22 CommentsSamurai Flamenco / By Scamp /

Samurai Flamenco episode 11 – A lesson in storytelling

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Let’s talk about storytelling. The absolute basics right here. Things like flow and character development, the kinds of things that are so taken for granted that you don’t even normally discuss them. Samurai Flamenco gives me a good opportunity to talk about these most basic of mechanics because of how it very deliberately ignores these rules. It’s certainly interesting from a scholarly standpoint and whatever the hell it is that motivates them to do such a thing, but it does also demonstrate why these things are important.

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When you write a story, the world you are set in is governed by a series of rules. Through the writing you establish these rules, and establish them early on. You also establish your characters and how they think and react. What their goals and motivations are. From here all the twists that occur should play out as a natural progression of the plot and the characters and world should react accordingly. Change is what makes it exciting (unless you are one of those weirdos that likes iyakishitty in which case these rules don’t apply to you), but that change it exciting because of how it effects all the already established factors. When L introduces himself to Light in Death Note as L, it marks a big change in the dynamic of the show, but is only exciting because you can foresee the ramifications this will have on the two characters and the world they’ve built.

Death Note is perhaps an extreme example since they literally write out the rules to you on a page in the first episode, but every story does this. Even your bog-standard Key drama. They establish the two characters and establish that there’s a bit of ~magical realism~ going on here, so when the little girl dies you can tell what effect it will have. Jarring and poor storytelling often comes from things not adhering to their own rules, such as when a character doesn’t react how the story has built them up, or plot holes occur when they don’t adhere to their own rules. This might sound like you can’t change at all, but that’s not the case. Attack on Titan made a regular habit of drastically altering the rules of its world, but it always came one twist at a time. That twist was huge, but you understood how it would effect the world it built.

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In Samurai Flamenco, the changes are like they have basically thrown out all the rules established previously and created an entirely new one. Everything you once knew might as well be gotten rid of. The general outline of the characters is still intact, but how they operate in this world does not and you have to rewire your expectations entirely. It’s like how annoying it is when a show throws out its entire cast for a new one because it begs the question of why the hell you even bothered getting emotionally invested in the original crew in the first place. Which incidentally it seems like Samurai Flamenco has done too with this new team of sentai heroes.

Nobody reacts to these changes like the world had previously implied they should. None of the powers they were given are relevant anymore. Next to none of the character development matters. This is not a story. It’s an exercise in creating a text with no flow and no rules. It’s fascinating and weirdly entertaining in its own way, but I also have zero emotional investment in this thing anymore. At the very least this new set of rules it has randomly decided to wear are more enjoyable than the shitty superhero robes it wore last time with King Torture. But I have completely lost any attachment to this story or these characters.

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22 Comments

  1. Posted December 23, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I’m actually wondering if people are taking this show the wrong way. Maybe that’s the intent. I see each arc as a ‘series’ each one with a different hook and let’s face it, forces you to want more of the previous or at least look for a resolution. Why? So that the viewer anticipates a season two.

    In that sense, isn’t Samurai Flamenco the very epitome of what’s wrong with toku and anime these days? A medium satisfied with reusing tropes an story conventions? Masayoshi is now stuck in a cycle where he’s always meant to play the hero and he’s bounded by a code of honor, he now represents an idea of what real heroes stand for. Even when he tries to rationalize the actions of his enemies, he isn’t given that opportunity to do so because either the developments are too fast or he’s trying his best not to get killed. It’s not his fault really, whoever’s orchestrating the show is a bad writer!

    Reading this post kind of makes me reflect that maybe that’s what’s Samumenco is trying to do. Is it succeeding? I say 50-50? I can see why people are so down on it, but perhaps, like the series, people need to change their perspectives.

    • HenryIsHot
      Posted December 23, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Take your perspective further, and any bad show is a commentary on what’s wrong with anime.

      Whether by changing perspective or connecting themes, you can always rationalize what you think the anime’s “trying to do” in a positive way, but that’s not going to change its quality. Even if the writers had the intentions you claim, or even if it gets better from here, it won’t change that this episode was a mess.

      Badly done shows have value in that they show what not to do, but that’s most valuable for writers and animators, not so much for fans, who just want to be entertained. Samurai Flamenco’s meta criticism in the first episodes only worked because they were telling a good story at the same time.

      • Posted December 23, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        Except Samumenco has been set its goals from the very beginning. This episode really wasn’t a mess because really, that was the next logical step in the series path to trampling over sentai conventions and what not. In a way, it’s an exploitation of the traditional toku/sentai narratives. Even Gatchaman Crowds points out the stagnation happening in this genre.

        It’s not like I find Samumenco bad either, it’s still entertaining and hilarious to me even without the meta commentary. But I don’t think anything that’s happened in the past series is completely disregarded or thrown in for simple shock value. I have faith in the show. You’re free to disagree though.

    • Posted December 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      You could make a two-hour long movie of Daniel Tosh not being funny to highlight how full of fail he is, but that still means I have to sit through two hours of Daniel Tosh not being funny.

      • Posted December 23, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

        Daniel Tosh is never funny. But I find Samumenco funny. I laughed a whole lot during episode 11. But then it’s supposed to be comedy a.k.a the most subjective thing in the world.

  2. gedata
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Samurai Flamenco is more about one-upping itself then it is about the characters, which is a bit sad. Still have faith in this show, still pretty entertaining, and even if it ends up sucking real bad in it’s second half, i’m sure it won’t be dull

  3. TheVoid
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Honestly the more it goes on the more I’m starting to expect there’s something fishy going on. The world seems to be trying to give Masayoshi what he wants: a world of heroes. He got a tragic backstory, villains showed up who showed only a interest in him, and he got his dream to fight evil organizations made a reality. Even in this Sentai role he’s now the Red Ranger and leading a team, unlike when he was Mari’s lackey. Something is making the world fit Masayoshi’s fantasy.

    That said the rules were always something the characters believed, but were likely something they believed but wasn’t actually true. Like for instance how almost everyone was suspecting Masayoshi being Samurai Flamenco, no one even tried to guess who the Flamenco Girls identities were. That’s already a sign that the so called rules don’t exist in this world. Then Guillotine Gorilla showed up.

    Goto will still doubt have a role no matter what. I just have this feeling concerning him and of course Manager, but we probably won’t see Mari and her group for awhile. I do have to say I at least like Flamenger Blue. So I’m not completely against the Flamengers yet.

    • Di-Dorval
      Posted December 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Pretty much this. Everyone seems to be in a conspiracy to turn the main character into a real life hero. The main head may be his obsessed grand father. The show is very aware of how close it follow the most standards tropes. Going has far has the parents killed by a criminal.

      Anyway I’m pretty excited about where this is going. I like the ideas of the whole world changing to meet ones fabricated dream.

  4. delzer
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I feel like this episode is supposed to be a send up of sentai shows, and that I don’t know enough about the genre to appreciate it. Like they don’t have to make their commentary overt because they think everyone already knows what there alluding to.

    You’ve been waiting for them to pull the camera back, and as the plot of this episode got more and more hackneyed, I thought that might actually be where they were headed. Then I realized we’re only halfway though; not sure my patience will hold out…

  5. shytende
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I still have the feeling it’s a set up for a joke and am waiting for the punchline.
    there’s no way we’re supposed to take any of this seriously.

    Strangely enough, since I know absolutely everything can happens now, all the twists absolutely doesn’t surprise me. He could transform into a monster and eats everyone and I won’t have any more reaction.

    …This is also a good lesson of story telling : Too much twists break the suspension of disbelief, and so the interrest towards the show (That’s also the lesson you learned by watching Valvrave).

  6. Erif
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    But would you say this succeeds as a comedy, since they follow different rules than stories that are played straight? Because after the last two or three shitty episodes I’m finally finding this show fun and hilarious again. I don’t think I enjoyed this show so much for my emotional investment in the characters, but rather for the wacky and ridiculous situations they got themselves into. That is, BGG. I think they should have dropped King Torture’s existence completely and went straight from GG to these guys, and kept it somewhat light and ridiculous despite people dying is the most gruesome way.

    That’s probably the most jarring thing, the obvious clash in tone. At one point in time this show wants to be a light-hearted, silly, and heavy-handed comedy, and at another people are beheaded and bleeding out of every orifice while the heroes stand about making jokes. Disconcerting stuff.

    But I believe Samurai Flamenco is taking a step back into the right direction after the dreaded King Torture arc, focusing on the funnier side while still developing a superhero story at its core. There’s still the problem of tone – the biggest problem with the series, at the moment – but Updatedue at Mecha Guignol puts the show in an interesting light; he insists the show is alluding to Kamen Rider, and its eems to be an accurate comparison (http://mecha-guignol.com/2013/11/26/samurai-flamenco-needed-guillotine-gorilla/). Just as the King Torture arc alluded to Kamen Riders, this new From Beyond arc seems to be alluding to Power Rangers. I approve.

  7. Shikamaru
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    1st story arc: No superpowers, no supervillains. The main character just wants to be a superhero in a world where nothing supernatural exists. (Really entertaining and awesome.)

    2nd story arc: We have supervillain and superpowers out of nowhere. Strong resemblance to super sentai series. (Whaaaaaaaaat? Still entertaining enough.)

    3rd story arc: The anime becomes super sentai series. (Why????? Entertaining but fucking stupid.)

    I’m guessing that there’s going to be 4th story arc that closes the series. My guess is that in the 4th story arc Samurai Flamenco gets real superpowers somehow. That sounds just about right. It’s stupid, ridiculous but also entertaining.

  8. Posted December 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I was watching Zebraman recently and it pretty much did what Flamenco is doing, but better. Schmuck starts wanting to be a sentai hero, but his life soon becomes one and all that shit. So beautiful.

    But yeah, for a guy like me who likes his crazy and exploitative entertainment, this is starting to get to even me a little. I don’t mind shock factor, but if they switch genres 1-2 more times, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to handle it.

  9. blackice85
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I bet he’s dreaming while in a coma or something after getting his butt kicked trying to fight crime.

    • Shikamaru
      Posted December 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      I have thought about this too. It would be genius trolling move. “It was all a dream.” It’s a shame that won’t happen because why would he dream about Mari and the other girls just talking and doing their job.

      • Gan_HOPE326
        Posted December 23, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        Because bad writing, that at this point is pretty much a given, no matter what route they take. It could still be a troll, it’s just that it’s going to be unfunny anyway.

      • blackice85
        Posted December 23, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Yeah I think either way they go I’m already unhappy at this point. But it’s gotten so crazy that I just have to see where they go with it, even if I never watch it ever again.

  10. Johnny Joestar
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’m one of those evil scumbags that dared enjoy the King Torture arc more than the slice-of-life episodes, and I consider episode 10 to have been Samumenco’s peak (so far), but man, every complaint about this episode and its pacing is completely valid. There’s just way too much going on at once for me as the viewer to feel anything.

  11. stushi
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I loved the first couple of episodes. While most people were complaining after a while that it had become boring, it was just getting better and better for me. Of course, then THAT happened.
    I tried to go with the flow, listening to peoples opinion that it was in fact the same show, just in a different way. Okay, fine. Maybe it wasn’t that bad.
    But then, it had to go and pull this crap! What was once one of the best shows of the season for me, is NOW the most boring. Yes, random stuff happening without any logic behind it is boring. Which is why I never understood what was entertaining about Valvrave, even though I watched the whole first season.
    Whatever. I guess it’ll enter my overhyped-yet-dissapointed list, right next to Free! and Suisei no Gargantia.

    • shytende
      Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Valvrave decided to make Haruto’s father a pervert in the second season ! (oh, and a mad scientist, because he created his son to be a superhuman, but who cares about that ?). this was as hilarious as it was disturbing.

      I’m still convinced they’re trolling us, but replacing the main cast really made me lost some interrest.
      This will probably be over soon as well.

  12. Ken
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Thank you Scamp. I’m glad that you are still keeping up with this show and writing about it. I stopped watching it weeks ago personally, but I still like to hear how it’s going just in case it turns around and starts to get good again. Apparently, it hasn’t.

  13. Posted December 24, 2013 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    You nailed it perfectly. This show has turned into shit, and I don’t think any reasoning can change my mind about that. WTF did that Voltron come from? WTF. When did Masayoshi train to ride it? By reading the manual book? Why did they have all power rangers equipments ready when this world doesn’t have any monster up until recently? It seemed that they have power ranger candidates ready since a long time ago too. I said bullshit. Yeah, this is totally plothole. It failed the information that it has established itself. The writer must have eaten something bad and gone crazy halfway.

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