I wonder what they’re doing now. There were seven men who survived through rather grand days at the bottom of the cauldron of Hell, inside a cell, fifty years ago . . .
A manga by George Abe and Masasumi Kakizaki, Rainbow tells the story of six teenage inmates of a post-World War II prison in Japan, and the hardships they endure.It was adapted into an anime by Madhouse.
Adults Are Useless: Most of the guards other than Ishihara are well-intentioned, but they don't have the same pull he has with Dr. Sasaki. The only one who even tries to protect the boys is Kumagai, whom Ishihara murders to stop him from helping Anchan.
Beauty Equals Goodness: In general, characters fit into one of two art styles. The first is relatively soft-faced, and is used for the boys and for well-intentioned side characters. The other is harder-lined, more likely to have facial bulges, and, for some reason, darker-skinned, and is used for brutish characters like Ishihara. This isn't always consistent, though—the more reliable rule is that characters who smile frequently are either good or Faux Affably Evil.
Buried Alive: After getting out of prison, the boys kidnap Dr. Sasaki, bring him to the beach, and bury him up to his neck where the tide will drown him. They dig him back out, but not before he's admitted everything he's done wrong—on tape.
Covered with Scars: Over ten years of working as a moneylender, Sugi has acquired quite an assortment of what appear to be knife wounds. He says they all came from people who thought it would be easier to kill him than to repay him.
Cluster F-Bomb: This is as close as a prison show gets to having clean language—the characters only curse under stress.
Defeat Means Friendship: Anchan against the entire main cast, and later Mario against the American soldier Jeffrey.
Determinator: The inmates in general, but especially Anchan and Mario.
Dissonant Serenity: Whenever someone tries to beat up Anchan, he smiles like he knows something they don't. This is invariably seen as highly unnerving.
Eagleland: Most of the Americans don't come off well, although Jeffrey eventually redeems himself.
Everybody Smokes: If they can get a cigarette, that is—they're valuable contraband in the detention center.
Eye Scream: In the manga (but not the anime), Mario's left eye is seriously damaged in a fire.
Fan Disservice: Any sex scene in this series that isn't offscreened invariably involves an old, fat, hideous pervert raping a terrified minor.
Genre Shift: The story transitions towards Slice of Life when the boys all complete their sentences. (Though of course, they still have the stigma of their imprisonment to contend with.)
Gentle Giant: Cabbage can fight if he has to, but he's not emotionally suited to it.
Gonk: Ishihara has a face like buttcheeks being spread for a colonoscopy. (Turtle could also be considered one, with his acne, bald spots, and enormous ears, but he fits in with the rest of the cast surprisingly well.)
Gradual Grinder: How Mario boxes when up against strong opponents. (Against weak opponents, he forgoes defense and just hits them with everything he has, which is generally enough.)
Hate Sink: Ishihara and Dr. Sasaki provide a more direct source of the boys' pain and suffering than "the war" or "the economy."
He Knows Too Much: If Anchan gets out of the detention center alive, he'll be able to prove that Dr. Sasaki was involved in Hagino's death.
Hellhole Prison: The detention center is a prison in all but name, but apparently, the actual juvenile prison is even worse.
Heroic Fire Rescue: When the detention center catches fire, Ishihara throws away the key to the boys' cell, thinking Anchan is inside and will burn to death. Actually, Anchan and Scam are the only ones outside it. Anchan tries to rescue the others, but fails to force the door—it's Scam who saves them all, after finding the key outside.
Ignored Epiphany: Ishihara seems to get some inkling of the enormity of his crimes when Anchan simply hands him the suicide note he's spent a quarter of the series trying to destroy. But he's still determined to get revenge on Anchan, no matter what.
Jizzed in My Pants: Scam, walking up the stairs of a whorehouse with the whore walking in front of him, her skirt giving occasional glimpses of her rear.
Martial Pacifist: If Anchan fights a group of people, and none of them have weapons, he is guaranteed to win. However, he only uses force as necessary to protect himself and the other boys.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Mario sees an imagined/hallucinated/ghost of Anchan a few times, and even has a conversation with him once or twice. It's never really explained (in the anime or the current scanlations).
Never Tell Me the Odds: Surgery on Mario's right hand has less than a 30% chance of restoring it to full functionality. Obviously, it works.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: There are a lot of scenes of Ishihara beating the crap out of some unfortunate convict while smiling maniacally. (Anchan is the only one who can wipe away the grin, by promising him that someday, he'll beat him in exactly the same way.)
Prisons Are Dojos: Anchan teaches fighting to anyone who will learn. Mario and Soldier take to it quite well.
Prison Rape: Dr. Sasaki likes to check the boys for tuberculosis. If he finds one particularly attractive, he'll check him once every week. Hagino, one of his previous victims, was Anchan's cellmate before he committed suicide. Joe was planned to be his next victim.
Revenge Before Reason: Ishihara cannot let well enough alone when someone has previously humiliated him (most obviously in the case of Anchan.)
Satisfied Street Rat: Turtle plays the part, though he's in just as much pain inside as the rest of the cast.
Shout-Out: Chapters from the manga are all named after songs, with everything from "Born to Be Wild" to "My Immortal." Artist credits are given at the end of each tankoubon; the mangaka seem particularly fond of Helloween.
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Joe's blond hair and blue eyes are considered exotic, which makes him a target for would-be rapists both in and out of prison. (After a while, he learns to play the role of an innocent Uke to catch people off-guard.)
Society Is to Blame: After the war, and the resultant destruction, there simply aren't enough resources to go around. Those who can't survive by legal means necessarily break the law. (Then again, Turtle's life was pretty screwed up even before the war—the deaths of his parents just removed his last means of support.)
Son of a Whore: Scam's mother wasn't a prostitute when he was born, but she found it to be the only way to feed both him and herself after the war.
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Invoked, but subverted. Joe implies that Mario should do something about Setsuko's upcoming marriage before he develops any regrets. Mario watches her wedding from afar, and smiles to give her his best wishes.
Spoiler Opening: Have you noticed that someone's missing from the image above?
The opening also gives quick flashes of important incidents from the characters' lives. Some of these are learned later (like why Mario was arrested), and some are only explained in the manga (like why Anchan was arrested.)
Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Anchan, fullstop. You come to realize fairly early on that someone so good and inspirational and beloved and constantly in danger isn't going to make it for very long.
"Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: More than once. At the end of the first half, when the boys are released, Soldier joins the military, Joe works as a band's assistant while struggling to become a singer himself, Turtle sells various items on the black market, Cabbage works for a construction company, Scam goes to high school, and Mario works as a bartender. At the end of the manga, Soldier is married to Meg and becomes a guard at the Shonan reform school, Joe is a popular singer running from screaming fangirls, Turtle has his own business, Cabbage is living in Hawaii with his wife Ruriko, Scam seems to have successfully become a lawyer, and Mario is in America, driving down Route 66. The anime itself ends with yet another epilogue taken from about halfway through the manga.
Why Won't You Die?: Ishihara says this after Anchan survives being stabbed in the gut, having previously lived through being starved, frozen, beaten, and nearly run over with a motorbike.
You Shall Not Pass: What Cabbage tells the approaching guards during Anchan's escape from the detention center. He holds them off long enough for Mario to unlock the gate, and Soldier to break the key in the lock once the others are past.