QUICK RIDE | #7 Super Power – heroes
【One Punch Man • Boku No Hero Academia • Samurai Flamenco 】
Heroes and anime… vast program. Japanimation has its bunch of guys who beat down villains on their lunch break, or even its share of groups acting in the shadow to save the Earth from evil forces. This is not new. But in this niche, there is a particular style that seems to be popular lately and which I want to talk about in this episode of Quick Ride : the regular hero – your next door neighbor – between humor, silliness, realism and glitter. Suddenly, the list of potential anime is considerably reduced, in the manner of the game “guess who?”.
3 series passed the test and caught my attention : Boku No Hero Academia, Samurai Flamenco and the ineffable One Punch Man. Concerning the latter, I intended to give my first impressions on season 2 which to my surprise… does not exist. I don’t know in what parallel world I thought it was out and well started but this is absolutely not the case. No problem, I know how to wheel and deal : I’ll slip season 1 instead, without anyone noticing, then I’ll act as if I was discovering.
ONE PUNCH MAN (2015)
Synopsis (wikipedia) : The seemingly ordinary and unimpressive Saitama has a rather unique hobby: being a hero. In order to pursue his childhood dream, he trained relentlessly for three years—and lost all of his hair in the process. Now, Saitama is incredibly powerful, so much so that no enemy is able to defeat him in battle. In fact, all it takes to defeat evildoers with just one punch has led to an unexpected problem—he is no longer able to enjoy the thrill of battling and has become quite bored.
This all changes with the arrival of Genos, a 19-year-old cyborg, who wishes to be Saitama’s disciple after seeing what he is capable of. Genos proposes that the two join the Hero Association in order to become certified heroes that will be recognized for their positive contributions to society, and Saitama, shocked that no one knows who he is, quickly agrees. And thus begins the story of One Punch Man, an action-comedy that follows an eccentric individual who longs to fight strong enemies that can hopefully give him the excitement he once felt and just maybe, he’ll become popular in the process.
My review : I must admit I was caught off-guard when watching the first episodes. I actually imagined a superheroes serie against a backdrop of humor but more in a sarcastic and/or burlesque style. I imagined the hero in spite of himself, dazed, who doesn’t understand what he’s doing here or what’s happening to him – like Hercules Satan, without the arrogance -, I imagined comical situations rich in misunderstandings. Perhaps it was because of Saitama, especially his blasé Mr. Clean’s face, that I was misled.
One Punch Man possesses this Dragon Ball-esque side in the sense that you can find the demonstration of power, the search for the transcendence of oneself, the competition, etc. The villains are the everlasting monsters who have no other purpose than to ruin everything, laughing out loud, telling monologues where they explain how strong they are. But but buuut, there’s a lot of humor. The series makes this incessant back and forth between funny, impressive and serious, which makes it so appealing.
Besides, many elements bring a touch of “realism” and thus, allow to better identify oneself : the decors (the city, its neighborhoods, its shops, its dwellings), the characters state of mind/behavior (Saitama, the guy who has difficulty finding a job), heroes are organized in professional organization. These are one of many highlights of the series and one of the reasons for which I’m so much hooked.
And let’s be honest : One Punch Man, it’s just cool! The “One paaaaaaaaaa” in the opening tells you what it’s all about 😉
MY HERO ACADEMIA (2016)
僕のヒーローアカデミア (Boku no Hīrō Academia)
Synopsis (wikipedia) : Izuku Midoriya is a regular middle school student in a world where people with superpowers known as “Quirks” (個性 Kosei) are the norm. However, he dreams of one day becoming a Hero (ヒーロー Hīrō), despite being bullied by his classmates for not having a Quirk. After being the only one to try and save his childhood bully, Katsuki, from a Villain (敵（ヴィラン） Viran), All Might, the world’s greatest Hero, bestows upon him his own quirk, “One For All”. The story follows Izuku’s entrance into U.A. High School (雄英高校 Yūei Kōkō), a school that cultivates the next generation of Heroes.
My review : Not bad, not extraordinary, it’s the impression this series leaves me for now. I find the humor rather heavy and caricatural, drawings evoke more the universe of comics because of the saturated colors, the strong “pencil stroke” and the morphology of the characters. One would believe it’s the One Punch Man world, given the heroes are numerous and organized in profession. Boku No Hero Academia is the posterity in a way.
After 3 episodes, I feel like a status quo : there are moments that push me towards the exit and others that make me hang on, eyes and ears wide open. It oscillates between heavily used clichés and a deeper, serious, adult side that makes think perhaps it’s not so useless, there might a diamond hidden in a vulgar stones.
In consequence, I give Boku No Hero Academia a pass until episode 10, it leaves 7 episodes to, I hope, blow me away. Or not, by the way…
SAMURAI FLAMENCO (2013)
サムライフラメンコ (Samurai Furamenco)
Synopsis (wikipedia) : Male model Masayoshi Hazama decides to fulfill 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. Police officer Hidenori Gotō finds out about Samurai Flamenco and his real identity by a twist of fate, which leads to him getting involved into lots of trouble, especially when they come across enemies that were not thought to exist outside of fiction. Nonetheless, 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.
My review : that title… it leaves me perplexed. On one hand you don’t know what to expect but on the other, you’ve already figured it out. You know from the outset that you shouldn’t expect something along the lines of Shingeki No Kyojin or Monster. You reduce the possibilities to 1) something kitsch 2) something funny 3) something crappy yet still watchable. For some reason, the title reminded me of Samurai Champloo and Don Quijote Don Flamenco, an eccentric character from One Piece.
What about it? Well, Samurai Flamenco is Kick Ass. If you’ve seen the movie (or just the trailer), then you’ll quickly understand the similarity. Here we’re in a resolutely slice-of-life style, the hero (or aspiring hero) is the average everyday person, who stops small crimes and respects/ makes respect order and courtesy (well, come to France, you‘ll have fun…) : take out the right trash on the right day, not smoking where it’s banned, not having a disrespectful behavior, etc. He reminds me of Mumen Rider from One Punch Man, in a way. It’s funny, cute, and easy to watch.
However, the series takes a more vigorous direction around episode 5, and is reinforced with new characters. I’m worried about the upcoming surge of crap, filled with badly made clichés or annoying fuss. Basically, I fear a sailormoonisation of the series, and not in the best way. So, we’ll see, to be continued.
On that note, mata ne.