Tuesday 10 October 2017

First Impressions: Time Bokan: The Villains' Strike Back

Time Bokan: The Villains' Strike Back
Time Bokan: The Villains' Strike Back is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

One of the weirder additions to the history books last year was Time Bokan 24 - the newest instalment in Tatsunoko Productions' popular Time Bokan series of shows. And while the show ended in March with confirmation that a second season was indeed in the works, it has now returned under the new title Time Bokan: The Villains' Strike Back. So prepare for twenty-something more episodes of time travelling shenanigans with famous figures from across the ages, only this time something feels different...

Six months after the events of the previous season, things have changed quite a bit for the Space-Time Administration Bureau. There's a new commander in chief, and Pikobo and Peralina have left the Bureau to go on their separate ways. Even the missions have become more straightforward, as Tokio discovers when he and Calen are ordered to simply go and protect Thomas Edison's Dynamond from the Akudama Trio. But back in time the Akudama have already crossed paths with Edison, and are learning first hand about both his inventions and the "super surprising" meaning behind his famous "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration" quote.

From the first episode alone it's immediately clear that we now have a very different Time Bokan 24 on our hands. Gone are the "real histories" and off the wall perversions of history books and mythology, replaced with a show that is trying to be somewhat educational in its usual over the top way. The show's interpretation of Edison is still pretty crazy, but at least now it's keeping him as an inventor and not some other crazy profession that the writers seemingly pulled randomly from a hat. Couple that with the change in character focus as well as the inexplicable dropping of some minor side characters and you have a show that looks the same as its predecessor but doesn't quite have the same feel.

Let's start with the change in focus. As the series tagline suggests, presumably this season is going to be all about the Akudama Trio and this particular episode doesn't do anything to dispel that notion. But rather than have the season be about the bad guys just swooping in and winning (which is what I initially assumed would be the case), the episode instead pretty much has them taking the role of protagonist. They don't just meet up with Edison first, they're also the ones that help him through his inspiration troubles and are earn his Dynamond fair and square. Only afterwards to Tokio and Calen swoop in and steal it from them after one of the show's obligatory mecha battles. It's actually pretty damn frustrating to watch the Akudama Trio put in all the hard work and then have the rewards taken away from them, and if the show is going to make a weekly habit of it then it's only going to get even moreso. It's akin to watching those handful of Wacky Races episodes where it actually looks like Dick Dastardly is going to win for once, only to have it pulled away from him at the last minute. Only this time the bad guys haven't cheated to get to this point.

On the subject of the obligatory MechaButon fight, given that a portion of this show is dedicated to selling toys its surprising that this episode didn't really indicate towards any big new toys or gimmicks for the season. There was of course a new MechaButon combination, but then when isn't there? Not that no blatant toy shilling is in any way a bad thing, but again it was such an obvious part of the previous season that to have it suddenly disappear feels pretty strange. But then again, judging by the end of the episode that could all be set to change in the coming weeks. Either way the "heroes" just plain weren't enjoyable here. It's a pretty interesting role reversal to see them just turn out and have their own way, so I really hope there are plans to actually do something interesting with this as the show progresses. And on a side note, their new companion robot 0-3 isn't a patch on Pikobo.

Time Bokan 24 definitely needed a shakeup if it was going to successfully pull off another 24 episodes. The concept was just as prone to misses as it was hits, and the lack of deliverance on it's overarching story left it with a pretty unsatisfying finale. Time Bokan: The Villains' Strike Back is certainly the change it needed, but whether this is the right way to go about it is yet to be seen. It was fun to watch the Akudama Trio get beaten every week when they deserved it, but not so much when they're quite clearly the heroes of the piece. But hey, if the show wants to go and pull a Yatterman Night on us and prove that every villain has it's day then go right ahead - that'll be something well worth watching.


DP said...

What a criminally underrated show Yatterman Night was. As messed up as the final episode was technically, its take on heroism, though more straightforward than many had hoped for based on its early episodes, was remarkably powerful and resonant.

Alex said...

Completely agree, one of my favourite shows in recent years.