Beautiful locales, beautiful women and simplicity of story makes Rio: Rainbow Gate an early guilty pleasure.
What They Say:
Mint Clark arrives at Howard Resort with her multimillionaire grandfather. Tired of amusement parks and beaches, Mint spots the beautiful dealer Rio, also known as the "Goddess of Victory." While Mint is captivated by her smile, a man named Orlin Dunhill appears before them and attempts to steal Mint's precious stuffed bear. Rio must play poker to save Mint.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With her origins in the Dead or Alive franchise which spawned quite a few different games over the years, one of which was Super Black Jack I believe, the character of Rio from that series serves as inspiration for this series. With this series focused around the world of gambling and the like, it's one that I found myself somewhat uncertain of when hearing about it, but what can prove to be the appeal is whether it has fun in doing it and what the locales and settings are like. Sometimes a show can pull it all off by style itself and with Xebec being behind the animation, I'm more than willing to see if it can keep me entertained just in that area.
The series opens with the Howard Resort where a young girl named Mint has just arrived with her grandfather who is quite wealthy. Mint is your typical adorable little girl who runs around a casino with her teddy bear and manages to get closer to the floor than you'd think would be allowed. Her interest in the place is generally high but even more so when the crowd goes wild over the arrival of Rio, the apparently goddess of victory whose touch can give you the edge with whatever game you're playing. It's an amusing sequence as she walks on through the main floor and pretty much everyone wins what they're playing as she goes by. Mint's even more intrigued by her because of it but because of her height she can't get close enough to actually see her clearly. The two do make a connection though which is reinforced when Rio arrives at Mint's grandfather's behest later on in a special little maid-style outfit.
The opening episode doesn't exactly stretch itself as we see early on that there's someone out there that has an eye on Mint's bear and intends to acquire it through rather unsavory means, which in turn has Rio going up against him in a game of poker to get it back. You can get the feeling that the show is going to be rather light in that regard as it's trying to have fun and leave you with a smile on your face. It does turn serious when it deals with the arrival of Orlin who wants the bear but that's generated more by the change in the music which alters the mood more than anything else. It still has this sense of fun about it as Rio offers to play the game against him over it and he finds himself unable to turn away from it, especially since Mint offers Rio's naked body as a prize. That turns the whole thing into a huge spectacle.
A huge strength of the show really comes down to the animation and character design quality. Xebec has been a growing favorite of mine in this area and Rio: Rainbow Gate doesn't disappoint. With the resort locale for this episode, we get lots of beach scenes early on and some really nice casino material that includes bunny girls and the like who are waitresses there. Rio in particular shines well and she goes through multiple clothing changes in this episode alone, which is a really welcome thing since many series keep people in the same outfits for the entire run. She's definitely got her normal outfit, but she's not restricted to just that. And even better, Rio's game play has a really neat animation style to it that utilizes mathematics, color and symbols in order to make it all work. It's a very stylish way of handling something like card play, which you can't do in an exciting way in anime form otherwise. As much as I love the Bond Casino Royale card game material, that wouldn't work here. Xebec has nailed it.
The Winter season of anime has some shows that definitely look unusual and Rio: Rainbow Gate is most definitely one of them. A show using Rio from the Dead or Alive franchise in this form involving gambling and card games isn't exactly what you'd think of. Yet Xebec has pulled a rabbit out of the hat here by providing a show that has some slick and appealing animation to it, a sense of fun and even infuses it with a bit of meaning as well, though that's a bit forced at the end. What this opening episode did is leave me with a smile on my face and a feeling that I had a good deal of fun watching it. This is the show that so far looks to provide a great flavor of fanservice with style and fun, something that I think every season needs. Rio: Rainbow Gate was a show I hadn't even heard of prior to it being announced for simulcast but it's already going to be one of my highlights of the season if it continues to have this kind of feeling about it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.