Samurai Flamenco – 22 (Fin)

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First of all, we liked the choice of expanding on Goto’s grief and showing us how he came to message himself. Goto’s “long distance relationship” started out as something of a comedic element, but the more we’ve learned about the truth, the more tragic and compelling it became, especially when Sawada used it against him in what has to be the most emotionally charged deletion of a text message we can recall.

As Sawada predicted, erasing the last message Goto’s real girlfriend ever sent is like flipping a crazy switch. By the time Masayoshi arrives, all Goto wants to do is be free so he can kill Sawada. It’s all part of Sawada’s plan to sacrifice himself so Samurai Flamenco will have a traumatic past that will never leave him, turning him into a “dark hero” (a la Batman).

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Running in with nothing resembling a plan for victory, Masayoshi decides to fight crazy with crazy: refusing to put on the costume and stripping all his clothes off. This bizarre throws Sawada for such a loop he ends up dropping both the cuffs key and gun in Goto’s vicinity. With Sawada disarmed and thoroughly freaked out, now the still-naked Masayoshi has to convince Goto not to kill Sawada.

His method isn’t what we’d call elegant—he whips himself into a tantrum screaming “BAKA” over and over and oddly proposes to Goto—but the sheer ludicrousness of the situation snaps Goto out of his murderous rage. The idea that Masayoshi is so ignorant to the concept of love is a little silly, but in the end, his desperate improvisation wins the day. We’re glad no one was killed, but we still enjoyed Flamenco Diamond showing up to give Sawada a well-deserved beatdown for poisoning her friends.

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With Kaname recovered from his injuries, he opens up a new superhero museum which everyone attends, and we get some nice farewell moments with the Flamengers, Kanno and Ishihara (who have an awesome final exchange), and lastly, Goto and Masayoshi, who’s late for the opening. Goto receives a fresh text from his girlfriend (maybe she IS out there somewhere!), and Masayoshi runs after a litterbug.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)
Average Rating: 8 (episodes 1-13), 7.111 (episodes 14-22), 7.636 (total)
MyAnimeList Score: 6.97

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Samurai Flamenco – 21

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As it turns out, Sawada Haiji is indeed a real person, but Masayoshi is no closer to finding him or predicting his next move, let alone defeating him. His first targets this week are Moe and Mizuki, who collapse on stage after drinking drugged coffee before their LIVE PEACE concert begins. In Mari’s defense, there wasn’t much she could do with Masayoshi’s warning. But the point is as clear as it was last week: none of his friends are safe.

The Flamengers aren’t that worse for wear (Sakura’s new hairstyle is excellent, as is the sniping between her and Joji’s wife) and Joji is conscious and on the mend, telling Masayoshi he saw the boy described and hear him mention Samumenco. Joji is not the most reliable witness, but later it’s confirmed when Haiji kidnaps Goto. Joji also tells him the ultimate weapon they have against evil is love. Only problem is, Masayoshi doesn’t know what that is.

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While the fact that Haiji is a real person coordinating all these attacks without leaving any witnesses or evidence strains credulity, but compared with some of the other outrageous things that have happened in previous arcs, it’s plausible enough, especially when we learn more about his story and realize just how hard he’s been working to become the ultimate villain.

Back to love, and what we thought was the best part of an episode full of meaty character moments: while he thinks about Joji’s words in the cab with Sumi, he remembers turning down a girl in school who liked him. When Sumi asks him what’s up, he does the exact same thing, totally oblivious to the fact Sumi could help him. Fortunately, Sumi takes him by the scruff and spells it out for him, as she must…in the nick of time, too, as Masayoshi had been considering taking his own life to end Haiji’s rampage.

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The show’s been very subtly ratcheting up the chemistry and romantic tension between Sumi and Masayoshi, and we love how she is the one to explain love in all its forms to him, as a very likable character who has been somewhat underutilized due to the show’s deep bench. We also like how she knew about him being Samumenco all along, but let it continue. But most of all, we like how she casually confesses her “technical” love for him. We still hold out hope this will go somewhere.

Really, the show has been about different kinds of love all along, starting with the love a hero must have for the people and ideals he protects, the brotherly love between Masayoshi and Goto, the unrequited love Mari has for Goto (or Moe for Mari), Sumi’s love for Masayoshi, the love that drives Goto to text his dead girlfriend, the love between a married mentor and his protege, and lots more. Then there’s the love that shook Haiji out of his apathetic existence, but twisted him into the final boss in the Samurai Flamenco saga.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Samurai Flamenco – 20

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A lot of weird stuff has been happening to Masayoshi of late, particularly in the mental/metaphysical departments. So while his latest enemy appears to be a real flesh-and-blood guy, and someone he briefly met once before and has a whole story, that doesn’t mean he’s…real. Nothing this week suggests he really is, which is why no one really believes him.

“Real” or not, Sawada Haiji is a refreshing change of pace from the usual loud, boisterous, theatrical foes Flamenco has fought and defeated in the past. He’s incredibly stealthy and precise; impossibly so, as there are never any witnesses or evidence of his involvement in anything that happens to Masayoshi or his friends. And we say “that happens” instead of “Sawada does”, because the truth is, it could all be a coincidental sequence of simultaneous mishaps.

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Only Masayoshi is connecting the dots, egged on by the first in-person appearance and subsequent phone calls. Sawada is more than just an obsessed stalker or enemy, he’s the enemy; a classic nemesis, with the exact opposite goals of Masayoshi, and will hit him anywhere and everywhere where it hurts, even playing around with the idea of killing Goto. It’s telling then that when Masayoshi visits Goto, both to ensure he’s alright and to seek advice, this time bad things happen it has nothing to do with Sawada.

When Goto doesn’t believe him, Masayoshi throws Goto’s dead girlfriend in his face…which is a bad move, and Goto throws him out of his house. Masayoshi ends up by a riverbank to try to make sense of what’s going on, but ends up swimming wildly after a mirage of Sawada, a pretty creepy experience that awakens him to the possibility that no one else can see this newest evil because it resides within him, and only he can defeat it.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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)

Samurai Flamenco – 11

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Right after Samumenco defeats King Torture and reveals his identity as Hazama Masayoshi, a strange, massive coral-like object rises out of Tokyo Bay,calling themselves “From Beyond” Kaname Joji spirits Hazama off to a secret Samurai base where he’s recruited a team of “Flamengers” to deal with the threat. When the other four Flamengers end up killed by Deadly Toxic Poison, a From Beyond member who infiltrated the base, Kaname calls upon four other Flamen Red candidates. Hazama takes the leadership role, and the five Flamengers defeat Poison in typical Super Sentai fashion.

Samurai Flamenco is a show that has grown more and more ridiculous with each major arc, culminating in this newest one, which shakes everything up. MMM is nowhere to be found, and instead of what we thought would be the main conflict of the episode—the real-world fallout from Hazama revealing his identity—we get, well, something else entirely, which was wholly and utterly absurd from start to finish. But that was our mistake: thinking we had any clue in hell where the show would take us next. The Torture arc felt like a warm-up, a way to acclimate us to the crazy before presenting us with a bigger, louder, more meta brand of crazy.

The final act of the episode played out in a manner very familiar to anyone who ever watched Power Rangers or the like, which we did on occasion. When hand-to-hand combat with Ridiculously-Themed Villain fails, both foe and heroes grow to monumental scale and duke it out there. While that ending was pretty much rote, the real fun was in the outlandishly implausible journey to get to that point, in which Joji reveals that he’s been busy all those times he flaked out on Hazama, and Hazama gets a crew of four young peers to work with, all of whom share his thirst for justice. Plus, in the very very end it went all the way back to Hazama’s original problem: dealing with his manager.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Not only did Joji’s giant tiltrotor look completely incapable of flight, it was also pretty useless, as a normal helicopter could have sufficed.
  • The reality seems to be that Joji is a real hero with the PM’s ear, and serious national resources committed to his enterprise, which seems to be a little disorganized and impulsive.
  • Someone at From Beyond needs to tell the video guy that he’s not David Lynch; get the message out clearly and concisely, and ditch the feeble attempts at…er…auteurism.
  • Making all the Flamengers red and making them sort it out…that’s just the kind of creative twist on a very old genre that keeps things fresh and entertaining.
  • As ambitious, audacious, fun, and action-packed as the episode was, the producers’ eyes were bigger than their budget; as a result, the animation was a bit rough in places.

Samurai Flamenco – 09

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Three months into Samumenco’s battle against Torture, the public becomes bored with it, as does Mari, who contacts Konno for an interview where she calls out King Torture himself. Goto warns her to be careful, but she doesn’t listen, and when Masayoshi snaps at him for being late to the scene of a battle to clean up, Goto washes his hands of the whole situation. Konno is kidnapped and tortured by King Torture, and agrees to give up Mari in exchange for being “entertained.” King Torture calls Masayoshi on Mari’s phone, telling him she’s her prisoner, and to meet him for a final battle. When Samumenco’s way is barred by Torture grunts, Harazuka arrives with new weapons and holds them off, allowing Samumenco to proceed to the boss.

It’s a well-known fact that too much of just about anything initially exciting will eventually grow boring, and the interest of its initial admirers will peter out. Time marches on, and with it, new stories, incidents, disasters, scandals, or trends. Even Samumenco’s war against real, freakish, ferocious monsters isn’t immune. The fact is, as long as somebody takes care of them—a duty that falls exclusively to Samumenco once Mari loses interest—the public learns that they don’t really have to care anymore. Samumenco has become just another cop; it’s assumed he’ll deal with the bad guys, and if they keep being dealt with in the same formulaic way, there’s no reason to continue paying attention. Mari, meanwhile, had already half-checked out of the whole enterprise once King Torture named Samumenco, not her, as his nemesis.

And who can blame the King? Masayoshi believes being a hero is his birthright and duty; a end unto itself. Mari has no such lofty aspirations. She fights to keep herself entertained, and when she’s no longer entertained, she ups the stakes. If King Torture is pure evil, pure good is his true foe, and that’s Masayoshi, not Mari. Mari’s impulse proves to be a serious error on her part, since she has no earthly idea what she’s dealing with (Harazuka implies Torture may not be earthly at all). And when all’s said and done, Konno decides to sacrifice Mari, that he might be furthr entertained rather than die an honorable but boring death. The more Harazuka reveals about what Torture is, the more Masayoshi—and we—recoil. The invincible glint in Masayoshi’s eyes in the beginning of the episode fades into doubt. Before he can talk about saving the world, he has to do it, starting with saving Mari.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Talk about a turnaround; Masayoshi now has more presence on a TV show poster(and attention at the presser) than MMM.
  • For one brief moment, Mari looks hurt when Masayoshi yells at her.
  • Goto’s great in this episode. He’s basically sick of being a doorstop (and occasional uniform model) and is fed up with all the whining. Masayoshi’s success, and the subsequent inflation of he ego has definitely been a blow to their friendship.
  • Wouldn’t it be grand if Masayoshi swoops in and save Mari, and she’s actually grateful to him, and even develops feelings for him? Yeah, we know…we’re thinking too far ahead
  • Very sneaky of the episode to portray Konno’s call to Sumi as another tease at first; turns out he thought he was going to die and his proposal was dead serious.
  • Kudos to the show for giving the Torture grunts a voice and some time in the spotlight to tell Samumenco that they’re perfectly content and willing to quickly set aside their lives in the service of evil, weak though they may be.
  • We had a feeling Mizuki and Moe were going to swoop in to aid Masayoshi, but Harazuka did just fine. A badass geezer, he.

Samurai Flamenco – 08

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King Torture orders the surrender of the government and the enslavement of the people, but the police rather than the JSDF are trusted with dealing with it. As Harazuka continually upgrades his gear, Flamenco and the Girls dispatch one monster after another without casualties, save the monsters themselves who self-destruct after defeat. Both Masayoshi and MMM’s careers start to skyrocket, though Mari is starting to get bored with fighting Flamenco’s leftovers, while Goto’s girlfriend warns him she’s scared of the new look in Masayoshi’s eyes.

We were caught off guard last week by the show’s sudden decision to introduce unrealistic monsters into the story without it being a dream or illusion, and were a little dubious of the execution, but after this week, we’ve come to like the suddenness. Being a superhero, Masayoshi focuses on defeating evil and protecting the people, so we don’t delve much into Torture’s origins or motives, which is good. They’re just the next level of baddies for Samumenco and the Samurai Girls to tangle with. We like how they’ve joined forces once again out of necessity for more muscle, but the same problems with their last teaming-up are still there: Mari doesn’t want to share the spotlight. This episode did a good job taking us by the hand and confidently guiding us smoothly through its new “monster milieu”, efficiently chronicling how things have gradually reached a new normalcy.

Torture’s declaration of war led the government to declare a state of emergency, but as the police and heroes polish off the monsters, the threat level is incrementally ratcheted, until they’re considering not even meeting about it every week. That could prove premature: because we know so little of King Torture, he’s basically capable of anything. Speaking of which, Masayoshi is feeling very invincible at the moment, fueled by Sumi’s encouragement, Jouji’s praise, and Harazuka’s gadgets. But his intention to barrel forward and take full advantage of this auspicious time in his life, while admirable, could also lead to his downfall. Things seem to be working out almost too well for him, too fast. The only ones who see are Goto and his girlfriend. The show is wisely keeping the new monster threat’s effect on the characters as important as (if not more so than) the threat itself.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Samurai Flamenco – 07

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With attacks and petty crime down to almost nothing, Samurai Flamenco has earned the trust of the city and the Samurai Girls have no more villains to punish. To Sumi’s delight Masayoshi refocuses on his day job, but when he finds a newspaper clipping in his grandfather’s package confirming his parents were murdered, and doesn’t feel the impulse to do anything about it, he wavers.

While discussing it with Goto, the two witness a mobster beating an old man, and Masayoshi wraps him in tape. Masayoshi accepts the police department’s offer to make him Chief for the day, and he oversees a drug bust, but one suspect takes a pill and transforms into a murdrous “Guillotine Gorilla.” Masayoshi and Goto push him out the window, and he self-destructs. A strange figure calling himself “King Torture” appears to challenge Masayoshi.

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We figured with four heroes out there fighting crime every night (with extreme prejudice, in the case of Mari’s Samurai Girls), eventually the amount of crime to fight would dwindle to nothing. Some people are happy about the lull, like the sensible, grounded Goto and Sumi. Mari is bored to the point of near-neurosis. And without even realizing it, Masayoshi is sleeping, modelling and acting better, earning him ever more opportunities. Sumi’s seeing to it his rise is swift yet sustainable. Then Masayoshi keeps digging in grandpa’s Flamenco files, finds something shocking, becomes conflicted, and then re-dedicates himself to opposing evil after a very nice heart-to-heart with Goto (whose point is that Masayoshi’s a freak, but he trusts freaks more than heroes).

And then something even more shocking happens: evil finds him. And it finds him the most bizarre, random form possible: a giant armored gorilla with a guillotine built into its mid-section. For the first time in the series, something truly supernatural happens, and people die horribly. This gorilla and “King Torture” are so abruptly thrust upon us, it’s hard to know how to react. We always knew the show had the potential to depart from reality, we just weren’t expecting it so soon, and so damn strange. We’re not sure it wouldn’t have been ballsier for the show to continue abstaining from such fantastical elements, but we’ll keep an open mind.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Kaname Jouji may be a self-involved flake, but his gift of a cow skull and tequila from America showed that he does actually care about his “student.”
  • It’s also great how all the guys are hanging at Masayoshi’s place all the time now. It’s almost like a club.
  • Konno calls Sumi to say he won’t be calling her anymore, because he’s bored. Something tells us he’s about to get un-bored…which means he’ll be calling Sumi again.
  • “Destroy…Not to Destroy…” Mari isn’t even trying to maintain a facade of sanity anymore, is she? If nothing else, this King Torture business will require her firm boot of justice.
  • Masayoshi took all that carnage pretty damn well…you’d think he’d have at least retched at that beheading.

Samurai Flamenco – 05

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Hazama is fooled by a group trying to collect the reward for revealing his identity, but he’s saved by Mari, who once again uses excessive force. When Sumi gets him an acting gig, Hazama tells Mari he won’t be joining her on evenings forthe time being. An angry Mari goes solo and her terrifying brawls lead to the police setting up a Vigilante Counseling Unit to reassure the public.

Hazama is frustrated on the set of the superhero show, but he returns home to find a package scheduled to be sent to him on his twentieth birthday. In it is a letter where his late grandfather passes the legacy of Samurai Flamenco on to him. Energized, he bails out Flamenco Girl once more, but then they split up. Mari coerces Mizuki and Moe to join her, forming the “Flamenco Girls.”

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Last week seemed to be pointing to a reigning in of Flamenco Girl’s reign of terror, but that wasn’t the case this week, as she’s as merciless as ever. Her idoling job has become secondary to her nightly vigilantism, and she derives almost too much pleasure from kicking her defeated foes when they’re down. Suffice it to say, her philosophy doesn’t jibe with Hazama’s more idealized brand of justice, and they both conclude that because of that, they can’t keep working together, or they’ll eventually become enemies.

That brings us to why Hazama is a superhero in the first place. When his parents died, his grandfather created the Samurai Flamenco cheer up and inspire him. Even when Mari’s antics and the jadedness of the hero tv set have brough Hazama as low as he’s ever been, his grandfather’s well-timed posthumous package is just the kick in the pants he needs to keep going, while ditching the oppression of Mari. No more sidekicking or baiting; he’s going to make grandpa proud. We’ll see if he can stick to that!

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Kaname Joji ditches Hazama once more; but he does get Hazama thinking about how Samurai Flamenco was born.
  • More trouble in paradise: Goto’s girlfriend rebukes him for cancelling on her – and talking about Hazama too much. Will Mari ever confront Goto about her feelings? Will we ever see his girlfriend?
  • Did Sumi simply get that superhero acting job for Hazama because of the auspicious slot, or because she’s picking up on his love for that kinda stuff? Maybe a little of both…
  • There was something kinda melancholy about Mari alone in her too-brightly-lit apartment, rolling around with her cop-pillow.
  • Mari had to train her ass off to become Flamenco Girl, so when we first saw Mizuki and Moe flanking her, we wondered: will she be toughening them up as well, or just using them like she used Hazama?

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)

Samurai Flamenco – 02

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The police get several complaints about a man in a red costume harassing them. Goto warns Hazama to give his act a rest. Ishihara gets Hazama an extra role in the idol group Mineral Miracle Muse’s music video. He hums the Red Axe theme in order to stay calm, and MMM’s center Maya Mari notices. After meeting Hazama for dinner, Goto finds that his umbrella (belonging to his girlfriend) is missing. Hazama races after the man who stole it, and video of his peaceful confrontation goes viral.

At first, Hazama’s nightime “superheroism” is portrayed as nothing more than antics and petty scolding, which people are taking the wrong way. They’re so comfortable with the insignificant crimes they commit, that his unusual appearance and extreme moral stance lead them to report him to the cops as a deranged freak. It’s a hard, thankless job, but you get the feeling Hazama feels he’s making more of a difference sitting in the rain waiting for people to put out their garbage to early than he is appearing in music videos as a pretty man-prop.

Like the heroes he adores, he has Life Event That Set Him On This Path, which he reveals when Goto tells him the petty crimes he bothers people about will never end, but are simply a part of society. Goto is right, but only 90-99% of the time. Hazama fights for that 1% of cases where stealing someone else’s umbrella leads to the owner catching a cold…or the umbrella belongs to the owner’s long-distance girlfriend; not only Goto’s responsibility, but a valued reminder of her. That rare occurrence of anything other than the minor inconvenience of a stolen umbrella – that’s everything to Kazama.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We finally meet MMM…thankfully they’re not your usual idol group that is all smiles and rainbows on camera but complete bitches and tormentors to their underlings in real life. They’re actually quite pleasant.
  • Hazama “singing” the Red Axe theme over the idol song…that was ingenious. Not that MMM is bad; we maintain that the ED is very nice. Catchy; but not annoyingly so.
  • It’s also pretty cool when Hazama unknowingly attracts the attention of a fellow Red Axe fanatic, who just happens to be the idol he worked with. Something tells us he’ll be asked to worth with MMM again.
  • That chase was awesome, but we’re somewhat doubtful Hazama could keep pace with a monorail on a bike in the rain while obeying all red lights.
  • Hazama identifying his superhero persona on a tv quiz show…brilliant.