I feel that its runtime severely crippled its potential to make the most out of its ideas and world, and while some things may be given more development time in the event of a future season, the episode pacing does make me wonder if perhaps the three arcs of this season could also have been slowed down for more coherence in other areas of the story. It should also be mentioned that the tone of the story is often (though not always) lighthearted, and though I found many comedic moments in the story amusing personally, a more serious and pressing focus on the bigger themes of the story could perhaps have given more room for development, though to begin with it is likely that this is a source material concern rather than something to look to the anime adaptation for.
All said, Machine-Doll was pretty fun to keep up with weekly and I certainly don’t regret watching it. It wasn’t one of my favorite watches of its season, but I did enjoy it on the whole. Still, I feel like it didn’t get to live up to its full potential and that it was limited a great deal by its very short runtime. I can only hope that one day Machine-Doll will get a season 2 to build on the established story, though I can’t be sure if this will happen. I may have to resort to the light novels, though I can’t say I’m especially confident about the translation progress so I’ll have to see how that goes. In any case, I’d give Machine-Doll a 7/10. Well, probably more like a 7.5/10 if only because it was an enjoyable watch. I suppose if you have the time to watch this one it wouldn’t hurt, but don’t expect too much out of it or you may be disappointed.