Samurai Flamenco – 05

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The crazy is spreading.

While Samurai Flamenco has not yet equalled the exhilarating lunacy of the third episode, it remains one of the more energetic and fun series we’ve seen for a while.  The mix of fantasy and reality here is quite interesting, and I think we’re seeing a serious attempt at serious social commentary using absurdity as the means of communication.  That’s a method that’s been used many times in anime and elsewhere to great success, though it takes a considerable amount of dexterity to pull it off.  So far I think the signs are good that SF can be one of the series that manage to do so.

Likewise, I think Samurenco has done a nice job in balancing the sweet with the sour, a generally upbeat atmosphere with an undercurrent of real sadness.  There’s a school of thought that says well-adjusted people can’t succeed as standup comedians, and I think we see something of that in play here.  Gotou is a lonely beat cop who at best has a girlfriend who never wants to see him (and it could be worse, much worse).  Hazama is a semi-delusional hack actor and model who at best is unrealistically innocent and idealistic, Junji is an egomaniacal phony living off past glories.  And Mari is at best unbalanced, and at worst a sadist and borderline psychotic.  It’s not exactly the most well-adjusted cast in the world.

If you step back and take a look at the lives of these people, I think Samurai Flamenco could be a very depressing story.  But it isn’t, because like great comedy usually does, it takes their struggles and dysfunction and has sport with it not in a mean-spirited way, but such that the message is that everybody has problems and it’s better to laugh at them than to cry about them.  There’s a metaphor for modern Japan (which is the real main character, IMHO) here, with it’s state of drift and the unease lurking underneath the technologically dazzling and clinically safe exterior.

All that said, it’s definitely Mari who pushes the limits more than anyone.  She’s really, really messed up – when she announces that she wants to change the routine of fighting evil because “I’m getting bored” you get a real sense of just how disconnected from reality (and Hazama’s fantasy version of it) she is.  Mari is a dangerous person, far more so than anyone in the cast – I thought she’d finally crossed into outright baddie territory when she blew up Team Rocket, but for now it seems it was all still part of the game to her (though stage explosives can and do kill people when improperly used).  She keeps raising the stakes, though, and sooner or later she’s going to do something terrible that can’t be undone and things will be far worse than simply the people she’s supposed to be protecting being as terrified of her as they are of their attackers.

Hazama’s fate took several interesting turns this week, starting with a gig on “Ensemble”, which is apparently directed by a hero-show veteran.  Hazama is the classic high-maintenance talent here, wanting to talk about 20 year-old TV episodes, offering unwanted story ideas and entreaties to do his own stunts.  He’s just as disconnected from reality as Mari is, but it manifests differently – largely, I think, because of the influence of his Grandfather.  I see Hazama as basically a simple (not stupid, but simple) guy who’s easily led – and he’s living out the fantasy of his well-meaning Grandpa even before he receives the mysterious box containing the “real” Samurai Flamenco, and the story behind him.  I was frankly surprised Mari was willing to let him off the hook so easily when he confronted her, but I was glad he stuck up for himself.

As for Gotou, he remains disappointingly remote from the main plot, though his relationship with the girlfriend continues to be teased in a big way.  Something is rotten in Denmark, that’s for sure – we haven’t seen the whole picture.  Gotou’s spur does get closer to the main line when he’s made part of a “Vigilante Task Force” set up by the police in an attempt to fool people into thinking they’re taking the Flamencogate crisis seriously.  And his job got a lot harder with the reveal that after her split with Hazama, Mari (who’s still hopelessly in love with Gotou, seemingly) has brought her fellow Mineral Miracle Muse girls into her fantasy world, forming the “Flamenco Girls” mahou shoujo trio.  I can’t see this possibly ending well, but if nothing else with three of them out there it’s going to make it far more likely that the Flamenco Girls will either be caught by the cops or exposed by the press.

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  1. R

    Love me some dose of Samurai Flamenco, it's going to be interesting to see where all this goes. Mari's coworkers or friends (not sure if its mutual) what reason do they have to join Mari, did Ihey did out of legitimate concern trying to dowse whatever Mari has going on or do they relate to her?

  2. K

    The plot is insane and it spreading! I like it.


  3. t

    Mari is bored and crazy; Gotou has problems with GF and now getting himself in purpose to tough task dealing with crazy flamencos(who knows why?maybe he is still quite "shocked" 😛 ); Hazama is..I'll get to that later.
    my point in all that – characters' issues and development are quite spreading away, each one with its own agenda.
    but there seem to be invisible axis that keeps everything stable and tied together.
    it's hard for me to point out what really keeps the plot and characters tied together. but it's there.
    and actually, when everything is quite balanced, we can feel that the ship is sailing and not sinking. it's crazy, weird, wild ride…but very very steady and welcoming as samurai flamenco is.

    about Hazame. well, I found it quite forced for him to suddenly turn 20 and getting the inheritance SF from grandpa..I didn't much like it…seems like an easy way to solve things. but…you know what…let it be that way. OK.
    that's what reveal again how quite our simple Hazame is. he is simple-minded. not childish..but simple with desires to be something and do something. we saw it exactly when he kept bugging that poor director. but that's what I like him.
    besides, finally he was able to separate Mari and becoming on his own. that's exactly how I like him.

  4. S

    Your assessment on Mari is absolutely spot-on and it’s the reason why she is by far the most interesting character of the series for me. It’s not often I see a realistic complexly written female anti-hero in fiction. I have the feeling her self-serving vengeance is born from a traumatic personal experience. She doesn’t only best the bad guys, she always mercilessly goes for the overkill and I’m waiting for the moment she trespasses my moral boundaries.

  5. E

    I am really curious about who's Gotou's girlfriend now. Naturally, you would think that she's one of the character that we have already seen. Otherwise, it will be less fun and has no impact. I suspect it is one of Mari's fellow idol?

  6. Well, it would have to be either that or Hazama's manager because really, what other female characters of significance have we met? The chick from Team Rocket?

  7. J

    I don't really know how to feel right now. To me, part of the luster of the show was about how this is the real world where there are no Supermen or Batmen. It's Hazama trying to play a role that reality makes it near impossible to do. Yet, you have Flamenco girl and that ridiculous technology of hers, and doing those ridiculous combat moves. It seems like this world is just easing back and allowing for superheroes, which seems to defeat the purpose of the show.

    This show is still amazing, but a little direction will go a long way. We have the characters, so where is this going?

  8. R

    I was starting to dislike flamenco girl but, fortunately, part ways with samumenco. Better moments of the show are goto with hazama and I expect the show will recover that.

  9. R

    I have to admit that I really like Junji. Normally I don't like characters that are egotistic and narcissistic. Junji is totally a phoney, but the fact that he's completely shameless makes me laugh — let alone Gotou's reaction to Hazama's falling for his lies.

    I don't quite like Flamenco girl, but she seems to represent a certain crowd in a society that takes things too far and twisted that may impose danger to public. I wonder if her behaviour will be dialled down by Gotou — he seems to be working on a proposal for the partnership between the Vigilante Counselling Unit and Samurai Flamenco. Gotou came off like Sonoda-san — who just follows the rules, does the minimum, and hopes for another peaceful and effortless day to pass by — but somehow he seems to have re-ignited his inner passion and justice again, and this is nice to see.

    I really like Samurai Flamenco — it's so fun to watch, and at the same time the way that it tries to deliver its message is pretty genuine, respectful, and meticulous. There are shows that either use pretentious symbolism as a facade — when the same message can absolutely be delivered in other ways — or have bold vision but at the expense of messy plot and one-dimensional characters when executed. I'm so happy to see that Samurenco is unlike those shows. Whether it's a social commentary or philosophical viewpoint, I like that when creators respect the intelligence of the viewers — and anime as a medium — and genuinely work on delivering the message through well-crafted stories and round characters. Recent shows like UN-GO, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, SSY, and Psycho Pass come to mind, and I'm happy to be cognitively stimulated while having a few laughs with Samurenco every week.

  10. d

    When the crazy spreads, things may end poorly and unexpectedly. Well, let's wait and see where this road leads.

  11. Z

    I don't like how that blue haired idol humors Mari so much, talented or not.

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