“WHERE’S THE TRIGGER? WHERE IS IT?! You never gave it to an ordinary citizen! Where’s the trigger?! Where is it?!! Tell me where the trigger is…then you have my permission to die!” -World’s Greatest Detective.
In Upotte!!, I will only say that it’s a better idea that we don’t find the trigger. Despite its more unforgiving premise about anthropomorphic firearms, Upotte!! ends up being a reasonably entertaining anime that is one part fan-service for two parts of insight and background about firearms set in a middle-school setting. The show provides some history into the design and development of modern assault rifles, taking care to reflect the strengths, limitations and peculiarities about the firearms into their respective personifications. While the knowledge itself isn’t particularly inaccessible (pulling up an encyclopaedia on modern weapons will do a similar job of explaining things), the entertainment factor seems to come from how each of the unique aspects about a weapon are translated into a physical or social aspect about the characters. For instance, the M16A4 is a burst-fire weapon, and Ichiroku similarly operates in bursts of activity, followed by inactivity. Similarly, because the L85A2 is prone to frequent breakdowns, Elle succumbs to illnesses frequently. These characterisations provide a rather unusual, but amusing, representation of firearm operation; the humour in Upotte!! derives strongly from giving firearm attributes to middle-school girls and watching them interact with one another. The comedy from the characters and setup drive Upotte!!, since the story in the series is about as complex as a round of death match or conquest in Battlefield 3. In retrospect, the battle sequences were reminiscent of those in Stella Women’s Academy (I say so because I watched the latter first), and proved to be mildly entertaining compared to the character interactions. Furthermore, the elements near the end with the Kalashnikov and other Russian rifles did not have sufficient exposition to carry much weight in the anime. Barring the occasional moments where Upotte!! attempts to capture (unsuccessfully) the feel of a Battlefield 3 match, Upotte!! is able to balance out these moments through its characterisation and execution of the more comedic moments.
- Enemy machine gunner spotted. Yeah, I’ve spotted an enemy sniper. Hostile helicopter in your AO, over. I’ve spotted a hostile AT in your area. Be advised, I’ve spotted an enemy jet in your AO. Be advised, you’re being advised, over.
- It seems that an increasing proportion of anime I have include hot springs, open baths, culture festivals and so forth. I am more tolerant of recycled elements and clichés compared to a vast majority of the reviewers because I believe that the parts alone do not determine the quality of the whole: that is to say, I judge series for their overall entertainment value, and consider any of the individual parts alone only if they really stand out.
- Despite appearing aloof and distant as Maho Nishizumi and Teru Miyanaga, Jeethree, Ichiyon and Fal come across as being very friendly, striving to help Funco and her friends where possible. They are modelled after the Heckler and Koch G3A3, M14 and FAL L1A1, respectively, being chambered for a heavier battle rifle round.
- Elle’s expression is so endearing, I might just use this for an avatar somewhere.
- The sunsets and blue skies in Upotte!! are something else. The anime’s title was derived off the reverse pronunciation of the Japanese noun 鉄砲 (teppou, lit. guns), although this is technically not a palindrome and therefore cannot be considered to be a reverse-spelling.
- Elementary-aged children represent submachine guns for firing smaller caliber pistol cartridges. In Battlefield 3, my favourite personal defense weapon at present is the PP-2000, a Russian submachine gun that I equip with a laser sight, extended mags and a Kobra RDS: of all my personal defense weapons, it has the most kills, even more so than the UMP.
- The M16 rifle series is perhaps one of the most recognisable assault rifles out there, coming in only behind the AK-47 in terms of familiarity. In many movies, automatic firearms have sustained fire for minutes at a time, and the operators often get what is equivalent to several hundred rounds of firing time. In reality, a standard 30 round magazine would empty out in around two seconds.
- Those who are willing to suspend their disbelief will find Upotte!! to be remarkably amusing. This show is geared towards individuals who like moé anime and modern military shooters.
- On occasion, Upotte!! will go out of its way to explore the history and specific details for the firearms. The talk about the L85A1 was particularly noteworthy: as the strikes against the rifle mounts, Elle is reduced to tears.
- Upotte!! came before Stella Women’s Academy, although I watched the latter first before deciding to give this one a shot. Both anime feature guns, although there is a more substantial underlying story in Stella Women’s Academy, and Upotte!! ends up being more driven by the unusual dynamics between Funco et al. and their Japanese instructor.
Upotte!! is, upon a cursory glance, completely outside the scope of my interests. Back during Spring 2012, the series didn’t capture my interests, and those who did end up watching it were polarised with respect to whether they liked it or not. The fairest assessments cite Upotte!! for excelling in the characterisation of different firearms, while criticising it for generic slice-of-life elements. Because of the unusual setup involving anthropomorphic guns in the high school setting, Upotte!! demands that viewers disengage their logical centres and watch the show with the expectation of having no expectations. From a personal perspective, that suits me just fine, since I watch anime with the intent of being entertained. I understand that some individuals demand intellectual content in their entertainment because it validates their reasons for watching to others (this is, in fact, something I should probably get around to discussing at some point in the future). This mindset is particularly troublesome, leading some to produce poorly-argued analyses on forums about works that never had deeper meaning. I view entertainment strictly as entertainment, and only write to reflect on any of my thoughts during an anime, rather than tell readers what to think of a particular work. As such, because I was able to crack a smile or laugh at the events in Upotte!!, I consider myself as being entertained, meaning that Upotte!! has done its job.
- The rules for how the guns work in the girls’ hands are such that they cannot critically injure one another or another human unless the guns (i.e. the girls themselves) are wielded by human hands. The logic behind this defies my comprehension.
- I’ve decided to leave out images of Sako, who is modeled after the SAKO Rk 97 Tp assault rifle: this is a talk about Upotte!!, not Alfheim Online, and moreover, I’m sure that posting Sako’s actions this episode would be the fastest way to lose all my readership in the span of seconds. Here, after a match ends, Ichihachi (the M18) pulls Galil out of the water: the two become inseparable after this event.
- Weapons will jam and fail to operate when covered with mud or filled with sand. During the school match, Elle manages to exploit a technicality to help her and Ichiroku win a match, using her resourcefulness to overcome her rifle’s shortcomings.
- There are a lot of characters: owing to the way my screenshots are taken, I’m still introducing characters despite being past the halfway mark. To the left is Tei (a Taiwanese T91), and to the right is Aug (the Steyr AUG): the former is often called “fountain” for her hair, and the latter can swap between a short-barrel carbine mode and a longer barrel. Reflecting this, her hair changes length, and she adopts a more aggressive personality while her long barrel is equipped.
- Funco is seen in tears after being ousted by Elle’s appearance in a maid costume. When one stops to consider that the assault rifles are represented by middle school girls…the questionable nature in Upotte!! becomes amplified.
- Jeethree uses an unusual technique for stabilising her rifle while it is firing on automatic. The high school students drop by to check on the girls’ progress, and from a personal perspective, it would be nice to see older siblings depicted as role models rather than antagonists in a given anime.
- After Ichiyon’s “orange you glad I got you something to drink”, Ichiroku throws an exception and engages Ichiyon in a duel that undermines the class efforts in preparation for a culture festival. An all-nighter the girls pull off manage to set things right, and the next morning, everyone is ready to roll.
- Culture Festivals are intended to showcase a student body’s artistic capacities in Japanese schools: there is a lot of emphasis on the preparation process in most anime. The closest equivalent I’ve experienced would be various Open House Events: in junior high, I participated in Open House nights to help promote the school’s computer courses, answering questions and exhibiting cool student creations. At present, I’m still drafted into Undergraduate Open House events to speak with prospective students about the Bachelor of Health Sciences program (and why it is worth their while to enter the program).
- I soon realise that the things I’ve been doing for the past ten years have not really changed, except at the level of impact for society. I still enjoy presentations, teaching, biology and computers as much as I did when I started junior high, although instead of helping with computer related stuff around the school, I’m conducting software development on physiology software.
- Even though such a light-hearted series technically has no spoilers, I will spare viewers Funco’s frightening expression during her duel with an anthropomorphic AK-47. The last two episodes feel a little out of place with the rest of the series; Eastern-bloc weapons appear and wreck havoc for seemingly no reason, and although their presence has been hinted at, there isn’t anywhere near enough detail about them in the anime. The manga is still on-going and may provide more details.
Readers are probably wondering if Upotte!! is worth watching. I will first ask whether or not one has a bit privacy, since there is a frightening amount of questionable content in the anime. Representation of the trigger (which has nothing to do with the Dark Knight’s quest to find one) was, while entertaining, also surprisingly risqué and left me immensely grateful to have been watching this away from observers. There is also another explicit scene in the middle of the series involving Sako’s (Rk 95 Tp) reaction to seeing Funco down Galil (a representation of the Galil AR). There are many moments in the anime that I am not permitted to capture for screenshots owing to their content. However, as this post indicates, there are moments I can share, and those moments are in the majority. Despite being an ONA only available for online viewing at the time of its release, Upotte!! features good colouring and lighting effects, especially where the firearms and landscapes are depicted. Summer skies are of a deep azure, and sunsets are rich with warm colours, adding a bit of a nostalgic air to Upotte!!. Together with the amusing, and occasionally endearing character interactions (especially where Elle is concerned), the positive elements are definitely present in Upotte!! and outweigh the negatives. Away from other observers and with an open mind, Upotte!! is surprisingly enjoyable: it is a riot and succeeds in setting up ridiculous situations that only can be accomplished with anthropomorphic firearms. There is also an OVA out, which was released four months after the original series finished airing. I will get around to talking about it eventually because it carries on the same humour in the series and is therefore worth watching.