01/10/14 Odds & Ends: Tackling Samurai Flamenco, Silver Spoon S2 and more

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I think doing posts like this is better for my sanity than dedicating a whole entry to episodes that, to be frank, don’t often have much to say, which in turn leaves me with little to say. Still, if I think a topic deserves a little more space, I won’t hesitate to sequester it….

Samurai Flamenco Ep. 12

Last time I talked about this show, I wrote quite a bit about its subtext. Seeing as how I had only seen nine episodes at the time, however, my thoughts are obviously incomplete. I do intend to wrap things up on that front, but I don’t think this feat is any more doable now at merely the twelfth episode mark. Things are still a little silly and a little cornball, and I suppose it wouldn’t work any other way. Samurai Flamenco is, at the end of the day, a love song to those Super Sentai-like shows of the past, so naturally, it must have all the requisite trimmings. We’ve got the color-coded heroes and the silly, super-deformed villains. And, of course, we have the Super Megazoid-esque thingamajig to exemplify our heroes’ heroic teamwork. Just, uh, with a few extra embellishments:

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I do get a very Watchmen-esque feeling as I watch this anime. No, I don’t mean that in the bitter, grimdark cynical way that plagued Watchmen, i.e. “Who watches the Watchmen?” Everything in Samurai Flamenco is still very cheerful and upbeat, but nevertheless, the show takes a very “What if superheroes were plucked straight out of (in Japan’s case) manga and TV series and dropped straight into reality?” We can plainly see that not everyone will just fall in line and march in lockstep with Red aka Masayoshi. In the end, he may have gained four more allies while losing only Mari — four more dependable allies than the pseudo-masochistic Mari ever was — it’s not quite the case that he’s gotten any less lonely.

Ever since we met him in the first episode, Masayoshi has always been the naive, slightly sheltered, always-do-good main character, and that hasn’t changed much. Granted, he’s a little more comfortable in his own skin nowadays. His dreams of becoming the hero he’s always wanted to be has definitely been realized in more ways than one, but he’s still, well, rather lonely. I feel like even though the rest of the gang, i.e. Blue and Black, aren’t going to butt heads with Masayoshi as much anymore, none of them are still his actual friends. Goto remains his one and only confidant, as well as the everyman, the rock amidst a storm of cornball for us viewers to anchor our perspective as we take in all the chaotic, nonsensical villains that gets thrown at us.

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Anyway, I’ll just do these small snippets weekly for Samurai Flamenco until I feel compelled to write a little more. Like I said above, I still want to touch on the themes of hyperreality within the show, but I want the narrative’s destination to take a little more shape before I jump off that cliff.

Mahou Sensou Ep. 1

Y’know, I think I’m watching a joke. Whether it’s intentional or not, who really cares because this just has to be a joke. Nevermind the Shakugan no Shana-esque premise — y’know, what with the dual worlds and the long, black-haired pettanko — because you can’t really tell me that a show where a combatant flings magical wasps from his briefcase at his enemies is serious, can you? Or that the blonde chick’s special powers (at the moment, anyway) is breast enlargement. Like really.

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But everything else about the show is pretty much by-the-books… painfully and generically so. Nothing much of note happens either. Our main character Takeshi duels a guy who wants to retrieve Mui, our female protagonist, for much of the episode’s runtime in a very uninspiring sword fight. The rest of the episode is devoted to trite animeisms like “Uguu, I tripped and accidentally kissed you, how hazukashii ne~~~~” And typical of any show of this type, we have to painstakingly learn the rules of the game, i.e. what an Evasive magic user is, what Corporeal magic is, what happens if magicians attack each other in the human world… yawn, I’m getting sleepy just talking about it. God only knows why the enemies just stand idly by while the heroine is allowed to clue the hero in on a couple crucial details. And of course, they’ll go to a magical — can you guess?! — academy next week to hone their newfound abilities. Yip-fucking-pee. Even if this is one meta joke from Madhouse, it’s still not a very entertaining or funny one. Not yet, anyway. I mean, Nicholas Cage already did the killer bees thing, man. Yes, bees and wasps aren’t the same, but functionally as weapons… eh~

Gin no Saji S2 Ep. 1

I took in the entirety of the first season last night, which isn’t saying much as the show is very light on the palate. Obviously, eleven episodes aren’t much to digest to begin with, but I really do mean it when I say it’s light on the palate. It’s one of those sort of relaxing, sort of boring in a nevertheless endearing way kind of show. Silver Spoon never gets very heavy in drama or even conceptually — much less too heavy — following in tradition with similar slice-of-life anime. Don’t get me wrong. The anime does a decent job in educating its target audience on some of the realities that farms and farmers have to deal with, but that’s just it. It’s not a revealing expose like The Jungle nor does it have to be. I’m just making a statement that Silver Spoon isn’t out to push buttons. The first episode of the second season doesn’t change up the formula either.

With the seniors moving on with their lives, Hachiken finds himself with the responsibilities of Vice President of the Equestrian Club thrust upon him. Problem is… he’s not quite sure what that job position entails. All he’s been told is that he’s supposed to form a consensus within the club or something. Oh well. Our main character gets to enjoy some brief happiness when he gets a text from his mom telling him about how his dad enjoyed the bacon he had made and sent home (poor Pork-Bowl), but the moment of pride is short-lived when Hachiken stumbles upon a tearful Aki having a personal conversation with Komaba. Every attempt Hachiken makes to discern the contents of said personal conversation is immediately stonewalled by Aki. Komaba, being the tall, handsome ace of the school’s baseball team, suddenly becomes our hero’s rival for Aki’s love interest… at least, that’s how Hachiken sees it.

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Obviously, we’re privy to a little more details than our somewhat awkward main character, who proceeds to stumble around for the rest of the episode as he tries to decode the mysterious going-ons surrounding Aki and Komaba. We can surely guess that their personal conversation wasn’t remotely about romance. Too bad Hachiken can’t safely make that assumption. You know what would solve all of this though? Some actual communication. Yes, she stonewalled him, but that’s only because she isn’t aware of his deeper feelings, which is something he can easily solve with — you guessed it! — communication! And possibly a little liquid courage to grease the wheel. But whatever, they’re high school kids and I’m just joking about the liquid courage thing anyways. I get it. He’s not confident in the ways of love and courtship. He can’t even admit his feelings for her to himself yet. Obviously, he’s not going to solve this by communication or else we wouldn’t have much to watch. I know actual people in their twenties who can’t even talk things out like adults anyway. So all this hemming and hawing in the first episode fits these characters’ level of emotional maturity. That’s fine.

That doesn’t mean the episode was particularly riveting or exciting to watch though. It’s just like a dull itch that you painfully want to scratch, but you have to sit tight for a group picture so you just have to endure it. And that’s what this episode honestly felt like. I know how to solve the problem, but at the same time, I know the problem would not be solved right now. Not that it couldn’t have been solved. It just isn’t going to be. I just get to sit there in slight exasperation as I see the actors and actresses slowly act out their parts.

Golden Time Ep. 13

I thought it was cute when Koko tried to pretend as though she was going to prepare yakisoba from scratch for her boyfriend. Yeah, sure, she’s technically deceiving him, but it’s one of those white lies born out of love that you can’t honestly get mad about. Which brings me to my next point: love is a verb. It’s not a feeling. You don’t just “feel” love for another person. You love them by choosing to take selfless actions every single day to make them feel needed, appreciated, doted upon, etc. And as you can see, this is what Koko tries to do, even though she hasn’t quite learned how to cook yet. She even thinks about giving up her family vacation to Barcelona so that she can learn how to cook. Again, you show love through your actions, not by how you feel.

That’s why I don’t believe in Banri. I don’t like the guy very much. Poor Banri and his amnesia. Poor Banri struggling with the duality within him. He still has feelings for Linda and he just can’t reject those oh-so-precious feelings. But you know what? We all get feelings. Even people who have been married for a decade can randomly form an infatuation for someone. Sensible people, however, understand that those feelings are nothing more than an infatuation. Sensible people thus create boundaries to prevent an infatuation from culminating into a mistake they’ll soon regret. You love through your actions, after all. Even if you have a sudden infatuation — or even a deep-seated infatuation in Banri’s case — you don’t actually love that person because you haven’t done anything for them. With that being said, he doesn’t actually love Linda because he hasn’t done jack shit for her.

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Yes, to be fair, Banri did try to erect some boundaries. He did ask Linda to pretend as though they have never known each other in the past. But then his “other” self is all bitter and angsty: “I’ll curse you. I’ll become an evil spirit and make you unhappy.” Then once more at the end of the episode: “I’ll make you even unhappier.” But I don’t buy that whole “I’m fighting an aspect of myself!” Naw man, it’s all you. It really is. Because even if Banri claims that he has drawn the necessary boundaries between him and Linda, which I don’t think are good enough but that’s a whole other issue to talk about, he hasn’t really shown that he honestly loves Koko. Like I said, love is a verb. You prove your love for someone through the actions you take. I’m not just talking about his inability to kiss her at the end of this episode either.

Nevertheless, that was maddening. I mean, holy shit, I get that you can’t muster up the courage to kiss her or you don’t think you’re ready or maybe you or she doesn’t deserve it or whatever the fucking shit, but here’s a girl who is putting herself on the line for him. I mean, to do what she did is to make herself vulnerable. You expect the other person, whom you trust to reciprocate your feelings — ’cause otherwise why are we even in this mess? — to not make a fool out of you and just leave you hanging. But that’s exactly what Banri does! I mean, what do you think a girl must feel to put herself out there and get nothing. But she puts on a smile, life goes on, and she remains patient — far more patient than I would’ve been. That’s an act of love.

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But what really gets me is how Banri can then roll around on his bed later and whine that she’ll one day meet a better man who’ll sweep her away from him. See, that’s not love. That’s a whole lot of bullshit. He’s basically implying that he’s not good enough for her. Okay, that’s a natural feeling to have. Most of us have had to deal with that kind of insecurity in our lives. Completely human, completely understandable. But again, love is an action, and if Banri honestly loved Koko, he would make himself vulnerable for her. He would form the resolve to become the man he thinks she deserves, not merely whining that he doesn’t currently deserve her. And this does make you vulnerable, because what if you fail? You’ll have put in all that effort for naught. But that’s what love is, man. If you think she deserves better, than make the sacrifices necessary to give her what you think she deserves. But Banri… he’s too wishy-washy for me. And I know it sucks to have lost your memory — I won’t even pretend to know what that feels like — but at some point, you just have to realize that you can’t let it define you. Too bad I don’t believe in Banri whatsoever.

Yeah yeah, there’s probably a happy ending at the end of the show, and everything has to be melodramatic until then. I can acknowledge that. Doesn’t mean I have to like Banri. Even though he has feelings for both Linda and Koko, he does little for either of them. It’s all just feelings. Kinda pathetic.


13 Replies to “01/10/14 Odds & Ends: Tackling Samurai Flamenco, Silver Spoon S2 and more”

  1. “Samurai Flamenco is, at the end of the day, a love song to those Super Sentai-like shows of the past”

    That’s a really good way of putting it. :) I think this fact has turned a lot of viewers (and particularly non-Japanese viewers) off, but even though I myself am no super sentai fan, I feel like I have to applaud the series for its boldness in execution. It knows exactly what it is/has become, and it doesn’t shrink away or apologise for it.

    1. I feel almost redundant saying it too. Masayoshi is so obviously in love with those shows. Of course a story about his heroism would be a natural extension of his passion. It’s not my favorite show of the season, but I still think it has undeniable charm.

    2. I think the problem with Samumenco was that they didn’t immediately make that clear. They presented the show with a lot of super-sentai things about it, but then when it began it went very slow and focused on the contradiction of trying to be an actual superhero, with a brand of vigilantism that was more reminiscent of western superheroes rather than super-sentai. Then it started going all kind of crazy, after endearing a type of public that was not the one who wanted to see what they wanted to show. I can understand they want to be experimental, but I still think the writing’s not very competent (btw I haven’t read the blog yet ‘cos I still haven’t seen ep. 12).

      1. I understand that, and tend to agree. It doesn’t bother me overmuch, but I can certainly see why some viewers wouldn’t like the abrupt switch. Personally speaking, I don’t think the writing is bad by any means, although it perhaps simply isn’t quite strong enough to be able to stand on its own for most of those viewers who might have otherwise stuck around even with the dramatic change.

        1. Hmm, I think the writing’s “bad” in the sense that it’s poorly planned. It may have single moments of brilliance, but it still lacks an overall vision and has a pacing that defining “awkward” wouldn’t be enough. It tries to be shocking and surprising but comes off as the work of someone not confident enough that he can hide his hand to foreshadow adequately his plot twists, and thus just throwing them at us relentlessly without any sense of continuity.

          Mind you, when I say the writing is “bad” I’m not talking about anything even remotely bad as Sword Art Online or ImoCho. In those cases I would be hardly compelled to talk about “writing” at all, in fact.

  2. You love through your actions, after all. Even if you have a sudden infatuation — or even a deep-seated infatuation in Banri’s case — you don’t actually love that person because you haven’t done anything for them.

    Not to disagree too strongly, as I think what you’ve said is pretty on the mark regarding Golden Time, but doesn’t a statement like this also imply that love is only an action – purely a history of quantifiable and material deeds? Those actions are driven by feelings, after all, and the acts alone may not always be done out of love.

    Buying a present, spending time together, and going on a honeymoon are acts of love, but one may also give a present to ingratiate their boss, spend time with another person to learn about them in setting up a con, or even get married purely for the sake of stealing their spouse’s money. Are these still love? Does the feeling mean nothing? In a relationship where one party becomes disillusioned, but continues to do these things out of a sense of obligation or guilt, are they really still loving their partner?

    It seems a tad extreme to say that love is just an action to me, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. It’s entirely possible I’ve missed the point.

    1. I don’t think I implied that love is just an action. I think the hang up here is that I should have said “…you don’t actually love that person until you’ve done something selfless for them out of blah blah.” I had assumed that this was implied.

      But okay, let’s discuss love. Your comment has me in a morbid state of mind for whatever reason, so let’s compare love to murder. Surely, if you were to dissect love surgically upon the operating room table, we could delineate love into several categories the way that we do with murder: first degree, second degree, manslaughter, etc. Just as the greatest crime requires premeditation, we can presume that so does the purest love require a certain accompanying mental state. Obviously, actions in the abstract — actions without context — cannot constitute pure, devoted love.

      But in saying this, I nevertheless think you’ve missed the spirit and thrust of my diatribe for the trees, so to speak. Again, I don’t think I implied that love is just an action. Rather, I am speaking against those who feel as though their feelings alone justify their claims of true love. For example, even if I harbor tremendous, outrageous resentment for another human being, I could not be accused of murder until I actually commit murder. It can thus be said that murder itself is an action. Likewise, until I perform the requisite acts of love, can I truly say that I love someone?

      None of this, of course, changes the fact that murder as an action falls into several categories, in which the most heinous murders require premeditation, as I’ve mentioned above. And aha, attempted murder is also a crime, so it would seem that you can be arrested without having performed the act of murder! But again, premeditation itself involves a host of actions that would, should the unfortunate circumstances be allowed to play out, lead to murder. What I’m merely saying is that at the end of the day, love requires action. Do you not also need the accompanying mental state to declare that love is real? Sure. I never said otherwise. But I didn’t set out to write the Critique of Pure Love. I only wanted to say that merely feeling an intense amount of attachment to or infatuation with someone is not love.

      1. Without getting too religious here.

        The same applies for faith (In Christianity at least)
        Everything you said about Golden Time reminded me of a bible verse..(James 2:14-26) “Faith without deeds is dead” and is basically the same

        “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds”

        In short, your actions are to demonstrate your love… but I guess I am just repeating what E Minior said.

  3. I admit I was uncertain about the sudden plot twist for Samurai Flamenco but it’s proven to be fairly entertaining last season and I hope it continues to have a better than average anime ending.

    Speaking of Silver Spoon, did you know they have a live action movie of it coming out soon? I saw the trailer on YT awhile ago. I liked the manga but it is slow paced for a anime and i lost interest re-watching it midway from season 1.

    1. One thing I know about live action adaptations is that they’re very, very corny. I haven’t seen the trailer for Silver Spoon’s live action movie, but ehhhhhh… but in some cases, I have preferred the live action version. I still think Nodame Cantabile is a lot more fun as a jdorama than an anime.

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