Samurai Flamenco – 03

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Rumors spiral that Hazama is Samurai Flamenco, but he insists he isn’t when Ishihara asks. Konno has offered a bounty the one who unmasks the superhero, and while on the Wow! Show, to Hazama’s surprise, his childhood hero, Kaname Joji (AKA Red Axe) poses as Samurai Flamenco, resurrecting his stalled career. Hazama sends a challenge to Kaname, and they meet at a superhero show stage after dark and have it out. Hazama insists he won’t allow Red Axe sully his good name by lying. When Kaname goes back on the air, he tells the world Flamenco is his student. Goto poses as Hazama on live TV so Hazama can “prove” to Ishihara it isn’t him.

Starting out as a kind of buddy comedy, another dimension is added to the series with the introduction of the impostor, who is actually Hazama’s boyhood idol and about as close to a real superhero as you can get. Don’t get us wrong, whether he’s Samurai Flamenco or his teacher, Kaname has a lot to gain by staying involved with Hazama, who’s younger and more popular with the young ladies. But the episode does a good job showing that he isn’t just a haughty ass of a celebrity. His emotional reaction and pivot in mission after Hazama challenges and confronts him is a combination of genuine concern and good improvisation. A lesser show would make Hazama and Kaname duke it out week after week as rivals, and to be honest, that doesn’t sound that interesting.

Instead, Kaname makes a compromise that keeps him in the limelight and also lets Hazama preserve his identity. Even though Kaname didn’t remember Hazama after the first time he met him, he will certainly remember him from now on. We also think he appreciates Hazama’s dedication to him as an admirer of Red Axe, and having a weakling reproach him for what he knows to be conduct that’s beneath Red Axe. And then there’s Goto, who actually agrees (offscreen) to don SF’s costume, pretend to be him – and actually enjoy it. Combined with Ishihara’s confusion about whether Hazama is telling her the truth and Mari’s awareness of who he is, we’re really enjoying how all of the relationships are turning out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kill la Kill – 04

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Sirens blare at 4AM, the morning of “No-Late Day”, when the academy’s no-stars must cross a murderous gauntlet of obstacles and arrive at school on time to avoid being expelled. Mako’s mom washed Senketsu so Ryuuko has to go in her pajamas. She and Mako come across their classmate Ogure Maiko, who accompanies them on their journey, but once Guts arrives with Senketsu, she reveals she’s the Disciplinary Committee Head of Trap Development, and was planning all along to steal the kamui. She dons Senketsu, but can’t move because he’s so starchy, and Ryuuko beats her. With only minutes left before first period, Ryuuko dons Senketsu and commandeers a luxury tram and launches them into the classroom just in time to say “present.”

If Golden Time tweaks and embellishes certain scenarios of its subject matter – in its case college life – but Kill la Kill is in an entirely different galaxy in this regard. The Student Council President is a brutal dictator with a cadre of deranged subordinates, and the social structure typical of high school is amplified into a strict caste system that applies to life as well as school. Because Ryuuko has no family save Mako’s, she’s at the bottom with them, which means those on top will throw everything they have at them in order to assert their power. Thus even a commute to school is suddenly becomes a bitter, epic struggle for survival, and scores of no-stars fall before getting anywhere close to school, to the point that the defeated partake in “pseudo-homeroom”; a fabulous concept!

The proud, determined Ryuuko is more than game, even if initially, she doesn’t have Senketsu to help her out. She lucked out with the sweet, loyal Mako, but she let her guard down in placing her trust in Maiko, and almost loses Senketsu. In just one of the countless demonstrations of this series’ clever storytelling, it’s because Mako’s mom laundered him that Maiko is unable to follow through on her grand plan. We were fools to believe anything resembling a lull or slow-down would follow Ryuuko and Satsuki’s battle. Satsuki may have been absent, the entire “No-Late Day” ritual is a product of her cruel, oppressive leadership, a system Ryuuko will hopefully crush, one Disciplinary Committee head at a time.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)