The Yomota family is small and typical: father Kinekuni (42), mother Tamiko (38), and son Inumaru (17). One day, a beautiful girl appears at their front door, calling herself "Maroko Yomota," granddaughter of Inumaru who travels back in time with a time machine to visit her ancestors. Even with Tamiko's strong objection, Kinekuni and Inumaru welcome her to stay with them, and the structure of a happy family has begun to collapse.
Gosenzosama Banbanzai is by far one of the most unorthodox anime I have ever experienced, it breaks the conventional methods of storytelling we commonly see in anime for something much more unique and experimental. The entire story is told in the style of a theatrical play filled with asides, monologues, and backgrounds that rise and fall like props on a stage.
The anime begins by following the peculiar life of a seventeen year old boy named Inumaru who lives with his mother and father, he wants to get out of the house to experience life but at the same time is too scared of society to do so. Inumaru waits for something insane and chaotic to happen that will completely change his otherwise mundane life. One day Inumaru’s wish comes true when he hears someone ring the doorbell, when he looks to see who it is he sees a beautiful girl, his parents warn him not to let her in, thinking that’s she’s probably trying to sell them some useless product or something along those lines. Inumaru completely ignores his parent’s warnings and allows chaos to enter his life.
The girl introduces herself as Maroko and claims to be Inumaru’s granddaughter who came to visit her ancestors in a time machine from the future. While Inumaru’s family does not believe her at first they being to consider it as true when she shows them the star shaped birthmark on her behind which only members of Inumaru’s family have. But is this mysterious girl really telling the truth, does Inumaru believe her ridiculous story, and what changes will she bring to his family and his otherwise mundane life?
One of the things that first caught my eye while watching Gosenzosama Banbanzai is how witty and well written the monologues and dialogues were, they often feel very poetic and give deep insight on the state of the cast, they also often feature meta elements, pointing out things such as who is a main character who is just a secondary, how bizarre the events of the story were, and even story telling elements such as deus ex machinas and foreshadowing. The play felt like it was self-aware of the fact that it was a play, in later episodes this became even clearer as things such as lighting fixtures fell onto the set.
Another interesting thing that Gosenzosama Banbanzai excelled at was the framing of its story, each episode began by talking about a particular species of bird and how it breeds and raises its youth. As you expect the events of each episode’s bird paralleled various aspects of the cast, for instance the first episode discussed the cuckoo which plants its eggs in the nest of other birds, the same way Maroko infiltrated Inumaru’s family. These segments are surprisingly well handled and while some of the parallels are pretty obvious other require the audience to really think in order to understand what the anime is alluding to.
They story begins very simply but slowly spirals down becoming more abstract and fragmented as the episodes go on, the last two episodes in particular were simply insane and had some segments that bordered being purely nonsensical, in a good way. The finale was simply brilliant and tied up the themes of the show rather well while staying a bit ambiguous, making the audience have to think for themselves about what happened. Was Maroko telling the truth, or was it all an elaborate ruse like that of the cuckoo.
Gosenzosama Banbanzai was animated by studio Pierrot and they did a brilliant job, one of the most notable visual features that makes Gosenzosama Banbanzai stand out is how the character designs resemble puppets, with their limbs having little crevices in them similar to that of wooden puppets. This fits the theatrical conceit as the characters are nothing more than actors in a play. The amazing direction and interactive backgrounds which flipped, rose, fell, and dropped down like the cardboard backgrounds one would find in a play was also really well handled. In terms of fluency and consistency Gosenzosama Banbanzai was pretty solid, there were very few ugly in-between shots and for something from 1989 the animation was pretty fluent during some of the more important scenes.
All around Gosenzosama Banbanzai is a one of a kind work that I would highly recommend to someone looking for something unique and eccentric. If you enjoy watching anime that are a little more abstract and experimental this one is definitely worth a shot. read more