Samurai Flamenco Episode 7: Drugs and Gorillas?
WARNING: Discussion of Madoka Magica episode 3 features in this. If you haven’t seen it, you might be spoiled. I tried to be as vague as possible, though.
Crime is on the decline in the city, thanks to the efforts of Masayoshi and the Flamenco Girls. This boosts Masayoshi’s spirits, and his work in the entertainment industry is also improving because of this. Mari, however, remains depressed that she no longer has an outlet. This high for Masayoshi is short-lived, as he discovers in the books left to him by his grandfather that his parents were actually murdered when he was two years old. He is disturbed and upset by the fact that he is not driven by a desire to enact revenge upon his parent’s murderers, but Goto manages to pull him out of his funk somewhat.
With the decrease in crime in the city, and the citizen’s increasing support of the Flamenco heroes, the Chief of Police proposes Samurai Flamenco accompany them on a drug raid for publicity. The drug raid seems to be successful, until a man who appears to be suffering from drug withdrawal suddenly transforms into a gorilla with a guillotine for an abdomen. The gorilla proceeds to mercilessly attack the police force, executing a number of them, and almost succeeds in killing Masayoshi. Goto manages to save him, and together, the two of them push the gorilla out of the building. A mysterious apparition then appears midair, announcing himself as King Torture, the course of all evil, and challenges Masayoshi to defeat them.
OOOOOOOKAY. WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED? If you’ve been anywhere near a social networking site since Samurai Flamenco aired, you’ve probably seen a lot of people expressing various iterations of, “What the fuck?”. Because that was a very sharp change of pace for Samurai Flamenco. Mixed in with this was some interesting developments for Masayoshi’s backstory, and for the entire city, but it was overshadowed by the introduction of these Viva Torture characters.
The revelation of what appears to be a supernatural crime syndicate is a major game changer for Samurai Flamenco. Not only does it cause a dramatic shift in the tone of the series, but also sets in stone its direction. Previously, Samurai Flamenco has been light-hearted, fun and a little silly, but we’ve now progressed into much darker territory. We actually see people being decapitated on-screen and flung out of multi-storey buildings. Masayoshi has also been directly challenged by the people behind the mess at the drug raid, and he will have to rise to the challenge somehow. Should these events prove to be reality, I don’t think Masayoshi will shy away from the challenge, and likely the public will expect Samurai Flamenco to take them on.
Naturally, parallels between Samurai Flamenco and Madoka Magica have been drawn, as both shows feature a significant shift in tone despite being fairly light to begin with. In fact, the episodes in which we see the two series become darker play out in almost exactly the same manner. What differentiates the two is the build up to the shift, and the world building prior. Madoka Magica was very obviously a fantasy world before to the Mami incident, and the obviously twisted nature of witches did create a sense of unease. So while the Mami incident did represent a huge change, it was in keeping with the universe’s laws and underlying feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
Samurai Flamenco, however, had not given any previous indication that this world is capable of housing gorillas mixed with guillotines and supernatural evil. Beyond weaponised stationery, Samurai Flamenco was as normal a world as our own. Unless there were hints we’ve missed, which could come into play later on, but I am straining to think of any. A little more build up would have been nice.
The entire incident also raises many questions. Guillotine Gorilla (GG from here on), before he transformed, desperately sought out a capsule which was featured quite prominently. Initially, I believed it was because he was going through drug withdrawal (in which case oral dosing is useless if you want quick relief, but I am digressing into other fields I care too much about), but perhaps it was to control his transformation? Are Viva Torture agents blending in to the general population? Was GG undercover in the drug lab? Or was the drug lab a part of Viva Torture? And what do they want, and why do they want to challenge Masayoshi?
And was this all even real? The episode 8 summary on the website would indicate so, but other theories include that it was all a dream, like the OP, a drug induced hallucination (the drugs looked like cocaine, but perhaps it was a psychotropic that Masayoshi inhaled?), acting for a show (since Goto was referring to Masayoshi as Samurai Flamenco when there was a damn gorilla in the room) or was IT ACTUALLY HAPPENING?
There are so many question to be answered by Samurai Flamenco. By no means am I unhappy with the change in tone; I’m interested to see how they deal with it. However, I do worry that the introduction of Via Torture will simply create another superhero show, and we’ll lose a lot of the introspection and exploration of themes dealing with what it means to be a hero. The realism and humanity of the character prior to this was what really drove Samurai Flamenco, so I hope that the series manages to maintain this while also combining the superhero elements it introduced in this episode.