Samurai Flamenco Ep. 20: Personal demons

flamenco 2001

At the end of the episode, Masayoshi contemplates, “I’m the only one who’s met Haiji-kun, who’s talked to Haiji-kun, who even knows that Haiji-kun exists. In that case, maybe he’s an illusion I unconsciously created, once peace was brought to this world. In that case, the true source of evil Samurai Flamenco must defeat… Is really me?” We know from previous episodes that our hero is partly responsible — if not wholly responsible — for the existence of each of the previous villains. According to the Universe, it was his desire to fight bigger and badder enemies that caused foes like Alien Flamenco to attack out of nowhere. As a result, I’d imagine it’s probably safe to say that Sawada Haiji is also a product of Masayoshi’s imagination. But unlike each of the previous villains, Haiji is merely a figment of our hero’s imagination and not something tangible. No one else has ever interacted with the kid. No one else has even seen the kid. In fact, Haiji’s own friends testified that he had passed away from an illness long ago. So what’s going on?

Haiji is Masayoshi’s way of coping with Goto’s problems. It’s Masayoshi’s way of putting himself in Goto’s shoes, thereby helping him to understanding what his best friend is going through. From what we’ve seen in the anime, Masayoshi grows and matures by literally writing himself into the story. As a result, I honestly think the destruction of our hero’s priceless collection of toys in this week’s episode is actually a huge step in his maturation. We’ve known from the very start of the series that Masayoshi greatly admired the Super Sentai-esque heroes, and as a result, he couldn’t understand why those heroes weren’t as appealing to everyone else as they were to him. He couldn’t understand why he was (generally) alone in his fandom. In order to come to grips with this, Masayoshi had to make the fantasy into a real thing. He had to live it. And as I’ve written in previous entries, especially this one, Masayoshi eventually matured and realized that fantasy was better off staying as fantasy. He eventually realized that real life doesn’t require the sort of grandiose heroism that he had so greatly admired in his childhood. He eventually realized that good and evil isn’t black and white, that the world isn’t destined to be saved by a single person.

flamenco 2002

Likewise, in order to understand and learn how to support Goto, Masayoshi has to put himself in his best friend’s shoes. He has to understand what it’s like to have the whole world doubt you. Most importantly, however, Masayoshi has to understand that justice doesn’t always apply. Haiji insists that heroes cannot exist without villains: “But good can only exist alongside evil.” When the kid eventually threatens Goto, he is exuberant to hear Masayoshi’s reaction: “If you [kill Goto], I’ll kill you!” What we see here is Masayoshi’s strong desire to play the hero again. Our protagonist wants so badly to be able to just jump right back into his Samurai Flamenco outfit and save the day. But as I’ve said in last week’s post, melodrama is a first-world problem, and as a result, it’s not always a battle between good and evil. Goto’s mental illness does not have anything to do with justice. Unless Masayoshi’s new secret identity is a therapist, he cannot become Goto’s hero.

This is why no one else can see Haiji; this is why Haiji is merely a figment of Masayoshi’s imagination. He’s seeing all of his friends get hurt, but he literally cannot become their hero because Haiji isn’t real. There is no one out there to fight. The foe is solely within Masayoshi’s mind and his mind alone. By conjuring up Haiji, and thereby putting himself in Goto’s shoes, Masayoshi can understand that personal demons cannot be defeated by superheroes. Likewise, Goto’s problem is not a problem about good versus evil. Justice has nothing to do with curing mental illnesses. Plus, even superheroes themselves are not impervious to personal demons. I mean, just look at Batman. Dude’s a superhero, but he’s also a freakin’ whackjob:

batman gets burned

Haiji, i.e. Masayoshi’s subconscious, will nevertheless try to goad our protagonist into thinking that this is somehow a problem about justice: “You’ll have to turn into Samurai Flamenco, and uphold justice!” In response, Masayoshi needs to fight his desire to become the hero all over again. Essentially, if our protagonist tries to battle Goto’s personal demons as if they were real demons, Masayoshi runs the danger of subsuming his best friend’s own story. In a way, this arc is also about Masayoshi swallowing his own pride, and allowing himself to take a supporting role to Goto. Yes, Goto needs the support of his family and friends, but ultimately, he’s the only one who can save himself. No one else can do it for him. This can’t be done, however, if we’re more concerned about Sawada Haiji.

But surely, Masayoshi conjuring the kid up out of nowhere is a bit like making the story all about himself, isn’t it? Yes, it is. And that’s why no one else can see Haiji. As I’ve said, Masayoshi needs to learn to stop playing the hero. Since Haiji is merely a figment of Masayoshi’s imagination, how can you be a hero if you defeat an imaginary villain that no one else can see? It’s like the age-old paradox: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The solution for Masayoshi isn’t to convince others that Haiji is real. That’s just a cry for attention: “See? You guys are in danger, and I’m going to be the hero again!” The solution is to realize what he’s actually doing, i.e. attempting to put himself in Goto’s shoes, and simply learn the empathize.

flamenco 2003

I mentioned earlier in this post that the destruction of Masayoshi’s priceless collection of toys in this week’s episode is actually a huge step in his maturation. It foreshadows what Masayoshi will have to ultimately accept: he needs to stop playing the hero. You sort of get the sense that our protagonist hasn’t quite let go of his Samurai Flamenco persona just yet. You get the sense that we only haven’t seen him don the outfit because he hasn’t felt the need to. Even though the world is (allegedly) at peace, everyone still sees Masayoshi as a hero. They all want him to become the president of not just Japan, but the entire world. How much of their desire is genuine, and how much of it is actually Masayoshi’s doing though? Since he has the ability to shape his reality, it’s hard to say. Nevertheless, more than ever, Goto simply needs a friend. And by conjuring up a scenario in which Masayoshi’s ultimately responsible for blowing up his toys, i.e. the very stuff that shaped our protagonist’s childhood, Masayoshi is basically saying, “I am willing and ready to put aside my own need to save everyone to just be your friend.” Well, at least that’s what I think the explosion at his apartment is foreshadowing. Still, we can only wait and see how this will all play out.

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8 thoughts on “Samurai Flamenco Ep. 20: Personal demons”

  1. Surprised you didn’t make a Fight Club reference, personally.

    But yeah, most of my fears about the “epilogue” being four episodes long have been alleviated for now. I’m definitely going to miss this show when it’s over, but I’d rather feel that than boredom over a story getting stretched too long.

  2. Wait, so Masayoshi’s imagination caused [something] to threaten his friends and almost kill his mentors? All at almost the same time? when we can clearly see Masayoshi doing something else somewhere else as it happens?

    1. I don’t know what’s really happening, but in a show where we’ve had the From Beyond monsters, the evil Prime Minister, and Alien Flamenco, why would this be a surprise? Why else would all his friends be attacked at around the same time on the same day right as soon as he called or tried to call them?

    2. “when we can clearly see Masayoshi doing something else somewhere else as it happens?”

      Are you trying to question if Masayoshi is actually the one attacking his friends in reality? I think it’s really just what you see is what you get and this is just an extension of his wish fulfillment powers mentioned before. While Haiji didn’t actually exist in this episode, his actions were real, because Masayoshi wished for evil/bad things to happen to satisfy his hunger for heroism. “In my utterly uneventful life, you were a flash of abnormality.” However, the harm it caused to the people closest to him and as E Minor mentioned, the destruction of his superhero figurine collection suggest that it may not be the best idea.

    3. Given what we’ve seen happen so far, it’s possible (though I’ll grant not too likely) that everything which took place isn’t actually subject to Masayoshi’s influence in any way; physical or metaphysical. I don’t think he’s committing these crimes in person, but above that I’m not so sure he’s responsible for them at all. Consider that so far every problem he’s faced to protect his friends and family has been some sort of tangible, external threat, while suddenly things are notably different. The threats of this realistic world are no longer enemies, but nature, bad luck, and problems of the mind.

      Could Haiji simply be a manifestation of his subconscious mind to reconcile the fact that there are things out there, completely independent of good or evil, that he’s powerless to stop and which can at any moment harm those he cares about? By creating an omnipotent antagonist to take credit for all of these minor tragedies he externalizes his fear into something he can fight with fists and monologues about justice. It’s possible Haiji is the face he gives to random happenstance and life’s unavoidable maladies. He’s the enemy he wishes he had.

      1. This is possible, but happenstance isn’t quite so coincidental. What’s the chance that all of his friends are under attack at around the same time? And we’ve already been told that Masayoshi can influence the world around him. Not only that, the world had been devoid of evil up until these latest events, as well the fact that everyone wants Masayoshi to become the President of the world. What this tells me is that the circumstances just feel a little too… constructed, I guess, to attribute solely to luck and happenstance. I mean, you could be right, but eh… I’m not feeling it when I consider all of these factors.

        1. You’re probably right, but I figured the idea was worth putting out there. There’s always the slight possibility that these sorts of little things were always happening, but only now is Masayoshi really aware of them because he lacks a real enemy to fight.

          More likely though, his feelings of powerlessness towards the source of Goto’s suffering just got the ball rolling, so to speak, driving him to make an antagonist for himself to fight out of the hard parts of ordinary life with his influence over the world around them. An antagonist which then caused them to happen all at once, just to him the people he cares about, on the same day.

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