Nanbaka Episode 4 Review: Comedy-Action, or Action-Comedy?

Warning: Review contains spoilers!

Now begins the New Year’s tournament to see whose building is the best of the best in prison. Representatives from each building, including guards, are chosen to participate in a series of games. There’ll also be prizes for the winners!

The whole thing is a spoof on any series with competition in it, like action anime or anime with card games. True to this genre, the episode includes: the guy who promised himself he’d never lose to one of the inmates ever again, training with blood and tears to become stronger; guards who think they’re hotshots; overpowered players; guys who look weak but have surprising talents; and guys who can predict any of your moves, or so they think. Everyone is cocky, and everyone is even more riled up than usual. In addition, viewers are treated to dynamic and colorful action sequences, where they’ll see guards butt heads against each other. I especially liked how we got to see a different, meaner side of Yamato other than someone who just laughs and bodybuilds.

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Comics, tires, and TV will inspire you to defeat your mortal enemy.

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Whose building will reign supreme?

Although quite different from the series thus far—the anime even calls itself out on this—the tone remains consistent throughout the episode. There’s another small cliffhanger at the end, but it’s not like a promise that will never be fulfilled later on. Rather, it seems like the episode will actually continue right where it left off next time, which is a major improvement over the first two episodes and a minor one over the last episode, where they’d mentioned the tournament. Fingers crossed.

However, this gap in storyline flow bothers me.  I’m still not understanding where this whole New Year’s tournament multi-episode arc came from, especially since the first two and a half episodes were each standalone by themselves. That, and the nature of the jokes was different this time around; the others had emphasized contrasts between the guards and inmates, whereas this one placed them on the same level and made them all very competitive and haughty. The action scenes of the anime in the first episodes versus this episode also speak to this. A case might be made for saying that oh, the anime is just showcasing different sides of the characters, but this time around it just didn’t feel like the same anime to me. In other words, Nanbaka is still entertaining, and consistent within an episode, but not throughout the entire series.

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Poor Jyugo.

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I bet everyone wishes they could balance huge mallets on their heads like that.

Some other things also felt off. Jyugo is given much less screen time than the others when he’s participating in his own match, yet the anime keeps shifting to him for commentary. We don’t really hear what the other inmates feel about the matches. I understand that Jyugo is supposed to be the Boss Inmate, useless in anything but escaping from prison, but I do want to get to know the other inmates as well.

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Pretty people are in a whole different world.

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“!!!”

Finally, even more characters were introduced here, including other inmates. Many of these were nobodies that remained drawn as purple figures with no details. Although these figures probably play no role in the anime these silhouettes stuck out since any character with some importance is so distinctly designed.

On the other hand, I did like how the guards and inmates were introduced. Though there were many of them, it didn’t feel like there were too many. This was probably because I saw them in the heat of battle with people I already knew, so that the flashbacks and bloodlust contributed to the fighting spirit that characterized this episode.

Based on all of this, I’m still not sure where Nanbaka is headed. I thought it was going to be a series of one-shots with maybe a main arc later on, but there’s a bit of continuation now that feels distinct from the rest of the series. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that it’s probably going to start introducing the main conflict soon, if there is one, but I hope that’s sooner rather than later.

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