Samurai Flamenco – 08

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To sum up my feelings about Samumenco, I can do no better than the words of Crazy-Eyez Killa.

OK, so if that was bad coke or some kind of dream sequence happening at the end of last week’s episode, this week gave no indication of it.  If anything the weirdness factor was stepped up a couple of notches – I think it was just the absence of the shock value that made it less, well – shocking.  I can officially state that at this point I’m totally confused, not just with where Samurai Flamenco is headed but with how I feel about the show in the first place.

Oddly enough I did rather enjoy this episode, largely because despite passing through some kind of wormhole it emerged on the other side with its comic sensibility intact.  The parts that were supposed to be funny I still found funny, largely for the same reasons I did for the first six episodes and 18 minutes.  But I can’t divorce myself from wondering just what the hell it’s trying to accomplish here.  I thought I knew pretty much what Samumenco was really trying to be about – now I really have no idea.

Here’s where I land, for now.  Either this show has jumped the shark in a way they’ll be talking about for generations to come, or it’s pulling off one of the most audacious meta-satirical gambits in anime history.  There were things I saw in this episode that made me suspect – and I hope this isn’t merely wishful thinking – that we might be watching something brilliant play out.  Namely, the way the whole King Torture thing seemed to be following the same route as the first six episodes of the series.  A super-villain is a big deal and everyone – the authorities and the public alike – get all worked up about it.  But after a while just like anything else, it becomes an accepted part of daily life and folks get bored with it.  And that may just be the ultimate point that Kurata and Omori-sensei are trying to make about modern Japan.

Case in point – what kind of crimes are King Torture’s minions pulling off?  They’re stealing fruit (which is already too damned expensive here) so as to inconvenience the public.  They’re poisoning the water supply – with a chemical that makes people gossip too much.  WTF kind of super-villainy is that?  Indeed the only casualties this week were the villains themselves who, like Guillotine Gorilla, blew themselves up (is there a commentary about suicide bombers here?) as soon as they lost the upper hand in their battles with Samurai Flamenco and the girls.  There is the matter of those cops from last week and that appears to be real, at least if any of this is – but as reigns of terror go this one is pretty terrible.  And then there’s the villains themselves – Boiling Rhino, a rhinoceros beetle played by Fujiwara Keiji?  “Delta Horse” (Kishio Daisuke) – the name itself had me in on the floor.  Maybe this King Torture is just some douchebag (Konno is the most logical candidate among the cast we’ve met) who’s just as bored as everybody else, and is doing this strictly for shits and giggles.

All that’s not enough, of course – there’s some very weird stuff going on here, and if Samurai Flamenco is going to interest me nearly as much as it did when I thought it was a smart and timely social commentary, I do expect a decent explanation. Simply turning into a broad parody of the super-sentai genre out of the blue isn’t enough – that’s already a heavily-parodied subject, and in any event it would be nearly impossible to match what Mitsudomoe did with it for sheer comedic genius.  It would be hard to point to a show that’s had a more dramatic shift in tone than this one, and I guess I’m just too cynical at this point to accept that at face value and enjoy the ride – there has to be a reason for that, or in my view it’s bad writing.

We still have the characters, of course, and if their arcs can survive this onslaught of lunacy there’s enough there to make things interesting – with Hazama-kun, it’s the sense that he’s losing his idealism as life both in and out of the costume gets easier for him.  There’s the matter of Gotou’s mystery girlfriend (I’m not even going to try and guess, now that the reality switch has been switched off), who seems real enough to be sending him contextually appropriate texts.  As for Mari, she’s “losing interest” – just as the Prime Minister and the public seem to be – now that there’s no body count and the enemies are mostly small-fry.  I still want to see how all this fits together, but I only have so much slack I’m willing to cut any writer and director, even legendary guys like Kurata and Omori.  They earned a lot of trust with the first six episodes, and the well hasn’t run dry yet – but I’m certainly a lot more dubious than I was two weeks ago.

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  1. D

    I'm just along for the ride at this point.

  2. Z

    I feel an Eduard Khil number coming on.

  3. D

    I think I have more faith in this series than you, Enzo. I basically got the same things as you did from this episode, Masayoshi's new cocky outlook and the public disinterest, but I think that was enough to service this episode. And I wouldn't call this kind of commentary a bad sentai parody as I think it was essential to Masayoshi's character development and the commentary, not to sound like a broken record. Personally, I'm sticking with the series for that aspect, and what little to no explanation we may get won't bother me as long as the series stays this way and doesn't delve further into what-the-fuckery for the sake of shock value. If anything that was the previous episode, which put me on edge, but I thought this made up for it. And I'm thankful they did so in just one episode, which is basically my compliment to the writing.

  4. t

    interesting point with the idea of everything being a scheme so everyone will lose interest. indeed, that may be brilliant way to reflect society . we already start to see how Mari is losing interest. and it's not like the king torture is just sending the monsters randomly, he says there is a huge plan behind that.
    I am still thinking that the fact samumenco is involved triggered him to act. he keeps burning voodoo dolls of samumenco..I do believe it's related to something real that involved Masayoshi's parents and grandfather.

    however, the thing that caught my attention this ep is the ending, again (it's not so surprising I guess. well whatever).
    the conversation between Masayoshi and Hindenori tried to put the super-sentai stuff under control. but what was coming behind it was mostly intriguing.
    Masayoshi finally fulfilling his dream as superhero, yet Hidenori is reluctant about that.
    and there is more, in the last minutes, Hidenori's GF (would you mind to show up already?!?!) texted that masayoshi's eyes are scary, and the interviewers in TV said he has some "aura".
    Hidenori is feeling like that too, we can see it through their conversation..

    I watched the conversation between them again in order to fully grasp what it's about..but the thing seemed like they are talking in different context. each one is saying something and the other say something about it yet somehow in the different context.
    Masayoshi was mostly talking about being a superhero, Goto spoke in the different level of "what's going on", like from the perspective of a cop or detective.
    in the end Goto wanted to say something "are you…" but he didn't get to finish the sentence.
    adding the fact of the dead cops and the fact the masayoshi is trying to save even the affected him somehow.

    that brings quite a change. so far Masayoshi was the..optimal superhero, but now it's implied he isn't exactly that way.

    some people say that the series is "ruined" ever since the 18th minute in ep06.
    I must say I disagree. although it's quite a change, a shocking one, and it's filled with more super-sentai stuff, I still think we can see samumenco features here, and it's still samumenco, with a bit of change. and let's see what else is hidden under this change.

  5. S

    Even though SF kinda jumped the shark with the latter two episodes, it still has a lot of credit with me due to the extraordinary brilliance in the first 6. And apart from that, we still don’t know what the bigger picture behind this sudden tonal shift is. Particularly as you said, why does nobody in the series, in contrast to us viewers, raise an eyebrow over the appearance of monsters? Even in Power Rangers (and Sentai stuff), which SF is a throwback to, the public was more shocked than in this show. Something’s still off about this sudden change and I’m eager to find out what the explanation is, so judging or dropping it now is still way too premature.

  6. G

    I'm starting to wonder if the Super Villian is his master (Red Axe?) or some other person in his life trying to help SF "evolve" as a super hero.

  7. t

    I don't know…for Red-Axe to go this far..and even killing cops?unlikely.
    someone said it's the guy who seeks for rating (the one who is in love with Masayoshi's manager) and also try to evolve SF.
    it occurred to me too, but again, it's unlikely he'll go this far till killing cops and burning voodoo dolls of SF…

  8. H

    Boy am I glad I bailed on this one back in wk3 or something. Having said that I've bailed on a lot of shows this year! This case is slightly more of a downer since its like one of Takahiro Omori's few recent anime original stunts.

    Next season looks surprisingly strong for winter. Pupa!, Nobunaga the Fool, Nobunagun, SD, Hoozuki no Reitetsu to name a few.

  9. G

    We don't know if it could be his father or grandfather either tho both are supposed to be dead. With this show anything is possible (even the dude that is designing his weapons).

  10. Y

    I'm giving it another episode to see if it keeps on going that road. And if it does, I'm done.

    I still can't quite believe though… So I'm hoping for some sort of big come back that will explain the whole thing. We'll see…

  11. i

    10 minutes into the episode I thought they jumped the gun for a bit of infamy and was close to stopping right there but the next 10 changed my opinion. I think, especially with 2-cours, that they are indeed just emphasizing the apathy of the Japanese populace by having them simply not care about King Torture because it's someone else's job to clean that up. As long as it's not their's and not inconveniencing them in anyway who cares is what society is thinking.

    I doubt this will last more than a few episodes but it is an ingenious way to game some short term infamy and long term fame if that is how thing's pan out. However if they did trade ships well at least they gain a notorious title.

  12. T

    I think thing the biggest mystery of this show is how Mari hasn't popped out of that outfit yet.

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