How people view ecchi anime, in the anime community, are vastly different. Some people can’t stand it, some people love it, and aren’t afraid to show it, others are fans but aren’t too proud of it, and there are some people who are somewhere in between. With all of these differing opinions on ecchi anime, it’s hard to determine whether an ecchi series is any good or not. How much you like a series riddled with fanservice and that, usually, doesn’t have a very compelling plot is, naturally, entirely dependent on your opinion of fanservice and how much the plot of a series contributes to your personal enjoyment of it. Now, occasionally, like in any other genre you will have shows that will try to break the mold that has been established by so many shows that have been released before it. In the case of ecchi anime, that often is having a really good story line to go along with the inevitable breast and panty shots. That is something that Unbreakable Machine-Doll (Machine-Doll wa Kizutsukanai) has tried to accomplish. Now was it successful, or didn’t it fall flat on its face?
Unbreakable Machine-Doll’s story takes place in the 20th century, a time where there have been several technological advancements, especially with the use of magic. During this time period, there was a tremendous discovery. By fusing scientific and magical knowledge, humans were able to create a device that can bring inanimate objects to life, an even give them their own personalities. The militarily use for this technology came in the form of puppets. They would bring puppets to life, and train people to use these puppets for military purposes.
The story revolves around Raishin Akabane, a member of the Akabane clan—a clan that specializes in the use of puppets. One day, a mysterious assailant attacked his clan, and nearly all of them were killed. Raishin wants to avenge his clansmen’s deaths so he joins the Royal Academy, a prestigious school for puppeteers, in order to become the best puppeteer in the world.
The most interesting thing in the story is its setting. As most of you probably have noticed, most anime take place in Japan, with the second most popular setting probably being space. So to have an entire series take place in 20th century England is a nice change of pace. I was also really interested in the story’s premise. Just looking at the plot synopsis got me interested in watching this series. But, unfortunately the story never gets any better than “interesting.”
The first issue that I have with the story is the way that it goes about explaining everything to the viewer. It will introduce a subject, or term, to you without defining exactly what it is or what’s going on. They will have entire conversations about these things without giving you any clues or context to what they are talking about—until the conversation is already over. But, by that point, I was already annoyed. This happens several times throughout the course the series, and it gets even worse at the end, but I’ll get to that later. It’s not like they are being vague, and mysterious. They’re not giving you hints or clues, and trying to let you figure things out on your own. They’re just not telling you anything.
The show also tries to break away from some of the stereotypical ecchi attempts at humor, i.e. the male protagonist “tripping” and grabbing the breasts of a female character or the male protagonist having several nose bleeds because of the female characters. While there are definitely some moments that are fairly cliché in the ecchi genre, for the most part, the humor in Unbreakable Machine-Doll at least a little bit different from what you’d typically see in the genre. The problem is that it uses the same types of jokes and gags over, and over, and over again. And, honestly, they weren’t even that funny in the first place.
Another issue I have with the story is the way that they magically create and insert actions, conversations, and random knowledge whenever it’s convenient for Raishin. He’ll be in the middle of a battle, in which he’s getting beaten pretty badly, and all of a sudden he’ll turn the tables on his opponent and gain the upper hand. How does he do this? Apparently, he had it all planned out all along. Some random bystander will start commentating about how Raishin must’ve known about such and such all along (or “deduced” it right before hand), and had already had a plan in his mind to counter act such and such by doing such and such off screen. They don’t even show you flashbacks of when he did whatever they said he did, they just flash a picture on the screen, there will be more on that in the animation section of this review, and say that he had planned it all along.
Now my biggest problem with the series is the way that it ended, because, it really didn’t. Remember what I said about the series picking and choosing when to explain things that they mention in their character’s dialogue? During the last two episodes they say things that were never mentioned in the series before hand, and must’ve planned on explaining things during the second season. The problem is that there is not second season, and there will probably never be one at this point. The unanswered questions are compounded because the season finale didn’t conclude the two main storylines during the course of the season: Raishin getting his revenge and becoming the best puppeteer. The only things were solved by the last episode were a few side character’s stories, and it felt like the main story was put on hold. All of this added up to a very unsatisfying conclusion, to an underwhelming story.
Overall, the animation in Unbreakable Machine-Doll is solid. The characters are all distinctive and nicely animated, and the background scenery is well done. The fight scenes in this series are also well done, even though I do have a problem with the way they chose integrate still images into them. Instead of seeing a fight scene with every frame being animated, you’ll see quick flashes of still images, which are supposed to supplement the animation for those particular actions. This happens fairly frequently, and it’s not only jarring, but it’s also disappointing. Several of the moments that were reduced to only still images would’ve looked much better if they were animated, and they would’ve made the fight scenes that much better.
Another thing I liked about the animation was that there wasn’t a ridiculous amount of fanservice. Was it there, and perfectly noticeable? Certainly, but it didn’t happen anywhere near as often as I expected it to. In fact, there were several episodes were there was little to no fanservice, and I thought that was refreshing.
It also should be noted that there seems to be some brightness issues with the lighter colors used in the series. Some of the whites, in particular, look extremely bright, and even a little blurry, on screen.
Unbreakable Machine-Doll’s soundtrack (OST) is fairly large, and pretty varied. There are definitely plenty of songs to fit every single moment in this series. Most of the OST is split between two song types: soft, airy, and melodic, and epic and grand. The softer songs usually rely on different string instruments and a piano to produce a lighter sound that just feels like it belongs in a fantasy show, which isn’t a bad thing considering that that is pretty much was Unbreakable Machine-Doll is. The other songs use a lot more instruments, and that big orchestral sound is perfect for the fight scenes in this series. The series only has one opening and ending, and I didn’t find either of them particularly special. While I didn’t find anything that I’d be compelled to re-listen to after this review, Unbreakable Machine-Doll’s OST was really good.
There are two main characters in this series, Raishin and his puppet Yaya. There are also several side characters that you’ll see over the course of the series. I’ll just get this out of the way right now—there is little to no character development for any of the characters in this series. Every character in this series is pretty much the same at the end of the series, as they were at the beginning, with a few very minor exceptions. Thankfully, we do get some background information about most of them, but there are still some characters that we don’t know a whole lot about.
But, the characters are decently likable and enjoyable to watch. There relationships with one another do actually go through some development over the course of the series. It’s nothing substantial, but it’s definitely noticeable.
As I mentioned earlier, this series never got past just interesting for me. The annoying methods of story telling, repetitive comedy, and lack of an ending didn’t really add to my overall enjoyment of this series. While I was decently entertained by Unbreakable Machine-Doll it’s not something that I’d consider watching again.
Verdict & Breakdown:
While Unbreakable Machine-Doll isn’t bad, it’s far from being the, “Ecchi anime with a fantastic story,” that some claim it to be.