While the rather abstract title doesn’t particularly say much about the series (I assume Sentai didn’t want to market this as a promotion of guns), Chidori RSC is the anime adaptation of Rifle is Beautiful, Salmiakki’s cute slice-of-life manga about a group of high school girls who are into shooting sports.
The story focuses on Hikari Kokura, a first-year high school student who has practiced beam rifle shooting since she was in elementary school, and has enrolled in Chidori High School due to its famed Rifle Shooting Club. However, with no active members the club is effectively defunct and it’s now up to Hikari to revive it. Thankfully, she quickly recruits her childhood friend Izumi Shibusawa, as well as fellow competitors Erika Meinohama and Yukio Igarashi to reform the club, where they set their sights on reaching and claiming victory at the National High School Rifle Shooting Competition.
While the series has all the trappings of a sports anime, with an underdog story and a big high school tournament, it plays out more as a “cute girls do cute things” series that uses the sport as a backdrop for the antics that the girls get up to. Honestly, I think this plays to its advantage, as the sport itself here is rather boring to actually watch, as there’s not really much you can do with beam rifle shooting other than showing the characters standing and shooting at the target. While I initially expected this to not be my sort of thing, it surprisingly managed to keep my interest by offering some interesting characters to engage with as their internal monologue is voiced during the matches, helping drive tension and build rivalries with their fellow competitors, as you see them check out their competition and either panic and flounder, or drive themselves forward to better their opponent’s score.
While the actual shooting parts show the growth of each character’s skill, it’s the slice of life elements that really help build up their fun, quirky personalities and give us a good dash of comedy to go with it.
Our main protagonist Hikari is quickly revealed to be the airhead of the series as, despite her natural energy, enthusiasm and knack for making friends (even managing to charm the club’s supervisor), she’s pretty bad at whatever she tries to do, and gives us a few laughs when she messes up a shot in practice by sneezing at precisely the wrong time. Her real downside, though, is that she is just lazy, and she can get good results if she really tries, as two episodes show as they focus on her taking down those dreaded exams.
Her best friend Izumi is probably the weakest character of the four, as she’s very much a plain Jane who’s really only around to be Hikari’s support mechanism. Meanwhile, Erika is your typical tsundere, while Yukio is the smart but silent one; and I have to say that she quickly became a favourite of mine as she’s very Yuki Nagato-like, being a silent assassin in both her talent behind the rifle and in wit. She has a really cute side too, as she reveals in one of my favourite episodes on offer here, where she chases an abandoned cat onto a Tokiado line train and ends up heading with it to Totsuka in Yokohama.
There are also some cool side characters from the rival schools that are introduced later on, and even though the ones introduced in the big competition feel like they come out of nowhere, it still manages to beef them up with some good use of dialogue between them and our existing cast.
There does become a point, however, where it feels like there are too many characters in the mix, as when we get to the actual competition, we oddly see less of our main cast doing their thing, and more the side characters battling it out between themselves. Despite this, it does help stave off some of the series’ repetitiveness as it prevents the main competition from feeling too similar to the qualifying round.
The series is animated by Studio 3Hz, and for the most part it looks okay for this type of series. The character designs are very cute and distinctive, while there’s a lot of bright colour used throughout. The actual animation, however, isn’t going to set the world on fire, and I noticed a few instances where they employed a zoom effect in post-production on a still frame instead of animating it, which gave these certain scenes a noticeable drop in picture quality.
It does have good use of sound though, and I liked how it used its sound effects (a satisfying explosion where the girls play around with the noise made by the targeting equipment made me laugh), while it also made good use of insert songs during competition to help build the tension and excitement in the scene. The show’s soundtrack, composed by Satoshi Houno, is fairly pleasant and fits with the overall theme of the show well, and similar things could be said of the peppy and energetic opening and ending songs, “Let’s go! Rifling 4!!!!” and “Yuuyake Friends” sung by the Japanese voice cast as Rifling 4.
The Japanese voice acting is very cutesy and over-the-top, fitting the series and its characters well. Singer and voice actress Machico, who you may recognise as Uma Musume: Pretty Derby’s Tokai Teio, seems a great fit for Hikari and pulls off her energetic personality with gusto, while Anna Yamaki puts in a good effort in her first major role as Yukio. The English voice acting, on the other hand, sounds overly mature in comparison, and I think you lose the excitable schoolgirl vibe you get in the Japanese language version.
The physical release of the series comes to us via MVM, and features all 12 episodes, the episode 7.5 recap, clean opening and closing songs, promotional trailers for the series itself, and trailers for other Sentai licensed shows. I found the localisation for the subtitles to be rather Americanised and a bit inconsistent – state and prefecture are both used interchangeably for the same thing, for example, and while I knew what they were talking about on the Japanese language track, I still had to look up what boba was (another name for bubble tea) as I wasn’t familiar with the term. Some signs and on-screen text are also missing subtitles, which doesn’t affect the Japanese language version too much as it is usually narrated, but it can make you feel like you’re potentially missing something in the English dub.
Overall, Chidori RSC is an enjoyable but flawed slice-of-life series that puts the focus on cute girls with beam rifles. The series has a colourful cast of characters that have fun personalities that lead towards some funny moments, while it does its best at making a rather laborious sport if not exciting, at least enjoyable. While this isn’t hardcore enough to satisfy true sport nuts, if you’re in the “cute girls do cute things” crowd, this will at least crack a smile.