"A hero will never give up, never hide, never be defeated and never accept evil!"
Firmly believing these words, Masayoshi Hazama has been obsessed with superhero shows since childhood. By day, he earns his living as a famous model, and by night, he becomes the gallant hero Samurai Flamenco. Armed with only his superhero costume, he seeks to bring justice to the city and faces anybody who tries to break the law—even rebellious juveniles and people who litter on the street.
Masayoshi's heroic antics later catch the attention of the public, leading to the fateful discovery of his identity by policeman Hidenori Gotou. Although initially telling Masayoshi to leave the crime-busting activities to the police, Gotou ends up joining him in his antics. However, things soon escalate from preventing littering and petty thefts to bizarre adventures that involve even the fate of the world. Together with their newfound comrades, Masayoshi and Gotou embark on a battle with the world and themselves in order to find the true meaning of being a hero—with or without superpowers.
#1: "JUST ONE LIFE" by SPYAIR (eps 1-11) #2: "Ai Ai Ai ni Utarete Bye Bye Bye (愛愛愛に撃たれてバイバイバイ)" by FLOW (eps 12-22)
#1: "Date TIME (デートTIME)" by Mineral Miracle Muse (ミネラル★ミラクル★ミューズ) (eps 1-9, 11) #2: "Namida Hoshi (涙星)" by Haruka Tomatsu (ep 10) #3: "Flight 23-ji (フライト23時)" by Mineral Miracle Muse (ミネラル★ミラクル★ミューズ) (eps 12-21) #4: "Macaron DAYS (マカロンDAYS)" by Mineral Miracle Muse (ミネラル★ミラクル★ミューズ) (ep 22)
Samurai Flamenco is a strange animal. Despite its conventional appearance, it is full of twists and turns. Overall, Samumenco addresses its core themes very effectively, primarily the theme of heroism. It has likeable and developed characters with distinct personality traits. It also comments on general character/plot tropes, mainly involving heroes and villains, as well as the sentai/tokusatsu genres. (And doesn’t always take itself too seriously while doing so.)
It’s hard to find a show like this where you truly don’t know what to expect. It may be for this very reason that this show received such widespread negative reception: it's a bit quirky, but it
isn't initially apparent whether or not it's trying to be. Many would say that Samumenco isn't quite sure what it wants to be. But now that it’s over, I can say that I’m very glad I stuck with it and that the writers had a clear objective in mind, even though the execution of that vision wasn’t always apparent.
It starts out as a slice-of-life about an eccentric wannabe superhero, and proceeds to go through two major tone/plot shifts. The plot is paced somewhat erratically, and many might find the plot twists jarring. However, both of these shifts contribute to the overall themes of the story.
At its best, Samumenco’s art and animation is solid. At its worst, the animation was pretty awkward. Unfortunately there were often moments where poor animation detracted from the experience as a whole. While this can be forgiven for background characters, there were some important moments that would have had more impact if not for the distraction of poor animation. I think it would have been interesting if Samumenco had a style of animation that mirrored its eccentricity, but for the most part, things are pretty conventional.
The OST itself wasn’t especially memorable. The BGM fit the mood well, but there were no standouts. The OPs are enjoyable and fit the tone. (Personally, I really liked them both and they got me excited for each episode.)
The characters range in development, but overall they were all believable and likeable. The eccentric main character, Masayoshi, is an upstanding young man with a strong vision of heroism. What he lacks in ability, he makes up for in spirit, which is pretty darn endearing. Another major standout was Maya Mari. The story starts out from the POV of the other male lead, Gotou, the "average joe" who gets fleshed out gradually, if not as thoroughly as some other main characters. Some of the characters had very distinct and often conflicting personalities, which made their interactions very entertaining to watch. (A good example being Masayoshi and Mari’s contrasting senses of justice.)
Although there are a lot of fields that Samumenco could have improved in, I still enjoyed it thoroughly. There are both serious and humorous quoteable moments. I found myself crying and then laughing at some points. The humor varies from a little tongue-in-cheek to downright hammy and ridiculous.
I really loved the initial concept of the show, and was a little sad to see the plot veer from the slice-of-life superheroes plot of the first segment. For a period of time I wasn’t sure what to feel, as the rapid plot and tone shifts made it seem as though the show was going through a rebellious teenage phase. However, after a certain point everything fell together (albeit somewhat messily), and I would recommend that anyone who is interested should give it a chance and stick with it.
Some shows jump the shark, while others perform a Samurai Flamenco.
Deconstructions are some of the most demanding and intricate kinds of stories to pull off. It requires the creator to have proper knowledge of the formula they're trying to deviate from by understanding how the tropes and trappings of said formula should be incorporated, in order for it to feel natural. With the right pedigree of writing and proper usage of the commonalities associated with the given formula needed, the creator is expected to build the illusion to the viewer that they're simply following the setup they've already experienced countless of times before. And during
this stint of limbo, where the viewer is caught up in the illusion, the creator then proceeds to dismantle and "deconstruct" the formula that the viewer had grown accustomed to. While it may seem like a relatively simple process, all it takes are a few missteps for it to implode on itself. And more often than not, if the writing for the show is shoddy at best, the end result can be more of a trainwreck than anything noteworthy (School Days can attest to that).
But perhaps the biggest reason that causes most deconstructions to fall flat on its face can often be something as simple as neglecting the fundamental building blocks of proper storytelling, more specifically, in this case, foreshadowing. Without it, things can come across as manipulated or just "ass-pulled" into the narrative. Proper foreshadowing is what allow the transition from following a formula to subverting it to feel natural. And when foreshadowing is non-existent, well..., we get things like episode 7 of Samurai Flamenco.
Samurai Flamenco is a weird anime title, to say the very least. It's a satire, homage, parody, reconstruction, and deconstruction of the super sentai/superhero genre, all wrapped up in one. And if the idea of that sounds insanely convoluted to you, well, that's because it is. While the intentions it had was genuine, the presentation and overall direction it took to see its vision through fell short of the mark. And of course, many will simply single out the tonal/genre shift of the infamous 7th episode as their point of contention, but that was just one of many blunders the title made during its 22-episode run. At the end of the day, Flamenco just bit off more than it could chew.
Brief history lesson: the Super Sentai phenomena have been something that has grown synonymous with Japanese culture with both live-action shows (Ultraman) and animated ones (Hurricane Polymar), for over 30 years. For the most part, it illustrates the fight between good and evil forces, and during its heyday, was a primary tool used to teach kids that "justice always prevail." Usually portraying a team of color-coded heroes, with the help of high-tech gadgets, they fight off evil forces that threaten the stability of mankind. Due to its kid-friendly programming, it didn't take long for it to gain success overseas, which eventually brought it stateside, most prominently with the cobbled together The Power Rangers franchise. The Super Sentai series are basically more kid-friendly versions of superhero shows (4Kids level if you will). As such, the super sentai genre has become a part of many people's childhood. And that's where a title like Samurai Flamenco comes in.
Now with that out of the way, Flamenco can be split into two parts: the first being along the lines of a traditional coming of age story told through the setup of a superhero origin tale and the latter half being a super sentai show along the veins of Power Rangers. Following our protagonist Masayoshi Hazama, we see his journey from a petty enforcer of the law, tackling trivial matters like recycling and obeying traffic signs, to him being caught up in higher stakes that escalate as the story moves forward. Similar to movies like 2010's Kick-Ass and Super, the 1st half of the show is more of a satirical parody of what the traditional superhero story is generally comprised of. While possessing no real superpower or qualities of a superhero, to begin with, most of the charm of the 1st half is seeing an average Joe attempt to live up to the role of the TV-show superhero icon of his youth. The fact that his "heroics" was no different than what anyone else can do themselves went a long way in grounding the show in reality. He was simply a vigilantly running around in spandex and as such, we see the real-life repercussions of those actions. In real life, a guy running around a city with his underwear worn over his bodysuit "defending justice" would be viewed more like a lunatic and nuisance than an actual "hero," and the show knows that. In a way, it exposes the childish ideals that those super sentai/superhero shows were trying to feed kids growing up by treating situation realistically. It's an externalized reflection of the mentality of us as we grow past such juvenile ideas and "face the music" of what life is truly is. And to be honest, if the show had continued to take this approach, that would have been enough to make it a solid satirical parody, but that just wasn't the case.
Now where the controversy comes into play is the show's 2nd half. It transitions from what was, to that point, a down-to-earth parody of a superhero story, to a show that turns into a full-fledged supernatural super sentai deconstruction. This shift from a grounded account to an "out of this world" supernatural one was done with no foreshadowing or build-up whatsoever, and as a result, caused a whiplash of adverse reactions among viewers that didn't see it coming. The negative backlash the show received was harsh and rightfully so. It isn't the viewers' fault, but rather the show for not handling the transition better. It didn't have to give away too much, but if it had simply dropped a few foretelling signs and hints throughout the narrative, its tonal shift would have been better received. Instead, it felt more like an out-of-place plot twist that had no business being there. While this was partially explained to those that finished the show, by that time, the damage was already done. This poorly handled decision was perhaps this show's biggest blunder.
Not only was the tonal shift not handled well but the 2nd misstep was that the show crossed the line from being a parody to becoming the subject matter it was making fun of, to begin with. It would be like if someone were promoting equality but then turned around to proclaim themselves as a racist. It's contrived and defeats the purpose of the first action performed. While it still did an excellent job paying tribute to the super sentai genre, it did so with subtext that didn't match up with what was established in the show's 1st half. Tying back to what I was saying about this show taking on more than it can chew, the attempts at a deconstruction clashed with the narrative because of the already firm satirical stance the show had taken early on.
Both the 1st half and the 2nd could have worked respectfully on their own, but when combined, they didn't have proper cohesion, and as a result, felt forcefully tact onto each other. It's like going from watching Neon Genesis Evangelion to the 2nd arc turning into Pokemon. Just because both titles have proxy battles, doesn't mean they should be bundled together as a single viewing experience. That's essentially what Flamenco did in a nutshell.
This mismatched exhibition wasn't limited to just the narrative either.
Like the show, the cast also ranged from down-to-earth to wacky. Some characters feel somewhat believable to what you'll find in the real world, like Hidenori Gotou, the show's person of reason and friend to our protagonist. But then, on the other side of the spectrum, the antagonists can range from street-level thugs to batshit crazy megalomaniacs akin to a Saturday morning cartoon. The further the show goes down the spiral of nonsense, the more ludicrous the characters involve becomes. Even our person of reason is shown to have a rather disturbing backstory revealed towards the latter half of the show, almost as if the writers wanted to take him down to coo-coo land with the rest of the nut jobs introduced.
The lead protagonist, Masayoshi Hazama, was nothing more than a man-child, being an adult with the mindset of an adolescent. As such, most of his actions are done to counteract the rational mindset of Gotou in the show's beginning. This, of course, changes as the title progresses forward, but I'll leave that tidbit for you to discover yourself. There is also a handful of supporting characters that get caught up in the fray, but for the most part, Gotou and Hazama are the characters that take up most of the limelight and relevance in the story.
The art and animation for Flamenco were a cut above average but nothing overly impressive. While the choreography of some of the action scenes was stiff at times, they still were serviceable enough to get a pass. The color palette of the 1st half is somewhat subdued and tamed, which fit quite well with the realistic tone it was aiming to serve. Later on, that was swapped out for a more schizophrenic display of color and elasticity, which helped in ramping things up a notch, matching the new up-tempo tone that the show took on.
The sound department, for the most part, was an appropriate mix of rock, funk, latino and other superhero-esque flavoring used to add a nice punch to any given scene. It also doubled up as a means to establish atmosphere while also adding life where the animation couldn't perform on its own. The voice acting was also a cut above average with everyone involved delivering a satisfactory performance. Special mention for Juurouta Kosugi, who did a great job bringing the character of Jouji Kaname to life by providing a particular type of machismo hamminess to the way he talked.
Now, with the general rundown out of the way, the best thing to take away from Flamenco is to understand what it was trying to do, rather than how its efforts panned out. The more you comprehend its intent, the more you could grow to appreciate it. The problems, however, stems deeper than that, and depending on how demanding of a viewer you are, might determine just how much you're able to tolerate from Flamenco to get those ideas tucked away inside it.
While the show failed to deconstruct the super sentai genre accurately, it still did so in an entertaining and spectacular fiasco. It was so "out there" that I couldn't help but be entertained by its nonsense. It was certainly a unique experience that will stick with me, and despite not holding up as well as I was hoping it would, it was still something I was happy I watched.
Samurai Flamenco is what happens when writers forget the importance of foreshadowing. It made a complete 180 in tone and genre without letting it gradually build up to that point, which in turn led to the notorious viewer backlash that's usually associated with those that hear of it. It was an interesting idea on paper but what we got instead was a failed attempt at a deconstruction that became the joke it was making fun of. Despite that, I suggest giving it a try, as it is an experience within itself that you can't honestly find anywhere else.
Firstly, it's important to note that Samurai Flamenco is not exactly your typical anime. There are a few genre shifts and plot twists that can seem to come out of nowhere, and for that reason a lot of people dropped this anime after the first shift or the second and gave it a low rating. Even I was apprehensive at first at the sudden genre shifts. However, I stuck the anime out until the end to give it a 'fair try' and I am very glad that I did. The final arc wrapped up the story very nicely and the last episode left me coming
away from the whole thing feeling generally satisfied.
However, this review is also a review spurred about by my third watch of the show, so I've had more time to fully grasp the story and come to love it for what it is.
First of all, the most important thing and what really tied this anime together for me and made it so worthwhile -
Characters - 10/10.
Honestly, this show's story did sort of fall flat in a lot of ways. However, the characters were very genuine and fleshed out, and they felt real - some of the best characters I've seen in a recent anime. Masayoshi, Goto and Moe in particular will probably remain in my heart for a long time, as they just felt so genuine and really breathed a lot of life and enjoyment into the show that might not have been there otherwise.
Story - 7/10
It's not bad, but it's definitely not the best story out there either. There are four arcs to Samurai Flamenco - and some of these arcs were better than others. Particularly I found the 1st and 4th arcs good, but this does not mean that the others were necessarily bad - they just felt out of place or oddly-paced at times. It was easy to forget what I was even 'supposed' to be watching, as the plot kept shifting so suddenly.
Art - 7/10
Again, not bad, but not the best either. It's definitely not anything extraordinarily beautiful. However, it's well-animated and the art isn't glaringly bad or anything. Just your typical standard anime fare. The art style was particularly refreshing, however, in my personal opinion, as it seemed to look a little more 'realistic' than your usual anime (the proportions weren't as completely skewed as you usually see; it was more akin to FMA: Brotherhood in anatomy.)
Sound - 9/10
The OST is very good and I find myself listening to it every now and then, especially the Flamengers theme and the opening "Just One Life." All in all nice though there were a few songs that stuck out as seeming a little out of place (Usankusai comes to mind, though it wasn't necessarily bad, just... out of place.)
Enjoyment - 9/10
Keep in mind this is a rating upon rewatching the series and seeing it all really come together now that I understood what was happening. Depending on how well you can understand what's going on this may be lower.
Overall - 8/10
The point with Samurai Flamenco is to go into it with a truly open mind. If you go in expecting a certain type of show, you are very likely to end up disappointed - as the genre shifts a few times. Overall, however, the characters really make the whole thing worthwhile, and this will probably remain one of my favorite anime for a very long time.
There’s something that really grabbed me when I began watching samurai flamenco and I think it was its charming blend of humor and realism. But the charm just petered out when the show decided to do a 100% overhaul in tone and thought process. While the initial realism still can be seen fossilized in some of the satirical ideas and jokes throughout the series, they’re overall very thinly spread. I want to tell you that this is anime Kick-Ass but it’s just not. The show’s opportunity to be a brilliant satire or at least meta-commentary of superheroes is sprinkled throughout, but the end result of
action and pointless, unfulfilling arcs soars over the simplicity that made the show good to begin with.
The sound and the aesthetics of the show do their job as good as they can, but should be mentioned for doing an admirable job being there. SF suffers from being one of the shows that repeats background music as mercilessly as its bland villains. Interestingly enough the battle and villain music are repeated the most, making a lot of the fights seem more repetitive and grating given the repetition of the writing too. I will say both openers were appropriate given the rising action of the first half and the continued action of the second half. The openings do the best part of showcasing the character’s goals and dreams, honestly better than the rest of the show did. And while little breaks the mold in terms of art and story, the openings honestly did the best at showcasing the ideas and character design the creators wanted to happen in early, better thought out, and less rushed drafts of the entire project.
The plot for sure rises and builds on itself, but its sequence of events is plotted like an erratic heart rate. Jesus Christ I felt like I should have called a doctor on episodes 8 and 17 because the plotting was going into cardiac arrest. The shifts in what the show wants to do with its plotting are so janky they’re feats in and of themselves. Yes samurai flamenco goes to fight the forces of evil, but Masaoshi stops growing as a person when monsters start falling out of the sky and wreaking havoc. This again shows the unsure and lofty goals of the anime. Masaoshi grows and is a hyperbolic but interesting little soul, but never grows out of that, nor does his team. Goto’s subplot of lost love is by far the most interesting, but even the way the show explores it towards the end isn’t fully realized. The way he copes with his past is interesting and yanks on your heart strings without mercy. It’s something that could have been put throughout the show rather than squeezed in during the third arc of the series.
The characters personality traits are more a rogue’s gallery of quirks that never really go anywhere or influence action or decision-making plot points in the show. I liked that in the beginning Goto immediately has a conflict of interest between his job and helping someone he saved. Mari’s conceited character became more so when she has a chance to hone it as the first of the flamenco girls and she grows in the beginning. But as soon as the show’s tone escalates from a contemporary setting to a larger-than-life superhero setting, the character development flatlines and doesn’t get better. Sure Masaoshi develops better bonds with the characters around him, but that gets him a spare tool from Jun that might work in one situation or moral support from Jouji in another. There’s not a lot of deep or complex staying power in the bonds that he develops with the other characters. The only time it happens is in the climax with Goto, and even then the resolution turns into a ridiculous naked joke. I wanted all of this to be better but it just tried to do so many things and missed all of its marks.