Kuuchuu Buranko was my favorite show of the last season (fall 09), and I would probably have blogged the whole thing episodically if OMG-Life hadn’t intervened. No matter, I knew I’d finish it before too long because there were only 8 eps left, and I got the drive to do so when I started listening to the OP and ED like crazy over the past week or so.
What I love about this show is that it’s an arthouse show with feeling. It is designed and directed by people usually associated with the more hardcore arthouse shows like Kaiba and Mononoke but it succeeds where those shows failed for me – humanity. The thing about arthouse shows is that it seems to me like they tend to bank everything they have on being as out-there and artsy as possible without having any real thought to it. It’s more of a ‘look how crazy this is!’ thing than something that really adds to the overall likeability of the show.
I want to use video games as an example. Some games like the infamous Rez try to be as out-there and trippy as possible to ostensibly be like no other game, however these games can be hard to enjoy because they don’t really deliver on the sensation of actually playing a game. Kuuchuu Buranko is more like a Suda 51 game (No More Heroes, Killer 7) – it’s played like a video game, but the presentation is completely new and exhilerating.
Now, it’s still true for both Kuuchuu and Suda that they aren’t going to appeal to all of the same audience that likes anime or video games respectively. (You can tell Kuuchuu isn’t an anime-fan thing because most of the commercials that aired with it were non-anime related and the only ones that were were for Eden of the East DVDs, lol.) However, you also don’t have to be a total artfag to appreciate them. Most of the people I’ve seen who love shows like Kaiba are ones who only really value anime that go all-out to be like nothing else ever created. I’ve never really been able to get into these shows because they don’t give me the things that make me such a big anime fan in the first place. Kuuchuu Buranko does, much as games like No More Heroes do.
I loved all of the characters in KB, and Irabu-sensei deserves to be on some kind of favorite list. I loved how even though the story wasn’t focused on Irabu, I still feel like we got a lot of information on his world and thoughts, so that he could be fleshed out enough as a memorable character. Mayumi was also cool, and ended up with more personality than one might have expected.
Visually, this is probably the show best deserving of being called ‘like an acid trip’ of any anime ever created – the phrase is used to describe a lot of things by people who probably have never done any acid (I haven’t either but I have some friends who fancy themselves ‘psychonauts’) but really, the world you see when on it probably looks more like this than anything else. Incidentally, we could even say that each of the individual protagonists is having a ‘bad trip’ for a week or so until the good doctor drags them back to the light, hehehe.
I loved this show’s structure the most. I would compare it to Boogiepop Phantom or Paranoia Agent, but those shows have a bit more of an overarching plot than Kuuchuu Buranko does. Each character’s story takes place within the same general time at the end of December, and all of their paths end up crossing at unexpected moments (many of which elicit an ‘ah!’ from the viewer as they realize they are seeing something they saw in an earlier episode) and the connections, however minute, help to define and explore the issues that each character has as well as further enforce to overall message spelled out in the last moment of the show which is that ‘no one is perfect.’ Indeed, wherever you turn, there may be someone who’s as fucked up as you are and even seeing the same doctor for it, hehehe.
For me, Kuuchuu Buranko was the ultimate pick-me-up sort of feel-good hit. I’ve always been really into psychological stories because I was one of those guys who did a bunch of research on psychology to try and identify or correct my own issues. I love seeing interestingly developed psychological disorders (which has a lot to do with why I like the Boogiepop Phantom anime) and I especially loved seeing how each one would be resolved. Seeing the characters all having happy endings I guess made me feel like I could have a happy ending, too :D
And it was just too much fun to watch Irabu work, because you just knew that he was going to get to the root of things, and that he was going to pull these people out of their catharsis. The final episode (which was nearly ruined for me by annoying people talking around me the whole time! yeck!) was some powerful stuff, and I couldn’t help but smile at it all. This whole show was just like a wave of pleasure, and I can’t get enough of that~
Kuuchuu Buranko – Finished (8.1)
While Kuuchuu Buranko isn’t going to be a favorite of mine, it’s a show I can see myself rewatching many times and would love to own, though today’s anime market would in no way allow something like this to be released. If only Geneon were still around~ well, in any case, I’ve got the opening and ending themes to constantly remind me of that good feeling!