Samurai Flamenco – 04

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That was a pretty good example of how a series can turn on a dime.

If you want a dramatic shift, Samurai Flamenco could be just the show you’re looking for.  We went from last week’s unequalled (this season) explosion of pure fun to a sometimes pretty ugly and even shocking depiction of the dark side of vigilantism.  And all through the courtesy of a character who’d already revealed herself to be a bit odd, but gave no indication of just how depraved she truly was.  And really, one more odd character in this series hardly stood out to begin with.

What isn’t surprising is to have Tomatsu Haruka completely disappear into a character the way she does as Maya Mari.  Tomatsu-san as much as any seiyuu of either gender is a true chameleon – there’s no one else who I have a harder time recognizing in any given role, and what’s really remarkable is that she never sounds as if she’s putting on a voice.  She certainly brings Maya to life, but as vibrant a presence as Maya is she’s definitely taken Samurai Flamenco to a much darker place than it’s been before.  I’m fairly confident Kurata Hideyuki intends to play out some serious social satire here (he already has) and I think I have a pretty good idea of where he’s headed with this character.

It’s fair to say Kurata hasn’t played his cards yet in terms of what his true point is going to be when all’s said and done.  On the one hand Hazama-kun is a bit of a doofus, frankly, but he’s the one person in the cast we’ve seen with basically pure motives (Gotou strikes me as amply blessed with common decency, but also a disinterest in making trouble for himself – which I suppose makes his befriending Hazama a pretty selfless act).  Jouji is a self-promoter at the very best, and quite probably a major hyprocrite if you ask me – he has no qualms about building Hazama’s confidence up and then turning him loose in the red-light district, breaking his promise to be there as backup because he “got a call from Hollywood”.

It’s that abandonment that leads to Samurai Flamenco being kidnapped while interrupting a car theft, and the reveal of just what a psychotic Maya Mari really is.  She’s not just a hero otaku like Hazama (though she certainly is one, her choice being mahou shoujo) but a genuinely angry and violent woman – which is a problem as she’s also a much better fighter than Hazama, with better equipment.  She’s also by all appearances a man-hater, the root causes of which I suspect we’re going to be hearing more of as the series progresses.  She’s just plain violent in her “apprehension” of criminals, but it goes past just that – there’s an obvious rage towards the male gender that manifests itself in her signature ballbusting kicks.

That’s not the only busting Maya does in this episode – she also blackmails Hazama into making Samurai Flamenco Flamenco Girl’s incompetent sidekick under threat of revealing his identity (which he could just as easily have threatened to do to her, if he had the kintama to follow through).  This is the ugly side of citizens taking the law into their own hands – it’s not a stretch to say Maya is going to kill someone sooner or later at the rate she’s going.  This is vigilantism, plain and simple – the ugly unspoken truth of many superhero stories.  Hazama is too cowed to stand up to her even if he knows what she’s doing had crossed the line from justice into plain thuggery – that is, until she turns her mahou taser on Gotou, who’s trying to talk some sense into the both of them.  Hazama at least makes Maya apologize after the fact – which leads to the surprising and interesting development that she seems to fall hard for Gotou after she sees him in his uniform.

I really think what we’re seeing here is a commentary on just how morally adrift Kurata-san sees modern Japan as being, and for the moment at least it appears he’s taking the “everybody’s wrong” approach.  Hazama is presumably speaking for the author when he defends Maya even as he admits her excesses, pointing out that she’s saved many women from assaults.  Yet so is Gotou when he points out the inherent dangers to what these two nutjobs are doing.  The issue is that society is hungry for something that seems heroic and exciting, and willing to embrace anything that can break through the malaise gripping it – but in the real world, vigilantism of any kind, be it super sentai or mahou shoujo, is going to lead to a bad end.

As for comedy, which has been one of the hallmarks of the series for the first three episodes, we did have some very good moments.  I especially enjoyed Hazama’s “Go…Go…Gokigenyou!” reaction to spotting Gotou in the crowd, because that’s what I always say whenever I greet or part with a Japanese native in order to get a guaranteed laugh, and Hazama and Jouji’s “Shisho!  Deshi!” exchanges score points for comic absurdity (I agree with Gotou, Jouji forgot Hazama’s name).  I’ve been a bit worried about Gotou’s character, as he’s my favorite thus far but it’s seemed as if there might not be much for him to do as far as the plot itself is concerned.  Maya’s crush certainly could change that, and then there’s the matter of the unseen girlfriend – the series of texts conspicuously inserted into the episode indicate there’s something more to that situation that’s hopefully going to be revealed soon.  Something doesn’t add up there, and hasn’t from the moment Gotou first mentioned a girlfriend – I’m curious to see just what that’s all about.

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12 comments

  1. t

    I like SF, but this time it felt kinda in a hurry (not a big-deal..but that how it is). especially the last part when they came to apologize in front of Gotou after flamenco girl harmed him.
    it's unlikely to happen so quickly..and it felt.. a bit..like something is missing. like they are in a hurry to finish the EP in that point.so id didn't feel truly honest.

    about the entrance of flamenco-girl to the party, while I do like her energetic side she's added, she is definitely crazy. those electric shocks can be very very dangerous. she doesn't seem in control and show no signs of restrain herself. quite the opposite of a true hero. she is really a vigilante. though it's a necessary and interesting implication in SF.

    I find it weird for Gotou to cancel his date with his girldfriend (after "long time no see") only because of those two.
    it comes in contrast to his character which is based of indifference and his will be uninvolved as much as possible with those issues.

    that way or another, the series is still so funny and continue flowing in its own pace she stands for.

  2. B

    I love the way this series tapped into the whole "i wanna be a hero" thing and made it into something that seems to be promising at least at this point. I love how this is starting to be what kick ass would be if it was set in japan or something but alas I apologize in case the comparison draws a negative from anyone I mean its my personal opinion heheh

  3. C

    wow wow wow the fun was fast and furious. I thought I liked this series before but the events of this episode were genuinely surprising,funny and just a little cringe worthy. I'm so glad Flamenco Girl seems to be so well written and interesting and that her character episode still moved the main plot along very nicely. I really hope the series can keep up the quality of these first episodes :)

  4. K

    I get the feeling that this girlfriend of Gotou is dead. He's living a life in denial.

    TQ

  5. e

    That was the vibe I was getting too in the beginning – and I was chalking the umbrella up as a treasured post mortem memory – but after the sms she supposedly sent and referring in detail to the current situation I'm not sure anymore. Gotou-san D,:
    —-

    On Flamenco Girl… is the tinny metal sound we hear whenever she kicks those tama supposed to be funny? ^_^"

  6. Z

    Shit got serious with the arrival of Escalayer the Emasculator.

    I always thought 'Goto's girlfriend' was a plot device designed to prevent fujoshi shipping (not that that would stop them).

  7. i

    Oh I wish Flamenco Girl had attacked Goto like she does with the baddies and on her signature ball-smash found that Goto – has Gintamas.

    I found again this to be very interesting and as you put it so finely another facet of civilian crime fighting that is a topic of worth. Fighting badies is either a selfless pursuit or a selfish one – and one Flamenco does if for the former while the other the latter. I'm not sure what Mari has against men but I feel her backstory is either ridiculous or cliched (though if say her friend got raped and she is carrying out revenge, it certainly isn't stupid or a dumb plot trick as this is common in RL). I do like how the plot is going with the police readying themselves to battle heroes rather than villains. Also I find Mari's outfit quite fanserving – not that I mind.

  8. J

    Shocking… I was hoping we'd get a Mari that would be fun… Different type of fun I guess… This show is definitely keeping me on my feet.

  9. d

    Mari doesn't seem be a man hater, just a maniac. That she's a ball buster — well that's seems to be played for some sort of bizarre comedy, not unlike seeing Hans Moleman getting hit in the groin by a football, or really any violence perpetrated by Homer or Bart Simpson. Not sure what the female equivalent would be in reference to groin kicks, but I'd guess Mari would be an equal opportunity offender. Of course, everyone's mileage varies.

  10. There seems to be a widespread feeling that Mari's actions are being played mostly for laughs, and that this isn't the sort of show to "go dark". I disagree – I think there are already hints it's going much darker, and we have two cours to see it happen. We'll see who's right – it's too early to claim victory for either side.

    One thing I wouldn't say that abut, though, is the claim that Mari's actions are no different than Hazama's – they're both just weird. I call BS on that – Mari's disorder is nor comparable. Even if you don't believe she's a man-hater (which I think it made pretty clear) at the very least she's obviously a sadist – and there's no sign of that whatsoever in what Hazama does. They may both be delusional and misguided, but she's way more fucked-up than he is.

  11. d

    I don't disagree about the show possibly going darker. That door's always open especially with the series' dark undertow. The color choices give that away. SFs nightscapes are murky, unlike the clear bright rarefied night of Uchouten Kazoku. SF has this humid quality in everything.

    Groin kicks for laughs I think comes from what elianthos80 called that tinny metal sound. That and Mari's little grunts. Neither of those things give me the impression of the powerful brutality required to unsettle the viewer.

    Is Mari out of control and in need of being reigned in? Yes, zapping Goto is proof enough. We can definitely agree on that and the difference in motives between Hazama and herself. They're both fools, though only one has a taste for violence.

  12. m

    given that gotou's girlfriend is one of the first things mentioned in this show, it must have at least significant impact on the plot. hoping to see how it goes :)

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