Samurai Flamenco – 15

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Ah, now that’s better. For now, Masayoshi’s evil clone is just a red herring, and the From Beyond crisis is thankfully brought to a close with a somewhat clunky resolution: The Flamengers fly Flamen Robo into Mt. Fuji’s caldera and physcially beat the giant drill up until it breaks. All the From Beyond baddies disappear, Cloneayoshi kills himself with Masayoshi’s ray gun. The Flamengers get more awards, parades, and national praise, and then disband, their job done. With all this in the first half, one would expect a cooling-off period in which Masayoshi checks in with the characters who had been marginalized throughout the last arc. One would be wrong.

As stupid as Torture was, and as even stupider as From Beyond was, the show has thankfully not dwelled on them any longer than they needed to (though we had a problem with them dwelling on them at all). So it wastes no time introducing Masayoshi’s latest foe, and what do you know: It’s The Government. Nothing unites the people quite like a common threat, and the government furnished that threat in From Beyond. The Flamengers and other heroes were conscripted to be the hero of the public, but grew too popular. With control of the mass media, it was a simple matter to find and apprehend them all, and throw Masayoshi & Co. under the bus by proclaiming they were terrorists who orchestrated From Beyond to throw Japan into chaos and grab power.

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Before the cops get to Masayoshi, he’s lucky enough to be found by Mister Justice first, a hulking, boisterous American counterpart to Kaname, who has also been made persona non grata by the government that betrayed him. While the show hardly needed another blowhard beefsteak superhero, Mister Justice is a hoot to watch, whether he’s humming The Star-Spangled Banner to “calm” Hazama in his conspicuous star-spangled semi, or beating up an entire SWAT team; scolding them for not eating enough oatmeal and red meat. And he genuinely seems to want to help Masayoshi, successfully covering his escape.

Masayoshi now suddenly finds himself an enemy of the state, with a very famous face and even more famous disguise. But he’s not alone: Sumi, Kanno, Harazuka, and Gotou remain free (for now), as does MMM (though judging from Mari’s body language MMM might be over); all could help him in various ways. The first step would seem to be freeing the other four Flamengers from custody. But after the way Aoshima gets destroyed by Prime Minister Okuzaki, that probably won’t be easy. But then nothing is when you’re fighting on the side of right.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)

Samurai Flamenco – 13

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As the enemies of From Beyond multiply exponentially (theoretically there could be more than 60,000 out there), a pall is gradually cast over Masayoshi’s life, and the realities of the situation and how the powers that be have chosen to react to it, conspire with the weight of his exponentially expanding responsibilities to wear down his spirit, to the point that he’s vomiting in a TV studio men’s room just before appearing on the air.

One could say that vomit, and the awful physical and emotional stress that led to it, is an expression of his inability to accept evil. As soon as the Prime Minister decides to hold off on warning the public about the From Beyond attack, we knew something wasn’t right. When the order came down that a select few politicians and VIPs were going to be quietly evactuated first, no logical explanation like the need to maintain the chain of command could change the fact that Masayoshi and the other Flamengers were being made to go along with something that went against their personal ethics. They were protecting the wealthy and powerful, and keeping the innocent masses in the dark.

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Asked to choose five people to evacuate along with the VIPs, Masayoshi heads first to Goto, but he just as likely could have gone there to seek his friend’s counsel once more. Instead, he discovers that Mari’s there, and realizes there are more than five people he wants to save. Far from the world of grotesque villains and Megazords, Goto remains unapologetically, placidly normal: a cop who is happy to deal with petty criminals, shelter the occasional traumatized runaway idol, and text his long-distance girlfriend. He savors every day he doesn’t have to ram an ICBM with a Pink Hummer. Beyond moral support, there’s little he can do for Masayoshi, especially when Masayoshi won’t tell him what’s happening.

But his silence doesn’t last long. The last straw is when Kaname once again promises to help and then vanishes the next morning, even going so far as to throw out the handkercheif Sakura gave him with “I trust you” embroidered on it. We can’t call this an act of cowardice yet, as this could well be yet another test for Masayoshi: the beginning of the ultimate test. With Kaname gone, he’s the Deputy Commander of the Flamengers, in charge of Japan’s defense against From Beyond. His fellow Flamengers support him without question. He wastes no time asserting his authority by warning the general public, a decision that wasn’t just about sticking to his principles, but was necessary to preserve his very sanity.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Samurai Flamenco – 12

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The more time separated us from the eleventh episode of Samurai Flamenco, the less we liked it in retrospect, and the more we worried about whether we’d even recognize the show when it returned from holiday hiatus. After all, it did kinda jump the shark back there, even if it did so with a wink and a nudge, making the sudden appearence of a murderous guillotine-gorilla seem like a tame development by comparison.

This episode slowly but surely allayed our fears and restored our faith in the future of the show, by putting the new Flamengers out of the cartoons (partially, at least) and back down to earth. Part of that earth we missed was Gotou, whom Masayoshi checks in on in a great little scene that takes us back to the early episodes when they used to just goof off. Gotou quickly picks up that Masayoshi’s having trouble keeping the Flamengers in line and tells him to stay strong, but doesn’t bail him out by joining as Flamen Yellow.

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He takes a similar approach to Mari, letting her to hide in his closet to think about things, but rejecting her advances. In both cases, Gotou’s always there to help his friends, but also knows when to leave it to them to help themselves, as Mari and Masayoshi must. Speaking of friends, by allowing a measure of democracy in the strategy and tactics of their battle against From Beyond, Masayoshi is gradually gaining the respect of his Flamenger teammates, to the point they’re hanging at his pad eating curry rice, which is what friends do.

The episode kept us in real world while maintaining the crazy From Beyond plot by framing it all through the lens of a TV documentary. The Flamengers aren’t just heroes, after all, they’re celebrities (which is probably why Sumi is okay with it). It’s a tidy mini-arc in which we learn more about them as they overcome adversity. The villains are emphatically ridiculous-looking and the action is clumsy, but it works. When the dust clears, MMM34 (a grotesque parody of AKB) are on ice, and the giant robots are put away, the mutual respect and comeraderie between the Flamengers feels well-earned.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)