Friday 11 October 2013

First Impressions: Samurai Flamenco

Samurai Flamenco anime Manglobe

Samurai Flamenco was certainly the wildcard choice for my winter season 2013 anime picks. For months on end there was next to no information revealed about it, other than it airing on Fuji-TV's prestigious Noitamina programming block, that it was by studio Manglobe (responsible for Deadman Wonderland and Ergo Proxy, among others) and would somehow involve superheroes. As its air date drew closer and closer, this show began to sound more and more appealing as it was said to be a love letter to classic Japanese tokusatsu shows such as Kamen Rider and the like. Well, there was only one way to find out if this was true or not!

In this first episode we meet 19-year-old male model Masayoshi Hazama who has decided to follow his childhood dream of becoming a superhero, despite having no special powers or technology. Inspired by the tokusatsu heroes he followed as a child and the suit his grandfather made for him, he becomes the costumed superhero "Samurai Flamenco" and aims to fight crime with a burning sense of truth and justice. Unfortunately he doesn't quite have the skills to back this up, and a scuffle with a drunk doesn't quite go the way he planned. It's after this he meets Hidenori Goto - a cop with a much weaker sense of justice. The two strike up a friendship and the rest is likely to be history!

Even if you ignore the Kamen Rider reference five minutes into the episode, Samurai Flamenco truly is the love letter to classic tokusatsu shows it was said to be. From the obvious homages in Masayoshi's favourite shows to his collection room and "hero suit", the production team's love for the shows that still capture Japanese childrens' hearts to today is very clear. However if you're not a fan of toku shows then there's still a lot to be loved here, as its a different take on the superhero genre that seems to have proved very popular in anime since the success of Tiger & Bunny. Think of it as an anime version of Kick Ass, with less crass but just as much humour. Masayoshi certainly has the spirit to become a hero, but the skill? Well, just see how he fares against drunks and street gangs, let alone supervillains...

However it isn't just the setting that makes this first episode a triumph, its the characters. The majority is told from the perspective of Hidenori, who is proving to be the complete opposite of Masayoshi. A cynical cop (which when you think about it makes him a "real life superhero") with low trust in justice, his relationship with the city's new masked hero is bound to be troublesome but in true storytelling style it's immediately obvious that they will eventually begin to rub off on each other.

Finally the animation is great, which makes Samurai Flamenco pretty much a winner all-around. Between this and Kill la Kill, I feel really spoiled for top quality anime shows this season. 

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