We've finally made it to the finish line. There were more road bumps and potholes in the way than expected – both in the show and real life – but Appare-Ranman! has at last waved the checkered flag. The ending feels at least a little anticlimactic, which is probably an inevitable consequence of the show splitting its conclusion across two fronts. But in the same way AR worked its way into my favorites through consistent execution, this finale lands in large part by just confidently doing what it's always done.
The fight with Gil is short, though in classic final boss fashion he lets all of our heroes show their unique skills even as he mostly waltzes through their attacks. The one sticking point for him is Kosame's survival, by all appearances the first person he's set out to kill who managed to make it out mostly intact. It's not lingered on, but the samurai being the first to land any sort of blow on our villain is a nice touch too, and while the principal cast skedaddle once they've bought enough time for the big guns to arrive, it's a solid way to let them show their stuff before getting back behind the wheel. The showdown with TJ and Dylan vs Gil is less engaging – for all the buildup it's not noticeably different from any of their other gunkata scuffles, and I'm not sold on TJ removing his mask being the X-factor that put them over the edge – but that's alright because the real showstopper is yet to come.
The background conflict of AR's world has been the rivalry between the established railroad business and the up-and-coming automotive industry, and that finally comes to a head in the goofiest, most glorious way possible when Gil send a train loaded with explosives (and Sofia) on a collision course with the Chicago train station. I assumed this would turn into a race, to see if Appare's hybrid engine could outpace a speeding locomotive to save the day, but he does one better by deciding to outpower it, head on, and force it to stop by brute force. It's as rad as it is ridiculous (radiculous?) and if that had been the capstone to Appare's inventions I'd have been more than satisfied. But of course there is a race to finish, and after a month-long interlude we finally see our racers make it to the big apple, and one last bit of insane steampunk shenanigans courtesy of a rocket-powered Chitty Chitty Bang Bang managing a photo finish. Appare said his dream was to go to the moon, and if he managed powered flight before airplanes exist he's well on his way.
From there, we get some surprisingly lowkey denouement. Al leaves for his home in England with Sofia, Jing returns to LA to become a circuit racer, and we don't even seen what becomes of the remaining Thousand Three or the Bad Brothers. On the one hand, they didn't really need a ton of closure, but it does feel odd to not even get a shot of them heading off into parts unknown for their next adventure. The real focus of these closing minutes is Appare's decision to stay in America – he's heard about this Gustave Whitehead guy supposedly building a flying machine and will NOT let his thunder get stolen – which leaves Kosame at a crossroads. This whole race was ultimately about getting the money to return to Japan, but can he really leave if his closest friend won't be with him? And can Appare just go on as if he won't miss the first person to see his real self, who risked his life countless times to help him? You can see the conclusion coming from a mile away, but it's no less sweet when Appare finally yells out how much Kosame means to him, and I had a smile plastered on my face through the pair's final exchange.
Despite being about an eccentric inventor, to the very end Appare-Ranman! found its best ideas inside the box. But through stellar execution, lovable characters, and ever charming humor it set up shop inside my heart and never left. Typically I'm more of a fan of messy, odd, and overly ambitious works, but this show stands as a testament to what you can do with familiar ideas so long as you have the energy and gumption to bring them to life. Now who do I have to pester for a season 2?
Appare-Ranman! is currently streaming on Funimation.