US Distributor: FUNimation
Production Studio: Lerche
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Anime News Network

Unbreakable Machine-Doll Boxart 001 - 20150811Warning: This review may contain spoilers. Reader discretion is advised.

Unbreakable Machine-Doll is set in an alternate version of the early 20th century. In the United Kingdom, scientists were able to master a blend of technology and sorcery known only as “Machinart” Circuits are crafted from spells, which imbue objects with wondrous powers. They live, they think, and they move. These magical circuits have become particularly popular in powering the kingdom’s war machine, giving life to puppets known as “Automatons.”

Raishin Akabane, a puppeteer from Japan, makes his way to the town of Liverpool to enroll in the élite Walpurgis Royal Academy. Raishin arrives at the academy with his automaton, Yaya, in tow. He isn’t just there to brush up on his skills, though. Raishin is on a mission of vengeance as he seeks to find his elder brother Tenzen Akabane, who murdered the rest of his family.

Unbreakable Machine-Doll 001 - 20150811Unbreakable Machine-Doll suffers from a problem that seems to plague most light novel adaptations: there just aren’t enough episodes to tell the whole story. It’s not a case of bad pacing, as the plot moves swiftly through the first three books. Rather, the series simply ends when the elements of the story are just beginning to come together.

The Walpurgis Night tournament, which acts as the backdrop for the entire series, is barely beginning when the final credits roll. Similarly, the world-building aspects of the series falls short in a number of places. With this in mind, Unbreakable Machine-Doll would have greatly benefited if the show had been able to span twenty-four episodes, rather than twelve.

While there is info-dumping as the series goes on, the show goes out of its way to keep these inconveniences at a bare minimum. Unfortunately, this leads to unfortunate side-effects, as elements of the universe go under-explained. One prominent example can be seen in the magical enhancements that Raishin bestows on Yaya in battle. Yaya grows more powerful in combat, but what exactly these enhancements do are is left unexplained. Effective writing in the heat of battle could have better explained these phenomena while adding more layers to the universe.

Unbreakable Machine-Doll 001 - 20150811The show’s visual budget can seem a bit minimal at times. Character designs are acceptable, but come across as generally unpolished or unrefined. Also, the animation has a heavy emphasis on CGI elements, particularly in the action segments, that don’t always “mesh” with the rest of the on-screen action. For example, in the first episode, there is a scene in which Raishin and Yaya work together to stop a runaway train where the two are running which is stiff and slow.

All isn’t lost, though, as there are numerous redeeming qualities to the series. The action puts a lot of emphasis on showing, rather than telling. Fights are frequent, fast-paced, fluid, and a true joy to watch. Likewise, the background art is colorful and the architectural designs are attractive.

Since Unbreakable Machine-Doll is set in Great Britain, FUNimation’s dub opts to use various English accents. Likewise, the dub script takes liberties in its writing to include various idioms and bits of slang to fit the setting. The approach makes for a generally strong dub, but not every actor can pull off a convincing accent.

Unbreakable Machine-Doll 003 - 20150811David Wald and Kristin Sutton, who voice Sigmund the Scottish Dragon and Charlotte Belew, respectively, steal the show. Unfortunately, Monica Rial struggles to convincingly portray Charlotte’s sister, Henriette.

The two dub commentaries in FUNimation’s release go into detail on the production, and explain the various nuts and bolts that went into producing the adaptation. They’re definitely worth a listen for fans who enjoyed the dub.

Unbreakable Machine-Doll isn’t a terrible show, but at the same time, it’s not a great show either. The telltale flaws of a light novel adaptation, and an episode count that’s simply too low to do the source material justice drag the experience down. Great action and a strong dub simply cannot make up for the faults that lay beneath the surface.