ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:00 - 7th February 2016, by David West

Samurai Flamenco Collector’s Edition Part 1

Masayoshi Hazama is a young male model on the rise, but he grew up watching Super Sentai shows and dreams of becoming a superhero. When darkness falls, he dons the guise of Samurai Flamenco – a hero with the fighting spirit of the samurai and the passion of... the flamenco dancer. Actually, the unskilled and not remotely tough Hazama makes a hopeless hero, but fortunately he finds a friend in policeman Hidenori Goto, who often has to help Samurai Flamenco out of tight spots. Determined to keep his true identity a secret – mainly to avoid angering his manager, the fiery tempered Ishihara – Hazama vows to become a real life hero of justice, even as his exploits inspire other people to don masks and costumes, both for good and for evil.

The central problem of Samurai Flamenco is that director Takahiro Omori and writer Hideyuki Kurata can’t seem to decide if their series is supposed to be a spoof or not. The early episodes tread a similar path to Mark Millar’s comic Kick-Ass, albeit without the constant profanity and graphic violence, following a woefully underprepared young man as he attempts to become a crime fighter. The same idea was used to great effect by movies like James Gunn’s Super and Peter Stebbing’s Defendor, yet by comparison Samurai Flamenco lacks their bite and ability to satirise the conventions of the genre. It’s gently amusing to watch Hazama’s fumbling attempts at heroism, but never gut-bustingly hilarious.

Then, in episode seven, the entire series changes direction with the unprecedented appearance of monsters with superpowers and suddenly it becomes a straightforward Super Sentai adventure, complete with a team of rangers piloting vehicles that combine to form a giant robot. The problem is that none of this was set up in the early going and it comes out of nowhere. Worse, no one in the series seems at all surprised by the emergence of monsters, giant robots and invading aliens, despite the fact that Samurai Flamenco’s biggest challenge at the start was not getting beaten up by delinquent teenagers.

Hazama’s exploits inspire an idol called Mari to form her own super team, The Flamenco Girls, with her two bandmates. At first it looks like they might be a Sailor Moon parody, but the script plays their scenes oddly straight. The tone and pacing are both uneven. One of the best gags involves the Super Sentai team that Hazama joins in which everyone wants to be the Red Ranger, but there then is a scene of one of the Flamenco Girls being tortured, which is much, much darker and nastier.

Hazama is fond of striking dramatic poses while spouting heroic slogans, which can raise a smile. His policeman pal Goto, on the other hand, is underused and his story arc is less substantial in this first instalment. There’s a subplot involving Goto’s long distance relationship, and the fact that Mari has a weakness for a man in uniform, but those are yet to be resolved by this halfway mark.

Creators Omori and Kurata need to make up their minds what sort of show they want to make. The first half plays like a slightly flat superhero parody in need of better gags, but they seem to run out of steam with that idea and switch to a straightforward Super Sentai series. Alas, you can’t have it both ways.
SCORE: 3/5
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