In the last few years there has been a rise in anime and manga based around the idea of heroes and villains. Be it series like Tiger and Bunny or recent examples such as My Hero Academia and One Punch Man, the popularity of superhero anime has definitely seen a resurgence. One series that has definitely made some strides as part of that resurgence but ultimately fell under the radar was Samurai Flamenco, a deconstruction of the superhero genre that while wildly engaging, simply doesn’t know when it has gone too far. Samurai Flamenco may very well be one of the most interesting takes on the superhero genre in some time but it also features one of the worst series derailing plot twists in modern anime.
Following Hazama Matayoshi, the titular hero Samurai Flamenco, a rookie idol on the verge of breaking out into the big time. At night he partakes in the extra curricular activity of being the super hero Samurai Flamenco. He takes on petty crimes such as littering and umbrella theft, vowing to make the world a better place. It is a sweet sentiment and Matayoshi’s exploits in the early going of the series are a treat to watch. Seeing him race cross city to retrieve a friend’s umbrella is truly joyous.
Matayoshi’s bond he forms with police officer Goto proves to be the crux of the series. Often played for potential romance, these two characters are best suited as a buddy cop duo, tackling small time criminals and bounces off one another with their conflicting ideals about justice. Soon these two are joined by a washed up actor, a stationary developer and a three-piece idol group as they fight against crime. The cast are colourful and well conceived with each having a distinct personality and role to play in this story. However things take a rather bizarre turn at the half way point of this first cour.
Episode 7 is really a make or break episode for Samurai Flamenco and is arguably one of the most poorly executed episodes in modern anime history. It features a massive plot twist that completely changes the very fabric of the entire series. No longer is it a plucky buddy cop comedy about a wannabe hero and a disillusioned copper dealing with small time crime, instead it becomes a supernatural superhero romp about evil organizations and super villain monsters invading Earth.
How the series can go from being so grounded and based in reality to flipping the switch into the flat out absurd is beyond me. It is a bold decision by the writer but one that ultimately feels hackneyed and completely nonsensical. There has been nothing up until this point to suggest such things exist in this world, no foreshadowing, no hints whatsoever. The series simply flips itself on its head and honestly ruins the good thing it had going.
The unexpected direction truly throws the entire series out of whack leaving little idea of what this series truly wishes to be. Any hope that the series was pulling a fast one with this twist is quickly dashed as it commits wholeheartedly to the insanity it has given birth to, making for an absolutely jarring tonal shift, never really regaining the momentum and excitement its early episodes inspired.
Visually the series looks good enough, never really aspiring for much more than the standard fare. I was somewhat disappointed to see several instances of sloppy animation throughout, with many scenes comprised of far too many still frames and off model character designs. While the aesthetics aren’t much to write home about it is worth stating that the series does feature a fantastic audio experience with countless memorable incidental tracks and a great pair of themes to open and close and episode.
Samurai Flamenco is unfortunately a total scattershot of a series. It feels as if the writers are making it up as they go, likely because they were and the plot never truly seems to come together. That said, this review only covers part 1 of the series so there is always plenty of time for them to correct course in the second cour. As for this first season however, it was silly fun at best and pure nonsensical garbage at worst. This is a difficult show to recommend for a number of reasons, but the number one reason I would not recommend it is that it literally loses the plot. If you want a story you can follow that has logical story progression that makes sense considering all that came before it, Samurai Flamenco is not that.
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