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.

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 – 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)