Samurai Flamenco is a superhero show, which is rather ironic because much like a costumed vigilante the series could be accused of having dual identities. Comic book fans have often speculated whether the real Bruce Wayne is a billionaire playboy or the solemn protector of Gotham. After watching the first half of Samurai Flamenco I have a similar question. Is this Manglobe series an animated clone of Kick-Ass or a zany Power Rangers parody? The opening seven episodes suggest the former, but after an unexpected twist the latter is probably more accurate. Subverting audience expectations can be a risky game. Puella Magi Madoka Magica hooked in viewers by pretending to be a cute magical girl show before morphing into something deeper. In the case of Samurai Flamenco however I am uncertain how well the switcheroo in tone will be received.
Masayoshi Hazama is an up and coming male model, who grew up idolizing all things Super Sentai. Back when he was a kid Masayoshi dreamt of becoming a superhero, until someone explained to him that masked crime fighting is a completely fictional profession. To pay the bills Masayoshi settles for a job posing in fashion magazines, but his aspirations of protecting the innocent still remain. After dark Hazama transforms into Samurai Flamenco and battles the evil forces of drunken jaywalkers and loitering teens. Unfortunately for the fledgling hero people don’t appreciate being lectured at by a pink costumed goofball, often resulting in Masayoshi getting walloped. It falls upon police officer Hidenori Goto to rescue Masayoshi whenever things get too dangerous. Goto’s pleas that Masayoshi leave law enforcement to the cops fall on deaf ears.
Despite a rough start things take a turn for the better after Samurai Flamenco apprehends a brolly thief, turning him into an overnight Internet celebrity. With fame comes the support of an action star and a stationary manufacturer, who each bestows Masayoshi with self-defence training and non-lethal weapons respectively. Masayoshi’s exploits even inspire a copycat “Flamenco Girl” to take to the streets and aid him in smacking hoodlums. Their goals are the same, even if their personalities aren’t. Masayoshi is motivated by justice and is useless in combat. Flamenco Girl just seeks an excuse to kick ass, which she is proficient at (her favourite move involves stomping on a fallen foe’s crotch… ouch!) The duo manages to reduce the city’s crime rate, but how long will the peace last? From the shadows a deranged villain named King Torture prepares to strike.
My rating for Samurai Flamenco (Box One) is three and a half stars. I have always been fond of superhero comics and films, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed this anime. Even when episode seven rolled by I was still on board with the show, although I suspect the shift from realistic street level crime-fighting to battles with super powered enemies will be too jarring for some viewers. I am however concerned by what the future has in store for the series following on from the final battle with King Torture. Episode eleven introduces a new nemesis for Samurai Flamenco to tangle with and ratchets up the absurdity to levels I am not comfortable with. I’m okay with characters wielding oversized staplers, but I have to draw a line when a giant who has a perfume dispenser for a head shows up!
It’s a shame that this collection ends on such a whacky note, because I much preferred the more tranquil moments found in the earlier episodes. The bromance between Masayoshi and Goto starts the show on a high note and things only improve when Flamenco Girl appears. Her sadistic temperament and lust for guys in uniform elicited numerous chuckles from me. Aside from the DVD set’s zany finale my only other complaint would have to be with the artwork. Samurai Flamenco isn’t a bad looking show, but there are times when the visuals and animation could be better. Perhaps this is a sign that back in 2013 Manglobe studios was already feeling the financial pinch that would ultimately spell their demise? Either way, I am sufficiently attached to the characters that I will check out the second instalment once it hits UK stores. At the very least I am morbidly curious to see how much more insane things can get.