Samurai Flamenco – The best worst anime I’ve ever seen.

Samurai Flamenco!

Gotou looks on as Flamenco responds to the call to action! From “Anime is Dead” blog. http://animeisdead.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/samurai-flamenco-love-and-empathy-are-beyond-justice/

I didn’t know where else to write this.

I’m just so mad right now.

I’m so mad I’m taking time out of work to write this. That’s how mad I am. Don’t tell my boss.

Last night I indulged again in my recent guilty pleasure, Samurai Flamenco, an anime created in 2013 which focuses on the life of a male model named Masayoshi.

Masayoshi works as a model, but dreams of becoming a real life superhero akin to those in shows like “Power Rangers” (in this series called the “credit card rangers”). To that end, he creates the hero Samurai Flamenco – his costumed alter ego – who will fight evil on the streets in Japan.

We first meet Masayoshi sitting naked and defeated in a back alley, where the show’s other main character, Gotou, finds him. Gotou is a young police officer, and he struggles with the challenge of knowing that Masayoshi is a masked vigilante whom he should probably report, while also knowing that he’s a complete weakling with good intentions who actually gets beat up more often than he manages to do any good.

So that’s the basic set up. The young man who wants to “fight for justice.” The cop who doesn’t share the same idealism, but who does “fight for justice” in his day job.

What I can’t express is the wonderful charm of this show. Masayoshi’s naivete and repeatedly crushed optimism is wonderfully heartening somehow. Seeing him fail to convince a stranger to put a can into a recycle bin instead of tossing it on the street makes the viewer shake his head with a smile. Gotou struggling with trying to be supportive of this truly good-natured kid, while trying to help him recognize the realities of a nuanced world is equally humorous. Their relationship is emotionally rewarding, and develops very well. As the hyper-cheerful end-credits play on each episode I notice I have a huge smile on my face.

The plot progresses at a perfect pace. A news website owner puts up a reward for the identity of Flamenco, A washed-up action hero claims to be the real Samurai Flamenco live on television where Masayoshi is a guest. Masayoshi’s agent suspects the truth and must be kept in the dark. A pop-star female arrives in costume to fight evil and can actually beat up muggers, unlike Flamenco. When Flamenco puts forth a superhuman effort just to retrieve an umbrella for Gotou, he becomes a viral video sensation.

And so on.

The whole thing just feels like a wonderfully comedic soap-opera, just barely pushing the boundaries of the absurd on occasion (super-powered school supplies, anyone?) for the sake of a good laugh.

Then episode 7 comes along. Prepare for spoilers.

The first half of episode 7 is basically normal. Gotou informs Masayoshi that the police chief wants to make Samurai Flamenco “Police Chief for a Day” and have him ride along as the police clean out a drug operation. It’s meant to be a photo op for the police department, to improve their reputation.

After the bad guys are subdued, Flamenco is allowed into the building where the drug operation is taking place. One of the criminals breaks loose and runs into another room. The police and Flamenco give chase, but the criminal throws off 4 police officers simultaneously. Samurai Flamenco and Gotou watch in shock as, screaming and grunting, the criminal transforms into a giant ape with huge metal screws in its head and a guillotine for a torso, which it then uses to chop off the heads of several police officers while yelling “I am Guillotine Gorilla!” Necks are snapped. Heads fly. Blood spurts. Gotou and Flamenco manage to shove the gorilla out of a high window, thus killing it. Then “King Torture” appears in the sky and announces that the monster is his and he’s going to take over the world. End of episode.

This sudden and dramatic change in tone, style, violence level, and theme was completely unexpected and utterly derailed everything that went before.

“It must be a fantasy, or a dream or something,” I thought. “It must be a hallucination brought on by the drugs.” I skimmed through the next episode. Another ridiculous monster, and no discussion of how it’s not “real.”

In fact, for the remainder of the show (another 14 episodes or so) it’s nothing but send up after send up of the old Japanese action shows. First cartoony monsters led by a bad guy who wants to “take over the world.” But then it’s a team of fighters led by Flamenco. Suddenly the washed-up action hero character is actually the 1970s Japanese equivalent of Nick Fury, commanding teams of fighters. Flamenco becomes more and more powerful, transforming his costume from flimsy home-sewn fabric to a high tech suit of awesome. The team pilots special ships and fights the Japanese Government which has become evil. Then an alien menace appears and sends monsters which transform into giant versions of themselves.

Of course, it doesn’t take long to realize that Flamenco is experiencing everything he ever thought he wanted. All the bad guys from all the shows he loves are appearing – and he’s the hero!  He has his tragic back-story! He has his super powers! He has his recognition! At last!

A few hints in the show, skillfully dropped, show that there’s a message in there for the viewer.

  • The man who owns the internet news site appears occasionally while things are peaceful between planet-threatening attacks and says with his half-closed eyes something along the lines of “this is so boring.”
  • The never-on-screen girlfriend of Gotou sends him text messages while Flamenco is seen battling evil, asking “Does Masayoshi look happy?”
  • The girl who saw herself as hero is humiliated when she realizes her motives are impure, and she’s nothing more than an expendible sidekick.
  • King Torture releases his prisoner, swearing to never do her harm, when she demonstrates she is a true hero, exhibiting self-sacrifice in the face of current and imminent agony.
  • Masayoshi can’t figure out how to help Gotou when there is no super-villain to fight.

You know what, writers? I get it. I’m seeing the commentary on heroism, desires, and happiness. I get it. But you know what?

That’s not what we signed up for.

For six and a half episodes Samurai Flamenco treats us to one of the most charming and well-written anime series in recent memory. Yeah, the artwork was pretty pathetic, but so what? Viewers were ready to stick with Masayoshi and Gotou for years, watching them deal with the challenges of regular human life and the conflict between the ideal and the real. It was good. It was sweet. It was everything it needed to be.

And yes, maybe that’s the point. You live the life you can, and do the good you can, because it’s perfect just how it is. You dream of amazing adventures and being something you’re not, but will it really make you happy? Is the purpose of life to avoid being bored? Is it a costume and adventure that makes a hero? No. So why not embrace all that is good in the sometimes boring, but ultimately beautiful life you have?

In that sense, Samurai Flamenco is massively impressive in that they sacrificed the entire show to proving that point. It makes it, in my opinion, one of the most powerful and beautiful pieces of art able to express that idea. From an artistic standpoint, this was a huge win.

But you know what? I didn’t sign up for that. I wanted my guilty pleasure about a male model who fumbles through life, but manages to do a lot of good with his meager efforts.

Good job, team, in making your point in an epic way. Now give me back the life I wanted.

Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor and Executive Orders.

I finished two books by Tom Clancy recently: “Debt of Honor” and “Executive Orders.”

Debt of Honor was, I thought, one of Clancy’s best. As usual, it begins with multiple threads combining into an interesting tapestry of international conflict. Jack Ryan figures large yet again as a member of the cabinet of the presidency of the USA.

The funny thing, though, is that I can’t really say much more about it except that it’s good in the same way that all the other Clancy novels are good, and bad in the same ways, too. What should I say? Did you like “Hunt for Red October?” You’ll like this. “Sum of All Fears” on your list? Put this on too.

I personally liked it better than any other Clancy novel I’ve read, but I can’t say why. Maybe it’s just me. I guess the only way to find out is for you to read it yourself.

Executive Orders was more like a combination of the boring parts of “Rainbow Six,” and the good parts of “Sum of All Fears” along with a huge pile of Ayn Rand. There was a lot of fun plots, twists, and turns and conflicts, but the whole thing was dunked in Clancy’s personal political views throughout and it was actually difficult to continue reading despite the compelling story.

Executive Orders was a book that should have been phenomenal and ends up being both pandering and condescending.

Damn, I good.

I came to the site today looking for something specific.  I think it was an old post from like 4 or 5 years ago that had a list of links to some fun guitar music… I think.   But what ended up happening was that I saw some of my old writing.  I started reading it, then I read some more.

I recognize that most of what I put on this site was in ‘rough draft’ form having only minor edits done, if any.  Despite that, I have to say that I am a fine and entertaining writer.  You should read more of what I write, cause it’s enjoyable.

In fact, so is Benski.  So were a lot of us back in the day.

I noticed that about the same time Ben and I gave up on the ol’ village the blogs of other friends slowed considerably as well.  Gandhi doesn’t write much any more… Mickelle writes quarterly at best.  Even Ryan has let us down.

So…. what am I saying?  Well, I would like to say that I’m going to put more effort into writing on this site on a regular basis and seduce back some of the ol’ friends.  The reality is that I don’t know that any of us will ever have “blogging” as a priority, much less this bizarre community blogging thing that we tried.  But despite that… I’m going to give up on my giving up on Sixmile and blogging / online journaling.

I can’t promise I’ll write much, or often, but when I do I’ll do my best.  It will be good to keep the writing skills up-to-date, and, with luck, it will be good fun to read.

Based on the astonishing quality of my previous works, I’d say you’re going to freakin’ love it.

Your part?  Leave a comment.  Let me know you’re still RSSing the site or something.  Heck, contribute if you dare.

Your funny pal,

Greg

A stream of consciousness rant on Health Care Reform, Mormonism, And United States Politics.

Health care costs inflate 7 to 10% every year under the current system.
Our incomes inflate at 3% per year.
If the system is not changed health care will bankrupt us, or be out of reach for everybody.

I think what’s got me riled up more than anything during this whole health care, uh, “debate” is the reaction of the Utah Mormon populace.  If ever there was a group that should happily embrace the idea of caring for others, or having “all things equal” it ought to be the group that tried living the “law of consecration” more than once in the past.

But no.

And I can’t help but wonder why.  Why has this, the reddest of the red states decided that when the time came to choose between politics and religion that it was time to confuse the two?

There was a time, not so long ago, when the majority of Mormons were moderate in their political views, going about 50/50 democrat and republican.  The church was happy to see this behavior.   And even when we drifted to the conservative side, I don’t think it was a bad thing.

No, the bad part is our bizzare embracing of the extremists within our political parties, and our absolute devotion to a party rather than analysis by topic.  The Rush Limbaughs and the Glen Becks have gained media time and our consciousness has drifted so far to the right that the moderates within our society seem by comparison to be vastly liberal.

Here’s how it works:  If you have an extreme point of view, you get air time.  It’s true of both republican and democrat talking heads.  The more extreme and shocking your subjects and content, the more viewers you get, the more advertising money you recieve, the more extreme you want to be.

Money is what has prompted people to develop this extremism on both sides.  There’s no hint of morality in the motivations of these people. From Rush to Al Franken, there’s only the positive reinforcement of bad behavior.

It’s come out most obviously in the recent health care debate.  Instead of debating the facts of the different options available to overhaul health care all we did was snipe and yell at each other.  The conservative extremists were certainly the most shown in the liberal leaning media, but I’m sure there was a liberal counterpart.   People getting up and shouting – not debating, but simply shouting.   People repeating the outright lies they heard on the radio or read in an email as absolute truth.  And the more shocking the “truth” delivered to your inbox, the more likely you are to pass it on.

(It’s no wonder then, that lies like death panels and obama’s forged birth certificate are passed off as truth.  If you listen to Rush long enough, he’ll start making sense to you.  Then everything you hear is sent through your “Rush prism” and if it doesn’t mesh with what you’ve heard, you ignore it.)

Here’s my thoughts on health care:

I believe God has given us everything.
If everything comes from God, then everybody deserves what they need.

That’s it.
Everything else is just organizing how to do it.

Of course the proposed health care system isn’t perfect.      But I demand that if you have a complaint you also present a better idea.  If all you do is tell people what they’re doing wrong then I consider you to be a drain on society and worthless to any discussion.

Finally, my hope is for a return to civility.  Let’s not ostracize those whose views are opposed to ours, but instead try to understand.  If anything let us fight against those who hold views in the extreme!   When representative Wilson shouted “You Lie!” in the middle of a speech by President Obama, he attacked not only the man whose values he disagreed with, but also the office of the President, the dignity of the congress, and our system of government itself.   Didn’t he realize he was insulting not only the man, but the millions who actively voted for him, as well as all those who died to protect our right to even have the office of the president?

Of course not.  All he could think about was fighting.

We, as a people, need to regain our grip on civility.  We must remember that when our soldiers fight and die it is for the system of government for which they perish.   We say it till it becomes almost trite:  “they fight for our freedoms.”  Why can’t we seem to recognize that freedom comes with a price to be paid by every citizen?  It’s not just the blood of soldiers that allows us to cast our ballots, to speak our minds, and to change our lives at will; but it’s the suffering of each of us in turn as we all find at some time or another that the election didn’t go our way, or that the bank foreclosed on us, or that our business failed, and so on.

A life of freedom means a life of obligation and sacrifice as well; and never a life of complete entitlement.

Yet as we think about these truths we must remember how much higher we fly, how much brighter we shine, as a nation united in seeking mutual benefit over partisan politics.  Our sacrifices lift us higher, and our mistakes don’t bind us when we remember to embrace the ideals of unity and harmony that were laid down as the foundation of this, the greatest country on the earth today.

So when the vote doesn’t go your way, stop griping.  Don’t say such hateful things as “so-and-so is going to destroy the country.”  Instead consider saying “I’m glad the system still lets even those I disagree with have a voice.”  Then go to work with them and improve the world.

I thank God for a system that allows us to change and grow, even when some of us don’t want to.  I’m grateful that I can choose to help and be helped; that I can be so much more because I am a one of many.  Let’s not divide ourselves, but look for ways to unify.

 

-Greg

Some late night thoughts on movies.

I just watched the second chronicles of Narnia movie this evening.  It was okay, but it wasn’t as good as the first one.  This led to a brief discussion on movies, and what makes a good one.  That led to me thinking of some of my favorite movies, and what moments I like about them, including the first Narnia Movie.  Everybody has certain “parts” of movies that is their favorite.  These are some of mine:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Magic moments:  the reveal of the wardrobe, and the closing scene in the middle of the credits.  Everything else was just a decent adventure film.

Signs.
“There’s a monster outside my window.” and the realization at the end.  Other than these two excellent scenes, the movie as a whole was marvelous.

X-Men1.
the opening scene and “What makes you think I’m after you?”

X-Men2.
Magneto escapes, Magneto turns the tables at the end.

The Incredibles.
Mr. Incredible’s back pops back in, Syndrome looks down to see a sports car flying towards him.

Oceans 11.
Practically every scene, but especially the heist.  This is one of my all time favorite movies.

Bandits.
The cops at the drive through.  The brain tumor.  The final robbery.

Spirited Away.
first entering the world, the stink spirit, the train ride.  Another favorite movie, it’s hard to chose favorite moments when there are so many in the beautiful film.

Star trek 2.
“by the book.”

Rainmaker.
Opening monologue, and “this is how the uninsured die.”

Galaxy Quest.
The stompers.

what are some other good movies and their best moments?  I’m too tired to think of more.

A Brief History and Comment on Prop 8

I wrote this as a comment to Greg’s post from a little while back, but decided to put it on the front page instead. I’ve been blown away by news out of California. This whole thing has been just amazing. I’ve compiled a brief history here for context:

1. In the year 2000, California citizens approve California code amendment banning gay marriage (prop 22) with 61% majority.

2. State legislature TWICE approves bill allowing gay marriage (which would nullify the democratically enacted code amendment).

3. Governor twice vetoes the bill, citing the aforementioned democratically enacted Prop 22.

4. In 2008, California Supreme Court strikes down the democratically enacted code provision as unconstitutional (against the California constitution). The Court based its holding on the unprecedented view that sexual orientation was a protected class.

5. In Nov. 2008, California voters approve a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as only allowed between one man and one woman.

6. Today, Gay marriage proponents gnash their teeth, protest outside of temples, burn scriptures on LDS church doors, attack the elderly, make threats, intimidate proposition backers, and generally lose their minds. Oh yeah, they also have challenged the constitutionality of the constitutional amendment.

There is a theme running through this brief narrative: overriding the democratic will. Instead of garnering enough support to vote down these propositions, they have to sneak their tax perks and the title “marriage” in through some other way. I am amazed that a State Legislature would try to undermine a bill that was enacted by the will of the people.

I am also amazed that a State Supreme Court would read into its state statutes and constitution a provision that makes Gays a protected class when no other court has done this.

Finally, I’m amazed that people are publishing the names of supporters of the proposition in a blatant attempt to stifle and punish them for following their own consciences. Some have lost their jobs or had to resign because of their support of Prop 8. Make no mistake: if these people could get ahold of the ballots themselves, they would be retaliating against individual voters. But because they can’t find many voter necks to strangle, they take out their frustration on the LDS church.

So their ill-gotten gains are snatched away by the will of the people. I’d say “cry me a river,” if I wasn’t afraid that they’d beat-up my Grandma or use a Book of Mormon to set my house ablaze.

Family, Friends, Church, Law… Prop 8.

LISTEN TO ME!

LISTEN TO ME!

California soon votes on a proposition that changes the definition of marriage in some way I don’t understand.  Honestly, I don’t intend to understand it.  I do not live in California, nor do I join facebook groups that support or fight political movements.  (if there were a facebook group that was “people who think things they read in email forwards are true are idiots” then I might join it.  Obama-is-a-muslim/antichrist/terrorist people, I’m looking in your direction.)

I don’t feel bad about not taking time to understand it.  While it could have ramifications which could stretch to my own life in the future, there’s little I can do about it now but encourage those who can vote to vote.

So vote.  There.  I’ve done my part.

What is interesting is a little debate on facebook between a few of my very conservative and very liberal relatives.

Person a says: the LDS Church, headquartered in Utah, should not try to influence it’s membership to vote one way or another.  The Church has to keep it’s nose out of state businesses.

Person b says: the LDS Church has an interest in it’s California and worldwide membership and has an obligation to encourage them to protect the standards they endorse.

I’d have never guessed that a California proposition could reach me here in lowly southern utah.  What’s interesting is that the debate on facebook (between my relatives) is not about the substance of the proposition – which, as I mentioned, I have never read – it’s about who should and should not share opinion and how opinion should be shared.

Is sharing political stance an obligation?  If it is, I’ve been lacking in my obligations.  While I frequently write my thoughts out online, I try to write both sides.  (this is what prevents me from having a high traffic site – I don’t write like an extremist.)  Should I be telling people what I think whether they want to hear it or not?

Here’s to the endless battle between conflicting freedoms.

-Greg