Warning: Contains spoilers!
Have you ever had a birthday where your mom brought out a chocolate cake and then you were about to chomp down on all that chocolate-y goodness and then some bully just snatched up your piece from you and ate it slowly with a horrible grin on their face? Nanbaka just did that to me.
Remember how I kept saying that they kept putting off Jyugo’s story? If I communicated this properly in my experimental review last time, it looked like we were FINALLY getting a lead on what Jyugo is all about. He transformed into this weird monster with arms. We met someone from his past. I thought it was finally going to get serious. I thought we were finally going to learn pertinent story, pertinent characterization.
But nope. Nanbaka has fun hanging you from a metaphorical cliff. Nanbaka thinks it’s comedy if it leads you on by including some action scenes and drama, then breaking any glaringly visible promise of development right in front of your eyes. This is not the comedy that the series has showcased through the season, by the way. It’s not silly; it’s sinister and self-indulgent. It even EMBRACED the moment by dangling the final, exciting moment of the last episode and having the announcer say something along the lines of: “Hey, I know this New Year’s tournament has REALLY been exciting you, but we’re going to REWIND and show you ANOTHER side story.” When the characters protest that no, they just want to follow the storyline, the announcer responds, “This is Nanbaka.” Deal with it.
If that’s Nanbaka, I’m not dealing with it. Why would you do this to me after I finally thought the plot was going somewhere and NOT just showering us with trite comedy and sparkles? Why do you just keep jumping from serious to comedy to serious again, in a very inconsistent manner?
This sideswipe of an episode was an entire flashback about why the ninja guy is in prison. It turns out he’s actually a famous actor who was really from a shinobi village (maybe), but his parents either died or disappeared or both. An evil directress fooled his child wannabe-ninja self into thinking she was his mother. He finds out. He goes to jail for trespassing. He gets transferred to Nanba Prison because he escaped that prison—turns out he’s such an excellent actor that he actually managed to escape by imagining himself in the role. Or something like that.
It was an admittedly interesting distraction, and personally I thought it added a lot of depth to the goofy ninja dude, but I’m angry that none of the main characters had anything close to this level of characterization. Ninja guy has basically been missing the last few episodes, and yet now he has another new episode focusing exclusively on him. And to rub more salt in the wound, we also see REGULAR Jyugo while he was relaxing during the tournament. Because you know, sorry Jyugo, but instead of your shining moment of revelation, we stepped back in time a couple of episodes back to hang out with a character who wasn’t even watching you guys.
What was even the point? Is he like a super secret ninja character that will upend the entire series? What is Nanbaka trying to do? No, this was not funny, nor was it clever, even if I take the episode out of context. I just hope that this bit of information will be useful sometime later in the series.