We all have our own individual dynamics and roles, here at Surreal Resolution, and we all work together to form a larger cohesive unit for the greater good of you, the readers. My role within this group is that of the “kinda-gay” straight man, who tends to take things with seriousness, while also showing signs of open homosexuality, usually when it comes to anime. What I’m trying to say is, I’m what you could call a “fudanshi,” a guy who’s a fan of pretty anime boys getting it on with other pretty anime boys. It’s a fun fantasy to partake in, so long as you keep it just in fiction and not in the real world. This brings us to Nanbaka, a fun little romp about four pretty boy inmates with their own roles, who all constantly try to escape Nanba Prison, known as the most impregnable prison in the world, where no one has successfully escaped. One look at the character designs convinced me to check it out, but is it worth the watch? Let’s find out.
The first half of the episode is all setup, a 12-minute-long cold open to establish the setting and main characters. The prison is filled with traps that feel more at home in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but these four wily inmates always find a way through the traps, with plentiful hijinks ensuing. Let’s tall about these individuals, shall we? Known more by their numbers, we have #11, Uno, a gambler and womanizer who has a striking resemblance to Rin from Free!; #15, Jyugo, is a fan of his own heterochromia who sports mysteriously unlockable shackles around his neck and wrists; #69, Rock, is burly, muscly, loves to fight, and loves showing off his pec cleavage; and #25, Nico, the smallest of the group, is an otaku who needs his anime fix sooner rather than later. And they all got sooooo close this time, but they got caught at the door. The second half slows things down a bit and shows our collective inmates engaged in an open discussion about not wanting a convicted murderer to join them in their cellblock. You know, usual prison talk. We also meet more of the security staff, such as guard supervisor Hajime, a fellow fan of Saitama, given his appearance, and we also see, for the first time, Hajime’s sister… er, I’m sorry, his brother. I’ll keep it dignified and just say the following: that dude looks like a lady. And to close out the episode, Jyugo talks with Hajime’s pretty brother about the shackles on his neck and arms, and talks about how there’s only one guard who can take them off. In every prison he’s been in, Jyugo always came up short in finding this illusive individual, but one day, Jyugo. One day.
Remember that show Deadman Wonderland? From top to bottom, it was incredibly serious and also very horrifying. Nanbaka is the exact opposite, it’s a comedic romp with loads of sparkling pretty boys. And that’s not an exaggeration, everything sparkles in this show. The staff at Satelight provide this unique element to accompany its vibrant visuals, along with its use of bright, clashing colors working along with the grays and blacks of its jail setting. The first episode does a great job at putting over just how wily our main group is, having broken out of prisons from Macao to Finland to Chicago, but this place? It’s their biggest challenge yet. The dynamics of our four leads all blend together to form a united front and a cohesive unit, whether they’re plotting their next jailbreak or just chilling in their cell together. And yes, this show has its fair share of jokes aimed at the fujoshi crowd. One moment in particular has Jyugo and Uno discussing the traits of what women want, minus Mel Gibson reading minds, which leads to Jyugo proclaiming the following: “I like men, too!” The whole thing with Hajime’s sibling and all the guys looking in awe at first glance, only to freak out when she is actually a he… yeah, it’s low-hanging fruit, I can’t really give it a pass on that. While the story is fairly minimal and routine, with a simple goal of escape permeating throughout, the first episode of Nanbaka presents itself as a very lighthearted fare with plenty of comedy to be found, and I’ll be sticking with this show throughout the season. And if you ask me if there’s some hanky-panky going on between our four leads, behind closed doors… hey, those guys have to do something to pass the time, right?
Nanbaka is available on Crunchyroll as a weekly simulcast, Tuesdays at 3:30pm EDT. An English simulcast dub will be available from Funimation later this fall.