"'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.
I hate breaking down TV shows or movies as "it's this plus this (minus that)." But sometimes it's the only way to explain shit. In the first couple of episodes that Crunchyroll.com allowed non-subscribers to stream in their entirety, the animated Japanese showbiz satire Samurai Flamenco, the charming and enjoyably understated creation of writer Hideyuki Kurata and director Takahiro Omori, is basically the Captain Freedom wanna-be superhero arc from Hill Street Blues plus Kick-Ass (minus the fascism, racism and shock value of the Kick-Ass comics).
But I have a feeling that in the next few weeks, Samurai Flamenco will develop into something more nuanced and complicated than that equation. That feeling is due to how surprisingly grounded and subdued Samurai Flamenco's sense of humor has been--and how observant and dead-on the show has been about Japanese showbiz--as it revolves around Masayoshi Hazama (Toshiki Masuda), an idealistic 19-year-old male fashion model who suits up as the titular costumed avenger. He wants to become a superhero just like Harakiri Sunshine or the Money Rangers, the colorful heroes of the live-action Japanese superhero shows he's adored since he was a kid. But how's that possible in a complicated world where superpowers are impossible to acquire and injustice is everywhere, except it's not on such a melodramatic level--it's more on the level of quieter and more mundane mishaps like misplacing an umbrella or unfairly losing a job--and costumed supervillains who cackle loudly about their misdeeds exist only in manga or on TV?
Although Goto is aware that his bumbling new friend--and drinking buddy who, of course, refuses to drink--isn't right in the head and he isn't quite on board with Hazama's worldview that you shouldn't settle for curry udon when what you really want is curry rice, the cynical cop decides to help Hazama out on his crusade. Hazama is going to need more of Goto's help now that Samurai Flamenco has become a social media phenomenon. Video footage of him trying to retrieve Goto's inadvertently stolen umbrella goes viral in the same way that the world first learned about Kick-Ass, except in an amusing touch that separates this grounded show from the smug power fantasies of Kick-Ass, Samurai Flamenco barely does anything superheroic or physical in the video.
If this were 30 Rock or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, both live-action comedies that are actually more cartoonish than Samurai Flamenco, Kaname would be a total asshole and a one-note antagonist (adversarial guest characters were never the strong point of those two shows, McPoyle siblings aside). But we get a tip-off that Kaname is actually an all-around good guy--and isn't going to antagonize Hazama for too long--when we see him leafing through his dwindling fan mail in front of his manager, who, instead of being a sleazy showbiz piranha, is an unassuming lady who's much older than either Sumi or Kaname and whom Kaname has clearly been loyal to for a couple of decades. A much jerkier TV star would have dumped her ass a long time ago. Before I watched "Flamenco vs. Fake Flamenco," I didn't pay much attention to the Samurai Flamenco key art and opening credits, which both feature Kaname, so I was surprised by how well the episode integrates Kaname into the cast and establishes that he's going to wind up instead as a mentor of sorts for Hazama, who could use much more of the fighting skills Kaname displayed each week on Red Axe. "Flamenco vs. Fake Flamenco" also comes up with a clever way to shut down Sumi's attempt to find out if Samurai Flamenco is really her own client without making me throw up my hands in frustration.