Everything’s Here But…
While watching Samurai Flamenco I couldn’t help but notice the show shares a flaw with it’s prominent theme. The main character, Hazama, struggles with his sense of identity in his pursuit of justice. In the same way, the show struggles to tow the line between genre parody and its more serious narrative elements. So would I recommend this one? Yeah, but it comes with a pretty big caveat. Let me explain.
If you’ve ever seen the live-action film, Kick-Ass, then the first 8 episodes of Samurai Flamenco should be familiar to you even if you don’t have much knowledge of the Super Sentai genre. After being raised by his grandfather who told him tales of the fictional Flamenco’s exploits, Hazama has longed aspired to be a hero himself and uphold his own, quite ridged, sense of justice. The only problem is that he kind of sucks, despite all the preparation he’s done up into adulthood. It isn’t until he forms an unlikely bond with a police officer named Gotou that his vigilante efforts finally begin to take off.
Each episode in this 8 episode introduction escalates, much like the rest of the show, but in a way that’s grounded and logical. Eventually a second vigilante joins the mix, “Flamenco Girl”, an idol-by-day, magical-girl-by-night who shares in Hazama’s vision, at least superficially. These dynamics between the characters, what justice means to them, and the “slow” escalation of events is when Samurai Flamenco is at its absolute best.
Throughout these 8 episodes the show is not shy about being a comedy series but has a firm grasp on the more serious, and mature, elements of the narrative it wants to present. Well, not quite, because episode 8 is actually where the show really starts to get in the way of itself. I’m going to describe the plot of episode 8 to you now, and yeah, it’ll spoil some stuff but I promise it will in no way impact your viewing experience.
Hazama has become successful in getting the crime rate pretty low in Japan. It’s peaceful, but it leaves him with little to do. Simultaneously, he learns that his parents didn’t die of an illness, but instead were murdered overseas. So naturally he struggles with the life he once knew, and the life he know has. Ultimately, he doesn’t want revenge and he kind of hates himself for it. Where is his sense of justice? Additionally, he should be happy that he’s succeeded in his goal but is that really enough? Then he gets over it instantly and is made honorary police chief for a day. He’s there to help with a drug bust superficially. It’s all going well until one of the people the police goes to arrest turns into a giant guillotine gorilla (yeah, it’s what it sounds like) who begins slaughtering the police. After narrowly defeating the monster with the help of Gotou, a villain named “King Torture” appears as a projection in the sky in front of Hazama, declaring he is the source of all evil.
I’ll be the first to admit, when you describe this it sounds so insane that you kind of want to check it out. I mean, how could you not want to? While this all goes somewhere, and none of the plot elements go to waste, literally every question raised by the show is answered by the end, it should be easy to see how the show got in the way of itself in the above example. The part about Hazama struggling with his self-identity is barely a footnote compared to the rest of the episode summary.
I’m all for genre parody, I enjoy that sort of thing, and I do think Samurai Flamenco is successful to that end, but it’s clear that this original story wanted to be more than just a few laughs. It has something to say, but the message is muddied, if not entirely lost at times, as a result of over committing to its jokes, forgetting to slow down and allow some breathing room for its most interesting ideas.
Still, the show does manage a few standout moments where it mostly gets this balancing act right. It’s just a shame that those are so far and few between. It also felt great to have this tight narrative, where nothing was wasted. Like eating a hearty meal, it was filling and satisfying, but occasionally some bites would be cold or overly dry, resulting in a mixed dinning experience. It’s something you can’t help but have enjoyed, but ultimately leaves you feeling lacking along the way.
That’s why I gave this one a 7/10 at the end of the day. It’s very well written and clearly understands the genre, but I also think the show gets in the way of itself. It has a more serious story to tell, but doesn’t allow breathing room for it. Instead everything is constantly at “11”, escalating and brushing aside the plot points it only just brought up for the sake of parody. Competent show, would recommend it, especially for genre fans, but it is somewhat exhausting and fails to really deliver on its most interesting ideas despite having a tight narrative where nothing is truly left out.
This was just a quick write up, and expanded review of one of my weekly anime round up posts in my Discord. A patron wanted to see this as a review proper on the site, so I hope it is enjoyed to that effect. If you want to become one of those, or support me as a one time deal, you can check those out via the buttons below. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on Samurai Flamenco in the comments. Thanks for reading, and until next time!