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The crew is joined once again by Phil “Dressbarn” Thomas to revisit Marvel and Star Wars!
When I first sat down and watched Samurai Flamenco it was because we talked about the music on this site. I typically avoid the “must see” anime from my friends for fear of another “Tiger and Bunny,” “Gokaiger,” or “Naruto.” What I mean by those, all of which are incredible shows, is the fans of those shows are extreme to the point it ruins the experience of the show for a casual watcher.
To a causal western viewer with limited knowledge of the Japanese entertainment industry and idols, part of Masayoshi’s (main character) career and fandoms may be a bit perplexing. Looking at this show from the view of someone who is familiar with the culture, this show is an amazing ride. Someone who does not have the cultural context of the children’s tokusatu television, idols (and the related culture), Japanese entertainment news, and variety television this show can come across as a bit shallow or lack luster.
Samurai Flamenco is deeply entrenched in Japanese culture. So much so that its charm is how rooted it is in the culture.
My first impression of the show was a “this is cute” with a serious touch of the “boy love” between the main characters, Masayoshi and Hidenori. The show then becomes a slow transformation of the Masayoshi into a mostly self confident Japanese celebrity and super hero.
The story to date:
* Boy is a super hero fan
* Boy is trying to be a model and using his model money to become a super hero
* Boy makes reputation as super hero and gets help from others
* Boy builds confidence and becomes better model and becomes famous
* Boy meets idol girls who create a “magical girl” team to fight evil
* Boy saves the Japan.
* Boy becomes a part of super hero team.
* Boy saves world
* Boy becomes criminal by corrupt government officials.
OK, that is incredibly over simplification of the shows plot, but that is what you are getting when you remove the cultural references from the show. The show is a collection of tropes creatively put together using a shared cultural knowledge as the glue binding it together.
As an avid comic book reader of the 1980’s I have recognize that this show is a collection of traditional western comic book tropes as well as Japanese Tokusatsu ones. In many ways I am reminded of Spiderman of that era, continuously thrown into every Marvel property with little to no reason or purpose other than to be there. You can look at Transformers #3 as perfect example Spiderman just plopped into a story for no real reason. The same could be said for Samurai Flamenco and the Sentai* he was thrust into. The main character is picked up and thrown into a secret organization for no reason other than “it was there.” While it is an amazing concept, the lead up is blunt and awkward. While the organization that the sentai is associated with seems to come out of nowhere, an astute watcher can creatively fill in the blanks from the disappearances of a key character for various reasons throughout the first 10 episodes.
As the series progresses, the level of absurdity does as well. Just as the ever increasing graphic violence in Gantz becomes acceptable over the course of the manga and show, the similar occurs with the absurdity in Samurai Flamenco. As the show progresses the world of comic book and children’s television super heroes and super vilians become more integrated and real to the characters and the viewer. By the 13th episode the sentai seems normal and reasonable where as in episodes 1 through 7 would be completely unrealistic and would turn viewers away.
In the end I would not be terrifically surprised, if like the opening credits from episode 1-13 show, that the entire series was Masayoshi’s dream and ends with him waking up in the hospital.
The art style of Samurai Flamenco is a crisp and stays true to its tokusatsu designs. The story is fun. The music is increidble.
Check it out on Hulu or Crunchyroll.
*Sentai translates into squadron, team, battalion