2. “My name is Guillotine Gorilla.”

Are you tired of being nice? Don’t you just want to go ape shitt

Rarely do you get an anime that is such an intense fever dream than Samurai Flamenco. Thinking about it 6 years after this show aired, there actually was a growing trend of the story escalating to what would amount to one of the greatest and most polarizing plot twists in anime. Ever.

I think Masayoshi Hazama wasn’t particularly sure about the extent by which he wanted to be a superhero. His ideals were very clear, but there’s only so far that you can go with words alone. Actions, after all, speak louder than words. But what actions must Hazama take in order to become a superhero? The answer is spoken my Hazama himself in episode 1.

“Without bad guys, a hero has nothing to do.”

At first, villainy manifested as human complacency. He righted the most mundane of wrongs, like retrieving a stolen umbrella or berating passersby for littering. Then it became a fight to change public perception, with him getting a bounty on his head and gaining new allies. Then he ended up at odds with a gang for interrupting a drug deal. He went to small crimes to big ones within the span of a few episodes.

None of these things are true villains, however. At least, not by Hazama’s standards. The villains he grew up with on TV were nefarious. Evil. Downright maniacal. The stuff he’s been doing at that time was small fry in comparison. To an extent, this is also an issue with the story. For being a story about a man wanting to be a superhero in society, he’s achieved that pretty quickly, hasn’t he? Maybe he isn’t rocket punching serial killers or kicking the nuts off of drug dealers, but he is certainly stapling them together and having other people kicking those nuts off. Public perception is quite positive because, while he’s mostly harmless to society as a whole, he’s an icon of what being a virtuous person should be: selfless, empathetic, friendly, and kind. Again, however, we’re not even halfway through the show. Is this really all the story’s got?

Hazama cooperates with the police in a drug bust. It goes smoothly. The evidence is confiscated and the criminals arrested. He, with his friend Gotou, are satisfied that nothing drastic occurred. But we don’t want that. Deep down, Hazama doesn’t really want that either. So the show bends so hard that it nearly snaps.

One of the criminals literally goes apeshit, bursting out as a huge gorilla. A guillotine in its gut severs a cop’s head from his body. Was it the drugs? That’s a dumb question, because it’s obviously not the drugs. Is this all an act? Well, a cop’s head just got guillotined, so maybe his dead body would say no. Is there something special about this guy before he transformed? We know nothing about him. There was absolutely no reason to want to know about him. So the person who transformed doesn’t matter.

The logic of what just happened doesn’t matter either. But this was never about logic. Logic in this story eroded slowly, before the stationary weaponry, before the 10 million yen bounty, before Flamenco Girl driving a fucking Hummer through an abandoned warehouse. No. Hazama’s ideal world for a superhero was always there. In the first episode. A hero needs a villain. When society can no longer offer villains, the story must seek a new one.

That villain’s name was Guillotine Gorilla.

Addendum

  • I still remember when this episode aired. The unbridled frenzy swept up the aniblog community and anitwitter like wildfire. No one knew what to make of it. Some wanted it all to be a dream. Others thought this was all an act. But no one, absolutely no one, thought the show was capable of pulling this.
  • It was a shark jumper. A brave plot twist. The last straw before dropping the show altogether. The catalyst to output a perfect anime. Guillotine Gorilla was all of these things. It was glorious.

2 comments

  1. It’s interesting to think back on how polarizing that plot twist was, and how a lot of people felt the show “jumped the shark” when that happened. Since really, the early “anime Kick-Ass” part of the show is easily the most forgettable. I barely remembered anything about these first few episodes myself until I read this blog post, to be honest.

    There’s early foreshadowing and set-up for the show’s overall themes of course, but it’s only after Guillotine Gorilla that Samurai Flamenco starts to do something truly interesting with itself. Since that’s when it stops being a standard narrative, and dives into ever more bizarre territory to explore its themes. But consequently, that’s also when the show started to lose people.

    Even the companies that backed the show’s funding dipped out as the show progressed, which is why the production values sunk so low. In that sense, Guillotine Gorilla truly is a “brave” plot twist. The staff literally had to go against the production committee–and lose a huge chunk of their funding in the process–in order to pursue their creative vision to the fullest.

    1. I didn’t know they lost money because of it. That’s insane.

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