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.
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Samurai Flamenco – 10

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King Torture lures Samurai Flamenco to his lair by holding Mari and Moe hostage. He’s disgusted by Mari’s attitude, but frees Moe when she says she’ll take Mari’s place. When Samurai Flamenco arrives, King Torture tells him how they’re alike, before attacking with a chainsaw arm. Samurai Flamenco counterattacks with his new weapons. Mizuki calls Goto, who bursts into the lair with Mari’s pink Hummer, deflecting Torture’s harpoon.

King Torture ends up impaled on a life-size action figure, but isn’t harmed, and he activates a rocket launch sequence that will bring about the creation of a giant monster version of himself. Goto launches the Hummer at the rocket to knock it over before it launches, while Samurai Flamenco tears out King Torture’s life core, defeating him for good. Moe and Mizuki carry the wounded Mari to the concert stage, where she sings solo.

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When this show sets out to make a final battle episode, it does not mess around. Pretty much every trope in the book is employed with a panache and self-awareness that we’ve come to expect. We learn King Torture grew up watching hero TV shows like Masayoshi, but rather than become inspired to be like them, what he got from them was that the heroes never win; it’s wiser—not to mention more entertaining—to be evil.

But this episode wasn’t just a send-up. Whether it was Moe offering her life to save Mari, Goto saving Masayoshi and killing the rocket, Mari taking the stage, or Masayoshi removing his mask and revealing his identity, the boss battle was a vehicle for everyone to step up and prove their mettle. For all of King Torture’s gum-flapping, in the end he was all alone, while Masayoshi had allies and friends who helped him win the day.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • If King Torture’s dressing-down of Mari wasn’t enough to get her to reexamine her life, witnessing Moe’s heroism was. She’s very lucky Moe didn’t suffer more than a crushed pinky.
  • We only see the foot of Jun’s savior. Was that Kaname?
  • Nothing about King Torture makes any goddamn sense, and  that’s why he’s so awesome. For instance: right after he talks about the lovely mausoleum he built for his fallen comrades, he needlessly blasts through the wall, trashing the place. 
  • Goto getting a text from his girlfriend while he’s driving a pink Hummer through a corridor towards a bio-rocket that’s about to launch: the show in a nutshell, really!
  • Next week we’ll be halfway through this excellent show. We figure it will be a relatively calm affair after all the action this week, but who knows.

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.