Samurai Flamenco – 13

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As the enemies of From Beyond multiply exponentially (theoretically there could be more than 60,000 out there), a pall is gradually cast over Masayoshi’s life, and the realities of the situation and how the powers that be have chosen to react to it, conspire with the weight of his exponentially expanding responsibilities to wear down his spirit, to the point that he’s vomiting in a TV studio men’s room just before appearing on the air.

One could say that vomit, and the awful physical and emotional stress that led to it, is an expression of his inability to accept evil. As soon as the Prime Minister decides to hold off on warning the public about the From Beyond attack, we knew something wasn’t right. When the order came down that a select few politicians and VIPs were going to be quietly evactuated first, no logical explanation like the need to maintain the chain of command could change the fact that Masayoshi and the other Flamengers were being made to go along with something that went against their personal ethics. They were protecting the wealthy and powerful, and keeping the innocent masses in the dark.

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Asked to choose five people to evacuate along with the VIPs, Masayoshi heads first to Goto, but he just as likely could have gone there to seek his friend’s counsel once more. Instead, he discovers that Mari’s there, and realizes there are more than five people he wants to save. Far from the world of grotesque villains and Megazords, Goto remains unapologetically, placidly normal: a cop who is happy to deal with petty criminals, shelter the occasional traumatized runaway idol, and text his long-distance girlfriend. He savors every day he doesn’t have to ram an ICBM with a Pink Hummer. Beyond moral support, there’s little he can do for Masayoshi, especially when Masayoshi won’t tell him what’s happening.

But his silence doesn’t last long. The last straw is when Kaname once again promises to help and then vanishes the next morning, even going so far as to throw out the handkercheif Sakura gave him with “I trust you” embroidered on it. We can’t call this an act of cowardice yet, as this could well be yet another test for Masayoshi: the beginning of the ultimate test. With Kaname gone, he’s the Deputy Commander of the Flamengers, in charge of Japan’s defense against From Beyond. His fellow Flamengers support him without question. He wastes no time asserting his authority by warning the general public, a decision that wasn’t just about sticking to his principles, but was necessary to preserve his very sanity.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

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Samurai Flamenco – 12

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The more time separated us from the eleventh episode of Samurai Flamenco, the less we liked it in retrospect, and the more we worried about whether we’d even recognize the show when it returned from holiday hiatus. After all, it did kinda jump the shark back there, even if it did so with a wink and a nudge, making the sudden appearence of a murderous guillotine-gorilla seem like a tame development by comparison.

This episode slowly but surely allayed our fears and restored our faith in the future of the show, by putting the new Flamengers out of the cartoons (partially, at least) and back down to earth. Part of that earth we missed was Gotou, whom Masayoshi checks in on in a great little scene that takes us back to the early episodes when they used to just goof off. Gotou quickly picks up that Masayoshi’s having trouble keeping the Flamengers in line and tells him to stay strong, but doesn’t bail him out by joining as Flamen Yellow.

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He takes a similar approach to Mari, letting her to hide in his closet to think about things, but rejecting her advances. In both cases, Gotou’s always there to help his friends, but also knows when to leave it to them to help themselves, as Mari and Masayoshi must. Speaking of friends, by allowing a measure of democracy in the strategy and tactics of their battle against From Beyond, Masayoshi is gradually gaining the respect of his Flamenger teammates, to the point they’re hanging at his pad eating curry rice, which is what friends do.

The episode kept us in real world while maintaining the crazy From Beyond plot by framing it all through the lens of a TV documentary. The Flamengers aren’t just heroes, after all, they’re celebrities (which is probably why Sumi is okay with it). It’s a tidy mini-arc in which we learn more about them as they overcome adversity. The villains are emphatically ridiculous-looking and the action is clumsy, but it works. When the dust clears, MMM34 (a grotesque parody of AKB) are on ice, and the giant robots are put away, the mutual respect and comeraderie between the Flamengers feels well-earned.

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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.

Tari Tari – 09

Wakana decides to ask Sawa’s mother if she knew anything about how her mom wrote songs. Konatsu decides the club will put on a musical drama for the White Festival, but it will require a lot of money to produce it. At the Western shopping district association meeting, Shiho proposes they boost business by using “local superheroes” in costumes to bust moves and hand out flyers. She conscipts Sawa and the other club members for this purpose, and Wien gets serious about it. So serious, Tanaka asks why. All of Wien’s letters to his friend in Austria – who shared his love of the “Gambaraijers” – were sent back to him, but he still yearns to be a hero, and this is his shot. The club catches the Vice Principal when she’s distracted and troubled, and she grants them permission to work an after-school job to raise funds.

As soon as Shiho brought up superheroes at the shopowners’ meeting, we knew it was just a matter of time before the Choir and Sometimes Badminton club were being given Power Ranger costumes. We won’t waste time asking silly questions like “Why is Wien so obsessed with the simplistic idealism of the Power Rangers well into his high school years when he should be into girls?” or “Why does Wien have a seven-year-old pen pal?” Suffice it to say, this is his time to shine. He’s going to whip the club into world-saving shape so they can earn that 30,000 yen. Which brings us to another obvious possibility: that the musical drama the club will perform follow the same Power Ranger theme. Why not?

They already have the costumes, so they can spend more money on sets and props. We’ll see. The only snag may be Wakana, who is mired in a songwriter’s block that’s far worse than not having an idea for a song – she’s not even sure what a song is or what it is to write one, as she’s never done so. Her dad isn’t any help, but Shiho tells her to try to ask the mean ol’ Vice Principal, who as it turns out co-wrote that song with her mom. There’s a great moment when her cat lands on the piano, and the tune her paws play isn’t that bad for something totally random. Perhaps a superhero song is a good place to start: full of big, bold ideas and pure, unadulterated emotion.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Nisemonogatari – 07

Taking half of Karen’s illness made her strong enough to run off to deal with Kaiki alone. Araragi confronts her beneath a freeway interchange, and a brutal battle ensues. Araragi is suprised by her sister’s ability, but she’s just as surprised he won’t go down. He eventually convinces her to stand down, and he and Senjougahara confront Kaiki in front of a hero show pavilion. He verbally spars with both of them, but tells Araragi Karen will make a full recovery in less than three days, and voluntarily leaves town. Karen is better the next morning, and she and Tsukihi continue their Fire Sister duty.

Nisemonogatari and its prequel could sometimes be accused of being overly leisurely with their pace and light on the action. If there’s any action in an episode at all, it’s almost teasingly brief, if highly caffeinated. Well, this week bucked both those trends, and served up a highly-charged and quick resoution to the Araragi/Karen standoff. She’s an awesome fighter, using Mugen-like breakdancing moves against her brother, who is handicapped by his desire not to kill his precious big little sister, which would happen if he went all out. It then ends with her relenting and a big hug.

With the conventional fight out of the way, the real battle begins: a battle of words and wits against Kaiki, and it’s a good one; one of the best of either -monogari. While he begins with a speech of concession, he’s most liberal with the barbs against Senjougahara, calling her ordinary, boring, even fat. He’s essentially telling them he never cared about winning or losing money, that the supernatural doesn’t exist (calling the bee oddity hypnosis), history is a bunch of lies (Edo, not Muromachi!) the past is irrelevant, and oft repeating that life isn’t theatre. That last bit is ironic, considering how theatrical the scene is (there are even spotlights!). Sifting out the truth from his blizzard of lies is easy: IT’S ALL LIES. A nice touch: when he finally stops talking and says farewell, the huge murder of crows that had assembled flies off with him, as if Kaiki were just their human instrument.

We even imagined that the whole confrontation was taking place in an alternate plane – on the other side of which a rapt audience was watching the Power Rangers on the projection screen, with a bright blue sky above them rather than a forboding sunset. Interestingly, that video still plays in the alternate plane, at times even mirroring or complementing the words being said. Senjougahara shows superoir restraint in taking all the abuse and telling him basically “Well, Araragi loves me, so screw off.” After that, Araragi get’s his second tender hug of the day – only this hug has no creepy incestuous overtones – something the series continues to unapologetically overplay. But that didn’t ruin a sensational end to the Karen Bee arc, that had it all: thick-as-soup atmosphere, uncharacteristic combat, and phenomenal dialogue.


Rating: 4