It’s always nice when a series finishes with its best episode, and for my money Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! definitely did that – it was more better than any of the rest. That said, this show has been on a pretty steady upward trajectory for most of its run, and it made the very wise decision to give us its “serious” episode a week before the end, and gave over the finale completely to the insanity. I think that’s a move more satirical series and screwball comedies would do well to emulate.
What I find especially gratifying about Binan is that it very much followed the template I had in mind for it from the beginning. I pegged this is as a sleeper from the start of the season, and from the premiere on (actually even before that) I said that the key to whether the show succeeded was whether it completely bought into its own premise – no punches pulled on the silliness. Well, I can’t imagine anyone could have had serious doubts about that after 11 episodes – but if they did, the last one should certainly have obliterated them. This was a double-down on the insanity if I ever saw one, and so much the better.
One could enjoy this series just for the madcap comedy, no question, but I really do think Binan is at its best when you appreciate the satirical side as well. It goes from funny to hilarious, for me, because it hits so close to home – because you have to change so very little in the typical mahou shoujo to turn it into this show. Mahou shoujo is a genre begging to be parodied, and I’m not sure anyone has ever done it better than Binan Koukou. Takamatsu Shinji and Michiko Yokote know their way around the business backwards and forwards, and it really shows in the way the parody here cuts right to the bone, over and over.
This trump card pretty much offered everything, starting with the “Truman Show”-esque reveal that everything that was happening was part of a reality show (nope, I didn’t see that coming) that Hireashi was the dastardly brains behind. The failure of his earlier “Can I Destroy Earth?” series – enjoyed by anthropomorphized animals across the galaxy – seems to have engendered a good bit of hostility towards the planet on his part, especially towards the one who was responsible for screwing it up.
That would be Goura, was seems to have effectively been the one-man “Mark I” version of the Battle Lovers. One of the great things about Binan is that, silly as it is, the plot actually makes sense – and pretty much every angle that’s been teased throughout the series has had a glorious payoff. I was waiting for Sugita-san to get the chance to really go crazy in his performance, and he definitely got it. An-chan is hit by what looks like about 20 of Zundar’s needles and levels up into a full-on big bad, using his axe to chop everything in his sight. But not when Hireashi is talking – that would violate the “Kabuki Rule”, the acknowledgement of which is a hilarious dig at not just mahou shoujo but anime in general.
With the truth out there – Hireahi, Zundar and Kinoasaki are all part of the production, and Wombat is a “standards” advocate (self-employed or not, I’m not sure) trying to stop them – there’s not much point in Careula Adamas opposing Battle Lovers any longer. Everyone gets a “more better” power up starting with Yumoto – wings and a little extra zip on the fastball – and that’s enough to take down evil Goura (not before At-chan gets a chance to save Kin-chan’s life), once everyone is playing on the same team. But that’s when Hireashi springs his trump card – he and Zundar perform a Gattai move and end up as a giant Harisenbon (porcupine fish) – which, despite the reaction Wombat gets when he points it out, is actually sort of a logical result. Not satisfied with that, Yokote and Takamatsu then turn it into a full-fledged spiny giant mecha.
The fight that follows is really silly, complete with a call from the station director cancelling the series, and it ends with Yumoto saying “Love is maji de over!”. I especially liked the aftermath, which starts as a debate over the merits of stew vs. nikujaga as the two teams of mahou shounen now share the bath. Eventually it turns to a wistful reference to never having gotten the chance to feed nikujaga to Wombat – except that Wombat is still there, having violated the cliche that he should have returned to his home planet at this point. The hangup is Tawarayama-sensei, who Wombat says he must revive before he leaves, which leads to an ending on a cuddly note. The coup de grace? We’re teased with a “Important news after the break” message – which, of course, implies a second-season announcement – and the “news” turns out to be that Tawarayama-sensei was brought back to life by “life” brought to Earth by one of Wombat’s people. “Thank goodness”…
The last joke may in fact be this: that second season might not be so far-fetched. Binan had a very strong final week in the Stalker numbers, then ended up almost doubling them (beating Stalker is common with shows where the buying audience is largely female). There was an event ticket with the first volume, but the late upsurge and the strong numbers are a good sign for the show’s long-term prospects on disc. And it’s well-deserved – Binan Koukou ended up being an excellent comedy, one that worked on a number of levels, and I’m happy to see it found an audience in the end. I don’t know if it’ll be enough to prompt a sequel, but this is a series that could certainly pull one off – and even if it doesn’t get the chance, it still ends up being a success both commercially and artistically.
The funny thing is, this was really a series that needed to be made – it’s hard to believe no one has done so before now, in fact. Satire is healthy, good for the medium and for the genre being satirized – though of course what really matters is whether the show doing it is funny or not. This one was – consistently and often uproariously so. It didn’t pull any punches, but struck just the right balance between being ruthless with its target and doing so with affection. It’s great to see that happen, it’s great to see the show end with its best material, and it’s great to see that rewarded with some popularity. Here’s hoping we get to see a “more better” version sometime soon.