What do you call a show that features master/servant relationships, steampunk British environments, and the challenge to become the very best puppeteer to ever face the earth? This show right here. While the concept is reminiscent of other titles (cough Fate/Stay Night cough) it actually has its own unique charms. It does however appeal greatly to fan-service in almost every way. Every other angle you’ll see will either be some awkward scene, panty shot, or a close up of a boob somewhere down the line. Despite those distractions, the show wasn’t too bad overall. I finished it, so that has to mean something.
The animation by Genco was superb, as I’d expected from their work with Accel World, flowing well between CG battling scenes and normal 2D animation. Most of the time, switching hectically between CG and animation is a risky thing for most studios, and the only time I would catch the transitioning would be when the screen takes an awkward pause or something like that. If there was anything that kept me interested about this show, it was certainly to see the action scenes and the lovely magical atmosphere that the show had to give me.
In addition to the great animation, the music was also highly enjoyable. The music was by Masaru Yokoyama, who is probably more familiar with titles like Queen’s Blade and Arakawa Under the Bridge. With the show mixing Eastern and Western cultures, he did a good job arranging the music to match the moods and to keep the audience reminded of the culture clashes. My only complaint was that most of the tracks were quite repetitive, and when I say that, I really mean it would encompass nearly the whole show. Scenes would change and the same track would play, so when things got calmer, for example, the music would sound out of place.
The basic premise of the show is that we have our eager protagonist, Raishin, with that ever so classic “dark and brooding” past and his “automation” Yaya, who our protagonist is proud to announce as the “greatest automation” ever. Raishin is the sole survivor of a clan of Asian puppeteers who focus on the eastern ways of puppetry. Yeah, it didn’t make much sense in the show either. But tragedy strikes, as it does with most of these types of scenarios, and everyone he knows and loves ends up getting murdered.
Shouko, a highly plot relevant, well-endowed woman who doesn’t really put up with much stuff, offers him the chance for revenge in exchange for doing her bidding. With this chance at hand Raishin is given the opportunity to control the automation Yaya that Shouko gives him. He trains a bit, or just enough to not be helpless, and goes to a magical school where they train puppeteers for the military. Due to his lack of formal training and whatnot, he’s ranked as “Second-Last” out of everyone in his class, which is quite comical to see throughout the show. His goal for attending this school though is to become a “Wiseman” or the greatest puppeteer ever.
We learn that he wants to discover the murderer of his family, and a prominent character with obvious plot relevance due to his highly flashy introduction appears. We learn that this guy, Magius (even his name is pretty antagonistic) is the guy Raishin believes to be the murderer, because Magius’ automations look like the murderers in his flashbacks. But in order for him to even touch the guy, he has to enter this festival of battles and rank among the highest to challenge him. And that my friends, is where Unbreakable Machine-Doll is headed towards.
I really wanted to like this show. It had a great atmosphere for being somewhat modern yet fantasy-like. The concept was interesting, animation was good, characters all had great potential, but it fell short as the series went on.
To not further myself with disappointments, I took the time to read the manga. While it has some fan-service moments, it is actually very good. There are novels out as well, but the manga was just a quicker read for me. The characters get better with progression, and there’s actually quite a lot of potential for this show if they decide to focus more so on what the material offered. Overall, they did kept true to the source material and barely diverged in terms of plot. In fact, most of the scenes were spot on. Instead of focusing on relationships and conversations, I’d rather see some action or more meaningful plot progression instead of fan-service.
The characters eventually ran themselves to the ground as the series progressed. They all appeared as unique individuals with different aspects that set them apart from others, which is great and all, but they just eventually just focused on becoming friends with Raishin. The episodes had way too much conversing, and the action was really to make up for lost time. I don’t know why they decided on this route of directing, but I really wish they returned to how they did with the first arc.
My complaints really lie with Yaya. As the “greatest automation ever” she is also the “greatest annoyance ever.” Hitomi Harada is a bit new to me as a voice actress, but from what I can gather is that she has some incredible high pitched pipes. Oh goodness gracious. If Yaya stopped having scenes where she tried to get in Raishin’s pants and complained whenever someone so much as even said a word to Raishin, I think she would have been better. But in every scene she’s featured in, she’s appeared as a whiny brat. How I lasted throughout this series with her in it, I have no clue.
So Unbreakable Machine-Doll, you didn’t exactly break my interests all that much, but you did break my expectations for you. Would I recommend it to others? I guess only to those who like some nice action, something short and easy to sit through, and loli fan-service.
Animation: 8/ 10 – It was very well executed. Transitions between CG and animation were good, and it was enjoyable to watch. The atmosphere also added to the magical feeling to the show.
Story: 6/ 10 – It had potential (in fact it still does), but it wasn’t pulled off in the best way. Here’s hoping the OVAs will do it better justice.
Characters: 6/ 10 – Some were better than others, but lack of screen time on the ones that were better lost most of my interest. All the attention went to complaining, fan-service, and barely any plot relevant character interactions.
Enjoyment: 7/ 10 – I completed it, and still waiting a bit to see if there’s anything more they are willing to offer me.