Posted on 11 January 2014 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

Oh, Samurai Flamenco… what are you doing? I used to praise this show for being so well put together. Obviously I can’t say that anymore, but still it’s quite a ride to see how crazy the show can get next time. This episode was this really weird combination between the first half of the show and episode 11. The Flamengers were all kinds of cheese, while Goto… he actually stayed normal.

Having said that though, the fight in this episode sucked. I’m not sure whether that was intentional or not, but the thing rather fell apart when that army of Miyamoto Musashis appeared from out of nowhere and were like “Oooh, let me slightly wave my sword at you! That will teach you!” – That completely defeats the purpose of having large numbers in the first place! I get that the budget isn’t that big for tis series, but there’s a difference between cutting corners and simply not trying.

But then again, it can also be a very deliberate jab at the super sentai genre. I mean, one gets large and they defeat that one with the Flamenbot, but the rest… magically disappears? Also those new weapons were completely ridiculous.

Also. The Flamencar. Really?

Posted on 21 December 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

I think my brains just exploded…

I knew that this series would spiral out of control. Just not in this way. In one episode, the creators YET AGAIN completely changed the genre of the entire series, along with the feel, mood, themes and everything. At this point the only similarity between episode 1 and 11 is the way in which Samurai Flamenco appears in it. Even the mood-swings of Guilty Crown and Code Geass weren’t this big!

Seriously, from out of nowhere Jouji Kaname reveals that he has been preparing to fight the invasion by aliens for over a decade and to do that he created unbeknownst to anyone an incredibly stereotypical power rangers base, complete with power rangers, basically revealing that the first seven episodes were pretty much one really big lie and that they weren’t set in modern-day Tokyo in the slightest. What follows is a really weird discussion on who should be the leader, followed by a staged death scene, and a freaking giant robot! I mean, is this really real?

I have to say: this show is unique. It’s currently trying to do something that no other show has. Whether it’ll work is an entirely different matter though, and I do believe that it’s too early for that, so for now I’ll withhold judgement on the big picture. However, I will say this: I hated Code Geass and Guilty Crown because it really felt like it they were written as the creators went along. Especially in Guilty Crown’s case. In Samurai Flamenco though, this isn’t the case. It’s got a lot of Deus ex Machina, however the creators very clearly had the intention right from the beginning to escalate things into the ridiculous proportions that we saw in this episode. It’s episode 11, and only now we’ve been introduced to everyone on the promo art. Sure, it could have been less sloppy, but right from the start it wanted to transition from the ordinary to the absurd.

Now let me stress Robotics;Notes here. A series that wasn’t as extreme as this one, but still is one that this series needs to learn from: you can have a really good build-up, but that isn’t worth anything if the second half is crap, like what happened with that series. Writers, you need to stay and don’t you dare to just get lazy next year.

Also, it’s nearly the end of the year. 2-cour Noitamina-series always have a few weeks of hiatus. I assume that the next episode will air in a few weeks, though no concrete date seems to be known yet.

Posted on 13 December 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

Usually I blame writers lately. This time however, the writing was fine. I see what this episode was trying to do, and it had me at the edge of my seat. Perhaps a bit fast-paced, but I see what the writers were trying to do. This really could have been an amazing episode. But god, the delivery.

Okay. Whoever is in charge of the suspense of disbelief: for the love of god, try a little harder here. You already have a series in which this is very important, and this episode in particular depended on it with all of the gore. You could have really helped that with some actual good animation, but what stood out for me the most is how characters kept teleporting all over the place in this episode. Characters take huge leaps from one place to the other without any build-up whatsoever, leading to a lot of Deus ex Machina. I can understand timeskips and all, but there is a limit. Not to mention that showing characters actually travelling from A to B adds a lot to immersion. You need to worry about that, as much as you’d like to focus on your characters!

I read somewhere once that Manglobe is the kind of studio that doesn’t have many in-house people: for all of their projects they look around the industry for the right people. They’re basically outsourcing a lot, or at least they were around the time of Ergo Proxy and Michiko to Hatchin, and back then they were really good at it. This episode though. It just screamed outsourcing problems. Otherwise it just would not have looked so rushed, especially for such an important episode in the plot. I mean, something really went wrong in the production schedule.

Anyway, about the plot: this was where the series went even more out of control, by showing elements that were even more obviously supernatural, yet at the same time they’re all human: King Torture is just a man who managed to get ahold of strange powers that allowed him to create all those monsters. He too basically is just another person obsessed with superheroes and fiction, but he spiraled into the other side of the spectrum.

For the rest of the cast, I really liked how they used the build-up: people started to realize how they underestimated what it really means to be a superhero. That it’s not just about kicking ass and looking good. They started to look beyond the glory.

But damn, you’d better make up for this episode with the second half. There’s still plenty of potential left and all, but this execution isn’t the kind that a story like this deserves!

However, someone singing really badly? Hell yeah! Finally. I mean, who is expected to sing well after such a trauma?
Rating: 4.5/8 (Good)

Posted on 12 December 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

My reaction to this episode: okay, they are starting to stretch that annoying manager who keeps calling. I’ve seen enough anime to know where this is going: he keeps bothering her and she suddenly develops feelings for him and they become a couple and HOLY CRAP WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO HIM!

This really is a deconstruction of the Superhero genre, or should I say Supervillain-genre, because the premise of this series is: what if earth was attacked by stereotypical supervillains”? They just identify the most visible superhero at the time to be their main adversary. But the way in which this series does its things is particularly clever, and really plays with your expectations.

The generic goons were used quite interestingly. This series acknowledges that these monsters are just a dime a dozen, and that they’re easily beaten, luring us into a false sense of security that everything will be easy. And even the random monsters that explode have a tail left behind, in the form of the dust that their explosion covered.

And then it comes with these huge mood-whiplashes that are actually really effective. The question is whether this show will keep that up for the entirety of the airtime. Shock value needs to be balanced and can only get you so far.
Rating: 6/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 4 December 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

So after the previous episode dropping that huge bomb, the question of course would be what would be this series’ idea of how to follow it up. This episode on itself gave us some interesting answers to that. I’m not entirely happy with this episode, but I’m most definitely intrigued.

What I didn’t like about this episode is how it ditched some of the realism here, most notably one event: the one where Samurai Flamenco kicked that giant crocodile with metal armor outside of the bus. I mean, this series has always stressed that Masayuki has no superpowers: all of his powers come from gadgets. That is one part that they need to keep in this series, otherwise that will pretty much go against a lot of the build-up of the first seven episode. And that was some really great build-up!

However, what surprised me was how fast this episode went. You’d think that the creators would want to let things sink in and take their time for this, but instead this episode really developed Masayuki and having him change. At the end of the episode he already was consumed by his own fame and had sold out. He had already beaten like… four more goons from King Torture?

What most struck me about this episode was what it was building up for. The way with which most people have already forgotten about all of the policemen that died (and this show actually acknowledges it, rather than making it a writing flaw). Something is going to happen, and knowing episode seven, it’ll again be big. It’s now up to the creators though, to actually use this build-up. You can have such good build-up, but if the actual delivery in the end disappoints then you’re either way stuck with a nasty aftertaste.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 23 November 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

Samurai Flamenco: you are awesome! This episode was glorious on all levels! If you haven’t seen the episode yet: close this browser at once and get to it! This is one episode you do not want to be spoiled on!

I had seen pretty much everyone freaking out about this particular episode, so when I sat down to watch it, I already had the mindset of “well this twist has to be pretty damn major here”. It was. At first I thought that it was about Masayoshi finding out that his parents had been mugged instead of died from an illness like what he thought. That already was amazing to watch, due to how it was revealed.

I especially liked how Masayoshi was in conflict about himself: his parents died when he was two years old. It’s normal for him to not feel bothered by tracking down those criminals (finally lhe’s doing something normal!). It conflicted with his desire to be a hero, though his version of being a hero focused on the part of protecting justice, not the parts of heroes that focused on tragic backstories and personal revenge. Also: small touches like the title of this series coming from Masayoshi’s grandmother who used to be a flamenco dancer. I love how these series explain their own titles and have them make total sense.

But yeah. The twist. I applaud this series for doing this. For being completely realistic without any supernatural powers whatsoever aside perhaps from a few far-fetched ideas for gadgets. And then going completely berserk with this episode when THAT happened. It worked so well: everything that happened there was of such a completely different scale than what we’ve been used to. It’s a brilliant twist that just would not have worked without all that build-up. That was a wonderful example of how you escalate a story!
Rating: 7/8 (Fantastic)

Posted on 14 November 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

Samurai Flamenco is a series that very cleverly keeps escalating. And this episode was a good example of this: the reward on Samurai Flamenco’s identity got bigger, he got more famous, the force used against him becomes more lethal, his gadgets get upgraded, people gang up on him more, more other superheroes enter the picture with the arrival of the other two flamenco girls. The only thing that doesn’t escalate is goto’s relationship with his girlfriend, which seems to have gone back to normal after their difficult time earlier. That’s an interesting development: a stable relationship. or at least one that looks like it so far.

At this point in the series it’s a bit too early whether this approach really works in the long run. For that we need a bit more time to see what it’s building up for. This episode’s main purpose was escalating and building up, even though a lot seemed to happen into it. Masayoshi in any case continues to stay true to himself with how he doesn’t doubt anyone on purpose, but the question is how long he can keep this up.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 8 November 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

This episode was a bit awkward to sit through, because it was focused a lot on the characters having doubts about what they should do. An introspection episode in which most of the main cast had an off period and didn’t feel too good: Hidenori’s relationship issues, Masayoshi realizing that what he saw as heroes is just a produced TV-show, and Mari also feeling… something that isn’t exactly explained yet.

It’s all about expectations that aren’t met up, and especially Masayoshi starts acting a bit immature, not realizing that some things just don’t work when shooting a movie, like lots of rain, or the risks that come with using someone unqualified for stunts. Everyone’s sense of justice is different, and this lead to qite an early break-up between Samurai Flamenco and Flamenco Girl.

Nitpick time: when Masayoshi returns to Flamenco Girl when she’s in trouble: how did he find her? Did they agree to wear trackers or something in order to be able to find each other?
Rating: 4.5/8 (Good)

Posted on 1 November 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

The fourth episode here continues to push buttons. Here it introduces yet another celebrity who tries to play the hero, but this time she goes out of her way to use violence. Up till now she only used this against bad guys and she most definitely saved people by using it, but the lines are starting to blur when she showed the habit of kicking everyone in the groin when they’re already taken out. That’s the point where she goes from maintaining public order to executing her own personal justice. That line might seem slim, but the implications of this is huge, because with this we’re starting to get into nasty moral territory.

But in a way, all three superheroes have their own flaws: Masayoshi creeps people out at times, Mari uses excessive violence, and Joji is a media whore. On the other hand we have Hidenori, who is actually doing a fine job remaining neutral as a police officer. Although the creators love to use him in the different plot twists of the series. I mean, they’re building something up for him. First hinting at him dressing up as a superhero as well, and next making Mari develop a crush for him because he looks so good in uniform…something’s going to happen here.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 25 October 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

Okay. That was awesome.

I already considered this series among the best of this season, and with this episode it surpassed itself, and this only is the third episode of 22. But just… this episode introduces this new character and he brings a totally new dynamic to the series that completely takes the piss out of both the mass media and the superhero business.

The characters here were brilliantly used. Turning the idol that Samurai Flamenco was based off into this semi-impersonator awakened so many different feelings in Masayoshi, and afterwards this spiralled into this bizarre publicity stunt in which Samurai Flamenco became Red Axe’s assistant, followed by some very unexpected character-development from Hidenori. Heck, this episode couldn’t have made better use of the trope of superheroes having to conceal their identity.

And yet, the characters in this series feel real. Of course there are nutters like Masayoshi walking around and all, but he too has common sense. When people fight here, they don’t use supernatural powers. Even Joji Kaname is just this really muscular guy; he doesn’t punch with superhuman strength, and yet the creators manage to portray him as this crazy stuntman. This is something that very few anime get right: juggling the balance between realism and entertainment.

But seriously, the chemistry between the characters just keeps getting better and better.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

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