Never say “no” to Yaya.
Welcome to the world of magic-punk! You know steampunk right? Well, this is like that, only with magic instead of steam. Unbreakable Machine Doll (or, Machine Doll wa Kizutsukanai, as it’s starting to become settled on, but I started with the one and I’m sure Funimation will fully swap it over when they dub it) gave us more or less what we’d expect from such a series.
I have a confession to make. I like ecchi, but loathe most ecchi series. This is because I like my ecchi to be on the extremes. For example, High School of the Dead was ruined by the ecchi to me. Panty-shots too numerous, far too in love with its jiggle-physics to be taken seriously, yet the subject matter too dark to just accept it as a comedy. It caused whiplash and I personally did not enjoy it much. It struck the wrong balance with its fanservice. I prefer ecchi to be all in, or just teasing. Two series that can count as ecchi are among my favorites: Sengoku Otome and Manyuu Hikenchou. The former is “barely” ecchi at all, with outfits that, honestly, amount to cosplay porn, but also very little breast grabbing, just some camera angles here and there that show off assets that wouldn’t normally make you batt an eye if it was a male character. The show is run pretty straightforward. The latter show embraces it’s ecchiness to the point of practically being hentai, brazen and unapologetic with the fact it is a show about oggling the female leads in compromising situations. Of course, Manyuu has its own strengths: It’s fight scenes are some of the best I’ve seen, especially considered the genre it resides in. Compared to its neighbors it’s a narrative masterpiece. But the nerve of the series is what makes me adore it, out and proud, censors be damned.
Machine-Doll resides in the Sengoku Otome side of the scale, and I find that good. Yaya is the major source of anything suggestive, and really her words are basically those of a dirty old man, which abound in fiction, particularly anime (robot-rape aside). But other than her being a little too attached to Raishin (to the point of finding children romantic rivals), she’s just basically the yandere of the series. Otherwise, the story is the driving force behind everyone else’s actions.
The added bonus is, it has the “roster” effect. We got a small glimpse of that roster this week.
What I mean by that is, shows like Pokemon and Digimon kept us coming back for more in part because they held rosters of magical creatures, and we wanted to see what was coming next. Who would the next opponent be? Would they be humanoid, fire elementals, avian themed? Perhaps the most fun I had was the fight sequences. Though a little chaotic, they gave glimpses at some of the various types of Dolls that would appear in the series. Humanoid, from realistic to puppet-like, Elemental water-girl, dragons, wolves, just to name a few.
I have to admit I did not particularly enjoy the opening minutes. Main characters on a train? Really? I hope some disaster doesn’t cause them to leap into action and show us their powers! This can work on a show like Fullmetal Alchemist, where the powers involved are brand new to the audience. But, people controlling battle dolls? Last SEASON we had Fantasista Doll and Rozen Maiden, we’ve seen S-cry-eD and Digimon and Zero no Tsukaima and…Do I need to go on? This style is everywhere, in various adaptations, we aren’t really stunned by it. You’re not going to get into specifics in the first two minutes, so leave what distinguishes you for the battle sequence.
Okay? Okay. This is just one cliche that drives me up the wall.
Barring that, however, we had some good characterization. We see Riashin barely tolerating Yaya’s presence, and this was established well, without a lot of clunky exposition. We do see the “happy to be a slave” in Yaya, and, the part of me that loves soul-crushing despair hopes Raishin abuses that loyalty (note, he can’t rape her, she does that to him). I just mean on a more fundamental, sacrifice-my-tool kind of emotionless jerkass way,
I liked Charlotte. Her backstory was handled not-so-well, in a string of barely-disguised exposition. It wasn’t handled very comedically either, unless you find the idea of a pretty, blonde haired, blue eyed girl being a destroyer funny in and of itself? But she seems to have her heart in the right place even if she is rather brutal. In her defense, an environment where your fellow students will coordinate a strike on you that basically amounts to assassination, and will target their human opponents, not just the dolls, being ruthless is hardly the worst thing to happen. I also like how she threatens Sigmund with “reducing” his lunch rations from chicken to some non-dragon type food. I have the gut feeling from their back and forth she would never hold out for more than one meal in this threat, if she ever could go through with it at all. It’s cute.
Raishin is driven, but not to the point where he stops being a nice person to others. While he isn’t exactly running a charity, he does seem to want things fair and safe for those around him. This arguably makes his cold attitude about Yaya’s function as little more than his weapon all the more off-putting. In another, less thought out series, he would probably be much less empathetic, and very likely a villain. Luckily that is not a problem here.
I admit to liking Yaya. I enjoy yandere in general, and she’s no exception. I find the awkwardness of someone so upfront about their affections endearing, I can’t help it, and yes I do make the Yaya-rape jokes (hey, you SEE the screenshot above, do you not?), it’s still implied. Raishin would either have a master off switch or, possibly, puts up with her awkward, predatory sexuality because she is THAT GOOD a Doll, and the risk of ruining her by resetting her personality is too much.
And of course, we see into Raishin’s mindset and goal at the end of episode 1. I have to say I’m liking it. Unbreakable Machine Doll, you do whatever you gotta do to keep doing what you’re doing, baby.