Archive for April, 2010

27
Apr
10

Obscure Anime Series That You Haven’t Seen (and Won’t See): Part I

When we say “anime” in America, we often refer to mega hits like Ponyo or one of those Ghibli flicks. The more apt gurus of anime may even drop names of classics like Akira, Evangelion, or Cowboy Bebop.

Despite growing popularity of diverse anime franchises, here in America, we are lucky just to catch a glimpse of few of the best that Japan has to offer. Of course, in the process, we end up missing out on niche anime also.

Although, not the case in Japan, “in America” (to quote a famous Yu-gi-oh parody,) these some excellent works of anime are known to only a few crazed anime maniacs not satiated with the cache of works officially imported from the land of the sun to the United States.

Some of these “obscure” works of anime (TV series mainly) that I would like to mention have been abandoned by US-based anime publishers but remain most dearly in my heart… literally… in my heart, lodged in there, somewhere, bleeding…

Part I of this segment deals with a show called Tentai Senshi Sunred. A show so fresh, the final episode of its second season only ended a month ago or so. Tentai Senshi Sunred (or Astro Fighter Sunred to English speaking fans) is an amusing super hero parody. Such parodies are never too original but I feel that Sunred deserves more attention for its content than what it’s setting itself out to be.

Tentai Senshi (Astro fighter) Sunred

Of course, when we talk about super hero parodies, we can’t forget about the American-made (and drawn in Korea) parodies like The Tick, an absurd comic adventure of a super hero with a brick for a brain and a very Sancho Panza-esque sidekick. (Hm.. remember my old post about Don Quixote? The yet to be finished Part II of that post will be about Sancho Panza) and more recently, Aqua Teen Hunger Force on Adult Swim block of venerable Ted Turner’s Cartoon Network. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is basically about three unemployed super heroes doing things that are typically done in Southpark. Despite some originality, it is a show more known for its popularity among pot heads.

Now that you have grasped what a super hero parody is typically like. We can now talk about how awesome Sunred is. Let me remind you, my readers, I am in no way biased. I am writing this as an unbiased individual writing about something I care little or nothing about, which in this case, is anime.

Tentai Senshi Sunred is set in Kawasaki, a real city in Japan. The super hero, Sunred, is unemployed as you would expect from a super hero parody (Can’t fight crime and thwart evil if you’re busy working). Also if you’re familiar with any Japanese television shows, you can see that Sunred is also a clear reference to the Super Sentai hero shows or more commonly knowsn as Power Rangers in the US.

Sunred Random Montage

Sunred’s notable habits include Pachinko (American equivalent of visiting the local Indian casino every other day,) smoking cigarettes, and beating up bad guys. He lives together with his insurance saleswoman girlfriend who also supports him financially. The background of the story tends to be uber realistic at times. Even though he’s a super hero, he’s still living in the real world with real people dealing with real issues. In the show, all of that is treated as how we treat such such issues in real life, as minor annoyance.

The show is a mirror image of a one-fight-per-episode format of a typical of super sentai series (you can add Naruto, Bleach, or any other cookie cutter fight shows.) With obvious result of the hero emerging victorious.  In Tentai Senshi Sunred, the fight always results in Sunred beating the living crap out of the bad guy but he does this in mere 2 seconds or less as opposed to half of the show in non-parody cookie cutter fight anime series.

Sunred is in constant battle against an evil organization called Florsheim (no clue what the name is derived from) determined to take over the world much like Doctor Claw and M.A.D. from Inspector Gadget. However, unlike some real (as in existing in real life, of course) super evil organizations bent on global domination, Florsheim functions more like a sales company with branches and managers. Each branch can include a couple of henchmen and a few evil monsters and a leader. All in all, in the show, Florsheim is just a shady company where its motto is “to take over the world” but never acting on it. Its employees are decent citizens who actually partake in neighborhood cleaning, etc. and some have real life jobs, e.g., one of the monsters works part-time at a convenience store.

Florsheim-Group Date

Members of Florsheim out on a group date

After watching a season and a half of this show, I asked myself, what is this show about? It’s actually and truthfully about nothing. It is a comedy series based on a super hero living in the suburbs. Interactions between Sunred and everyone else serves as an impetus to drive the story or rather drive the story to the comedic climax. In essence, it’s just an animated situation comedy just trying to make you laugh using references and real life elements and poking fun at how absurd its own characters are in the show. (an episode featured a monster that became stuck as it was molting.)  You can probably see where this is going… (prime time cartoon shows much?)

Is this show a classic?

No.

Is this something you’d like?

I doubt it.

Is it funny?

Yes, I thought so.

Is it good?

I don’t know. Does American Pie rival Citizen Kane in its cinematic mastery?

Anyway, the point is, you will not see this anime any time soon. More than likely, you will never ever watch this show, EVER. Tentai Senshi Sunred is just one of those obscure gems of Japanese anime that I would be happier to have known about among a few dozen anime fans.