Nanbaka – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: A super-sparkly, hyperactive action comedy focusing on a quirky quartet of inmates of the famously impossible-to-break-out-of Nanba Prison, Block 13: Ryugo (15), Uno (11), Nico (25) and Roku (69). They attempt to escape several times a day, but also seem to be fine simply living out their days at Nanba (except Ryugo, who wants to find the man who placed “black shackles” on him.

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Why You Should Watch: I hate to say it starts off slow, because things move at breakneck speed from the beginning. I guess it’s more accurate to say it takes a while to start laughing at the rapid-fire jokes and physical comedy of the brightly-colored characters and their just-competent-enough corrections officers.

But once I did, I fed off of Nanbaka’s frenetic, bodacious energy and its diverse comedy, which often goes right where I think it will (i.e. the cross-dressing brother) and sometimes goes to hilariously unexpected places (Nico turning guard hounds into lapdogs).

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Why You May Not Want To Watch: This can’t match the drabness or manic  darkness of Rainbow or Deadman Wonderland nor the debauchery or even over-the-topness of Prison School. It’s a straight-up comedy with some action sprinkled in, and its one attempt to get deep (with Ryugo’s story) ain’t exactly Lars von Trier. The sole female character is the vaunted Warden who contributes nothing to the comedy. And what the hell is up with all the SPARKLING?!?!

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The Verdict: Nanbaka provides occasionally clever or weird comedy, but is usually just slight, self-aware, stupid fun. I thought the four inmates would be annoying at first, but they grew on me fast. And if it keeps showing up on Tuesdays, I may well have time to follow it. If I don’t, maybe Franklin will.

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