In 1955 Japan, delinquency is on the rise. For Mario Minakami and six other teenagers, they are not alone when they are sent to Shounan Special Reform School on criminal charges. Once in their cell, they meet the older inmate Rokurouta Sakuragi, a former boxer, who teaches them how to survive in their new harsh prison environment.

Despite having a fabulous name, Rainbow is as serious and manly an anime series as they come. If you crave more of its dark brotherhood themes about people bonded by trauma, perhaps we have an anime recommendation for you.

For Fans of Brotherhood Stories

ashita no joe anime

Ashita no Joe

Teen orphan Joe lives in the slums where he meets Danpei, and alcoholic and homeless ex-boxing coach. After seeing Joe defend himself, Danpei takes an interest and decides to train him. However, Joe only becomes serious about it after he meets a rival fighter in a juvenile home.

Although Ashita no Joe takes place earlier in Japan’s history, chronologically, it proves that thugs who like to hit things and bond with other thugs is a timeless theme. While Rainbow explores darker themes with a hint of boxing, Ashita no Joe is the other way around.



Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowel grew up on the streets together and both turned to crime in order to get by. However, when their activities are noticed by the eyes of the expansive Millennion mafia syndicate, the pair find themselves brought under their wings and rising through the ranks. Things go well until one fateful day that changes it all. Years later, Brandon Heat is brought back from the dead to fight Millennion and its new leader, Harry MacDowel.

Although Rainbow is semi-historical, Gungrave is more sci-fi fantasy. However, they are both about a group of thugs that bond over their hard life in unbreakable bonds of brotherhood. You also watch those bonds break through various circumstances.

gurren lagann anime

Toppa Tengen Gurren Lagann

Simon and Kamina were living boring lives in their deep underground village when, on an excavation dig, they find a mysterious object that turns out to be the ignition key to an ancient war machine. With their new weapon, the pair are able to fend off an attack from above, but upon catching a glimpse of the sky, they set off on an adventure that will take them out of this universe.

Both series are manly chest beating at its finest, while both have dark themes, Rainbow is much darker while Gurren Lagann is outwardly inspiring. Rainbow is a little more subtly inspiring. However, if you ever wish Rainbow had just slightly more awesome amazing action in it, this is a great follow up.

For Fans of Thugs

prison school anime

Prison School

The Hachimitsu Private Academy has always been a prestigious all-girls school that is prized for its high quality education and ridged discipline. However, they are now accepting boys as well as girls. With a mere five boys in the schools, they think they are the luckiest men in the world. That is, until they get caught peeping and have their personal freedoms taken away in the brutal prison below the school.

Prison School may have infinitely more cleavage than Rainbow, but if you look at the themes – the brotherhood, the cheating, the trying to escape and survive, the cruel punishment – it has a surprisingly lot in common aside from both just being in a prison / school.


Black Lagoon

Average business man Rokurou Okajima found his life turned upside down when he was captured and held hostage by a mercenary group in Thailand called Black Lagoon. In order to survive, he ends up joining the mercenaries. Now he must adapt to the lifestyle, or die.

Although the plots of Black Lagoon and Rainbow are vastly different, both of these series show a darker glimpse at the world where things don’t always work out so nicely. However, aside from presenting a world where positive things aren’t so apparent, both anime series feature deeper psychological meanings.

kaiji anime


Kaiji Itou is a thug in the truest sense. With his days spent drinking and stealing hubcaps, his world is turned upside down when a co-worker tricks him into taking on a huge debt. In order to pay it off, Kaiji takes up a shady offer to participate in illegal gambling on a cruise ship that is filled with even worse scumbags than him.

While Kaiji is ostensibly about gambling, the area he is doing it in mind as well be a prison like in Rainbow. Both series feature not-always-so-good people trapped and surrounded by worst people. Both are stories about survival and working their way up and out of a situation.

For Fans of Older Japanese Settings

kids on the slope anime

Kids on the Slope

After moving around his entire life, classical pianist Kaoru Nishimi has abandoned all hope of fitting in as he arrives in Kyushu for his final year of high school. However, that all changes when he meets the thuggish drummer, Sentaro Kawabuchi, a man with an immeasurable love for jazz. Over the music they bond together and Kaoru learns that music should be something to bring joy to others, not something dictated by hundreds of years of technique.

Both Rainbow and Kids on the Slope take place shortly after World War II, an era where Japan wasn’t in great shape. Aside from the world state bleeding into the stories, you also watch characters struggle with poverty and violence with some true bromance and a spot on Jazz soundtrack.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu anime

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Former Yakuza member Yotarou is fresh out of prison and looking to keep his nose clean. In order to stay out of trouble, he aspires to the stage of Rakugo, a traditional Japanese form of comedic storytelling. Inspired by a man he saw perform while incarcerated, he seeks out the man to mentor him, forcing the unwilling, but distinguished Yakumo Yuurakutei to take on his first apprentice.

Although set in pre-World War Japan, criminals that want to do right by themselves never change. However, anime series like Rakugo and Rainbow, that both have relatively boring synopsis do prove that true golden series can hide within.

Zipang anime


Both the Mirai and her crew are the newest addition to the Japanese Self Defense Force. However, after they are tossed about in a fierce storm, the ship finds itself sent back to June 4th, 1942 during the Battle of Midway in World War II. Together they vow to change history as little as possible, but the instinct to save lives could end up changing the entire course of history.

There is nothing more binding than being in prison or being in the military, each of these shows cover both. However, Rainbow is much darker and inspirational while Zipang is inspiration in its finest. Both shows present a concept that is somewhat rare and do them well.

Did we miss any more anime recommendations for Rainbow that can get those manly tears flowing? Tell us about it in the comments section below.