Trickster – 04

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Just when Twenty Faces surfaces with a new intricate plot into which to lure Akechi and the Boy Detective’s Club, Hanasaki is stuck at school, attending his compulsory school day a month. That hardly sounds like enough to make a difference, but Akechi insists, keeping Hanasaki out of this week’s action.

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As for Twenty Faces’ plot, well…it leaves a bit to be desired. The most impressive feat he accomplishes is when recorded video of him correctly predicts Akechi’s responses, making for an unexpected bit of dialogue between the two that initially sours Akechi’s interest in taking on the case, which involves a police officer Twenty captured. He changes his mind when Kobayashi exhibits some fire, then pairs him up with Inoue Ryou.

The clashing personalities make for a promising dynamic, but all they really do is trudge through some dark hallways, try to hide using the lamest tactic imaginable (a stealth umbrella, not bothering to move to the edge of the room), and get trapped in a chamber, the doors to which Kobayashi can’t bust through even as it starts to fill with water.

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Throughout the episode we get flashbacks of Ryou and the mission that led to his paralysis and his partner, classmate and tennis star Katsuda, to quit the club. But this backstory seems shoehorned in and doesn’t really gel with the present events in any meaningful way, other than for Katsuda to warn Hanasaki “always listen to Akechi.”

All that aside, I can hardly feel apprehensive about Kobayashi being trapped in a chamber filling with water when it’s already been established he can’t die. That, and backup will probably be on the way before they have to worry about Ryou drowning.

In previous episodes I could at least look forward to a case beginning and then ending within the space of twenty-odd minutes, but the cliffhanger tries my already thin patience. I’ll see how things are resolved, I guess, but after that…likely Dropsville.

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UPDATE (27 OCT): After further deliberation, I’ve decided to summarily drop Trickster, effective immediately. To fill the gap it leaves, I’ll be taking over reviews of Fune wo Amu from Zane.

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Re-Kan! – 04

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Predictably, Re-kan! breathes new life into the beach episode formula by infusing it with its charming brand of supernatural embellishment. They have the beach to themselves because it’s haunted.

The ghosts are so thick around Amami, Kana can’t get a photo that doesn’t feature them streaking across the frame in such a way that makes Amami look like she’s being censored even though she’s wearing a perfectly normal swimsuit.

The ghosts also thwart Ero-Neko’s numerous attempts to harass the girls by land and sea; again, the cat’s hilarous voice sells what is otherwise a filler role. The Roll Call Samurai dutifully splitting the watermelon for the hapless Amami was also a nice touch.

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The episode downplays fanservice for practicality: the students needed a chaperone for their beach trip, and Yamada provided his big bro, who happens to be a cop, which makes Esumi, a former delinquent, uneasy. Elder Yamada joined the force because he wanted to be a hero, and views Amami’s sixth sense as akin to a superpower to be treasured.

While Amami could certainly have a future in criminal investigations (and I would watch the hell out of that!), for now she’s content to use that power to make the people around her, living or dead, happy. To whit: she uses messages in the sand and the breakers to get the scoop on the local fireworks display, best seen from the train (along with a somewhat unnerving famous ghost cliff-jumper).

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After a great bit about Kana having to deal with Amami’s ghost answering service, the balance of the episode is focused on stories of peoples’ pasts. Amami recalls being scared of sleeping alone, until friendly ghosts comforted and stayed with her until she went to sleep. That segues to the story of the “Fire-Haired Messiah” the unwanted nickname of Esumi Kyouko back when she was a yankee; a time Kana can’t help but mention.

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What I liked about the tale of Esumi’s past was that she was a righteous ne’r-do-well, protecting the weak and taking any hand that reached out to her in need of help, even if the arm turned out not to be attached to anything! That ghost led her to her first encounter with the elder Yamada, who is just as impressed with Esumi’s good deeds as he is with Amami’s sixth sense. To him, Esumi is a heroine, living the dream and righting rights; the kind of person who inspired him to become a cop so he could help people too.

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Esumi grudgingly accepts his praise, but admits she’s more scared of people than ghosts (or specifically, disembodied arms). But like Amami, she can’t help but help; it’s just who she is. Despite her past use of violence to solve problems and her semi-earned rep as a brawler, her heart’s in the right place.

If only she and Kana could do something about their eyes-through the hair…their hair design in the flashback was far less distracting!

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Samurai Flamenco – 06

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Masayoshi meets with Harazuka Jun from the R&D department of Monsters Stationary, who provides him with an arsenal of weapons that are technically office supplies and thus legal. Mari invites Hidenori to her apartment and tries to seduce him, without success. Konno puts out a 10 million yen reward for Samumenco’s capture, and Masayoshi uses all of his new toys to elude them. One determined salaryman pursues him up a wall and falls, but Masayoshi saves him; and in return he gives up the chase.

Now that he’s superheroing alone again, Samumenco has his freedom and his dignity, but as the price of his bounty goes up, the threats to his person become greater. You know what that means: It’s Batman Time. Enter Masayoshi’s Lucius Fox: the ninth and final main cast member, Harazuka, and the ridiculous notion that his arsenal consists of pens, staplers, and tape measures. We have to admit, his pursuers look a little slow and hapless at times, but we’ll chalk it up to Menco’s training that he’s able to make them look as bad as they do while trying to grab him. Most importantly, he’s no longer dependent on Samurai Girl to bail him out.

As for Mari, she’s successfully wrangled her fellow idols into joining her crusade—Mizuki because she’s a good, loyal friend, and Moe, because she’s in love with her. Still, it’s clear she still has a specific itch no amount of Moe-kissing or gonad-stomping can scratch: she wants Hidenori to “arrest” her, and comes on strong and a little nuts in their meeting. Nothing doing; the good constable only has eyes for his girlfriend, whom we’ve never laid eyes on (and probably never will, as a running gag). With all the fame and power Mari enjoys, she can’t have the one thing she truly wants. But it’s not as if she’s going to give up…

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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.

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…