Speed line catchup: New Year’s tournament, old enemy of Jyugo, he’s been unleashed and is ready to rampage. ON WE GO!
Episode 7 – “It’s a Surprisingly Sad Story”
Or… not? It’s side story time, as we see our resident ninja wannabe, Tsukumo get a visitor, his film manager Hattori. And… wait, his full name is Hattori Hanzo… okay, insert Kill Bill reference here. Anyway, he’s been covering his client’s butt by telling the press he just went missing, and didn’t – you know – end up in prison. Why’s he in this place, to begin with? He had to run away and get away from it all, from his producer and his mother of a director. And that’s not an expression, his film director is his mother. Kind of. I’ll try to explain. Long ago, she needed an for a ninja role, so to play a ninja, you have to be a ninja – take note, live-action Naruto producers. A young Tsukumo is found, practicing his tactics outside, but he’s all alone, a vagrant and a loner; no parents, no friends, no one. But it’s all okay, because as it turns out, the director is his true mother (or so she claims), and the two hug and cry in reunion. It’s actually a pretty touching little flashback, but what does this all have to do with Jyugo going insane? Anyway, Tsukumu grows up, learning more shinobi ways and how to become an actor and all that, and it all leads back to the present day. Tsukumo knows the truth by now, and knew he was just being used for someone else’s need for success, so it’s no wonder he had to escape that life; the life of an actor is pretty hard, you know. It’s not all parties and press appearances and blow.
Seeing how this took place earlier in the whole New Year’s tournament proceedings, Jyugo ran off for a bit and ended up overhearing Tsukumo’s conversation. The two have a small chat outside the visitor’s room, but Tsukumo resigns himself to the fact that Nanba isn’t so bad. Once on the outside, though, he may just return to his old shinobi village. Familiarity and all that jazz. Jyugo tells Tsukumo that while he’s here, he should be himself, and not try and put on a role; both don’t know how to react, so they part as Jyugo heads back to the tournament. Again, pretty tender moment between two would-be friends, but what does this have to do with Jyugo turning into a beast? Fix your flow, show, seriously.
Episode 8 – “A Monster and a Gorilla”
Now we’re back to business. Jyugo is a true beast, with sharpened fangs and blades on his arms; he is, in his word, “broken.” All he needs now is a gray streak in his hair and a dilapidated boat named Skårsgard. After one attack, the stands suffer severe structural damage, and an evacuation is put in place. Yeah, the tournament is over now, no way can it continue with such a beast acting insane. The warden demands both men be apprehended, but Musashi (the firebender) isn’t having it, and neither is Jyugo. He wants answers for who altered his body, and he’ll take more than just Musashi’s eyes to get them. Which he did, in a savage attack long ago. This… this is still a comedy anime, right? I mean, I like this serious action, all of the sequences are pretty well-animated and look impressive, but it feels weird, knowing this is from a comedy show. Many of the guards come down to the battleground to try and break up the fight, and they put up a pretty strong offensive against Musashi, in order to neutralize him and his flames. But what about Jyugo? That’s up to Hajime to neutralize, as well as his cell mates. They go after him and accost him, to try and break his state of insanity, but it’s all for naught. He’s too far gone. Uno tries to plead with him, hoping to break his concentration by screaming that they’re all still friends, but Jyugo goes for the kill with his blade… only for Hajime to come in for the save and stop the blade with his own hand. And then punches him in the gut. And pummels the holy bejeezus out of him, like a freaking BOSS. As it turns out, Hajime and Jyugo have something in common: they both want to find the man that turned Jyugo into a monster. The warden halts the beating and Hajime apprehends Jyugo, putting the tournament to an end.
Hajime may have gone a bit overboard, though, as his fellow guards, and Jyugo’s cellmates, are putting him on blast for the vicious beating he gave Jyugo. And for what it’s worth, it was pretty hard to watch, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do to set someone straight. And it was pretty charming to see Uno stick up for him and get angry at Hajime for the beating. They may be idiots, sure, but they’re idiots who stand together and stand up for one another. But where is Jyugo in all of this? That’s to be seen very soon.
This is weird. This might be my favorite episode of the series so far, but it’s such a complete 180 from what make me a fan of this show to begin with. It’s really serious and surprisingly violent, and for a show that’s meant to be a comedy, it’s weird to see such a tonal shift pulled off this well. Well done… I think?
Episode 9 – “You’re Empty!!”
Three days have passed, and in that time, Hajime took a little but of time away from his duties, after the incident with Jyugo. As it turns out, Jyugo’s been comatose all this time, and now locked up in a special cell in the infirmary, while Musashi has been locked away in the underground prison of Building 4. His punishment will be determined later, but for now, both men must be kept far away from each other, for their own safety and the safety of others. Their only line of communication is through walkie-talkies. Much like Jyugo and Hajime, Musashi also wants to find the man who changed Jyugo’s body, but for what reason? To simply kill him. They’re both monsters, Musashi knows this, and during his youth, he was met with the same man that Jyugo encountered, all for experimentation. And as a result, he harnessed the power to freely use his fire like a true monster would. And so, a plan was put into action, to find this man and use his powers against the man who gave them to him, but there was an unforeseen force to factor in: Nanba Prison neutralizing his abilities. So where do they go from here? It’s hard to say, but it makes for an intriguing development. But as for Jyugo, Hajime informs him of one thing: he’s now “empty.” There’s one thing everyone else has that Jyugo doesn’t: greed. No greed, no desire, and no longing for anything other than finding the man who changed his body and sealed him with those shackles. Hajime asks Jyugo one simple question: why did he come to Nanba Prison in the first place? And Jyugo can’t honestly answer it, because even he doesn’t know. He’s been lamenting his lack of drive and desire, and especially laments his actions and violence against his cellmates and friends.
In an interesting show of… gratitude? Sure, let’s call it that. In a show of gratitude, Hajime declares Cell 13 of Building 13 the winner of the New Year’s tournament, and so, Jyugo can have anything he wants. Nothing comes to mind, though, so Hajime gives him 5 minutes to speak up, or his chance is thrown away. In a flashback, Jyugo looks back at his friends saying what they want; for Uno, it’s to date a lot of women. For Nico, it’s to go to Akihabara and be a total otaku. (I bet he’d like Yuri!!! on ICE, just throwing that out there.) For Rock, it’s something simple like a big platter of food. But what about Jyugo? It’s a simple request: a chance. Hajime obliges and offers him a chance to return to his cell, but with the caveat that Hajime won’t hold back, if something like this ever happens again. Jyugo, having found his drive and motivation, stands and gives a wide smirk; he’s back, and he’s back on the prowl for his end goal: the man who turned him into a monster, along with his life.
Well now. This show certainly has run through quite the emotional gambit, in these episodes. We had a somber episode, a serious action-centric episode, and an episode all about introspect with some pretty emotional moments thrown in. Again, this IS a comedy anime, right? I dunno, these episodes are arguably the best of the show, but it just feels weird, given their tonal shift. Maybe in the next few episodes, things will calm back down? Maybe? Right? And before signing off, regarding the news that Nanbaka will get a second season, exclusively online… yeah, I’ll address that very soon.
Nanbaka is available on Crunchyroll as a weekly simulcast, every Tuesday at 3:30pm EST, and on FunimationNow as an English simulcast dub, every Saturday at 10:30pm EST.