Binan Koukou…dipped a bit on its second outing. The formula and recurring humor was just as punchy but clever knowingness of the jokes is only going to carry the show for so long. Ironic or not, Binan is a formula show after all, and it’s not the strongest formula to begin with.
Love it? Hate it? Let’s just dive in and see what this week was about…
“Love Means Never Feeling Regret” shares the spotlight with the villainous student council this week. Lead by Lord Zundar, a green hedgehog from Planet Evil who lives in the president’s breast pocket, the council’s meeting outlines their agenda, why they will be running up against the Battle Lovers, and why they don’t immediately recognize the team BL’s members, who they pass regularly in the school’s hallways.
As villains go, Binan’s don’t stray far from the source material it is parodying. Read: these strict boys see the happy go lucky world around them as dirty and needing organization, no matter the cost.
Meanwhile, the Earth Defense club / Battle Lovers are hanging around their club room, filling their boredom with quirky, nonsensical discussions. This week’s topic? The misconceptions of disposable chopsticks from an environmental and culinary perspective. (also Wombat cuddling)
The dialog is remarkably natural and reminds me of my own experiences in high school. Truthfully, BL’s playful and weirdly sincere banter is what I look forward to most in these episodes.
Archetypical or not, each boy has a distinct character and place in the group:
Blue is the spacey loner who muses about bizarrely pseudo-philosophical topics and is an unwilling participant in the battles.
Green, his closest friend, is the straight-faced skeptic and callback guy. The “who’s there” to the group’s knock-knock jokes, if you will. He’s also the most flustered by their costumes, though he doesn’t make a big stink about it.
Red is the mo, lets do this, animal lover of the group. He’s the working-class outsider and either an airhead or a master of straight-faced making fun of the others for buying into his wacky viewpoints. Because he’s innocent at heart, he leads the charge during battle.
Pink is the hottie, who enjoys their situation since it’s fun and he treats the costumes like cosplay. If they didn’t have a mandatory transformation speech, he’d be as hung ho as Red. (this is the funniest gender reversal of the group)
Last up is Orange, Pink’s friend and possibly the most neutral in the group. So far, he’s the least distinct, effectively being a second straight man/green. However, he seem’s more docked to Pink than Green is to Blue.
They all bounce off of each other (and Mr. Wombat) in a delightful way that would be as valid in a slice of life comedy as it is here.
We also learn that Sensei really is dead, technically and that Wombat has to stay near the corpse or it will start to rot. Wombat is technically working on medical repairs in the mean time, but horrific reality that BL’s home room teacher’s zombie remains is following them around and demanding the fight monsters while wearing absurdly silly costumes is a nice dark twist on this sunshine-and-rainbows show!
Furthermore, it weirds the boys out even more since killing someone, accidentally or not, contradicts Wombat’s message of peace and love and protecting the earth.
Then the student council turns a tight-laced student into a monster in the cafeteria, which summons BL, who quickly defeat the monster.
As with last week, this week’s monster mirror’s Blue’s musings and is defeated by Red’s optimism. The fact that he’s an angry pile of chopsticks doesn’t really matter.
Then everyone has a bath and we end on a joke about Sensei’s corpse decomposing warmly in the corner.
The good: The fact that Wombat actually killed Sensei and how not-over-the-top everyone is about it was fresh and, for now, provides a great recurring joke. Similarly, the boys’ indifference to the whole silly thing (as exemplified by the group forgetting it’s name and calling itself Love Busters, Bust Lovers or Love Battlers) is satisfyingly grounded.
Making fun of Wombat (and the genre) for switching needlessly between Japanese and English versions of the name is clever too. “Are you an alien or a foreigner?!”
Thankfully, everything is relaxed, which makes a comfortable atmosphere where the viewer can chuckle along with the boys, who chuckle along at how stupid the magical girl formula is.
Best of all, they are chuckling at how ridiculous it is that they are stuck in it, and not being caustic or needlessly harsh. This comfort zone is huge in making the show watchable. Without it, especially if the boys themselves were ‘stupid,’ the hour would be lost or buried under the grating-conventions of the genre.
The not as good: even though Binan makes fun of this fact, the transformations and the battle itself were too short this week. Yes! Second episodes in the magic girl genre struggle to introduce the villains yet still check each box in their formula.
But a clunky episode is still a clunky episode and not fun to watch.
My verdict: Episode two was enjoyable to watch but I definitely noticed laughing less then last time. In many ways, Binan’s fate may best be decided by it’s third episode, where we will see if it sticks to pure-formula and (ironic) convention or if it branches out.
Binan is no Nozaki-kun to be sure. That said, the genre-aware humor of the characters stuck in the genre, plus the gender reversal twist, is all very clever. I’m not sure, actually, if I’d even like it (or have bothered watching it all the way through) if it wasn’t gender reversed?
Ultimately, Binan’s worth comes down to the formula. Does the formula wear out its welcome and suffer slow episodes because the formula says it has to? Or does Binan have more tricks up its sleeves and a twist on the idea of a twist in this genre to keep it fresh?
Only time will tell!