Nanbaka – Preview
Original Air Dates: October 4th, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Nanba, the world’s most formidable prison that no one has ever escaped from: Until today. Join Jyugo, Uno, Rock and Nico as they frequently attempt to break out of Nanba, fail and work through their daily lives with the Prison’s other inmates and guards.
1st Episode Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Nanbaka is colourful and in your face with intense hues that help to sell the ridiculousness of what you’re getting yourself into. There’s no mistaking the over the top vibe as neon shades splash across your screen accompanied by larger than life characters.
Tom: Nanbaka really sells that larger than life feel. It’s cast has such unique, flamboyantly eye catching designs that its over the top tone and absurd nature is sold from the art alone. In the first half of its premiere the animation is solid, depicting our heroes attempted escape from this inescapable prison. But after the eye catch, Nanbaka’s art falls more into line with its web comic origins, backgrounds disappear more often than not, frames are set up closer to the web manga’s look and the whole production fails to match those initial expectations. It’s jarring.
Linny: The comedy in Nanbaka is very peculiar in that it’s extremely random and chaotic. Jokes come at you hard and fast but don’t always land due to their random nature. For example, one of the convicts gets hit with a tranquilizer dart, and everyone begins to freak out as they exclaim that said convict has a peculiar internal chemistry that makes him react in weird and strange ways to regular medication. Said convict then starts to grow a ton of hair on his head as his ‘weird’ reaction to the tranquilizer and apparently then makes his condition transferable as he pets some nearby police dogs who then promptly transform into fluffy furballs themselves. It’s gags like these that are more strange than funny, smattered throughout the episode and might leave the average anime fan more confused rather than laughing out loud. That said, the show does hint to a dark mystery at the end of the episode but for now, it definitely seems more vested in its random comedy content as its main attraction.
Tom: That’s my biggest issue with Nanbaka: It’s hit or miss comedy. That ‘lol so random’ nature feels cheap. Gags happen without any kind of set up, and rather than work towards some kind of punchline, exist solo, as if the punchline needed no set up. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to the humor, and while that might work for some audiences who just like things to be wacky and silly, it’s sure to bore audiences who expect something a little more clever, structured or built with it’s own internal logic behind it.
Linny: Our introduction to the convicts is done swiftly and efficiently with a scene after the opening credits where each convict gets a blurb listing their convict number, name and quirk. Each of them have a particular quirk and while only one of them, Uno, is explicitly described as being crazy about women, this episode will leave you convinced that actually every single one of them is obsessed with women as Jyugo muses about his chances of getting a girlfriend once he is out of prison, or how they all make a mad dash to the visiting area when they hear of a pretty girl is visiting.
Tom: That touches on another issue I have. Despite their eye popping designs, quality voice acting, and wacky dialogue– I actually felt like they weren’t all that dissimilar. Sure they each have their own quirk that sets them apart, but as personalities go I didn’t get the idea that they were all wholly unique. If anything they all felt similar to me, absurdly wacky and over the top, but not in their own unique way.
Linny: There are some other characters introduced who will be featured just as often going forward and I can say this having read the manga, which is also available in Crunchyroll’s manga library. These characters include the prison warden and guards under his command whose work life is a hassle thanks to having to deal with our four convicts and their breakout on a daily basis. Even these prison guards are over the top in their own ways, often hot headed or over reacting to everything, only adding to the wacky nature of the show.
Tom: Nanbaka has style, flair, and a rich absurdity going for it. But the humor doesn’t feel clever, relying too much on ‘lol so random’ or references to obscure anime you may not have heard of before. Humor is perhaps the most subjective of all the forms of entertainment however, so it’s possible if you appreciate the sheer and sudden absurdity of Nanbaka’s style you’ll enjoy it far more than I ever did. But I find myself uninterested in the day to day life of Nanbaka’s cast and their attempts to escape from Prison.
Linny: Nanbaka really keeps its origins alive by bringing a webcomic to your tv screen almost too faithfully. The lack of backgrounds and the almost 4 koma like delivery of jokes is perhaps something that might be best enjoyed as still images. Having read ahead, there is a very interesting, amusing and action packed tournament arc coming up that could justify the series’ anime adaptation and make it all worthwhile. However, if you’re struggling to enjoy the intensity and over the top random comedy of Nanbaka, it might be too much to keep watching in hopes of an enjoyable upcoming arc, which in all honesty still has a ton of the random and absurd content you might already be struggling with.