Samurai Flamenco – 01

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Policeman Goto Hidenori encounters Hazama Masayoshi naked in an alley, having failed in his debut as the superhero “Samurai Flamenco” when a drunk punched him. Goto escorts Masayoshi home, where he learns he’s a model and a hardcore fan of superhero shows, believing them to hold weight in the real world. Goto hears him out and warns him to be careful, but the next night Masayoshi ends up in another spot when he takes on a gang of delinquent kids. He loses but Goto arrives and scatters the kids. Masayoshi continues fighting petty crime, and his legend starts to grow on the web.

In its first of twenty-two episodes, we found a heckuva lot to like about Samurai Flamenco, such that we found it worthy of the first “9” of the season. The realistic urban setting, the likable characters; but we were also impressed with how much logical sense it was making. We believe Masayoshi as one of the rare people who never let society jade him from the idealism of the hero anime he used to watch (and still watches). His comfortable life as a popular model can quench his thirst for justice. Being a model, he has a swanky base of operations and access to a fashion designer who can make him awesome costumes – it’s perfect. But even better is the bond forged between him – an unconventional defender of justice – and Goto, an actual cop living a relatively dull existence.

They’re your classic odd couple; one who eats justice for breakfast and the other ignoring minor offenses like most everyone else because it’s easier. Details like Goto’s long-distance girlfriend and daily quest to the 7-Eleven for dinner and smokes drive home the point that this is a no-nonsense, minimal-excitement kinda guy. Still, he doesn’t dismiss Masayoshi’s nonsense out of hand, because at the end of the day it isn’t nonsense. Give certain bad apples in the city an inch and they’ll take a mile, dragging down society with it. The path of a superhero is not an easy one – Masayoshi has already been on the receiving end of two beatings – but he knows he must walk that path with the utmost resolve – and it seems Goto will have to walk that path with him – a couple steps behind – just in case.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Goto might seem like this is all a bit hassle – “why me” and so forth – but he’s kidding no one; we’re certain deep down he’s loving his suddenly spiced-up life.
  • A potentially good running joke: if we never see or hear Goto’s GF, making her just as mythical as Harakiri Sunshine…or Santa!
  • The food metaphors are awesome, as is the majority of the dialogue.
  • Masayoshi mentions a “new suit” in his closet that he uses. We thought that would be the cue to him unleashing some kind of real superpower on the kids. It turned out to be a tease, but a good one. 
  • FWIW we hope there aren’t any supernatural happenings moving forward – and that the OP and promo art are only puffed-up fantasies of what Masayoshi imagines to be doing, rather than chiding jaywalkers.
  • There’s a three-girl idol group that is only present in the ED (which really isn’t bad as j-pop endings go); we’re wondering if Masa’s status as a model will have him crossing paths with them at some point.
  • The punk who beat up Masayoshi was wearing…Crocs. Insult to injury…
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Kimi no Iru Machi – 05

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In a flashback, Yuzuki confesses to Haruto, and after he notices a girl who looks like her in a photo taken when he was a little kid, he goes through his diaries and discovers that he actually met Yuzuki years ago at the summer festival. Back in the present, Haruto confronts Yuzuki, demanding the truth about why she suddenly disappeared, which she says involves Kyousuke.

By employing a flashback and then another flashback within the flashback for the majority of the episode, we were worried we’d get lost in time or something, but it was an effective way of getting Haruto to learn just how far back his bond with Yuzuki goes. He forgot meeting her, you see, until Yuzuki finally came back as a teenager to live with him. It also shows that before he became a borderline stalker, he was a good kid who knew just how to cheer up a bored and weary city girl. It’s a very cute flashback, at any rate.

But like the blooms in the gourd-shaped lake (AKA fireworks), his encounter with Yuzuki was fleeting. When he thinks about it in the present, we can imagine him feeling that her presence in Hiroshima was fleeting as well, and he took her presence, her proximity, and her love for granted. Last week Haruto sensed something fishy about Yuzuki and Kyousuke, and while this episode confirms it, it doesn’t lay out what it is; it merely enriches Haruto’s past with her, possibly making whatever she’ll reveal to him next week sting all the more.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Kimi no Iru Machi – 04

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Both Asuka and Kyousuke are concerned when they see a visibly forlorn Haruto. Kyousuke takes him on an exhilarating ride on his motorcycle as a distraction, telling him whether he decides to find someone new or snatch back Eba from her new boyfriend, he’ll support him no matter what. When Kyousuke is about to start his bike back up, he passes out. Haruto gets him to the hospital, where he learns Kyousuke has anemia.

Asuka rushes to the room and Kyousuke tells her about Haruto’s plans regarding his ex. Kyousuke mentions he had to persevere to get his current girlfriend, and when she arrives in the room, it turns out to be Eba Yuzuki. She and Haruto pretend not to know each other for Kyousuke’s sake, and Haruto leaves. While walking home with Asuka, Haruto says he’ll give up on his ex, which pleases her. Still, re-reading the break-up text Eba sent him and recalling what Kyousuke said in the hospital, Haruto suspects something fishy is going on.

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This week’s heart-sinking twist further cements this series’ status as a bonafide anime soap opera, deriving much of its appeal from creating moments of intense emotional drama between characters. As a result, it’s not for everyone, but we’re on board. The knife is twisted for Haruto when he suddenly learns that his best mate’s girlfriend is the same girl he came to Hiroshima to win back, something his mate is gung ho about helping him with. Things would have been cleared up pretty fast had Haruto and Eba come clean about their past relationship, but neither felt it the time or the place, which brings us to Kyousuke himself, who’s been dealt just as bad if not a worse hand than Haruto.

Sure, he has the girl he always wanted after much “desperate perseverance”, but if he knew that Eba was Haruto’s true love, he’d probably feel pretty bad, and conflicted to boot. If/when he does learn the truth, he’ll feel betrayed by both of them for keeping him from the truth. Add to that the illness he suffers from that may keep him from pursuing his dream to race motorcycles, and Kyousuke’s is hardly an enviable position. Except Haruto can’t help but envy him; he has her girl. And even though Haruto told Asuka he was giving up (which in her mind means she may now have a chance with him), Haruto still manages to find something fishy that compels him to run out of his sister’s apartment in search of more answers to why everything is so messed up.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Kimi no Iru Machi – 02 (Fin)

After seeing Haruto holding hands with Kanzaki, Eba gets right back on the train, devastated. Back at the hotel where his class is staying, Haruto tries her phone in vain, and finally decides to sneak out and visit her at her house. When he gets there, he meets her stepsister Rin who only teases him. He wanders around the city aimlessly, hoping to bump into her, and eventually does, at the station where he’s about to give up. He apologizes for Kanzaki, but Eba isn’t that bothered by it after all. They affirm their love and promise one another they’ll make the long-distance relationship work somehow.

Here we are, finally revisiting what was at the time the only straight-up romance we’d seen in a while. Since then we’ve seen quite a few, including four current series and the excellent Sakamichi no Apollon and Natsuyuki Rendezvous this past Summer. After watching the first installment, we were a little disappointed the drama relied so heavily on unlucky coincidences, poor planning on Haruto’s part, and a overly-rigid adherence to school rules. Whatever punishment the school could mete would be worth it if only he got to meet up with Eba. Then there was the silly cliffhanger in which Eba finally appears, only to witness her boyfriend holding hands with his longtime childhood friend. Uh oh.

Thankfullly, this second installment not only minimized the impact of that encounter (Eba is upset at first, but gradually, sensibly realizes it wasn’t what it looked like), and while Haruto is tortured a little bit more – both by Eba’s sly stepsister and by time and circumstances – he does finally meet up with Eba, or rather encounter her by chance. One of his other friends (whose boobs we see in a naked public bath scene that exists for some reason) says “the red string of fate” connects Haruto and Eba, and while it’s not always straight, it is strong, and they’ll always end up finding each other in the end. And we couldn’t help but feel ecstatic when they finally reunite, Eba shrugs off the Kanzaki thing, and they simply enjoy each others’ company for the short time they have. After all the contrivances the conspired to keep them apart, their closeness felt very real and natural.

More satisfying is the fact that this doesn’t end with Haruto deciding to move to Tokyo, or Eba deciding to move back to the village where they first met – years and years ago – and he cheered her up by showing her fireworks. We see a lot of flashbacks of happy times there, and a lot of what we see happen in the present echoes those times, but that was the past. Now they still love each other deeply, but have a long-distance relationship, and simply have to deal with it. It’s tough – their farewell scene really drives that toughness home – but that red string of fate shows no signs of breaking. They will see each other again, and even if it’s not enough, it will have to be.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kimi no Iru Machi – 01

Haruto is on a class trip to Tokyo to see a baseball game at the Dome, but he’s also trying to meet up with his girlfriend Eba Yuzuki, who had moved to his town and lived in his house. They fell for one another, but she moved back to Tokyo and they are now in a long-distance relationship. Their small meeting window closes and they just miss one another.

Meanwhile, Kanzaki, a friend of Haruto’s who may want to be more, asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend as she meets up with a friend. Their performance is less than convincing, but afterwards, as the train her friend leaves on leaves the station, Eba is on the other side of the track, and sees Haruto holding hands with Kanzaki.

Watching this first of a two-part romance OVA, it occurs to us that nothing in our current watchlist fits quite within this genre. Chihayafuru focuses on karuta most of the time, while Bakuman is a shonen series. Everything else we’re watching right now is either sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, horror, or a combination of those. And while it’s nice to watch just a good ol’ simple romantic story, there were a few issues.

It’s all well and good to put up boundaries for the lead couple – Haruto and Eba, and the episode does a good job of portraying just how much long-distance relationships suck. But Haruto frankly doesn’t have his priorities straight: seeing his estranged girlfriend needs to come before a friggin’ baseball game. Yeah, he’s on a regimented class trip and there are strict rules governing his activities, but that’s no excuse for him ditching her. She’s your girlfriend, you are expected to break the rules a little to be with her. Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world. Meeting up with someone requires preparation, coordination, patience, and luck. This isn’t White Album – these people have cell phones. Couldn’t he have asked her how close she was?

Luck and coincidence too often interfere with Haruto and Eba’s reunion. The time he spends pretending to be Kanzaki’s boyfriend is time he should be spending with Eba, his actual girlfriend. Though his poor judgement here frustrates us, it’s clear there’s also something between him and Kanzaki, from the look of the flashbacks that don’t always match up with what they’re telling her friend. But then the series throws one more coincidence at us: allowing Eba to see him holding hads with Kanzaki. She just happened to be right there, in the same station, on a parallel platform.

Of course, we can’t ignore a very important fact about relationships that both White Album and this OVA explore without sugar-coating: sometimes there are circumstances that are just plain out of our control. Sometime’s it’s not his fault or her fault things don’t work out, just a series of little near-misses and misunderstandings and lapses in communication. Long-distance relationships aren’t impossible, but they aren’t for everyone, and they require a certain degree of tolerance with uncontrollable circumstances. They also require focus on a singular goal. Haruto got sidetracked.


Rating: 6 (Good)