Of the two madcap fantasy shows that premiered today, Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! (hereafter referred to simply as “Binan”) was by far the better in my opinion. I’ll get into my issues with Yuri Kuma Arashi in that post, but my feeling going in was that the success or failure of Binan was likely going to come down to one basic question – would it be willing ti sell-out completely and go all the way with the joke? And so far, I think the answer is yes.
I only had one sleeper pick this season (Sodatekata was a sheer filler pick – I’ve never had less confidence in a so-called sleeper candidate) and Binan was it. I think you have to start with the idea that mahou shoujo is a genre that’s absolutely crying out to be parodied, and the notion that a full-bore mahou shounen send-up is the perfect way to do it. Then add a director in Takamatsu Shinji who’s shown a deft touch in high-school comedies from the male perspective and a pretty solid writer in Yokote Michiko, and you had to figure this series had a chance to be pretty good. And happily, it seems to be.
The only way Binan was going to work is if it was completely madcap, and the fact that the designated alien granter-of-powers is a pink wombat played by Mugihito was a good sign that it would be. Here’s the thing: what takes place in this series is really no more ridiculous than what takes place in 90% of the mahou shoujo series out there. The only difference is that the magical children are boys, and because of our conditioning that makes Binan feel an order of magnitude more silly. It actually isn’t, and I think this show works best if one understands that this is the wellspring from which Yokote and Takamatsu are drawing most of the humor. But even if one chooses not to focus on the satirical side of the series, I think it works well enough on the superficial level to be solidly entertaining.
Plot-wise this is very much a twist on the arch-typical mahou shoujo premise, with the aforementioned wombat being the cause of the transformation of five high-school boys into mahou shounen. His aim? To save the planet with love – and the boys of the “Binan High School Earth Defense Club (lol)” are the vehicle through which he chooses to do it. The central figure appears to be bathhouse scion Hakone Yumoto (Yamamoto Kazutomi) who embraces the magical boy ethos with the same abandon that he embraces the reluctant wombat. Along for the ride are club members Yufuin En (Umehara Yuuichirou), Kingawa Atsushi (Nishiyama Koutarou), Naruko Io (Shirai Yuusuke) and Zao Ryuu (Masuda Toshiki).
There are lots of clever japes in the premiere, starting with the fact that each of the boys is named for a well-known onsen town in Japan. Then there’s that in their first fight – with an anthropomorphised Chikuwa (a strange tubular food product used in Oden) – the boys randomly throw out meaningless attack names, much to Wombat’s irritation. I also enjoyed the fact that the chikuwa itself was actually a boy who was kind of a human chikuwa – an indeterminate “third type” who leads an indistinct existence, barely noticed. And the mahou shounen here get a full-on transformation sequence, complete with nudity – which may sound like a small point, but is actually rather important if a show wants to be fully committed to the premise.
I’m sure this series isn’t going to be for everybody, but I quite like it. I think those who really dislike mahou shoujo and those who really love it (if they have a sense of humor) are the best potential audience, but those who’re indifferent towards it may not quite get the point. A lot of the premiere is taken up with the boys jumping around acting silly (especially Hakone), but it’s done with enough abandon and a sufficient lack of self-importance that it works. I also find it quite amusing that in order to save the Earth with love, Wombat appears to have zombified a teacher to act as his avatar. It’s very silly – but the sort of silly that gets taken way too seriously if you tweak it just a bit. And that, I think, is really the point.
OP: “Zettai Muteki☆Fallin’ LOVE☆ (絶対無敵☆Fallin’ LOVE☆)” by Chikyuu Bouei-bu