Kuuchuu Buranko Isn't Quite What I Expected, And That Is A Good Thing.

Kuuchuu Buranko proves that I need to do my goddamn research. The art style looks exactly like Mind Game, and I heard people tossing out associations of the director with Mononoke and Kemonozume. So I just assumed we were talking about Masaaki Yuasa (not that I knew him by name) who directed Mind Game, Kemonozume, and Kaiba, all of which are arthouse shows that have pretty solid niche fanbases that consider them the best thing in the world. Personally, I liked the first episodes of Kaiba and Kemonozume that I watched, and didn’t really care for Mind Game, mostly because I am just not huge on arthouse.

However, if I’d done my god damn research, I would have known that Yuasa wasn’t responsible for Mononoke. And neither is he for Kuuchuu Buranko – both are directed by Kenji Kakamura, who was scriptwriter on Kemonozume and also an episode director on The SoulTaker (!) When I watched the first episode of Mononoke back around when it aired, I couldn’t stomach the art style and gave up on it. Some time later, I watched the second episode and was fucking amazed. The episode featured some of the coolest animation tricks and most dense atmosphere along with the single most spine-tingling horror I’ve ever seen in an anime. I still haven’t finished Mononoke, but I definitely intend to, which I can’t necessarily say for any of Yuasa’s shows.

So anyway, I had at first written off Kuuchuu Buranko as yet another arthouse show that for months would prompt people to say “OMG this is the most unique anime I’ve ever seen!” to which I would scream in reply “WATCH MORE FUCKING ANIME!” however, I gave the show a shot (though not as big of one as it gives it’s patients!) with a clean mind and was quite impressed! This show has already done things that the other shows largely failed at in their opening episodes.

God DAMN thats a big-ass needle!

God DAMN that's a big-ass needle!

First of all, the show is arthouse, but it remains coherent. In some of the above-mentioned shows, it could be hard to tell just what the fuck was happening at times because of the style, and even if that wasn’t the case, it could be hard to get a frame of reference of what to expect from the world without anything realistic to tie it to. Kuuchuu Buranko is actually really easy to follow – you have a very normal story going on, but it is being presented in a very visually expressive manner. This was a strength in Mononoke as well because it was a totally normal Japanese ghost story displayed in the most extravagant ways.

Kuuchuu Buranko also inherits the most important strength from Mononoke, which is a memorable character. I can’t tell you shit about anyone from any of Yuasa’s shows that I’ve seen, but I can tell you all about the badass medicine peddler from Mononoke – so cool is he that he’s been on a lot of ‘favorite character’ lists and I’ve seen him nominated for a variety of ‘GAR’ contests. Even /a/ unilaterally adores him! And then we have Kuuchuu Buranko, which gives us Dr. Irabu.

Dr. Irabu is a very puzzling creature, and it has nothing to do with the fact that Irabu transforms between an adult, a child, and a bear. In fact, it has everything to do with the fact that I can’t tell what fucking gender they are!!! When I saw pictures on other people’s blogs about the show, I assumed it was a woman, mostly because I found it mildly sexually attractive and because the loli form is adorable. Then I heard it’s voice, and assumed it was a man. Then I listened more carefully and realized that if it was a man, it was a very effeminate man. And then I went on ANN and OMG IT’S VOICED BY PAKU FUCKING ROMI!!! That’s primo shit right there my friends! If she wasn’t one of my favorite seiyuu before, she definitely is now! This completely makes up for her annoying role in Tatakau Shisho!

There's this sensation in my testicles...

Anyway, I had a lot of fun with the first episode. The injection scene was pure brilliance and I never felt like I had been pushed too hard off the cliff into the sea of total arthouse. And I love a show that makes me question my sexuality successfully. SUCCESSFUL TROLL IS SUCCESSFUL!!!

EDIT: I jumped the gun there a bit, Yuji Mitsuya is also listed as playing Irabu. Which ones play which roles? I’m assuming Romi plays the human forms, which means they are still wholly impressive performances. The bear form is a lot more male-sounding, so I’m guessing it’s the guy.

Related Posts:

Anime Kritik is careful not to assign a gender to Irabu-sensei and says the art reminds him of Mike Judge. Good call!
Mikotoism makes me ROFLMAO with an EPIC reference to Doom – Repercussions of Evil.
WAH likes the use of Denki Groove and wants things even weirder!
Ganbatte Forever thinks that understanding Kuuchuu Buranko makes you insane. Uh-oh…
Anime wa Bakuhatsu da! knows the truth! It’s all just a music video!
Jinx! Said ‘it’s the most unique thing I’ve seen in my few years with Japanese animation’ wwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Watch Mind Game!
Borderline Hikkikomori says this show puts SHAFT to shame in the mindfuck category. This is true, but I wonder if it puts Shinbo to shame? I think so far, The SoulTaker is still weirder than this.
Hyper Parfait is having fun with it, I like that!
OGIUE MANIAX says this is not an anime for anime fans, which is true. Mononoke got very little attention among the US fandom, and yet the DVDs sold really well in Japan from what I understand. I blame the artfag audience!
Moe Sucks thinks Trapeze is trying to be subtextual – I doubt it very highly. This is arthouse, bro, you just watch it while smoking some pot, and the subtext comes to life!
Excelion seems to get it, but I’m not sure that the show has as great a budget as he thinks. This show takes a nod from Shinbo – you cover up the weak budget with the trippy exterior! Remember, everyone, some of the best art is made of trash!
Rabbit Poets likes the ‘original BGM’. That, however, doesn’t exist!
Hanners made me lol with the Andy Worhol reference.
METANORN isn’t sure what the hell happened, but she seems to like it!
Tenka Seiha is pretty negative, and actually attacks the directing, which I thought was the episode’s major strong point. We can get into that more as the show goes on, though.

15 thoughts on “Kuuchuu Buranko Isn't Quite What I Expected, And That Is A Good Thing.

  1. Paku Romi voices the two human form and the dude voices the bear. I was definitely shocked at how straightforward the story was. If they keep that aspect AND continue to go wacked on the art it’s going to be a winning combination. Is it confirmed that the next episode is going to be about erections??

  2. “you cover up the weak budget with the trippy exterior”

    All I have to say to that is: sup Utena.

    I don’t even know how serious the series wants us to take it. It certainly wants us to be high (or, in my case, totally sober, which is effectively the same) for it, though.

    • I don’t think Utena so much ‘covers up’ it’s weak budget seeing as it’s pretty blatant. Shaft does it much better – I’ve heard so many eople talk about the ‘great animation’ in ef and I’m like ‘www’

  3. OH I AM REALLY HAVING FUN WITH IT ^____________________^

    I want more more more more more *_*

    “Kuuchuu Buranko is actually really easy to follow – you have a very normal story going on, but it is being presented in a very visually expressive manner.”


    I also see it as something simple. Only the style made it deep and confusing . . . .AND THAT’S WHAT MADE IT FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!!!!!!

    Same scriptwriter as Kemonozume’s? No wonder the mindf*ck awesome narration xD Hahaha~

    I think he also directed an episode in Mononoke . . . I also love Mononoke~

    A staff on Kaiba also worked on this as well? *also likes Kaiba*

    You’ve likened this so much to Mind Game . . . damn, I need to watch it someday.

    • The art is like Mind Game, however, Mind Game is much more absurd. There’s a plot in there somewhere, but it’s easy to miss with all the weird shit. But you’ll like it if you don’t think about it too hard and just enjoy.

  4. Yeah, the plot was more followable than I thought it would be. The nutty exterior masks a more conventional story, at least so far.

    Hmm, weaksauce budget vs arthouse direction, sometimes it’s like a chicken and egg dilemma. Disappearing funds can force production teams to do creative things (SHAFT, late-Gainax Anno), and sometimes it was Just As Planned all along (Utena, Kaiba). This Kuuchuu Buranku started this way, so I doubt they’re having major money issues into the first episode.

    • I don’t think it’s ‘money issues’ from depleted funds so much as not having a lot to work with in the first place – I do think it’s safe to say the whole show will look this way. As for Kaiba, that show had an insanely great budget. It really does come down to creators intent alongside limitations, and is a very fine line. I think Ogiue Maniax has done some good posts about that dichotomy.

  5. It’s a show about psychiatry, the modern study of which is basically founded on symbols and archetypes. I’m willing to bet they will try to work in elements of Jung or Freud; maybe Irabu’s personalities represent Id Ego and Superego, maybe they represent the Persona, Anima/Animus and Shadow, or maybe something else entirely. Not that the subtext they give it will necessarily be meaningful or interesting, but I would definitely try to read a little more deeply into the show before you light up and get mesmerized by the pretty colors.

    • Mm. I’m not opposed to looking at it more closely, but I feel like… put it this way, it isn’t ‘sub’text. It will just be obvious. I think shows like this aren’t like, say, Utena, where everything has a surface level and then a subtextual level. The stuff in an arthouse show is all right there on the surface – not to say it is insubstantial, it just isn’t sub-textual. If it is the case that they represent id, ego, and superego, then I think the show will be pretty blatant about it. We’ll have to wait and see.

  6. You know, I felt this was very simillar to Kaiba in that a more or less simple history is told with some weird art style.
    The difference lies in the Dr. who could drive even the blandest of histories straight to greatness

    • Even if Kaiba had a simple story, the way it was told is so convoluted that it doesn’t appear simple. Kuuchuu Buranko is very noticeably simple, which I think makes all the difference. Not to say that either method is more or less bad.

  7. As you note, the show is both artsy and coherent; would have settled for the former but rather pleased that it also has the latter. I’m curious about how Irabu’s three forms will work out as well – one thing to note is that they seem to shift depending on the mood of the scene? patient? or perhaps his transformation is meant to actively shift the mood of a scene?

    In any case, hopefully there’s some sort of consistent rhyme and reason that will be revealed in continuing episodes.

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