Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Rick and Morty, "Pilot"

The real reason why people lost interest in buying 3-D TV sets
Every Friday in "'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.

Rick and Morty doesn't debut on Adult Swim until December 2, but the network has already posted the premiere episode on YouTube, and it's one of the strongest first episodes of an animated show for adults I've seen in a while. Most adult animated shows I've grown to love--whether it's The Venture Bros., The Boondocks or Bob's Burgers--don't even start off as confidently as Rick and Morty does right out of the gate. That's mainly because Rick and Morty is the first animated show from Community mastermind Dan Harmon. It's the show Harmon worked on during the interval between his controversial ouster from his own creation by Sony Pictures Television and his return to Community a year later, and that distinctive comedic voice of Harmon's that was sorely missing from Community's creatively bumpy fourth season is all over Rick and Morty (Harmon's knack for sharp and spontaneous-sounding dialogue is also all over this new show). Harmon's offbeat sensibilities--the same sensibilities that irritated Sony executives (who wanted a more traditional sitcom about community college life than the one Harmon was crafting for them), as well as some Community staffers who found Harmon difficult to work with--are born for animation.

If Doctor Who were both a wacky suburban grandpa and a drunken sociopath, he'd be Rick, a scientific genius who's moved in with his grown-up daughter Beth (Sarah Chalke), an animal heart surgeon, and her family. Beth's strait-laced husband Jerry (Chris Parnell) despises Rick and wants him out of the house; teenage daughter Summer (Spencer Grammer) despises her family and cares only about looking for her next boyfriend; and teenage son Morty is grappling with learning disabilities and is lacking in self-confidence. Rick hates all forms of bureaucracy, including high school, and is continually yanking Morty out of school and taking the kid along with him on his dangerous experiments and excursions into other dimensions to build up both Morty's smarts and his self-confidence. He thinks high school is to blame for Morty's low intelligence, and in one of the pilot episode's best jokes, it turns out he's right when we see that Morty and his classmates are still being taught in math class that 2 + 2 = 4 and 5 + 5 = 10.

Like much of Harmon's work on Community, Rick and Morty is high-concept. It originated as a crudely animated series of Channel 101 shorts from Rick and Morty co-creator and voice actor Justin Roiland (a.k.a. the Earl of Lemongrab on Adventure Time), The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, which took Doc Brown from Back to the Future and turned him into an inebriated pedophile. Rick and Morty retains neither the Back to the Future spoofery nor the creepiness of those gross shorts. Rick is now grandpa to the kid, and his abusive treatment of Morty is toned way down, but he's still a puke-stained drunk (Roiland also returns to voice both characters). You can tell where Harmon's input came in as he and Roiland reworked Doc and Mharti for Adult Swim. Harmon's made Rick more likable, or rather, as likable as a sociopathic grandpa who cares a small bit about his grandson can be. Instead of urging Morty to lick his balls to save the universe, Rick is seen attempting to help the weak-willed kid get closer to his dream girl Jessica (Kari Wahlgren) by procuring a neutrino bomb that he'll detonate to replace the current world with a new one where Morty and Jessica would be the sole survivors and would live like Adam and Eve.

The animation is also a million times more impressive on Rick and Morty than in the Channel 101 shorts. The premiere's best moments of animation take place during an epic chase through an extraterrestrial customs facility on one of the other dimensions Rick takes Morty along with him to. The alien character designs in this sequence are even weirder than the ones that were found on Futurama, and there's a brilliant and batshit crazy sight gag where Morty collides with an alien stoner who's smoking a hookah with an alien fetus floating inside the water jar, and the kid ingests some of the vapor and coughs out a loogie, which comes to life and rapidly ages from a baby to a dead old man in four seconds.

Grand tendril station
Only occasionally does the premiere suffer from pilot episode-itis. Chalke is saddled with all of the pilot's most exposition-y lines ("I'm my father's daughter. I'm smart. Why do you think I'm a heart surgeon?"). According to the Harmontown podcast episode where Harmon and co-host Jeff Davis riffed on-stage with Roiland, Chalke and upcoming Rick and Morty guest star John Oliver at the Largo in L.A., Harmon and Roiland hired the former Scrubs star after they were impressed by her ability to burp on cue. Here's hoping Chalke gets more to do comedically in future episodes. (In that Harmontown episode, Chalke, who's fluent in French and German, busts out incredible-sounding impressions of her French Canadian and German schoolteachers.) In the next few weeks, we'll see if Rick and Morty can maintain the premiere's consistently funny vibe and impressive look, but for now, it's off to a good start--unlike the convulsive Morty in the midst of side effects from his intelligence boost at the end of the premiere.

Memorable quotes:
* Summer: "OmigodmyparentsaresoloudIwannadie." Rick: "There is no God, Summer. You gotta rip that Band-Aid off now. You'll thank me later."

* "You're young, you've got your whole life ahead of you and your anal cavity is still taut yet malleable! You gotta do it for Grandpa, Morty! You gotta put these seeds inside your butt!"

* "We had a little incident and a student was frozen to death. AND THERE'S NO EVIDENCE THAT A LATINO STUDENT DID IT! Everyone wants to take this to a racial place. I won't let them."

* "They're just robots, Morty! It's okay to shoot them! They're robots!" "They're not robots, Rick!" "It's a figure of speech, Morty! They're bureaucrats! I don't respect them! Just keep shooting, Morty!"

* Rick: "I'm a genius! I build robots for fun." Jerry: "Well, now you can build baskets and watch Paul Newman movies on VHS and mentally scar the Boy Scouts every Christmas." Beth: "What does that mean?" Jerry: "It's personal."

* "Oh, for crying out... he's got some kind of disability or something! Is that what you want us to say?" "I do?" "Well, duh-doy, son." Harmon sure loves his duh-doys (Britta is fond of saying "Duh-doy" on Community).

* "Rick and Morty forever a hundred times! Over and over!!, wwwrickandmortyadventures, a hundred years! Every minute,!!"

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A playlist through space and time: The best of the AFOS block "Hall H" on Spotify

'By the power of Gallifreyskull, we have the power!'
I named the AFOS weekend block "Hall H" after the huge-ass hall in the San Diego Convention Center, the home of San Diego Comic-Con, partly because at a total of 10 hours from 7am to 5pm Pacific on Saturday (and again on Sunday), the block is equally huge. "Hall H" is full of selections from scores to shows and films that are popular with the comic or anime con crowd, so it's all the fun and excitement of a comic or anime con, but without the horrifying smells.

So some British show celebrated the 50th anniversary of its premiere over the weekend. Inspector Spacetime didn't just prove that it hasn't shown any signs of aging even though it's a show that's so old Larry King discovered his first liver spot on the day it premiered. It also proved that even when the budget is at its lowest, the zippers on the Ocean Demon monster suits are at their most visible and the corridors that the Inspector and Constable Reggie are often seen running through are at their creakiest, it can still entertain, as long as there's plenty of charisma from whoever's portraying the Inspector and his associate and the storytelling is as impeccable as the Inspector's taste in bowler hats.

These days, Inspector Spacetime, or as it's known to people outside the Community universe, Doctor Who, looks much more spiffy and baller than it used to, and the interior of the time machine our favorite anti-authoritarian time traveler rides around in no longer looks like it's going to tip over if someone sneezed at the roundel-covered wall. The premise remains the same: an eccentric alien hops around space and time to protect the universe and a little planet he's come to love called Earth, and thanks to his bizarre alien physiology (he has two hearts instead of one), he regenerates into a completely different person whenever he dies. But now there's more of a focus on the humans he's befriended and how he's affected their lives, as well as a focus on the angst that makes him tick: guilt over the toughest decision he's ever made. That would be causing the destruction of his own native planet Gallifrey--he's responsible for killing off his own people, the Time Lords--to put an end to the off-screen Time War between them and the Daleks, one of the Doctor's biggest adversaries.

The PTSD from the Time War was added to the character by former showrunner Russell T. Davies, who revived Doctor Who 16 years after its cancellation by the BBC and modernized the show in ways that enhanced and improved it (the less said about Davies' love for farty alien jokes, the better), and not just in visual terms. Towards the end of Sylvester McCoy's late '80s run as the seventh Doctor, the show started to hint that the Doctor was less than saintly and could be as devious and shady as his enemies. Sure, in the past, he's been a cantankerous old man (the first Doctor) and an arrogant asshole (the sixth Doctor). But unless I'm mistaken because I haven't watched all the pre-Davies episodes, the show rarely raised questions about some of the Doctor's actions (I haven't seen all of them because--and longtime Doctor Who heads might disagree with me--I've found some of them to be too slow-paced for my tastes, even when I first caught some of the immensely popular Tom Baker episodes on PBS, and since all of them were shot on videotape, except one of my favorite old-school Doctor Who episodes, the shot-entirely-on-film "Spearhead from Space," they look like moldy '70s and '80s episodes of General Hospital).

Doctor Who was cancelled before it could further explore the dark side of McCoy's Doctor, but when Davies brought the show back and introduced the backstory of the Time War (which took place off-camera during the interval between the 1996 Doctor Who TV-movie starring Paul McGann and the show's 2005 return), he picked up on that dark side. He and several other writers, including current showrunner Steven Moffat, made the character of the Doctor more relatable, imperfect and human, even when the Davies seasons reimagined him as a cross between a thinking person's superhero, a god with a mischievous streak and a rock star who's charming to both women and gay guys (Billie Piper's lovestruck Rose Tyler was clearly a surrogate--some haters will say she was a Mary Sue--for the openly gay Davies; some probably consider John Barrowman's Captain Jack Harkness to be more of a surrogate, but Captain Jack is the dashing gay action hero Davies wishes he could be but isn't).

There's so much shit he's able to do with that TARDIS console, and he still can't get himself HBO without torrenting its shows.
"The Day of the Doctor," last Saturday night's satisfying 50th anniversary episode, revisits the previously unseen tough decision that's haunted the Doctor since the first season of the Davies/Moffat era and finally gives us glimpses of that much-discussed Time War. To the show's fans, Moffat has been as polarizing a showrunner as Davies was in the last few episodes of his reign--Moffat haters think Moffat's writing on Doctor Who is overly convoluted, repetitive, misogynist and possibly racist and they're not so fond of his rather dickish response to their opinion that the Doctor doesn't have to always regenerate into a white guy--but Moffat has excelled at making us feel the giddiness the Doctor experiences whenever he achieves the impossible, whether it's during the climax of "The Doctor Dances" or during Matt Smith's current run as the 11th Doctor (which will come to a close in next month's Christmas episode, in which the 11th Doctor dies and regenerates into a profanity-free Peter Capaldi).

The quintessential moment of Moffat's take on the Doctor as "the mad man with a box" is that funny and clever scene in "A Christmas Carol" where the Doctor demonstrates to Michael Gambon's skeptical, Scrooge-like miser character that he's going to change his past and make himself appear on screen in the childhood home movie Gambon's watching, right after he leaves the room--and a few seconds later, thanks to the magic of the TARDIS, there he is, up on screen with Gambon's younger self. The Doctor is always rewriting history, and in "The Day of the Doctor," with the help of his current sidekick Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), his most recent self (David Tennant), the War Doctor (John Hurt), the "forgotten" past incarnation who obliterated both his own race and the Daleks, and a mysterious figure only the War Doctor can see and who looks an awful lot like Rose (the three Doctors wind up meeting each other for reasons too convoluted to explain here), the Doctor figures out how to rewrite history to fix his biggest mistake, and it's a moment as exhilarating as that home movie scene in "A Christmas Carol." It exemplifies why Doctor Who remains appealing to viewers all over the world (and why the BBC, which is now remorseful about the 1989 cancellation, has gone all-out for the franchise's 50th anniversary by bringing "The Day of the Doctor" to theaters in 3-D and producing An Adventure in Space and Time, a TV-movie that flashes back to Doctor Who's unusual and humble beginnings as TV that originally wasn't designed to scare or thrill kids but to educate them): the three Doctors' solution is--to borrow the words of longtime fan Craig Ferguson when he sang about why he loves the show--the ultimate triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.

Selections from Murray Gold's epic score music for the third, fifth and sixth seasons of modern Doctor Who are featured during "Hall H," and they kick off the following sampler of tracks from "Hall H" that are found on Spotify. The complete sampler tracklist is at the very bottom of this post.

The sets might wobble but they don't fall down.
(Photo source: Greendale A.V. Club)
The fictional Inspector Spacetime, the Doctor Who counterpart we've seen bits and pieces of on Community (some of Ludwig Göransson's Community score cues are in rotation during "Hall H" but aren't part of the above sampler), is so popular with Community fans that's it's been made into a web series. It's even been cosplayed at cons.

(Photo source: The Casual Costumer)
(Photo source: The Casual Costumer)
(Photo source: !Blog)

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: South Park, "A Song of Ass and Fire," and Samurai Flamenco, "Change the World" (tie)

'Frwff frwff frwff frffz,' says Princess Kenny.
Every Friday in "'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.

Consistently funny South Park episodes are a rarity these days, and "A Song of Ass and Fire," the second in a three-parter that reimagines the upcoming holiday season's Xbox One/PlayStation 4 console wars as Game of Thrones, helps break the show's slump with a sturdy storyline (which began in "Black Friday" last week) and jokes that stick the landing and are even stronger than the jokes in "Black Friday" by being occasionally surprising. I didn't see the punchline to the news anchor sex scene coming and couldn't stop laughing for a minute and a half afterward. Plus any moment where South Park parodies anime is worthwhile because Trey Parker nails the sounds of J-pop so well, like he does here with Princess Kenny's anime theme song.

The only running joke that's lazily written in "A Song of Ass and Fire" is Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin's obsession with wieners, which doesn't really go anywhere (Martin's choir inside his phallically decorated mansion and their performance of an all-"wieners" cover version of the Game of Thrones main title theme are filler and just an excuse to pad this three-parter out). Otherwise, it's nice when South Park isn't comedically asleep at the wheel, whether it's an Xbox One racing wheel or a PS4 racing wheel.

Over on Samurai Flamenco, the show just took a turn for the crazy--or hasn't. "Change the World" finds Masayoshi Hazama in distress after a note from his deceased grandfather Daisuke Hazama reveals that Masayoshi's parents were murdered, and he's worried about his inability to feel enraged by the way in which they died. The episode also pits Masayoshi and Goto against the show's first real supervillain: a crazed drug chemist who transforms into Guillotine Gorilla, a giant gorilla with a guillotine for a stomach and a minion of a villain boss who identifies himself to Samurai Flamenco as "King Torture." Samurai Flamenco's tonal shift from largely grounded slice-of-life territory (the show's universe has been established in the last few episodes as a universe without superpowers and supervillains) to typical tokusatsu material is extremely jarring and out-of-nowhere.

Rise of the Planet of the Apeshit
Some bloggers think Guillotine Gorilla and King Torture are hallucinations Samurai Flamenco, Goto and the other cops are experiencing due to the drugs they found during the drug bust that Samurai Flamenco joins in on (the police department honors him for bringing the crime rate down and makes him "police chief for a day," while Akira is disappointed about his site's crime news headlines becoming so dull because of the positive effects of the Flamencos' heroic acts; could Akira have planted those hallucinogens to manipulate headlines and stir shit up again?). The fact that the Guillotine Gorilla/King Torture cliffhanger ending is animated in the same gauzy filter that shrouds Masayoshi's fantasy sequences about Daisuke is a hint that this could all be playing inside Masayoshi's head. Guillotine Gorilla could just be a perp on PCP, reimagined by an increasingly delusional Masayoshi as a talking gorilla.

But if it turns out next week that humans are capable of transforming into monsters straight out of Thor: The Dark World, I'm going to be slightly disappointed. Nothing we've seen on this show has built up towards drugs that alter people's DNA like what Arrow is carefully doing this season with the particle accelerator to establish Barry Allen and his (now-to-take-place-outside-of-Arrow) transformation into the Flash, and that's just sloppy writing if superpowers were indeed always part of this show's plan. My disappointment would also stem from how much the absence of superpowers and supervillains on Samurai Flamenco has helped make the show a unique and different take on the superhero genre in animation (so far, Samurai Flamenco has been as grounded as Christopher Nolan's live-action Batman movies but not as somber). With the addition of Guillotine Gorilla and King Torture, Samurai Flamenco becomes just another animated superhero show, although with some above-average writing.

'You must also eradicate this gauzy filter we're covered in. What the fuck is this? A Barbara Walters special?'

I guess calming Koko down with a banana and some kind words in ASL is out of the question.
While a huge question mark hovers over the show's tonal direction like King Torture hovering ominously over Samurai Flamenco and Goto, everything that precedes the wild cliffhanger is Samurai Flamenco at its slice-of-lifey best. Kaname and Harazuka, who's as much of a fan of Kaname's old Red Axe show as Masayoshi is, meet each other for the first time and get drunk together off-screen, as implied by one of the most amusing abrupt cuts this show has done. Meanwhile, Mari goes insane over the lack of male criminals to pulverize; Moe (Erii Yamazaki voices Moe's bashfulness really well) continues to be in love with Mari (and continues to show how she's the only one out of the three idols who's fluent in English when she happily describes Mari's insane behavior as "Decadence!"); and in a nicely scripted moment of lengthier-than-usual Goto dialogue, Goto finally gives Masayoshi a vote of confidence in his mission as Samurai Flamenco, but in a typically world-weary (and guarded) Goto way that illustrates how well-realized many of Samurai Flamenco's characters are ("My basic point is that you're a freak, not a hero. You're only human, so having questions is natural. Honestly, I don't understand the current problem. But as a fellow human, I trust freaks more than I trust heroes.").

But that tonal shift is a bit of a concern for me because, as the Japanese band SPYAIR says about their old selves in the unsubtitled "Just One Life" theme song lyrics that I recently discovered the English meanings of, Samurai Flamenco's old--and more interesting--self seems to have died yesterday.

The uncensored cut of "A Song of Ass and Fire" can be streamed in its entirety at South Park Studios. Samurai Flamenco's episodes are posted on Crunchyroll the same day they premiere in Japan, but for Crunchyroll subscribers only.

Pharrell's "24 Hours of Happy" music video for the Despicable Me 2 theme is a huge(ly entertaining) time suck

The only people who walk in L.A.
(Photo source: Co.Create)
Yesterday, Pharrell Williams marked the arrival of Despicable Me 2 in digital download form--and capped off a crazy year of hit tracks like Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Robin Thicke's divisive "Blurred Lines"--by debuting the world's first 24-hour music video, "24 Hours of Happy." It consists of countless variations of either Pharrell or some unknown but totally game dancer getting their groove on in a different L.A. spot while lip-synching "Happy," the theme Pharrell wrote and performed as part of his original score to Despicable Me 2. You're batshit crazy if you actually watched the entire thing--and you're mad disgusting too because you didn't stop to wash your ass.

As for the rest of us saner cats who have chosen to click on specific dots on the "24 Hours of Happy" clock and watch bits and pieces of "24 Hours of Happy" rather than the whole video uninterrupted, it's actually a pretty captivating snapshot of different parts of L.A. At one point, "24 Hours of Happy" brings its roving Steadicam to the L.A. River, the shooting location made famous by Grease, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Drive and countless other films, shows and music videos. It helps that the "24 Hours of Happy" site comes with a mute button because hearing "Happy" after six or seven consecutive times can get tiresome, so I later replaced the audio with music from an episode of Sunday Night Sound Session off my iTunes music library.

The L.A. River: home to countless lame '80s MTV videos that would rip off The Road Warrior.

This is the most water L.A. has ever seen, outside of someone's bottle of Evian at a yoga class.
I was enthralled by this beast for nearly an hour. The 24-hour interactive piece, which took 11 (non-consecutive) days to shoot, was directed by the French music video directing duo We Are from L.A. It looks like it was shot by the cinematography genius who came up with the memorable look of Punch-Drunk Love (that would be Robert Elswit, who took non-descript, industrial-looking parts of SoCal and the insides of supermarkets and made them look sumptuous and otherworldly in Punch-Drunk Love, with the help of some pre-J.J. Abrams lens flares, but Elswit wasn't involved with this Pharrell video). I wish the resolution of We Are from L.A.'s footage was in HD rather than crappy-res because then "24 Hours of Happy" would look even more incredible.

"Happy" can be heard in rotation during the "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" and "New Cue Revue" blocks on AFOS, but that doesn't compare to the "24 Hours of Happy" experience of watching regular people (and occasional celebrities like Despicable Me 2 lead voice actor Steve Carell and Tyler, the Creator and even the yellow Despicable Me Minions themselves) losing themselves to "Happy" and eliciting various reactions from L.A. bystanders (some of them join in, especially little kids). My favorite segments involve the pair of Asian lady dancers, the puppeteer lady, the chick with the neon hula hoop and Pharrell's semi-choreographed bit inside a bowling alley (the rest of the video was pretty much improvised on the spot). It's like that 24-hour remake of Denzel Washington's Fallen I always wanted to see, but with the Despicable Me 2 theme and improvised dancing instead of "Time Is on My Side" and people being killed.

The following takes place between 2:04am and 2:06 am.

The Minions are hunting down moviegoers who are texting on their phones so that they can kick their rude fucking asses out of the theater.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Almost Griggity-Grown had a theme tune that basically told other '80s TV theme tunes to sit their asses down

Joe Hackett looked mad dweeby in high school.
(Photo source: Jeff Baron)

Most people visit YouTube for cat videos, while I go there for either hip-hop music videos, instrumental versions of hip-hop tracks, music I can't find on Spotify (or don't want to go to Spotify for because it always crashes), blooper footage or old TV show opening title sequences. The other night, I was zipping through some YouTuber's compilation of network TV opening titles from my childhood (peep Bryan Cranston in an uproarious mullet at 4:25!), and one particular title sequence--from a show I've never seen before--stood out amongst the rancid-sounding, sub-smooth-jazz pack.

Okay, maybe that original Todd Rundgren theme for TV 101 isn't so rancid (Stacey Dash drinks the blood of young Republican virgins to keep looking like she does in the TV 101 opening credits [6:41]). But from 2:01 to 3:01, Almost Grown, a drama that starred Tim Daly (at a point in his career between his breakout role in Diner and the era of Wings, the Timmverse Superman and my personal favorite animated Daly character, Bizarro), blows away all the other '80s shows with a Pablo Ferro-esque font and a swaggering James Brown banger that fortunately isn't the overplayed "I Feel Good," a Brown tune I grew to despise (thanks a lot, movie trailers, wedding DJs and Republicans!).

I know this groove best as Das EFX's "Mic Checka" ("I miggity-make the Wonder Twins deactivate!"), but heads who didn't grow up in the '90s might know it as "Think '73."

It's funny how "Think" was used to open the whitest show on network TV. Almost Grown was part of an annoying late '80s network TV trend of white and affluent baby-boomer showrunners subjecting viewers to their nostalgia for '60s music (even though a lot of that music was top-notch Motown). However, this really white show is an interesting-sounding one I'm dying to watch for the first time on disc (I don't think it'll ever make it to disc because I doubt Universal Studios Home Entertainment would want to go through the trouble of clearing all those existing songs on Almost Grown's soundtrack), mainly because Almost Grown was made by a pre-Sopranos David Chase. Judging from the descriptions of how Chase ambitiously structured the time frame of Almost Grown's episodes, this was a show ahead of its time. Chase made a precursor to the flashback-heavy structure of Lost, Person of Interest and Arrow.

Yo, movie trailer houses, wedding DJs and Repugnicans, learn to handle your Brown.
Almost Grown was chock-full of subjects Chase would later revisit in both the equally existing-song-heavy Sopranos ("The family and the annoying mother. Almost Grown was the lab for The Sopranos," said Chase in a 2007 WGA chat where another TV writing genius, Tom Fontana, complimented him on his work on Almost Grown) and Chase's final collabo with the late James Gandolfini, the unsurprisingly existing-song-heavy Not Fade Away. Chase's 2012 movie revolves around a struggling '60s rock band, while Almost Grown's late '60s flashbacks involved the Daly character's phase as a college radio DJ caught up in the counterculture of the period.

"Music has always been part of my creative process. I put on headphones, listen to music and try to get ideas or moods for stories," said Chase to the Chicago Tribune during the brief run of Almost Grown, which had Chase taking a vintage pop tune that a character would hear ($5,000 per tune!--according to Chase in the 1988 ChiTrib piece) and using it as "a mnemonic device to send you back to that period in their life and you'd play out a story back there and then come back to the present."

Oh, so it's like Cold Case without the heavy-handedness.

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Samurai Flamenco, "Capture Samumenco!"

He actually becomes intimidating during that moment, despite the not-so-intimidating bike helmet.
Every Friday in "'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.

Harazuka (Toru Okawa), the R&D guy from a stationery company who presents Samurai Flamenco with his first gadgets in "Capture Samumenco!," Samurai Flamenco's latest episode, is significant for being the first person--outside of Hazama's dead grandfather--to tell the wanna-be superhero he genuinely believes in him and his mission to do some good. Kaname, the self-absorbed action star who's trained Hazama in the ways of fighting, says similar things to his student ("Superheroes will never die!"), but they ring hollow, and he does it to stroke his ego. Mari doesn't care about Hazama's mission; she's in the superhero game to indulge her kinks for dominating men (and being dominated herself, by a man in uniform), as we see in "Capture Samumenco!" when she blurts out, "Time to blow off steam!," in front of the other Flamenco Girls and quickly corrects herself by saying, "Time for the Flamenco Girls to save the day!"

He's wondering to himself if these pants are of the tearaway kind.
You'd think Goto, the closest thing a friendless only child like Hazama has to a best friend and protective older brother, would have told Hazama by now that he believes in him, but he genuinely doesn't (although some of Hazama's flair for the dramatic is starting to rub off on him, like when he realized he enjoyed dressing up in the Samurai Flamenco costume at the end of "Flamenco vs. Fake Flamenco"). Goto still considers Hazama crazy for choosing to enforce the law as if he's the hero of a tokusatsu show, rather than opting for saner avenues of law enforcement, like becoming a prosecutor or a cop like him.

When they're uncurled, his state-of-the-art paper clips can stab you like a motherfucker.
During the first meeting between Samurai Flamenco and Harazuka, the handsome-looking coloring, which brings to mind Wally Pfister's sepia-toned cinematography in Batman Begins, underscores that something monumental is happening. Harazuka is clearly being established as the Lucius Fox or Q to Samurai Flamenco, a technical genius who disguises weapons as mundane office supplies in the episode's best joke, even though it's a bit Blankman-ish (the tape measure that turns into an effective grappling hook pistol is sure to be a hit with Samurai Flamenco cosplayers). He's snappier than the calm and unassuming Lucius (I like his shouty response to Hazama's insistence that the fighting moves he learned from Kaname are sufficient enough to protect him in a tough spot: "Your passion is not enough!") but not snarky or irritable like Q. He even gives his gadgets to Samurai Flamenco free of charge, which is fucking insane in a stagnant economy like Japan's. That's probably the least realistic moment in an animated show that's been surprisingly realistic and grounded about so many things, whether it's the drudgery of filming a TV show on location (like in "The Meaning of Justice" last week) or how the world reacts to people in superhero costumes who aren't San Francisco's Batkid.

In "Capture Samumenco!," the world reacts in different ways. You have otaku who dig seeing superhero genre tropes being brought to real life or become believers in heroes again after Samurai Flamenco saves them. You have cynics like Goto who find it all to be crazy ("Why do weirdos keep flocking to me?"). And then you have those who, when presented with an opportunity for mad guap like the High Rollers Hi news site's 10 million yen reward for capturing Samurai Flamenco, will see him not as a hero but as yen signs in their eyes. The hordes of greedy bounty chasers become so out of control that Samurai Flamenco has to be saved from them instead of him saving them, and that's where Harazuka's gadgets come in handy for Samurai Flamenco.

Because his gadgets are disguised as office supplies, I bet the Flamencomobile is going to be an office desk, just like in that shitty Get Smart movie.
Akira Konno (Satoshi Mikami), the High Rollers Hi editor who started the reward, is the closest Samurai Flamenco has gotten to a supervillain (and judging from a lower-level Yakuza thug's line of dialogue about Samurai Flamenco's off-screen interference in a drug ring, I take it the Yakuza is going to be taking on that adversarial role real soon), but in keeping with the show's subdued nature, Akira doesn't twirl his facial hair or cackle loudly. He didn't start the reward because of hatred for Samurai Flamenco. Like Mari during the events of "Idol Devastation" and Kaname (and anybody in reality TV), he's in it mainly for the publicity. On a show where the hero is confronted not with supervillains but with everyday assholes like the blond-haired douchebag with the knife at the start of "Capture Samumenco!," the craving for publicity is the ultimate supervillain.

"Capture Samumenco!" is another satisfying episode of an animated show that's quickly become one of my favorites. Like that Weekend Update nightlife correspondent Stefon once said, this place has everything. Smart showbiz satire. Social commentary that hasn't taken a turn for the didactic so far. The subversion of superhero genre tropes. Characters who are smarter than what I usually expect from the superhero genre (I like how everyone's correctly guessing that Samurai Flamenco is Hazama). Tokusatsu parodies. Japanese panel show parodies. J-pop parodies. Humor in an anime that doesn't make me say, "There once was a time when I would have laughed at this shit. It was called '12 years old.'" A lesbian idol singer who's pining for a bandmate who, in turn, is pining for a male cop because she has a fetish for dudes in uniforms (Samurai Flamenco clearly--and fortunately--isn't a kids' show even though the titular character is an overgrown kid). And now, gadgets.

This is also how Dick Cheney got George W. Bush to do whatever he wanted.

Stray observations:
* "Capture Samumenco!" writer Takahiro drops clues that Goto (whom Mari now thinks is having a gay relationship with Hazama after she fails to seduce him) is being catfished by peppering the texts from Goto's "girlfriend" with the words "cat," "sushi" and "hirame" (a.k.a. halibut).

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo's getting mad poetic in his texts to Goto.
* Samurai Flamenco's reaction to everyone chasing him is, of course, the following: "Something isn't right. This is just like what happened in Harakiri Sunshine, episode 8, 'Brainwashed! A City Full of Enemies!'"

* Nameless Yakuza thug #1: "Then we should bring in the ultimate weapon Gouriki-san..." Nameless Yakuza thug #2: "I hear he killed a bear during image training!"

* Like those quick shots in Stir Crazy of a bully's dick being crushed by a pair of pliers, the shot of the Flamenco Girls' heels flattening Gouriki-san's crotch will make every male viewer's balls implode.

Here we see the origin story of a Yakuza thug who became a chart-topping falsetto singer.
* So I take it Hazama prefers the bike helmet over the helmet his grandfather made for him. I wonder why Hazama reverted to the bike helmet instead of continuing to rock the horned helmet. Maybe he doesn't want to look like Magneto had a three-way with El Chapulín Colorado and the Great Gazoo.

The Graaaaaaay Ghost!
* The end credits footage of Kamen Rider Black, an '80s tokusatsu show I'm not familiar with but was mentioned in dialogue between Goto and another cop in the series premiere, was what the animators were paying tribute to during last week's poignant sequence where Hazama read his grandfather's letter about carrying on his dream of creating a real-life superhero.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Tipi Ti on My Cappi Town" will never be added to "Whitest Block Ever" rotation on AFOS, but I sure wish it could be

Knuckle Beach is such a rough neighborhood that the school kids there learn proper grammar by watching a DVD of Pootie Tang.
Pootie Tang, a Chris Rock Show spinoff movie featuring Lance Crouther's mostly unintelligible character from the late '90s HBO show, first played to empty theaters and negative reviews in 2001, but it turned out to be a lot funnier than expected and it gets referenced by rappers on the regular (Kanye West quoted Pootie during The College Dropout). Back in February, Prince Paul, the legendary producer of so many hip-hop albums I like, including De La Soul Is Dead and A Prince Among Thieves, posted on his SoundCloud an original song from Pootie Tang I had no idea he produced, the "Tipi Ti on My Cappi Town" duet between Pootie and Missy Elliott.

At least once every month, I try to update an AFOS playlist like "The Whitest Block Ever" with new tracks, and I wish I could add "Tipi Ti on My Cappi Town" to "The Whitest Block Ever." But no physical copies of "Tipi Ti on My Cappi Town" exist (outside of I assume Prince Paul's studio). It's not even included on the out-of-print Pootie Tang soundtrack from Hollywood Records. Pootie Tang was written and directed by--and this still surprises people who aren't comedy nerds--Louis C.K., who wrote for The Chris Rock Show. The star/writer/showrunner/director/caterer of FX's Louie doesn't think much of Pootie Tang's final cut because Paramount wrested the movie away from him during post-production (and you can tell which parts of the movie were meddled with by the studio), but it's still a funny flick, thanks to moments like Prince Paul's dead-on parody of the slow jam genre.

"The Whitest Block Ever," a block of original themes or score cues from films written or directed by filmmakers of color, airs every weekday at 10am-noon on AFOS. Here's a sampler of "The Whitest Block Ever."

The opening number of Bye Bye Birdie was Spike Lee's inspiration for this. Gonna go cobble together that wacky mash-up of Rosie Perez shadow-boxing to Ann-Margret singing 'Bye Bye Birdie' in 10, 9, 8...

"The Whitest Block Ever" sampler tracklist
1. Public Enemy, "Fight the Power" (from Do the Right Thing)
2. The Roots featuring Jaguar, "What You Want" (from The Best Man)
3. Eric B. & Rakim, "Juice (Know the Ledge)" (from Juice)
4. Adrian Younge featuring LaVan Davis, "Black Dynamite Theme"
5. Curtis Mayfield, "Freddie's Dead (instrumental version)" (from Superfly)
6. 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa, "We Own It (Fast & Furious)" (from Furious 6)
Car Wash
(Photo source: Rated X - Blaxploitation & Black Cinema)
7. Stanley Clarke, "Passenger 57 Main Title"
8. Robert Rodriguez's Chingon featuring Tito & Tarantula, "Machete Theme"
9. The Gap Band, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka"
10. The Staple Singers, "Let's Do It Again"
11. Mychael Danna, "Baraat" (from Monsoon Wedding)
12. Mychael Danna featuring Bombay Jayashri, "Pi's Lullaby" (from Life of Pi)
13. Brian Tyler, "Ready or Not" (from Finishing the Game)
14. E.U., "Da Butt" (from School Daze)
15. Curtis Mayfield, "Give Me Your Love (Love Song)" (from Superfly)
16. Rose Royce, "I Wanna Get Next to You" (from Car Wash)
17. Adrian Younge featuring Dionne Gipson, "Shine" (from Black Dynamite)
18. Guy, "New Jack City"
19. Brian Tyler, "Fists of Führer" (from Finishing the Game)
Better Luck Tomorrow (Photo source: RECO CHARGES)
20. Semiautomatic, "Eat with Your Eyes" (from Better Luck Tomorrow)
21. George Shaw, "Date Chase" (from Agents of Secret Stuff)
22. Mychael Danna, "Set Your House in Order" (from Life of Pi)
23. Branford Marsalis Quartet, "Mo' Better Blues"
24. Ramin Djawadi, "Canceling the Apocalypse" (from Pacific Rim)
25. Bill Lee, "Wake Up Finale" (from Do the Right Thing)
26. Bill Lee, "Malcolm and Martin" (from Do the Right Thing)
27. Sukhwinder Singh, "Aaj Mera Jee Kardaa (Today my heart desires)" (from Monsoon Wedding)
28. Mader, "Rhumba (End Credits)" (from The Wedding Banquet)
29. Curtis Mayfield, "Superfly"
30. Blake Perlman featuring RZA, "Drift" (from Pacific Rim)
31. The Crooklyn Dodgers featuring Special Ed, Buckshot and Masta Ace, "Crooklyn"

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Samurai Flamenco, "The Meaning of Justice"

Interesting how they shot this from the point of view of some poor dude's testicles.
Every Friday in "'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 almost named Bob's Burgers this week's best first-run animated show. Its first new episode after the Fox "Animation Domination" lineup's pre-emption by baseball coverage featured both a funny vocal guest shot by Will Forte as a skirt-chasing pilot with an eye on Linda (in this Bob's Burgers guest shot and 2010's MacGruber, Forte has been giving Will Ferrell a run for his money as the funniest at male crying scenes) and a couple of those great rapid-fire exchanges that Bob's Burgers excels at on the regular: the camera ping-pongs back and forth between the absurd things the three Belcher siblings say and the reactions of either a quietly frustrated Bob or some other adult. But the Belchers were outshined this week by Samurai Flamenco, which has been killing it in the last couple of weeks and does so again, with an episode that dials down the comedy a bit when Hazama, who's becoming disenchanted with both his forced partnership with Flamenco Girl and a surprisingly dull acting job on the set of a superhero show he likes, receives in the mail an important 20th birthday present from his deceased grandfather.

The show needs to change up its alleyways. He keeps fighting thugs in the same fucking alleyway each week. This ain't Filmation, dawg! Step your alleyway game up!
The present contains a new helmet with horns--a slight upgrade from the chintzy bike helmet Hazama's been rocking--and a letter from Hazama's grandfather, whom we learn had raised Hazama after his parents' deaths. Hazama's grandfather came up with the concept for Samurai Flamenco ("Born from the strength of a samurai and the passion of flamenco") and inspired Hazama to become the real-life superhero he envisioned in detailed "Samurai Flamenco Project" notes he also left in the parcel.

"Samurai Flamenco is the manifestation of universal and absolute justice. When faced with danger, he will never give up. When the going gets tough, he will never run and hide," says Hazama's granddad in the letter. His encouraging words pull Hazama out of his funk and give him the courage to tell Mari, whose bossiness and extremist approach to busting criminals have made him less enthusiastic about crimefighting, that he wants out of the partnership.

The affecting sequence in which we hear the letter being read by the granddad's voice is a bit reminiscent of Bruce Wayne's flashback to watching the superhero show The Gray Ghost when his father was alive in Batman: The Animated Series' classic "Beware the Gray Ghost" episode. Hazama and his granddad bonded over the superhero genre in the same way that Bruce and Dr. Thomas Wayne bonded over the show that later gave Bruce a few ideas for his crimefighting persona. The black-and-white images of the granddad's vision of Samurai Flamenco are even drawn in the same smoky and noirish style that made the black-and-white footage of the Gray Ghost show stand out in the Batman episode. The letter sequence has an edge over the flashback to little Bruce: it never shows either Hazama's granddad or Hazama as a kid, and it's slightly more powerful that way.

The Graaaaaaay Ghost!
Hazama's reading of the letter is one of the most impressive sequences Samurai Flamenco has pulled off so far, not just because of its dramatic value, but also because of the skillful way it intercuts with Goto overcoming a similar existential crisis about his mundane duties when he types up a proposal to the Tokyo police department's newly formed Vigilante Counseling Unit about allying with Samurai Flamenco instead of treating him as an antagonist. Goto's superiors give the proposal their approval and reward Goto with a transfer to the new unit, which assigns him with tasks that make him feel more useful as a cop and are a step up from the petty complaints about injuries from falling ramen bowls that he dreaded responding to and were assigned to the uniformed officers strictly to create good PR for the department.

The new job also allows Goto to keep a better eye on both his friend and Flamenco Girl, whose adversaries have gotten nastier and more brutal, like the female stick-up artist who fakes being mugged by her two male accomplices in order to trap either of the Flamencos and snare a million-yen reward for unmasking either of them (actually, it's an extra mil for Flamenco Girl). The increasing brutality is starting to physically take its toll on Mari, who's forced to handle the streets on her own when Hazama becomes too busy to suit up due to the hectic shooting schedule of his TV show guest shot.

The most shocking part of this scene: she still has an answering machine.

Moe is into Mari, but Mari is into Goto, who's into Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

Mari's excuse for this bruise at a press conference should be 'The paparazzi made me fall down the stairs.'
Without Hazama by her side, Mari is forced to also spend less time on composing songs for her band Mineral Miracle Muse, which worries both Mizuki, the Mineral Miracle Muse frontwoman, and Moe, the shy bandmate who's nursing a crush on Mari ("That kiss was longer than usual," noted Moe right after an overjoyed-from-crimefighting Mari planted a kiss on her last week). But after the letter restores Hazama's faith in his own cause, he surprises Mari by arriving just in time to help her triumph over the scummy trio of reward-seekers when she encounters them again and they bring with them extra henchmen, and for the first--and what ends up being last--time in their partnership, Samurai Flamenco and Flamenco Girl really gel into a formidable fighting force. What isn't as clear is the fate of Hazama's acting job, which isn't as fun or exciting as he thought it would be (the veteran TV director's lack of enthusiasm for the superhero material especially bums out Hazama, who's been fanboying big-time about the superhero shows he's directed). Did Hazama walk out on the role to help Mari (Sumi, who got him the bit part and hates playing babysitter to her inept client, is sure to be thrilled if he did indeed quit)? "The Meaning of Justice" glosses over that superhero show subplot too quickly.

When Samurai Flamenco tells Flamenco Girl he wants to be solo again, she neither reacts psychotically nor exposes his identity like she originally threatened to do (although I have a feeling that she's going to threaten to spill it again at a later point in the series). Mari admits that they might grow to become enemies if they continue working together ("It sucks that I'm losing a slave," she says), so she agrees to let him go and as we see in the show's most enjoyable post-credits tag so far, she forms with Moe and a reluctant (and amusingly clumsy) Mizuki a new trio of crimefighting magical girls called the Flamenco Girls. So that now makes it four wanna-be superheroes Goto has to keep an eye on, with one of them--Mari, not Hazama, whom a certain sector of the show's female fans would rather see snuggling with Goto--nursing a nasty crush on the uniformed cop.

It's a dope outfit, but it's not really flamenco-y. Like where's the rose between the teeth or the fan that flamenco dancers always wave?
This show just keeps getting better, doesn't it? And could the new helmet be the first of many costume upgrades that will lead to the snazzy armored suit Hazama wears in his dream during the show's opening credits?

Stray observations:
* Speaking of the new headgear, in the post-credits tag, there's a helmet blooper. During the first sighting of the Flamenco Girls, Hazama's wearing the old bike helmet again instead of the birthday gift from his grandfather.

It's Sailor Moon meets Dancing with the Stars, but without the shitty dancing.

Thousands of Japanese skater nutshot videos take place on this stairway.
* I love how drab the surroundings are when the Flamenco Girls make their splashy debut.

* Kaname's inability to keep his promises to help out Hazama when he patrols the streets is becoming a great running gag, as is his self-absorbedness (like when he didn't seem to be able to remember Hazama's name last week or when he's too wrapped up in watching episodes of his own show on TV to pay attention to Hazama). This week, "a film festival in France" is Kaname's excuse for skipping out on Hazama.

* Goateed news site editor Akira Konno (Satoshi Mikami) tries and fails once again to score a date with Sumi, who continues to deny Akira's insinuations that Samurai Flamenco is Hazama. Somebody on an anime blog said that they couldn't buy Sumi's unwillingness to cash in on Hazama's fame and hype him up as the world's first fashion model/superhero celebrity. I have a feeling that Sumi does know that he's Hazama and doesn't want it to be true because of the PR headaches she'd have to deal with if his crimefighting identity were revealed to the world. Hazama's immaturity is enough of a hassle for her.

* Unless I'm mistaken, there's one more regular character from the opening credits who has yet to appear on the show: Jun Harazuka (Toru Okawa), who, according to the manglobe animation studio's press notes, is "an older man who works in the development department of Monsters Stationary [sic]." Could he be an old friend of Hazama's grandfather's who ends up helping upgrade the Samurai Flamenco suit? We still don't know what the granddad's job was. Judging from the stacks of blueprints in the parcel, I'm going with "stationery artist."

* We still haven't seen Goto's girlfriend, who's becoming increasingly testy in her texts to Goto. Maybe she's actually Jun, who's catfishing Goto for some reason.

* Somebody was temp-tracking Samurai Flamenco with both the '70s Gatchaman theme and the Pink Panther theme big-time this week.

* The Brass Rangers, the brass band-themed superheroes from the show Hazama has a bit part in, and their Wolverine-clawed nemesis Chalkboard Screechy Screech are an amusing pack of fake superhero genre characters, even though the Brass Rangers' poses bring back horrible memories of the 1978 movie version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Finally, a team of superheroes that band geeks everywhere can cream their marching band pants about.

'This one time at band camp, we watched a bunch of musicians dress up as Power Rangers for no reason.

Chalkboard Screechy Screech was what a young Calvin Broadus was originally going to call himself before he went with Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Samurai Flamenco, "Idol Devastation"

Crimefighting, Elton John style
Every Friday in "'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.

Ever since Samurai Flamenco introduced Mari (Haruka Tomatsu), Mizuki (M • A • O, and yes, that's her actual, interpunct-y name) and Moe (Erii Yamazaki), the three members of the J-pop girl group Mineral Miracle Muse, I've been wondering why Mari has been behaving strangely and has gotten the most screen time outside of Hazama, Goto and Sumi, Hazama's manager. This week's Samurai Flamenco episode, "Idol Devastation," clears up the mystery that is Mari, who's been watching Samurai Flamenco's rise to fame like a hawk and correctly deduced last week that Goto's temporary stint in the Samurai Flamenco suit (which Goto seemed to be enjoying) was a ruse to throw off anyone's suspicions about Hazama's double life. Like Hazama, Mari believes she's found her true calling as a superhero, and when a trio of kidnappers abducts Samurai Flamenco and attempts to unmask him to nab a million-yen reward for uncovering his identity, she seizes the opportunity to make her debut as Flamenco Girl and rescue Samurai Flamenco.

That great little commercial shoot scene in "My Umbrella Is Missing"--Mari messes up her cue when she notices Hazama's singing to himself the theme song from Kaname's superhero show Red Axe to calm his nerves--makes a whole lot of sense now. Mari's a superhero genre fan just like Hazama, except, as we see from her shrine of superhero show memorabilia, she's more into the magical girl subgenre (you know, Sailor Moon), the basis of Flamenco Girl's costume and persona. As a superhero, Mari turns out to be much smarter and more physically aggressive than Hazama, who still gets overpowered by the kidnappers despite picking up a few moves from his new martial arts mentor Kaname off-screen. She correctly figured out that this inept male fashion model is Samurai Flamenco, and she easily defeats muggers and would-be kidnappers with swift and non-stop kicks to their crotches. The silly noises Flamenco Girl makes as she delivers those nut shots are the comedic high point of "Idol Devastation," which should be retitled "Jewel Devastation."

What every Asian American female cosplayer wants to do to Mike Babchik right now
Mari's one big mistake is lousy timing. Had she not flunked the written portion of her driver's license test seven times, she would have beaten Samurai Flamenco to the punch as Japan's first real-life superhero. So she blackmails Hazama into an arrangement where she'll keep his identity a secret if he agrees to team up with her and let her be the rescuer or victor while he would act as bait for muggers. It all works out well for Flamenco Girl and boosts her online popularity, while Samurai Flamenco has to put up with playing the damsel-in-distress and serving as coffee boy to his new boss Flamenco Girl in order to keep his secret identity safe. Last week, Kaname lied to the public about coming up with the idea for Samurai Flamenco, and Hazama managed to stand up to him and stop him from continuing with his lies (well, almost: the whole kidnapping mess is caused by Kaname's decision to fly off to Hollywood to chase after an acting role instead of keeping his promise to Hazama to give him fighting tips during a night of patrolling Numasaki, one of Japan's most crime-ridden sections). This week, Hazama isn't as assertive when dealing with Mari, due to his fear of being outed as Samurai Flamenco. Maybe it's also because he saw what Mari is capable of with her heels and decided, "Okay, I'll just back off this one."

Instead of expressing gratitude to Flamenco Girl and Samurai Flamenco for helping prevent crime and making the streets safer for women at night, Goto's police department superiors circulate a memo to all officers, including Goto, to keep an eye on the duo's crimefighting activities in case any instances of excessive force from the duo take place. This, of course, is bound to put a damper on Hazama and Goto's friendship at some point in the future, but for now, Goto gently warns Hazama and Mari to not attract so much attention and to do their crimefighting when his colleagues aren't watching. Speaking of Goto, I'm starting to wonder about this girlfriend of his whose texts to Goto we frequently glimpse but has remained unseen. If this person's catfishing Goto, is it part of some sort of plot to bring down Samurai Flamenco?

Batman would love this kind of treatment--if he were high on E.
Watching Hazama experience humiliation after humiliation could have gotten repetitive by this point, but it remains fun to watch, partly because those moments of humiliation are balanced with Hazama making some progress as a superhero, like when he's able to thwart the mugger at the start of "Idol Devastation." Both the very first scene in the series premiere, which showed Hazama hiding his nakedness in an alley instead of showing him triumphantly cleaning up the streets, and the series premiere climax, which had Hazama delivering a speech to a bunch of middle-schoolers but failing to win them over, were endearing signs that this show was going to turn upside down the flawlessness of the TV heroes Hazama admires and instead be about a hero who's in over his head and may not be as cut out for a life of crimefighting as he'd like to be (I wouldn't be surprised if Hazama goes through some sort of Nick Andopolis-like heartbreak over his dreams being crushed by reality). If Samurai Flamenco keeps up the level of comedic quality it's shown in the first four episodes, writer Hideyuki Kurata and director Takahiro Omori's take on non-powered superheroes in the age of social media just might be the year's best new anime show.

Stray observations:
* The '60s Batman-style score cue that accompanies Flamenco Girl's rescue of Samurai Flamenco is mad glorious.

* I'm not much into J-pop, but "Date TIME," the show's bouncy ED (a.k.a. end credits theme) performed by Mineral Miracle Muse, is the perfect musical bridge between the ending and the scene that usually follows the end credits. I kind of wish there was a post-credits tag this week (this episode lacked one). Last week's tag was a good one introducing Kaname's new role as Hazama's physical trainer.

* I don't care for nut shot gags. However, Samurai Flamenco may be the first show (not counting King of the Hill's "That's my purse!" episode) where nut shot humor actually made me laugh.

* Mari realizes she has a crush on Goto: "I didn't think he'd look so good in a uniform!"

Why does Moe look like Kimba the White Lion in this shot?
* Bustin' makes her feel good.