NOT WHAT IT SEEMS TO BE
The biggest mistake one will do when beginning to watch this show, is not being prepared about what it actually is all about. The premise is misleading, and the initial episodes are not representing the mood of the show. If you have no idea what the twist is going to be like later on, chances are you will hate it. I make it sound like in order to enjoy it, you need to be spoiled about things that are not supposed to be spoiled, but trust me, it will spare you the rage and disappointment so many felt while it was still airing. Not getting what you expect out of a show works positively only when you get more than what you expected. In the case of this anime, you get less. So get ready, here comes the spoiler, it’s for your own good. Samurai Flamenco is not a subversion of superhero stories. It is a light comedy that makes it seem it is a subversion, before eventually embracing the dumb idealism of the superhero formula and heads for some really silly shenanigans. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but it is.
When the anime begins, you are made to think it will be one of those stories where the protagonist wants to be hero, starts from the bottom, and gradually moves to bigger challenges. The setting is like our own world, there are no superpowers, no monsters, no giant robots. The gadgets he uses are created out of simple things you can find in your home. The enemies he faces are mundane criminals. And since he is not even that strong, or an expert in martial arts, he makes lots of mistakes. A typical street thug can kick his ass. Tv channels are all after him so they can make a spectacle out of the whole thing. The police treat him as an embarrassing, troublemaking clown. Everything feels exactly how it would be like if an average guy wears a mask and spandex and runs in the streets pretending to be a defender of justice, and preaching to people how to behave properly. It will look stupid, not cool, and will have lots of real life repercussions you don’t see in comic books. If the anime remained like this throughout its run, it would not be exciting but it would definitely be special.
SUPERNATURAL FOLLOW UP
But since I spoiled it for you earlier, you know that this did not happen. Eventually Samurai Flamenco jumps genres, adds supernatural elements, and gradually becomes a typical superhero flick suffering from jarring tone shifts and overbearing power creep. And the reason all these supernatural things appeared out of nowhere in a setting that did not have them up until then is (get ready for this, it will blow your mind) because God said so. That’s the big revelation which explains everything! It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but it is.
The anime doesn’t prepare you for this, it honestly wants to make you think it will remain basic and pragmatic all the way. Here we are enjoying mundane situations and accepting the show for what it is and suddenly BOOM a talking gorilla with a guillotine in its belly appears, followed by an evil organization of monsters who want to take over the world. Most viewers couldn’t believe this was happening for real. There is no way these Power Ranger shenanigans can happen in such a show. It has to be an elaborate prank with special effects; or a dream, any moment now the protagonist will wake up and everything will be normal again. And since I already spoiled it, you know that this never happened. It became ridiculous and many dropped it after a few episodes because it wasn’t what the show promised them to be. It betrayed them!
Not everyone dropped it though; many still accepted what it had become and kept watching it… only to encounter some very cancerous themes. At first they tried to excuse it as if the show HAD to turn supernatural, because it was already losing steam from all its simplicity. It tried to spice things up somehow and the best thing it could think of was a literal deus ex machina. I already mentioned how God made stuff happen but I didn’t tell you yet why his almightiness did that in the first place. Well, it’s because the protagonist wanted it! He was fulfilling his wish to have adventures as the ones in the silly comic books he loved so much, and him becoming a superhero who saves the world. It sounds innocent on paper until you realize that because of this wish, countless people suffered for it. I mean, really, so many died or were injured because of all the crazy stuff that kept happening. The source of all this evil was not some demon or alien. It was God and the protagonist who brought them into existence out of a childish whim! That’s just mean and horrible.
Not to mention unexciting since God can do anything he likes and thus all conflicts no longer feel threatening. Yeah, you are not supposed to know that until the end of the series but remember that I am sparing you the rage and disappointment by telling you about it right away. You know the protagonist will win no matter what happens. Which ironically makes an alien invasion less exciting than a single street thug, back when there was nothing supernatural in the setting and plot armor was not an option.
As for presentation, it looks ok in terms of animation and coloring, although none of the character designs are standing out. The males have a feminine feel to them, as expected from Noitamina series, and have very basic personalities. I can’t say I like any of them; I can forgive the generic protagonist for his naïve ideals, but not the pop idol girls who out of nowhere wanted to be superheroes too just for the heck of it. I mean, come on, they are just frail little girls, why do they beat up so many muscular men with simple tasers? And did we really need the yuri stuff? It was still supposed to be a normal series up until then. You also know your cast is forgettable when most of the audience was concerned with who was the secret girlfriend of one of the guys. Yeah, talk about being afraid of monsters that are trashing cities if you are wondering about those sorts of things.
I would have given Samurai Flamenco and average score if it remained a plain anime about a normal guy pretending to be Superman. It could also have ended as a 1 cour mediocre parody of power rangers most would remember as a nice filler anime between better things. But nope, the show decided to head for 2 cour and the only way it could think of for not becoming boring, was to keep throwing in more and more absurd things, as means to keep the audience guessing what could possibly be causing all those supernatural stuff in a typical world. And turns out it was God. There you go, have another Gorillatine. Now go play Batman with those lesbian pop idols.