Shun works as a part-timer at an Internet cafe, along with his friend and former gaming teammate Nozomi, while another one of his former teammates, Akito, visits the place frequently to play games. Shun himself had given up on gaming after a traumatic incident, looking instead to get a secure job to support his disabled younger sister Mio. Meanwhile, the cafe is in trouble due to debts, and to make matters worse, the esports team the owner, Nozomi’s father, manages, just had their star player walk out on them. The owner turns to Nozomi, Akito, and Shun to join the team to try to win the upcoming Xaxxerion championship, as that was the game they had played together before. Akito knows that Shun still has the skills and dares him to win a match to earn a spot on the team, hoping he can finally overcome his trauma. And when Shun encounters another one of his old gaming buddies, “Explosion-kun,” in his match, he finally gets fired up enough to try to win it.
We have sports anime, so it’s about time we have an esports anime, right? Any sports anime has two parts to it: the sport itself, and the character dynamics amongst the players. For this show, the “sport” is definitely the weakest part, as it is just a generic first-person shooter based on online team games like Valorant. And while I can easily get into other sports anime featuring games I don’t otherwise care about through the show’s passion for said sport, shown through explanations of key rules, elements, and strategies, this show has none of that. All we get are generic explanations of what is happening, which makes it hard for someone like me, who is not particularly interested in FPS games, to get into the actual competition. As for the character dynamics, they are definitely better, with the first episode giving a good starting picture of the characters’ current lives and relationships. We can see that Shun really wants to get back into gaming despite his trauma, and while I do feel his “recovery” might have been a bit quick, I do like how it shows the importance of his old online friends. The reveal of who “Explosion-kun” actually is might also make for some interesting content down the road. Overall, this first episode wasn’t anything spectacular, but there definitely is some potential, especially if the series can get more into the game itself and get me to actually care about a first-person shooter. I might give this one a few more episodes to see how it plays out before I decide whether or not I game on with it.
Protocol: Rain is streaming on Crunchyroll.