Title: Samurai Flamenco (TV)
Animation Company: Manglobe
Aired: Fall 2013 – Winter 2014
Number of episodes: 22
Summary: Samurai Flamenco is the story of 19 year-old Hazama Masayoshi, a boy in love with the idea of justice, wanting to live the dream of being the superhero he adored on TV, along with policeman Gotoh Hidenori, as well as many other friends that join him in his crime fighting adventures.
Sidekick’s Review/Final Impressions:
THIS SHOW. I AM BEYOND HAPPY IT EXISTS. Now, I’m not going to pretend Samflam doesn’t have its fair share of problems. It really does. The most noticeable being the horrible animation of course, as well as some gripes I had with the way the series handled its narrative when it tried to escalate the story (and they escalate the story many, many times). Still, it is by far the most unique anime I’ve seen in an extremely long time. I’d like to explain why.
Story (10 flamencos out of 10) : This part is difficult to write about without too many spoilers. The thing that makes Samurai Flamenco so unique (and so polarizing) is that it uses the idea of world-building to redefine the laws of the universe its characters exist in to continue the story, to up the ante of the story. This means that the setting of the story is continually evolving, with new elements being introduced very often, usually without much foreshadowing. While I must agree that some ‘arcs’ or the story, or iterations of it if I can call it that, take awhile to get going and do sometimes peak a little early, they are by no means badly written. Each arc greatly contributes to the overarching message(s) of the series, and constantly challenges the viewer to rethink their opinion on various issues – eg. the traditional idea of good versus evil, the potential harmfulness of the consumption of media, the disconnect between youthful fantasies and the harsh reality of society today, our outlook towards the idea of whether heroes are necessary in our lives et cetera, I could go on, but that would already be spoiling so much of the fun in Samurai Flamenco.
I also particularly enjoy how incredibly witty the dialogue in Samurai Flamenco is. This series has a fantastic way with words in that many lines of dialogue in the series actually make rather interesting and thought-provoking statements that sometimes amount to political and social satire. This of course translates to the series’ amazing sense of humor. The series also knows when to have fun and not take things too seriously – never losing its edge, while also retaining its comical nature. (One of my favourite punchlines in the series: ‘Eromanga, Australia’)
My favourite part about Samurai Flamenco’s story, and the series as a whole, was the earnestness of its core messages. We really don’t get such inspiring and thought-provoking themes in our anime very often anymore. I really cannot emphasize enough just how much I appreciate what it was trying to convey to the audience. Also, a short mention of the finale of Samurai Flamenco. It was perfect. That is all.
Characters (8/10 I guess): Characterization is not exactly Samflam’s strongest suit. This continuous introduction of new elements to the story mean that with such a huge cast many characters get minimal amount of screentime to be developed, but the writers do a fantastic job at making each character very fun and memorable. I do wish the Flamengers and Flamenco Girls got a bit more time in the spotlight, but considering the amount of episodes the series had to work with, I’d say there really isn’t much to complain about. Samurai Flamenco is honestly not that much of a character-driven drama as the series’d like you to believe when it comes to the side characters apart from Masayoshi, our resident crime fighter Samurai Flamenco himself.
The story revolves around Masayoshi growing up and out of his childlike fantasies, understanding that society is not what he imagined, that there is never a clear line between good and evil…and Masayoshi himself is a fantastically written protagonist for this role. He is naive and idealistic, extremely stubborn and socially awkward, has an unhealthy love for the idea of justice and the complete eradication of ‘evil’, but he was also incredibly earnest and kind-hearted. Seeing him slowly (or quickly, actually) learn what it truly means to be a hero, the responsibilities that come with it and what not was a real sight to behold. The entire direction of the story is focused towards his personal growth and maturity, and it really shows.
The other lead character of the series, Gotoh Hidenori, is also another expertly written character. His appearance is that of a man who understood the workings of society, but damn will you be surprised at what kind of a character he becomes by the end of the series. His relationship with Masayoshi (THE NATURE OF SAID RELATIONSHIP SHALL NOT BE DISCUSSED HERE) was really heartwarming and sincere, and the two of them have some seriously amazing character interactions. (Though to be honest Masayoshi>Gotoh if the amount of words I used to describe the both of them does not make it evident) Other characters like Red Axe, Doctor Harazuka, Masayoshi’s manager Ishihara were all tons of fun as well, and all had their moments that really stood out.
Art and Animation (3/10, no argument about this one): Geez, do we really need to talk about this? If you thought Kill La Kill was a cheap-looking series I highly suggest you forcefully lower your standards of animation quality before checking this series out. I am not joking when I say many frames in the anime (not just the in-between frames!) look like they were drawn by a 5-year old. Animation is incredibly jerky most of the time, and it lacks lots of details that I really wish could have been included. The colour palette used by the series is another problem I had as well. It was justified during the earlier episodes of the series given its more down-to-earth nature, but it really could’ve used brighter, bolder colours and lines to give it a better look after the first arc. It is just really sad that Samurai Flamenco had barely any budget at all. I actually thought they would have to pull a Gainax budget-saving method a la the paper puppets episode in Kare Kano. Still, where it really (/really really/) counts the animation managed to deliver – particularly when it came to close-up shots of characters’ facial expressions that were important in conveying a message to the viewer.
Sound (6.5 out of 10): I’m going to be honest, apart from the fantastic OP and ED themes (I love both FLOW and Spyair so the OPs were a real treat for me) the score for this series was not memorable. Heck, while the EDs were both really fun and catchy tracks they just do not fit the tone of the story very well especially in later episodes. I can’t remember a single track in the series that I actually took notice of, which was quite a shame. Voice-acting on the other hand though, was fantastic. Tomokazu Sugita performing excellently as Gotoh is pretty much a given, but I was genuinely surprised by how good Masuda Toshiki was with his portrayal of Masayoshi. Masayoshi’s childlike demeanor was just so well done, considering this VA’s very limited experience. The same can be said for every other character in the series really, just a bit shame that not every character got the time they really deserved to be in the spotlight.
Samurai Flamenco is a very odd series, to say the least. It defies conventional methods of storytelling in anime, tackling various angles in the superhero genre, and makes bold, daring statements on countless issues, all while being entertaining, inspiring and memorable as can be. It’s not going to be for everyone, but if you’re up for a challenge, this definitely needs to go down as an essential addition to your watch list. There is simply nothing like it.
Once again, I really haven’t been digging the use of a numerical rating to gauge my overall enjoyment of the series (especially something such as samflam), but since that seems to make or break the decision to check the series out for most people… At gunpoint and stripped naked (teehee) I would give it a 9/10? It could trend upwards depending on my mood, and I’m really tempted to give it a perfect score, but there were just minor issues I had with the series I find hard to overlook completely. Still, it will easily make its way into my list of favourites if I ever plan to do a proper list, and is without a doubt my favourite anime from 2013.
Until then, goodbye Flamwenco Universe!