Samurai Flamenco – 19

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Ah, the quiet life in a world with no evil, where there is only love, peace…and Maya Mari. Kudos to the show for putting all the world-saving on hold for a least an episode and putting the focus back on the lives of Masayoshi, Goto, and MMM (the Flamengers get abridged status reports, but they’re far less central characters).

While we knew the next global crisis was just over the horizon (being announced rather abruptly in the final minute of the episode), we’ll take all the Samurai Flamenco slice-of-life we can. Masayoshi learns Goto is going to visit his long-distance girlfriend back in his hometown. This is huge, as Goto’s girlfriend has been nothing but very animated texts since the beginning, and we thought we’d never see her face as following through with the joke.

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Turns out it’s no joke at all, more of a tragedy, as Masayoshi learns when he tells Mari about Goto’s plans and gets sucked into a four-hour bullet train ride followed by some standard stalking. During the trip Mari suggests something we had been pondering for a long while, which the show hadn’t so much at hinted at: the possibility of Masayoshi going out with Sumi. It’s a new world, after all: there isn’t much to do besides settle down and find love.

It’s when they meet Goto’s mom, and then find Goto himself waiting at a bus stop with a bouquet of roses and, as always, his cell phone in hand, they learn the heartbreaking truth: Goto’s girlfriend in question was his high school sweetheart who got on a bus and disappeared years ago; he started texting messages to himself as her as a way of coping with the crushing grief…and never stopped. All the time the show had laughed off the fact Goto never had any real contact with his girlfriend is brought into heartbreaking focus…and now we know why he’s a cop.

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Mari, who’s been pining for him all this time, is similarly devastated at being passed up for an imaginary girl, but at this point he’s been “talking” to her for so long, she may be just as real as Mari, if not more so. So while there seems to be no more evil in the world, there’s still pain, loss, anguish, and frustration. There’s still times when you just need your two friends to meet you at a hot spring to feast on lobster and de-compress.

Oh, and obviously, there still IS evil in the world, after all! What Samurai Flamenco did threatens all who—profit directly or indirectly—from that evil (the press and the police among them) The boy who shakes Masayoshi’s hand just before blowing up his apartment essentially tells him what Masayoshi (and Mari) were likely so uneasy about all along: that a world without strife is a world without movement or change, of stagnation and ruin.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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Samurai Flamenco – 18

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Well now, that was pretty damn weird. Dealing with the fairly lame Alien Flamenco, thought to be the next great menace to world peace, was only a one-episode exercise, in which Samurai Flamenco attains new heights of ridiculousness. It aims to fit all of the random stuff that has happened to Masayoshi and Co. up to now into one grand unifying theory of bullshit, and it doesn’t quite pull it off.

In its haste to explain the connections between all of Flamenco’s increasingly strange battles, it inflates Masayoshi to an undesirable god-like status, or at least to the level of a messiah-like instrument of God. Saying the “will of the universe” sent enemy after enemy to Masayoshi because he wished for them is tidy and all, but ultimately not very satisfying. It was all a bit silly, frankly.

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While it tries to come off as a “Ha-ha, we’re in on the joke” silly, we got more of a “Meh, we’ll just make it up as we go along” vibe, which can be fine, but it’s harder than it looks. Even if this was all planned from the start, the answers we get this week just weren’t worth all of the whiplash of the past escalations. It’s a nonchalant, overly-meta resolution that does a disservice to the other characters who sweated and bled and cried and struggled by his side all this time. Like the big From Beyond battle, this just wasn’t as clever or ironic as it thought it was.

Take away the window-dressing of the “illusions” and the brief and fairly plain space battle, and this was nothing but Masayoshi standing around talking with a robot who’d finish sentences in English for no reason, followed by somebody who may as well be God, taking the form of Masayoshi’s friends and enemies. But hey, at least he makes what we thought was the right decision: to stop the flow of goofy villains and return to normal life on Earth.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Samurai Flamenco – 17

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Since bottoming out with the From Beyond battle, Samurai Flamenco has been clawing its way back to respectability at a pretty good clip. Last week the crucial bonds between friends were reaffirmed, and much like the Railgun, Masayoshi only becomes more powerful and capable when she’s surrounded by friends supporting her. After what happened to Flamen Blue last week, going up against Prime Minister Okuzaki wasn’t going to be a cakewalk.

But first, he had to get to the Diet, where the PM was putting the finishing touches on his campaign for 100% Approval. Goto was never in doubt as to whether Masayoshi was really a terrorist mastermind (he knows Masayoshi is too stupid to trick anyone), while Jun is happy for another chance to see his special stationary in action. His getaway car is a first-gen Toyota Harrier, AKA Lexus RX300. So he went for reliability and comfort, not speed.

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Konno’s also on Masayoshi’s side, and even Mister Justice shows up to clear their path to the Diet, while the reborn Flamenco Girls and Goto make sure no one disturbs Masayoshi’s chat with Okuzaki. Of course, Okuzaki has no intention of chatting, cutting the audio feed but keeping the cameras rolling as he dons his battle armor, which is fittingly powered by his constantly refreshing public approval ratings.

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His heart’s in the right place—he wants only to protect Japan—but he doesn’t respect the people and is willing to lie to them to increase his power.This is where Konno takes up the mantle of unlikely hero. Okuzaki may be invulnerable to physical attacks, but he’s extremely susceptible to the effects of the truth, which is shown to the world when Konno live-streams his megalomaniacal ranting to the nation (having probably snuck in when the Girls arrived). Okuzaki’s ratings plummet, and with them his strength, and it’s Bye-bye, Mr. Prime Minister. All thanks to Konno—and smartphones.

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It’s a satisfying, creative victory that gave everyone something to do, and it was Samurai Flamenco ridiculousness at its best. But it wouldn’t be Flamenco if the victory celebration lasted more than a few moments. Turns out Okuzaki was the country’s last best hope against the REAL foe: Mister Justice! Well, not really Mister Justice (no American bad guys here!) it was just a disguise for…Alien Flamenco! And just like that, the show expands its conflict all the way out into space. Never a dull moment for our hero and his integral support circle.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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)