Between Samurai Flamenco and Golden Time I confess I’m thoroughly bewitched, bothered and bewildered – but I guess the first one of those three is the most important because it means I’m still watching. More than that, still invested in both shows despite being thoroughly vexed by them. I can honestly say I have even less idea what’s going on with this series than with GT – I have no idea what sort of show it is, but I can say for certain that it isn’t the show I thought it was going to be. Given how enthusiastic I was about that show, I’m just going to have to get past it – Samumenco Mark I, R.I.P..
There are certain things that seem obvious enough both in terms of plot and theme, but I wonder if those aren’t a siren song inviting us to crash on the rocks of our expectations. This series has established that rules don’t apply here, so I’m not taking anything I see on-screen as gospel merely because I see it. It certainly seems indisputable – as much as anything can with this series – that we’re working on some level of meta here. The question, really, is what level of meta we’re talking about. I could see it going several layers deep at this point.
Let’s start with a scene like Samurai Flamenco doing battle with “Burning Piranha“. The dastardly crime this time? Handing out tissues (if you’ve been to Tokyo you get that part of the joke) that cause people to get split-ends. As a bonus, we get Piranha pausing during the battle to let Samumenco take a call. How are we supposed to take that seriously on any level? It’s funny, for starters – if this series weren’t still funny I think all of this discussion would be moot – but it’s also abundantly clear that these “acts of evil” are themselves a joke. This is clearly a performance by all involved – and it’s one that the people of Japan (and Mari) have grown totally bored with. Samumenco’s battles with King Torture’s monsters-of-the-week are now the last item on the news before signoff.
The weird thing is (well, it’s all pretty weird) that just as it’s taken such pains to undercut any sense of gravity in this central conflict, Samumenco takes a dark turn and shows us Konno having been captured and tortured by King – well, Torture (there goes that theory). And there’s still the matter of those three cops, and the fact that the monsters blow themselves up at the end of every encounter. It’s hard not to have the sense that everyone here is playing a part in a staged drama – the series pretty much says so overtly – yet whoever these minions of K.T. are they seem to have so qualms about blowing themselves up (that’s taking method acting way too far).
The cover story the show seems to be pushing is that K.T. is some kind of Tokusatsu otaku who’s memorized every script by heart, and is staging this for… what, exactly? Alleviate boredom? Make Samumenco a bigger star? But this series has a way of building up a theory only to blow it out of the water, and now we get the revelation (courtesy Harazuka-san) that King Torture and his minions might in fact be aliens. Well, of course! Where does that leave us, then? Did K.T. watch Japan’s broadcast TV signals as they made their way to extraterrestrial space and assume this was the truth of human culture? Even that still wouldn’t explain just what the hell it is he wants, or why he thinks it’s worth killing cops and kidnapping people for.
Speaking of kidnapping, it seems that K.T.’s dangling of entertainment in front of Konno was enough to turn him to the dark side when torture wasn’t, and he lures Mari to the supervillain’s lair as bait to call out Samumenco. Again we see things operating on a meta level here, as Torture admits the monsters-of-the-week and everything else has just been checking off the cliche boxes, setting up the final showdown between himself and Samumenco. OK, fine – but again, the “why” of all this is a mystery. Just as the identity of Gotou’s girlfriend is, and that scenario is getting more suspicious and weird every week. I’m not too worried about Gotou’s spat with Hazama – that will surely sort itself out – but I am still waiting for his true importance in the story above and beyond being Samumenco’s liaison with the bureaucracy to reveal itself, and it seems likely the girlfriend angle is going to be a part of that.