You know, between the daily grind of my new job, riding through the last few months of college, doing constant pre-planning work for the site, and having to deal with the incessant “dankness” of Joey and Tyler on a daily basis, I’m glad that an anime about pretty boys in a comedically crazy prison is here to make my day a little bit better. And this week, to get back up to pace, we’re doing a double-time double-shot of Nanbaka.
Episode 4 – “Happy New Year! The New Year’s Tournament Is Where We Get Serious!!”
Lucky inmates, they’re ringing in 2017 before all of us. Grumble grumble… anyway, as is tradition at Nanba Prison, there’s going to be a prison-wide tournament to see who’s the best of the best, among both the inmates and officers. The prize up for grabs? The building and guard who wins gets some sweet perks, and the inmates in the winning cell block get one of whatever object they want. Of course, our boys from Cell 13 are picked to represent Building 13, much to Hajime’s disdain. All the guards have their handpicked inmates representing them, running through five events; the first event is about penmanship, so our boys elect Jyugo to draw a large kanji banner, because they’re all baka gaijins who can’t draw Japanese characters. And Jyugo can’t, either. Thankfully, their guards come in for the save, and win the first event for their building, with the Warden looking on at Hajime with those goo-goo-googly eyes of hers. Second event, it’s all about pounding some mochi in a giant bowl, atop three platforms. It falls, you lose, so be wary of opponents looking to knock those platforms over. This is Rock’s event, since it requires super-heavy mallets. But things take a turn for the personal between Rock and Liang, an old “friend” of his looking to fulfill a grudge. How does it turn out? It doesn’t matter what Liang thinks, because Rock lays the smackdown on his candy… wait, this isn’t Tiger Mask W, disregard the wrestling references. Both Rock and their designated guard win the event, using brute force and destruction to their advantage, and Building/Cell 13 is still in first place. Third event, it’s time for “Hyakunin Isshu,” so Seitarou is up to bat, with Uno coming in as the partner. I’ll admit, I don’t really know what this is, only that it’s a memory card game of some kind, so you’ll have to pardon my ignorance. Anyway, Seitarou wins his bout with scary ease, but Uno? He’s having a bit more trouble, but he seems to be coming up with a pretty devious idea in that head of his. What could it be? Let’s get to the next episode and find out.
Episode 5 – “A Fraud and a Hero”
We’re still at the “Hyakunin Isshu” game, and Uno seems to have found the upper hand, finding his opponent’s tells. All that time gambling seemed to have paid off, I’d say. Again, I don’t know exactly how this game works, so you’ll have to pardon my ignorance with this. Now, in the last episode, it’s stated that the prize that the winning inmates get is one of whatever they want; for Rock, it’s a stone oven to cook some real food, and for Uno, he wants a gambling room in the prison. As you can tell, they have pretty small aspirations – like me. Oh, and Uno won the game for his building. Onto event number 4, we go – top spinning. As in, giant tops. And much like with Beyblade, it’s a no-holds-barred brawl that will leave only one spinning top left standing. But there’s a wild card in play – Nico. See, he forgot to take his meds today, so he’s not only super strong, but completely off his rocker, playing pretend Great Saiyaman against the “evildoers.” And that ball and chain makes for quite the handy weapon, I’d say. For Hajime and Monkey, though, they’re back to their feuding ways, while Nico narrowly avoids a copyright-free Kameh(bleep)ha attack. Nico’s able to pick up moves in an instant, which means he must be a JoJo fan, laying out some “ORAORAORAORAORA”s of his own. But enough about that, what does Nico want as his prize? Why, the latest game system, of course, but that only raises another question – PS4 Pro, or Nintendo Switch? And all the while, the Warden is fantasizing about Hajime, as per usual. And as we come to the end of the match, Nico drops the best one-liner in anime: “This hand of mine is burning red!” YES! Domon Kasshu would be proud, Nico. And with a few more bleeped out anime attacks, complete with a launching spinning top from Hajime, Building 13 wins the fourth round of the tournament. Now, with the final round looming, it’s going to be war between Building 13 and Building 4. Tune in next time for the gripping climax.
Holy anime references, Batman. There were some pretty funny shonen parody moments in these episodes, with a lot copyright-free attacks being used, which is always a plus in my book. “Isn’t this a gag anime?” quips Jyugo. Some of these enemies feel like more colorful versions of the bad guys in the first arc of Hunter x Hunter, with plenty of MIND GAMES being used, so point in that favor, I guess. Interestingly enough, towards the end of episode 5, the trio of Jyugo, Uno, and Rock had taken up the duty of copyright censors for Nico, because Japan doesn’t know what parody is. This is a pretty good batch of episodes, and it shows that it knows how to have a fun time by making fun of the usual anime suspects – tournaments, shonen fighters, crazy attacks, and so on. The climax is coming next week, and don’t worry, the recap for episode six WILL be on time.
Nanbaka is available on Crunchyroll as a weekly simulcast, Tuesdays at 3:30pm EDT. An English simulcast dub will be available from Funimation, starting this coming Saturday, at 10:30pm EDT..