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.
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!
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.