Raishin arrives in Britain with his automaton Yaya to attend the Royal Academy, the best puppeteer academy in the world. Automatons are magic controlled being that are used for combat as well as many other purposes. Raishin’s goal is to become the best puppeteer at the school by winning the combat tournament, the ‘Evening Party’. He gets the second to worst score at the school in the written test, but he refuses to give up, and thus makes up for it in terms of determination, and the fact that he has a great Automaton. His determination arises from the fact that the real reason he wishes to win the Evening Party, is that he has sworn to get revenge against Tenzo, the man who killed his family, and the one currently top ranked at the school. Still, to get to his level, he’ll have to defeat a number of other enemies along the way, and ends up getting sucked into a number of completely unrelated problems, but ones that he isn’t willing to back down on nevertheless.
Machine-Doll isn’t an exceptionally original anime, but its strength is that its done really well. The world involves an alternate universe 20th century with magic based technology at its core. The specific setting is an academy for users of that technology, with a combat tournament and its prize being the highlight of the school. The main character specifically is motivated by revenge. All pretty standard stuff. However, while this is the overarching story, each individual story is really good, though they don’t relate to the overarching story tremendously well. While Raishin is there because of his desire for revenge, the only reason he’s able to be there is because of Shouko, a woman who is seen as one of the best automaton makers in the world, and the one who created Yaya as well as various other automatons that Raishin gets involved with. But she’s also heavily involved with the Japanese military, and hence Raishin works for her as a spy, which leads to conflicts of priorities. Another one of the more interesting elements is the politics between the Belew and Granville families. The Belew family is somewhat dying, being blamed for having hurt the prince, but Charlotte Belew seems to be doing her best to revive it. The Granville family on the other hand, which stands in strong opposition to the Belew, is on a quest for power, and seems to want to get it through any means possible, which ends up putting Charlotte and her sister in very difficult situations. On another note, there’s also the issue with various entities going too far to pursue progress. Siblings Frey and Loki end up getting controlled by such a company, which leads them to do things they would rather not do, but feel they must. The overarching revenge story gets set up, but for the most part, its the smaller stories that are the focus, and while they are clearly segmented, they flow very well, and the segmented nature actually helps in that despite the overall story clearly not being over, the how the anime ends is still very satisfying.
Now while I have mentioned the characters as they relate to the plot, I don’t think I’ve done justice to them. There are a lot of great characters. Raishin is definitely overtly idealistic and nice, but he doesn’t act like a moron about it, actually plans things, has a strong resolve, and is actually useful and gets things done himself so he’s great. Yaya is incredibly possessive of Raishin, which is funny because Raishin is the one that is supposed to be her master, which leads to a very interesting relationship between them and the other characters. Charlotte Belew, Tyrant Rex, is a girl that most people are downright afraid of, but the reality is she’s just terrible at socializing, and a bit distant due to the fact that despite being a noble her entire family disappeared and she was greatly being looked down upon. Sigmund is incredibly wise, but compassionate, and also a dragon. Frey really loves dogs, and wants to do what’s best for her and her family, but has trouble doing so because she can’t seem to muster resolve for doing bad things and is very clumsy, however she is very competent once she can find her resolve. Her brother Loki acts incredibly hard headed, and is actually incredibly similar to Raishin in a way, but his goals are to protect his sister and family by any means necessary, though when push comes to shove he relents and does the right thing. Shouko has a very wise but libertine type personality, that’s also motherly in a way. Kimberly acts strict but is very kind. Felix and Cedric are incredibly manipulative villains. I also liked how many of the characters seemed to have signature quotes, such as:
Loki – “I am a humble and tolerant man , but there are three things I can’t simply forgive. People who give me orders , people who stand against me and…”
Raishin – “My partner is the world’s best automaton.”
The action was really good. Yaya’s power set is actually pretty simply in that its purely physical, but so far it hasn’t gotten old, which is in part thanks to everyone else’s powers being quite interesting and diverse. However, this probably will get boring eventually, so I would like to see Raishin control more dolls simultaneously in battle eventually, primarily Yaya’s sisters. The art style had an especially modern look, which was flatter than most anime, but I felt fit, though I feel opinions about it may be divisive. The animation was great. I felt the CG was a bit awkward at points, but done reasonably well enough to not be a major issue. The soundtrack was really good. The OP was decent. The ED was amazing, both the music and visual, including the subtle changes. The specials were surprisingly really good and mostly fan service but with a decent plot and hence a good augment.
An anime driven by great character stories with a unique art style and great soundtrack.
It seems manga is just catching up to Anime. LNs are much further but the translation for that seems to have died. Welp. Hope we get another season or the translations for something keep coming.
Maware Maware Maware!