01/17/14 Odds & Ends: Please evacuate…

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…from most of these shows. Maybe for the future, I’ll cut out Mahou Sensou but keep Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha. Then again, I’m not exactly bullish on Silver Spoon either. Hm. At least I still think Samurai Flamenco is underrated.

* * * * *

Gin no Saji Ep. 2

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Episode summary: On a day designated to pick up trash around campus, the students find a stray puppy. We then pretty much spend half of the episode dealing with how to take care of and train a puppy. In the latter half of the episode, Hachiken tries to save Komaba from a slipping cow — yes, a slipping cow — and ends up hurting his hip. Komaba tells him to stop worrying so much about what other people think of him, and try to focus more on himself and what he can do. We leave off with the club trying to figure out what to do for the upcoming school festival.

Thoughts: I’m pretty disappointed. All that drama from last week’s episode was practically nonexistent here. The slightest hint we get of it is during Komaba’s lecturing of Hachiken; Aki had this knowing look on her face. But whatever, this is why I’m usually not a big fan of these types of shows. There’s just not a strong enough narrative thrust to keep my interest. Hey, the dog is cute, but it all felt so aimless.

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Golden Time Ep. 14

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Episode summary: Koko, Banri and company plan a trip to the beach. Things turn awkward, however, when everyone learns that Mitsuo is now dating Linda. Apparently, Chinami has feelings for Mitsuo despite turning him down over his not-so-real confession. During a bathing suit tryout session between Koko and Chinami, the girls bond over the former’s perpetual feelings of insecurity. Koko is still afraid that Banri will one day leave her. Nevertheless, the trip to the beach is still on.

Thoughts: Well, as predicted, Banri’s failure last week to reciprocate his girlfriend’s feelings has led to more heartache and doubt for the poor girl. She is admittedly too clingy; Chinami is right that the girl is just constantly throwing herself at Banri. Even so, I do think we should find a healthy middle ground between Koko’s claustrophobic obsession and the other extreme end of the spectrum, i.e. playing hard to get. The latter just smacks of immaturity to me. It’s true that Koko should probably find herself a couple hobbies so that her life doesn’t revolve completely around a guy who isn’t emotionally ready to commit to her, but people often mistake this advice as “You should make them chase after you.” Or the ol’ “You should wait a day before responding to his message.” That sort of nonsense is for kids.

In the end, the solution is simple: just talk it out. Obviously, by simply walking away from Koko’s kiss, Banri deeply hurt her. She could just honestly communicate her feelings to him, and they could then try to come to a consensus on how fast the relationship should develop from this point on. Unfortunately, that would probably make for a very short series. Maybe not a very interesting series either. I don’t know, I think I would like a show where adults (they are in law school, after all) hash out their problems through nuanced and mature dialogue, but I’m aware that other people, i.e. Golden Time‘s target audience, would probably not agree. In any case, I just think they shouldn’t even be in a relationship, to be quite honest.

Koko is head-over-heels in love with the guy. She is essentially in that honeymoon phase that every new relationship goes through. The problem with Banri isn’t that he’s over the honeymoon phase. The problem is that he was never in it to begin with. I think Koko deserves a guy who will love her in return as much as she loves him. This doesn’t mean I think Banri is a horrible person. Well, I sort of insinuated last week that I didn’t like his wishy-washy nature very much. That’s still true, but the only point I’m trying to make is that he needs to sort his shit out, and until he does so, he shouldn’t be in any relationship. It just isn’t fair to the other party, especially Koko. She’s pouring her heart out to him and getting nothing in return.

But seeing as how this is a romance anime, fans probably think this sort of one-sided pining until the other person comes around is the epitome of love and devotion. If only life was full of grand gestures….

* * * * *

Inari Konkon Koi Iroha Ep. 1

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Episode summary: Inari has a crush on her classmate Koji, but she accidentally humiliates him during P.E. when she pulled down his pants in front of the whole class. Every attempt to apologize since then has failed, and it seems as though he is deliberately avoiding her. When Inari thinks she has spied a potential love connection between Koji and Akemi, another classmate of theirs, she despairs. Luckily, she had unknowingly but recently saved a goddess’s famiiar, so Lady Uka decides to grant Inari one wish. Still in her despair, Inari wishes to become Akemi, but realizes that all this does is stir up even more trouble for her family and friends. When she asks Lady Uka to reverse the wish, however, she is told that this cannot be done (it’s against the rules apparently). Rather, Lady Uka sacrifices a bit of her own powers to bestow upon Inari the ability to shapeshift into whatever living person she wants to mimic. Finally, all’s well… until Inari learns that Koji is absent from class the following day.

Thoughts: That was a cute episode. I’m not expecting too much out of this show, but at least the first episode was sweet in simplistic sort of way. A little too cloyingly sweet at times if you ask me. Still, I was surprised to see a few amusing bits here and there. Like how in her spare time, Lady Uka gets her foxes to shapeshift into a PS2 so she can play a bishounen game. One nagging issue though: what exactly happened to Akemi’s soul or spirit during the time Inari turned into her? It’s kind of weird how the anime didn’t even bother to address this at all. Oh well.

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Mahou Sensou Ep. 2

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Episode summary: Our heroes go to see the magic academy’s director, who just happens to be a twin-tailed loli (of course). She begins to regale us with an amazingly riveting exposition on how the Ruined World turned out to be so damn ruined (it’s boring). At the end of her story, she gives the newcomers a Matrix-like proposition: stay and hone your magical abilities, or return to your miserably ordinary existence in the Living World. Naturally, everyone decides to stay ’cause fuck your family and friends. I’d much rather participate in a war I had just learned about five minutes ago! We then skip to the four of them attending their new class. Everyone has an Aspect, some sort of item that you would use to channel your magic through. Everyone but the main character, ah ha! So he gets to be a special case and find himself a super-uber-cool-weapon. Oh hey, it is a sword. How did you guess!

Thoughts: Pfft.

* * * * *

Samurai Flamenco Ep. 13

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Episode summary: Midorikawa speculates that there may be over sixty thousand monsters primed to attack all at once. Joji warns the prime minister to start evacuating the populace, but the self-serving politician would rather give himself and other powerful leaders a head start in securing shelter for their own families. Most of the Flamengers bristle at this plan, and the guilt causes Masayoshi to leak everything to the public on a variety talk show.

Thoughts: There are two things I want to address this week. First, there is something slyly funny about Samurai Flamenco. No, it’s not going to make you bust a gut laughing or anything, but the irony is nevertheless amusing. The show first started out with a relatively normal universe and a guy trying to exist within it as a comic hero. What’s ironic now is how the situation has been reversed. Midorikawa’s come up with a somewhat outlandish sounding theory that there might be over sixty thousand individual monsters ready to attack at any given moment. That’s a tall order! It’s also, however, rather comical, reminiscent to how the Super Sentai series — or just about any shounen tale for that matter — continually trotted out villains for the heroes to combat. Nevertheless, the heroes are sitting around the strategy room with glum faces and morose dispositions as if they were in a serious show. They’re treating the situation with a sober thoughtfulness, completely oblivious to the shounen logic surrounding them. Pink Flamenger whines about the fact that it’ll take them over 300 years or something to defeat every single monster individually. Well, when you sit down to marathon those Super Sentai shows, it sure does feel like 300 odd years, doesn’t it?

But the show hasn’t exactly lost that contemplative edge that it wore with pride during the series’ initial episodes either. The most common complaint I hear nowadays about Samurai Flamenco seems to be that it went from something somewhat realistic and serious, then suddenly flew off into the deep end with the introduction of the wacky monsters. Oh yeah, there’s also the cheeky fact that few people ever seem to be in any real danger whenever said wacky monsters would show up. This, however, is only somewhat true. The fact that our hero is now battling an infinite amount of wacky monsters from out of nowhere does definitely signify that the show has at least one foot in that deep end that everyone’s complaining about. But at the same time, we continue to see scenes where Masayoshi is struggling with his superstar-dom. Think to most shounen series. Did the protagonists in those stories often get to bask in the public eye? Usually, the case is no.

For a lot of shounen series, the good guys’ identities are often hidden or the credit is always being stolen by someone far less deserving. As for the Super Sentai series, which are most directly comparable to Samurai Flamenco, it’s true that most of the heroes there didn’t bother with secret identities. Having said that, most of its heroes also did not live normal lives amongst civilians. Rather, a lot of them operated directly from their bases. In Samurai Flamenco, however, the reality is markedly different: Masayoshi has to both save the world, and at the end of the day, fulfill his obligations as the most popular idol in Japan. This involves meeting and greeting with fans, accepting awards in the public eye, going onto variety talk shows, appearing and giving interviews in magazines, etc. And because he exists as both Red Flamenger and Masayoshi the Idol, there is the very real danger of “What if the two worlds collide?”

In a series like Dragon Ball Z, the heroes are almost always battling the villains in some in-the-middle-of-nowhere locale, far off from anything that even remotely resembles civilization. The few times that by chance the rest of the world happens to be involved, the tragedy is offset by the fact that the victims are faceless nobodies that our heroes will have likely never met or interacted with. Samurai Flamenco tweaks this convention. Red Flamenger isn’t anonymous; everyone knows who he is. Even worse, he directly engages with his fans. Therefore, if he fails, he also directly lets down the people whom he has personally met and talked to. This makes the tragedy much more real and palpable. This is a far greater burden than what we usually see in the tales that Samurai Flamenco is paying homage to. Naturally, this is why Masayoshi suffers from those nightmares. So to say that Samurai Flamenco has completely ditched the tone it established in the first seven or eight episodes is to short change the narrative quite a bit.

The spectacle of a walking, talking house with hairy male arms blowing up a convention is definitely ridiculous (I know it’s a dream), but at the same time, when you juxtapose this ridiculousness to the gravity of the consequences, the horrors of the latter are emphasized to a great degree. Then there’s also the fact that unlike what we often see in other shows — and we’re talking about your average Super Sentai or shounen series here — the purest of intentions will not always result in the best of consequences. The Flamengers hope to warn the populace about an impending attack so that everyone can evacuate safely. They did not, however, expect the leaders of the country to use this privileged information to selfishly aid themselves first, leaving the less fortunate to scramble at a much later date. And this is where Masayoshi’s duality as both a comic hero and an idol allows him to make a difficult decision that few other heroes of his sort, e.g. the Super Sentai of old, have ever had to make: Masayoshi decides to risk the backlash and warn everyone at the same time on national television.

So yes, while this mix of the real and the hyperreal in Samurai Flamenco may initially taste bizarre — and I’ll admit I wasn’t personally keen on the narrative shift at first — it really does end up enhancing our understanding of the genre the show so lovingly apes.

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10 thoughts on “01/17/14 Odds & Ends: Please evacuate…”

  1. Wunderbar bit on Samumenco. Episode 12 was something of a slog even for me, being a toe too far into the baseless wackiness the detractors accuse it (oh gawd the mech has a radar penis?) of while also sidelining the cast we invested in for the first half. 13 has me back in comfortable approval, largely for the reasons you mentioned – that nightmare sequence is a return to the height of ‘fantasy with consequences’ the beginning did so well, and while I generally consider it a touch cheap to use the shorthand of a random dead kid for emotional impact I give this scene a pass for carrying itself off so well. And the parody elements mixed in with the limited evacuation question mixed quite effectively. Thus does this show remain way more interesting to me than just about anything introduced in the Winter season (but then, that’s a rather common affliction for this time of year).

    1. Episode 12 was something of a slog even for me,

      Yeah, I wouldn’t say the show hasn’t been without its flaws.

      while I generally consider it a touch cheap to use the shorthand of a random dead kid for emotional impact

      I guess I didn’t mind it because I didn’t feel as though the scene was supposed to get a rise out of me. It got a rise out of Masayoshi, and I would agree that he’s the sort that would be deeply affected by that sort of thing. But to the audience, I still think we’re stuck in this “When are we supposed to take this seriously and when are we not?” And that sort of mystery makes me appreciate the anime a bit more. It might sound like hogwash, but oh well.

  2. Agreed on Mahou Sensou; that show is all over the place in terms of cliche.

    Can you do a review of Wake Up Girls, the anime? Two episodes are out and loads of people are going nuts over the fanservice, but there seems to be nothing to this show except that. Some people are claiming it to be some sort of “deconstruction” of a genre.. (wat)

    1. Some people are claiming it to be some sort of “deconstruction” of a genre..

      That may very well be the case, but a deconstruction of a genre I have no desire to watch would also make very little sense to me. I pretty much never watch shows about idols.

  3. I’m glad that the writers didn’t forget Goto or Mari despite the addiction of all the new side characters. Although I still prefer it when it just Masayoshi fighting everyday crime and coming to terms with becoming a adult with Goto advising him how not to get killed and such orz

    I agree the series is terribly underrated compared to last season.

  4. I agree the Samurai Flamenco is terribly underrated compared to last season.

    I’m glad that the writers didn’t forget Goto or Mari despite the addiction of all the new side characters. Although I still prefer it when it just Masayoshi fighting everyday crime and coming to terms with becoming a adult with Goto advising him how not to get killed and such orz

  5. My girlfriend is starting to get nervous about watching the next episode of Golden Time. She doesn’t want it to end like Kimi no Iru Machi, which both her and I got pissed (yes we got mad at an animated show) when it finished. I agree with you on that Banri doesn’t need to be in a relationship and this is too much drama for people who are in college. Personally, I don’t know why “spirit” Banri is so obsessed with Linda anyways, she’s not interesting and just plain.

    On an unrelated topic, and a late one at that, I like that you started blogging again. I enjoy reading your entries and opinions, on different anime, that differ from the what the majority of “anime fans” watch and say about what they watch.

    1. Kimi no Iru Machi

      Well, I’ve heard only bad things about that manga. When I heard that it and Suzuka shared the same author, it just made sense, to be honest.

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