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Rio - Rainbow Gate! PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 12 April 2011 10:32

Rio - Rainbow Gate!

Rio - Rainbow Gate! is the ill-thought-out child of a deal between anime production company XEBEC and game manufacturer Tecmo to market characters used in their games. If that sounds like a match made in hell, you may be onto something, as this is a series that really doesn't seem to know what it wants to be...

Young Mint Clark, eight years old and as precocious as hell, has been brought to the the Howard Resort Casino by her multimillionaire grandfather. Mint isn't all that impressed with the gaming, but she's heard rumours that the casino boats a rather unusual member of staff: Rio, the so-called "Goddess of Victory" who's a lucky charm for anyone fortunate enough to be playing at her table. That luck turns out to be something that Mint is going to need, too, when gambler Orlin Dunhill takes a shine to her teddy bear, Choco, forcing Rio to play poker on Mint's behalf to make sure she can keep her precious bear.

That's the first of many challenges that Rio must face over the course of the series, with the stakes usually being in the form of "gate cards" - 13 cards that, should one person come to acquire them all through winning at various games of chance, will grant their owner the ability to have their dreams come true. Allegedly. They're also the focal point of a rivalry between the Casino Guild, the Dealers' Association, and various members of the two groups - as where there are wishes to be granted, there are people who'll stop at nothing to make sure that it's their wishes.

So much for premise. The series is set in the impressively large Howard Resort, where the eponymous owner, a very large man with a very large perverted streak, rules with a smile and a cigar. Rio's the sort of person who brings in the punters - the good luck that follows her around brings in the crowds, and basic economics do the rest. It's a massively successful operation, which explains why the cold-hearted and scheming Cartia would like her hands on the resort as well as the gate cards. Also on resort are Rio's adoptive sister Rina; weapons-grade klutz Ania; Elle and Ille, a pair of rather cute twins who can usually be found wearing only their bunnysuits; and Tiffany, who wears even less than that. There are other characters, but that's enough to be getting on with. If you've watched any amount of anime before, you'll recognise the "usual personalities" amongst them.

The series is clearly split into two parts, the first going for the crazy-as-hell approach, while the second tries to be more serious as the battle for the gate cards heats up. The craziness of the first half takes a while to get used to - when I did the First Thoughts article for the series, I labelled it as utter shite and not worth bothering with, but I have to confess it did grow on me after a few episodes, as the games Rio was being forced to play became more and more outlandish and unbelievable. It just seemed that the series was trying to out-stupid itself with each episode, and after the initial "wtf!?" reaction wore off it became much easier to just go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

Just when I was starting to get into that, though, along came the gear-switch into serious mode, as which point a lot of the appeal of the series went right out the window. The setting and characters don't particularly lend themselves to a serious storyline, while the games that Rio was playing continue to be rather outlandish and not fitting with the high stakes that were on the table.

The end result is "meh" at best. There are some good moments hidden away inside the dross, but it takes a while to find them. You could also be forgiven for looking at the character designs and expecting a fanservice spectacular, but the series is remarkably restrained on that front, especially by recent standards. Taken as a package, there's just not enough here to really make it worthwhile - there are starts in several different directions, but none of them are followed through on, and the end result is just lacking any real heart or reason to watch. Disappointing.

Rating - **