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Watch Anime: Unbreakable Machine Doll

by Ed West

I like to summon a 10ft tall Kodiak grizzly I’ve named Alpine, and then shapeshift into a cave lion myself, but when I’m out of mana I usually just watch anime–especially the kind involving magical academies, living dolls (Rozen Maiden much?),  and tons of exciting fights/action scenes that challenge my suspension of disbelief! Luckily for me, this time I watched–

Unbreakable Machine Doll

Plot:

In the mechanized city of Liverpool, a Japanese student and his beautiful female companion enter the most prestigious magic academy in the world—the place all puppeteers dream of going. There, students use automatons and living dolls to fight against each other in the quest to become the world’s best puppeteer.

Where to find it:

Hulu: https://www.hulu.com/unbreakable-machine-doll (Episodes 1-5, subs with ads)

Funimation: https://www.funimation.com/shows/unbreakable-machine-doll/anime (Episodes 1-5, subs with ads removed upon subscription)

Insider Opinion (Possible Spoilers!):

I’ll tell you from the jump that the minute I see “X does Y to become the world’s best Z” I become largely apathetic towards the plot. It’s not that I find such a premise to be boring–not at all–but it’s the kind of formula that I’ve seen used in various forms of entertainment time and time again. It’s tried and true, so I suppose we can’t go wrong there. Liverpool being a city in England, as well as being described as “mechanized”, gave me the idea that I might be getting into a setting aesthetically similar to the steampunk sub-genre, but leaning more towards industrial fantasy, and either way it’s kinda cool.

The artwork in Unbreakable Machine Doll is very pleasing. Stylish, and sharp with a clean cut and attention to detail. As for the animation, I do have a gripe, but it’s all my own. At times some of the more complex animation is handled by either 3D rendered models or CGI. This is standard practice in a lot of modern anime, but I’m still not entirely on board with it. Seeing it in Unbreakable Machine Doll sometimes makes me feel like I’m watching a video game cutscene. While looking good in it’s own right, it’s a noticeable departure from its surroundings. When this isn’t going on, however, the animation is delightfully fluid and conveys the pace of the action in a great way. So far the art direction is good–it’s not ef: A Tale of Memories in regard to its use of artwork/animation, but that’s okay.

The score fits the mood and setting well. It’s not like with Moonphase where in episode one I’m greeted with a heavily dramatic cold open only to be jarred by an eclectic pop-synth opening, nor is it packing the kind of ending Chaos;Head had, where the overwhelmingly cheerful outro music undermines the dark and gritty nature of the episode preceding it. For some this is enjoyable, and others may not care, but personally I like my intros and outros to be thematically consistent with the anime. It’s subbed, still undergoing its first run in Japan, so I won’t critique the voice acting, but it’s good.

Things get a little rough once I approach the writing behind Unbreakable Machine Doll. I don’t take this to be a fan service anime, yet there are scenes where female characters are introduced breast first and depart with their rears center screen. Call me a prude, but all this does is elicit an eye roll from me. Following this is the running joke involving Yaya, the protagonist’s machine doll, and how she constantly wants to flat out have intercourse with him. Little context is provided for this outside of an accompanying run-on gag where she declares herself to be his wife. This might be cute if it didn’t happen so frequently that both jokes were completely dead within the first episode. Speaking of Yaya, but placing the ham-fisted sexual innuendo aside, right now she appears to be nothing more than a caricature and, while this is an anime, I prefer more depth. Same goes for Charl, another puppeteer at the academy. Both appear to be typical tsunderes who serve as potential love interests for the protagonist, Raishin Akabane, while also providing comic relief whenever’s clever. I’ve got my fingers crossed, hoping they don’t eventually become exposition dispensers as well. Still, some reviews for this anime applaud the character development, so I am looking forward to that. As far as the story goes, “students use automatons and living dolls to fight against each other in the quest to become the world’s best puppeteer” actually seems to be the subplot, with the motive of revenge being revealed as the driving force at the end of episode one. Whatever–I’m for it.

All in all, Unbreakable Machine Doll is still in its early episodes, and I’m not done with it yet either. It’s fun, with a start very similar to Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater where viewers are immediately given a taste of the action and adventure to follow. With that and such good visuals, Unbreakable Machine Doll has the potential to be quite entertaining–but I’m really hoping the shipment of character development arrives on time!

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