What They Say:
“When Hotaru Tachibana storms into a host club to avenge the honour of a wronged female student, the last thing Hotaru expects is to duel the club’s most popular host with airsoft guns instead of fists. When Masamune Matsuoka’s experience wins out over Tachibana’s brawn, he realises that he can use his victory (and the large bill for damaging the club) to make Tachibana join his struggling Survival Gaming team. However, what ladies’ man Masamune totally misses is that his unwilling new guy… isn’t a guy at all!
Under the boy’s clothing and strong need to defend justice, Tachibana is all-girl, but, for a number of complicated reasons, she absolutely CAN’T expose that fact to Masamune or his teammate, the erotic manga artist Toru Yukimura.
Blood will boil both on and off the airsoft arena, but it’s not over until the last round is shot!”
Reviewing the DVD version which was set up in Stereo 2.0 in Japanese only so no 5.1 release but is still an acceptable quality but a bit of tinkering of the volume was needed to make it of an acceptable quality, though there weren’t any issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video. The dub is quite good with some veterans back when I was getting into it being involved making me happy such as Monica Rial (using a very different voice that I had to make sure it was her considering how used to her roles I am!), Chris Patton and Greg Ayres alongside newer talents such as Corey Hartzog and Scott Gibbs and with no issues with the subtitles synching also helped out a lot as the action is quite fast paced especially with the airsoft sequences, making it quite fun to listen to.
The video is of a decent quality, with no noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing – it actually considering the series is fairly recent (2015) feels like a Blu-Ray release, being very colourful and flowing, the effects of slow motion throughout some of the sequences can get into almost nightmare fuel like atmosphere make it stand out, there are no delays with timing with subtitles with animation in either language or slowdown with normal rates or via pausing where the animation can become fuzzy.
There was no packing for this test release.
The menu is very standard – we get a still image of Team Toy Gun Gun on one disc and of Team Hoshishitro on the second with the choice of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on disc 1 Extras. They are all easy to select and go through quite fast for a DVD release so not quite Blu-Ray pop up level but getting there. Nothing fancy but accessible and fast.
The only extras are the clean opening and endings, a Japanese preview, and trailers for other Sentai shows (strange again as the release is in the UK so many of these are currently or won’t be available) such as My Teen Romantic Comedy – SNAFU TOO! RE-KAN! RIN-NE and Log Horizon Season 2.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I tend to have a fondness for shows that introduce me to something unexpected and make it interesting. Kaleido Star (circus) and Princess Tutu (ballet) are two of my favourite shows of all time despite the unique theme due to superb character development, interaction or being far deeper and intense that you expected it to be. So when a friend mentioned this series to me way back because he was an airsoft fan, I didn’t initially look at it at first but gave it a shot just from the first episode…and it reminded me of another anime which will get into at first…because it definitely changes a bit to something more darker…but that also meant it was a bit more confusing than I expected…
Originally released in 2015, with the manga still ongoing from 2013, we get our protagonist Hotaru Tachibana, a very androgynous looking female who is the student council president and has a thing for justice and fighting strong guys and villains. But she meets an unpleasant man in front of her apartment who she vows not to associate with despite him being most likely her neighbour. So when her best friend tells her she has been conned out of money being a host, she gets her justice card in play and goes to confront him…
…which turns out to be the guy she met outside her apartment. The guy is named Masamune Matsuoka and she challenges him – he is amused and invited her to play an airsoft gun game in the host club – if he loses he will apologises, but if he wins she will do whatever he wants. He stacks the deck against him and Hotaru’s speed and agility are impressive so she thinks she will easily win, but he is indeed way too good for her and defeats her – and his wish? For her to join his airsoft team. However, there is a slight problem…he refuses to have girls on the team, and doesn’t know Hotaru is a girl…but also says she has to play airsoft to pay for the damage caused to the host club.
Ironically, this is the only real similarity to Ouran Host as the focus is very different as the money she owes is actually resolved in one episode – we are introduced to the third member of the team (known as Toy Gun Gun), a hentai manga artist named Toru Yukimura who at first doesn’t like Hotaru but despite his distrust, they play a game together and whilst he seems to ignore her, she still believes in him and trust is eventually drawn between the three to win a game. She appears to leave the team after her debt is cleared but clearly enjoys the game (which Yukimara points out for a visit – a bit of comedy as he thinking she is a he and delivers some ero-manga to her ^^). After seeing a lot of airsoft equipment at Yukimura’s, she joins the team officially whilst having to keep secret she is a girl and the group are involved to one of the biggest airsoft tournaments known as the TCG (Top Combat Game) so Hotaru needs equipment. Yukimura goes to help but is distracted by a game store so leaves Hotaru confused in the store, but a kind young man goes to her and helps her picking out a gun – however as it is pricey, she uses an envelope given to her by Matsuoka which allows her to maybe get a gun via the manager as he tests her skills. But a twist happens when Yukimura gets to the shop and the guy that helped Hotaru was an old ‘friend’ of theirs named Midori Nagamasa…and let’s just say Yukimura is NOT a fan of his…
Hotaru does get a gun but is unaware of the confrontation but she is still a novice which during some practice games angers Matsuoka – it is here she learns from a female player named Hanako what is the reason for Matsuoka’s refusal to put girls on the team – and of course it is linked to another team which you can probably guess Midori was involved with. Unaware that the nice guy who helped her was the catalyst to some problems, she resolves to beat this team which of course leads to Toy Gun Gun in the tournament, and facing off against Midori’s team Hoshishiro…a team who is multiple time champions and causes Matsuoka huge fear when he sees Midori, who definitely becomes a bit of a smug snake. Of course Hotaru is conflicted but eventually goes onto the idea that he is a villain, and of course the two teams face off in the first round.
Hotaru manages to impress Fujimoto the one genuine nice character of the team (despite his love for Midori being a bit of an ongoing joke) but the darkness of Midori’s skill and the sniping of their third member Ichi Akabane means the two guys are defeated in tears. Hotaru is engaged and actually nearly beats Midori…but he reveals he knows Hotaru is a girl which distracts her long enough for Akabane to get the kill shot. They win the tournament and leads to a bit of a wake up shock for Toy Gun Gun and Hotaru gets depressed, more so when she is apparently kicked out of the team. She goes to challenge Midori one on one to prove she is worth being on the team which leads into some more revelations about Toy Gun Gun and the fact she wants to come back to the team – to do so she challenges Matsuoka…
The series kind of ends there which no real addition though – the manga is ongoing so am aware there is far more story still to come – but the way it ends is just set up for more which is a bit of a cliff-hanger. So there are definitely a few things that come out of this if you think you’d like this series…
The first one is the idea of Hotaru hiding the fact she is a girl and why Matsuoka doesn’t want girls on the team is definitely explore Matsuoka’s psyche and the exploration of gender identity combined with Hotaru’s sense of justice (it isn’t really explored why she is into it so the viewer assumes she is just a morally strong person) makes the dynamic between the three main characters interesting, combined with the realisation of Midori’s relationship with Matsuoka gives it an edge which is surprising in such a short series. The airsoft idea is also unique as it is something you don’t expect in a show and does explain a lot of technicalities of the weapons used, the rules of catch the flag, what zombie-ing is, etc and is a good introduction as most of the viewers maybe novices like Hotaru is, and we are living through her on what airsoft is like. In terms of that, the anime does what it sets out to do.
The characterization is also good – Hotaru slowly getting more into airsoft and becoming friends with her two teammates despite hiding her gender, the rivals with Hoshihoro combined with a little bit of comedy on both camps at times giving it a fun edge despite the dark history between the two teams. Midori in particular seems to be a double-edged sword, outside of airsoft he is charming and kind, but whilst playing his true psycho self emerges and you wonder if that side is also playing a part during his ‘normal’ activities. That said, the rest of the cast does suffer a little in comparison bar the back-story because it revolves a lot around Matsuoka accepting or refusing Hotaru into the games – and whilst Yukimura does have a back-story revolving lack of trust, it is pretty much left after one episode and whilst he is used to help build the history of Toy Gun Gun combined with his hate for Midori, the focus is mostly on Hotaru’s issues which leaves them slightly behind.
The plot itself though is very rushed and I feel that the story of Hotaru is placed into something almost forced and whilst as mentioned the beginning feels very stolen (Ouran Host) when it becomes its own thing, you really need to get invested into it because if you aren’t then when it gets to the airsoft stuff, you won’t really want to follow the rest of the series no matter how good the back-story could be. Again, it definitely feels rushed and there definitely is more to be discovered here (Matsuoka telling of not just the previous female member but another member who quit airsoft because of them but not explaining why screams a story for another time) so it may be one that you need to follow the ongoing manga as unsure if another season of this is due anytime soon…
That said, the battles can be quite intense, the animation middles from strange to impressive, the acting is great in both languages and Hotaru at least is a very entertaining and in-depth lead. The investment you get in the airsoft is something that if you’re patient with, it is actually quite informative (a recent anime I loved called Yuru Camp was similar to this with camping) so you can get involved with the show. Its rushed nature though feels like this story could be and may have been told better in other forms of media, so for now, it’s palatable, but you wish it could have developed more…
Aoharu x Machinegun is a strange name for a strange series – whilst the lead character is excellent, the action and dynamics work and the introduction of airsoft is well told for those not familiar with it, the rushed story and lack of focus on certain characters means you have to try and get more of it. Midori seems to have potential as a villain yet we’re not fully sure how villainous he is as of yet and with the show ending as it is, we don’t know how far it can go. The show is entertaining enough and a good dub/sub means it is fun to listen to, but the predictability of it means that it doesn’t take much to figure out what is going to happen.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: August 27th, 2018
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.