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Samurai Flamenco Part 1 UK Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

Samurai Flamenco UK BD 1….

…what did I just watch?

What They Say:
Male model Masayoshi Hazama decides to fulfil his childhood dream of becoming a superhero, despite having no superpowers or the technology to create a high-powered suit. He becomes the hero Samurai Flamenco and begins to fight crime in the name of justice no crime is too small for him! Police officer Hidenori Goto finds out about Samurai Flamenco and his real identity by a twist of fate, which leads to him getting sucked into the crazy world of vigilante justice. These two young men will come face to face with hardships of being crime-fighters while discovering what it truly means to be a hero of justice.

The Review:
Audio:
For this release, we get a 2.0 track in Japanese, and strangely, French as well (no English dub) – I only watched the Japanese release however as per standard with these releases it was definitely more than acceptable with no obvious issues. The audio is clean, no stutters or off with the subtitles, and whilst I didn’t listen to the French dub, the fact there is an additional track is interesting considering it is registered as a Japanese release only with subtitles. (I definitely understand it for a series like the upcoming Gankutsou, but for a rather obscure series…) No issues, high quality with no changes needed to my default settings, care was definitely done for this.

Video:
Set in the standard PAL format (anamorphic), with the 1080p image ratio on a full screen format, it transitions perfectly onto the screen where so much action happens – the animation is combined CGI and traditional animation and with all the sentai scenes and how quickly the dynamic changes, it all works and translates to the small screen perfectly, without any slow down, pause issues or anything noticeable which would be a concern. A lot of care continues to be done for this Blu-Ray release, and with no slowdown issues or glitches in animation, can safely say this is a quality release.

Packaging:
An actual package release for Samurai Flamenco, we do get the special edition release – the front is a hard box with Hazama not in his full Flamenco outfit so you see his face doing a classic sentai pose on a red background with a white V-like shape in the background with his tagline on the front, and crediting the director and production. On the back there is an image of Goto in most of his police outfit, doing a cool pose whilst on the back is a removable plastic wrap with the description of the show, a few more of the staff and other details along with artwork and shots from the show. On the inside, the two discs are well protected in a hardened case and on the outside of that is a lush image of Goto, Hazama and the Flamenco Girls in various poses. Very colourful and a good package deal.

Menu:
The menu has the Samurai Flamenco symbol first spinning before we get into the main menu which has shots of the show whilst near the bottom is a red line horizontally with your selections of Play All, Episodes, Audio Set Up, Extra (disc 1 only) and Credits. Within the show, you can also select these choices whilst watching via the pop-up menu. No slowdown or issues with selection as you select without it needing to change to another screen compared to DVD releases, the images are striking and easy to navigate so standard, but good.

Extras:
On the Blu-Rays themselves, the only extras are the clean opening and ending. In the Special Edition however, there is a 20 page art book included with the Flamengers covering the front and back (odd considering they are only introduced in the last episode of the set) – inside we have character drawings, both sketch and colour, of Hazama, his 1st Flamenco suit and accessories, Goto and his accessories, Mari, Mizuki, Moe, Joji, Sumi, Akira, Jun, King Torture (not in colour), his crew and a section called hero setting, looking at alternate designs and monsters, prop setting and art setting (locations). Nice little extra but that is pretty much it in terms of anything major for a special edition release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Super Sentai has been a medium for generations in Japan, mostly well known in the west as Power Rangers. And anime definitely isn’t a stranger to a sentai genre in terms of a group of people powering up to save the world (Sailor Moon for example is a magical girl version of it) – however, an actual sentai anime is very rare, and the way this initially showcases is almost a serious version of it. A young man in real life Japan who is obsessed with heroes and wants to be a hero in a society where good doesn’t always win, even if it means ridicule and being hurt, being found by someone who is supposed to stop crime, conflicts arise, and when he does get noticed, other people get involved…the concept was certainly unique and interesting.

And then stuff happens. Yeah, it changes to something definitely more out of a Power Rangers show to the point where you wonder what show it was trying to be.

And yet, is it actually bad? Well….

We are introduced to our two main leads in the first few minutes – a cop in Tokyo named Hidenori Goto, spots a young man hiding in the corner not being suspicious but is wearing a torn up outfit, almost a costume. This is Masayoshi Hazama, an up and coming model by day, but by night is trying to be a hero similar to the shows he used to watch dressing like a poor man’s Power Ranger, he dubs himself Samurai Flamenco. Of course, this isn’t a sentai show, this is real life Japan and no powers, no technology, his initial speeches of justice on small crimes of loitering, littering, jaywalking, etc – are met with ridicule and even violence at times. Goto keeps his secret but also an eye on him knowing that as a policeman, things can get out of hand. This also conflicts with him working as a model, as his manager is quite strict and apparently doesn’t like hobbies such as superhero shows – however in episode 2, a video of Flamenco rushing across train stations to recover Goto’s umbrella suddenly makes him an internet sensation, and people are wondering who this mysterious stranger is.

From this, more and more people slowly get involved in Flamencos’ world as he gets some notoriety – his first new ‘friend’ is Joji Kaname, a veteran actor of action hero shows (and an idol of Hazama) who has taken the guise of Flamenco to boost his popularity, leading to minor conflict (especially as Joji is way more muscular and does his own stunts). However, he does defer to Masayoshi and even trains him a bit, though it does feel he seems to always be missing when Flamenco really needs help for some reason…

Perhaps a more important visitor comes in the form of Mari Maya, a girl that Hazama met on a performance, where he was humming a sentai show theme song to keep him from getting nervous – which Mari clearly recognised. Soon, she is also involved in the crime fighting game as Flamenco Girl, however because of her fame as a member of an idol group, she actually has crime fighting weaponry as well as more athletic training, and pretty much at first Flamenco becomes her lackey with her now the one people are more concerned with. This is in tie with the fact Mari is quite a selfish girl, expecting people to bow to her whims (which you know will bite her in the rear later) – also, her version of justice is more beat them up and them stomp on their crotches, which isn’t the justice Flamenco is after. It does lead them to semi working together but also doing their own thing, worse when Mari gets her two fellow idols involved Mizuki (who is clearly reluctant) and Moe (not so reluctant but you can tell she is quite in love with Mari).

However, now rewards are being brought out to find out who the identities of these two are, but one person keeping a secret is Jun Harazuka, who is a creator of stationary, and actually makes stationary style weapons for Flamenco as a way of fighting but not using (too much) violence. This includes using double sided tape as traps, and staplers as nunchucku. Obvious a little comic but also actually works well with the Flamenco character. With Goto worried about clearing messes for Hazama and some tension throughout, it is surprising that we learn the background of the Flamenco character – was somehow Hazama’s grandfather came up with as a way for young Hazama to cope as his parents had died – it actually gets a bit sad and touching and you do feel for Hazama, and realise despite the silliness, he is getting better as a pseudo hero, and you wonder how this is going to work…

…and then episode 7 hits.

Hoo boy, where do I begin?

Until the latter part of this episode, despite the superhero theme, it did have at least a realistic element with Hazama obviously haven’t no super powers, and even the Flamenco Girls weapons explained due to their income and connections. So with the back-story of Flamenco uncovered, what happens here?

A giant guillotine monster attacks the police stations, actually kills some people and nearly killed Flamenco, a super mastermind is behind it called King Torture who brings in several cyborg monsters straight out of a sentai show to try and enslave the people of Japan, causing almost a monster of the week scenario being defeated by Flamenco and the Flamenco Girls – the funny part is with it being almost regular, Japan ceases to care about it after the initial shock, and the careers of the four start getting better (Hazama even has a role in a sentai show despite his manager not being fond of it), which of course sets things up for the showdown.

So yes, this pretend sentai show, actually ends up becoming a sentai show. It comes out of nowhere from a semi-realistic scenario to something straight out of Power Rangers or Sailor Moon with each monster blowing up after being defeated for apparently no reason (Hazama even questions it) …so setting up a King Torture/Flamenco battle when he kidnaps Mari and Moe. So of course, there is a big battle situation which Flamenco does win with the aid of Goto, and then just as the last episode of this disc happens when Flamenco reveals his identity, Joji casts him away as a mysterious island rises from Tokyo Bay, and Joji has been assembling a team called the ‘Flamengers’ to defeat the evil ‘From Beyond’ an alien organisation that provided Torture with the power to make monsters, and the rangers do have a giant robot called Flamen Robo, which allows them to defeat a poison monster that was in their base…but not before arguing who would be the leader of course.

….

W…T…F? This came from mock superhero, into a real superhero (kind of) into actual power rangers stuff?

Welcome to Super Sentai! And the strangest thing is…

….I can’t hate it. This is a wonderful little series that so far is so out there from switching from serious to silly it almost harkens to old classic British comedy. I enjoyed the aspect of Hazama trying to be a hero that when it went into legit sentai, I was definitely confused and surprised. But the simple fun part of it afterwards means it is really hard not to get mad at it. It isn’t an amazing series in terms of plot and quality writing – oh no, it is weird as heck and the whimsy plot is definitely that…but that is what makes it pure sentai after episode 7.

The strange thing as well is that there is some good character development throughout. Hazama, of course, has this fixation on heroes but when we learn the back-story of Flamenco, you do feel for him and why he wishes to uphold justice. His relationship with Goto whilst Goto feels a bit of a second banana, you can see the conflicts in him whether to help or arrest him (plus the continuing gag of him texting his girlfriend does make you wonder if there is something more – Mari even mentions when Goto says he has a partner, she immediately thinks it is Hazama), it will be interesting to see how that goes in the second half. Even Mari, who is quite a selfish character, seems to realise her own misgivings after she is kidnapped – there is a very powerful scene when Moe is being tortured by King Torture and she is asked if she would be let go in Mari’s place. Mari as a superheroine tells her to leave, but Moe who is in love with her refuses to. Here, Torture actually lets her go as he recognises that Moe is a pure heart, whilst Mari wasn’t serious – to the point Mari realises she is taking her friends for granted, to a near tearful concert she gets to when she is rescued by Flamenco.

The comedy also works well – Mari’s uniform fetish is hilarious whenever she interacts with Goto, the cheesy sentai monsters to the point Japan doesn’t care about them, Hazama being a total fanboy for Joji and when we works on a sentai show, Mari’s ways of ‘winning’ battles – there is a lot to smile about. Of course, the villain development is very minor – King Torture actually isn’t in it much and outside of being similar to Hazama in terms of watching sentai shows (but favouring the villains) he is there just to showcase that ‘yeah, this is a Power Rangers show now’. However this is a classic shut your brain off and watch series – not a masterpiece of any proportion, but I enjoyed it far more than I realistically should have. Adding in a little bit of questioning if Goto and Hazama could have something more (Mari and Moe fitting the yuri fans, Goto/Hazama definitely have their boys love moments), some over the top acting with Joji, the concept of stationary nunchaku, and the comic timing with Hazama’s manager always rejecting a director’s date requests (and it is going to be interesting when she meets Hazama again as she was a tad unhappy when it was revealed that Hazama was indeed Flamenco) makes this a series hard to hate, despite how completely dumb it is.

Samurai Flamenco Episode 11

So from serious sentai like show, to dumb sentai like show – it holds good things in all – but it is definitely not one to think about seriously. Be like Hazama, and just enjoy it for what it is, you’ll lose fewer brain cells that way, and have more smiles from it.

In Summary:
Whilst there are serious moments after the end of episode 7 involving King Torture, the switch from realistic setting in Japan for a wannabe hero with actual consequences, to underwater bay with a Power Rangers team and robotic monsters, Samurai Flamenco definitely will have your head spinning. The switch is stupid, silly, could have ruined a potentially good drama…and yet the sheer fun moments from it combined with some surprisingly good character development means it is not a series I can hate just because the twist is rather dumb. I suspect we are going full sentai with the 2nd half and whilst I am disappointed the more serious aspects of real time Japan with realistic consequences are now gone in favour of poison monsters, it doesn’t make the experience any less fun. Just leave your brain at home – it might hurt a little if you don’t….

Features:
Contains Episodes 1-11 in collector’s packaging with Japanese language and English subtitles.

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: December 12th, 2015
MSRP: £34.99
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.


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