Kuuchuu Buranko – Episode 2

Let’s get back to Kuuchuu Buranko! My experience with this show’s first episode was… messy. It felt like the show was embracing mixed-media visual experimentation purely for the sake of experimentation, and not in a way that facilitated any of its dramatic goals. On top of that, the show’s approach to mixed media, and its overall visual design, were just kinda ugly on the whole. “Garish” would be the generous description – the show’s incredibly loud mixture of colors and styles felt like a continuous assault on the eyes, meaning the choices that seemed to exist purely for their own visual sake didn’t even really result in a satisfying visual result. The episode felt like the results of giving a young visionary with plenty of ideas but not the most sense a blank check, which may well have been how this show started.

That said, the premiere also had to spend some time setting up its overall premise, which cut into the time that could be dedicated to instilling its narrative with some dramatic weight. If Kuuchuu Buranko can apply its wild stylistic digressions to a story with some real emotional heft to it, we might actually have a reasonable show here. Let’s see if episode two fits the bill!

Episode 2

Opening with that repeated shot of the calendar. The show is at least working hard to set up its own visual vocabulary, though again, these motifs need purpose to have any dramatic impact

And then we’ve got a guy dreaming about having sex, presumably this episode’s focus character

Y’know, maybe if I liked vaporwave I’d be more amenable to this overall style. The mix of neon greens and magentas and whatnot just seems absolutely hideous to me, but if you’re into super garish colors, I guess this could be a pleasing aesthetic

Tetsuya Taguchi, a civil servant

Smart use of falling photographs acting as a metaphor for… a book falling on this guy’s dick. Perhaps that combo is a fair metaphor for this show overall, as well

A doctor examines this guy’s busted dick while nurses titter in the background. Perhaps this episode will be about sexual frustration

Ahhhh, this is the guy from the first episode who was bent over ninety degrees the whole time. So there was a purpose to that! Okay, that gives me a little more faith

The birds reappear here, meaning they weren’t necessarily linked to the acrobat specifically

The doctor starts off with some light dick jokes. Are we really going to have a whole dick joke episode now?

Apparently Tetsuya is stuck with a permanent erection

I like how the live-action doctor tends to undercut the nonsensical treatments of Ichiro. Then again, that also kinda underlines how these stories are pretty much thematically meaningless on all levels

The birds in cages. Perhaps they reflect the hidden sources of these illnesses

Another repeat of the sexy Mayumi segment. The fogged image effect certainly does amplify the porno feel

Basically the same segment as last time, complete with the same double entendres

This time our patient becomes a rhino, because this episode is about penis jokes

We get more shots of girls’ tittering thighs. It’s a good trick – it both reflects Tetsuya’s bent-over posture and also his hormonal focus

We get a sidelong shot of one of this show’s cardboard background characters, which reveals the fact that they actually are made of cardboard, and even have some slight thickness to them

Tetsuya assumes the rhino head the moment a cute coworker talks to him. So that’s pretty much confirmation there – when a situation points towards the subject’s true affliction, their true self comes out

Looks like this girl abuses the fact that Tetsuya’s a horny wimp to dump her work on him

“Maybe it’s hardening because of your repressed emotions?”

We learn the woman in the photo is his ex-wife

A cute trick here, as his ex-wife becomes a cardboard person while walking away from him

Smart visual storytelling here, too – his mind flashes through a series of thighs, and then he dejectedly raises his arm, sliding into a taxi without any actual changes to the frame. The show clearly conveys his thought process (“getting on the train would be too embarrassing, there’s too many women”) without a word

And we get the repeated “men keeping giving me dirty looks” from multiple characters, emphasizing his sense of shame

The heavy white filter over the screen echoes Mayumi’s treatment, emphasizing the unhappily sexual nature of all his current interactions

Even Tetsuya’s apartment complex is one giant dick, underlined through the low-angle shot as he and the doctor approach

Ah, it’s actually his ex’s apartment. That works too

Alright, we’re even finally getting a good use for the live-action footage. The closeups of Tetsuya’s supremely awkward response to having hot coffee poured on him do a great job of emphasizing his discomfort, and how poor his performance of normalcy is

Tetsuya’s cute coworker now wants him to help her catalog the opening of a municipal pool. Swimsuits, his only weakness

Tetsuya, I’m getting pretty tired of your bullshit

This episode definitely has more emotional grounding than the first one, and its style tricks are often being used for actual dramatic ends, but it’s still just not that involving. The stories here drift between mundane and nonsensical, and none of the characters are multifaceted enough to invest in

Another cute trick – Tetsuya tears up, and then the next transition calendar shot is fogged because of his tears

So that’s his fantasy. His wife apologizing for how much she’s wronged him, while also having sex with him

He fantasizes about ripping off his pants and prompting a tearful apology from his wife, making me briefly terrified that that’s actually the way this episode will resolve this conflict

Alright, great, things are going in a much better direction. His ex-wife isn’t a monster at all, and is actually concerned for him

Ooh, I really love this sequence of his photograph self standing up and saying goodbye to his wife. This was very consistently presented as the icon of his inability to let go, and so having it enact his transformation is the strongest way to make that change clear

Tetsuya finally stands up for himself and tells his coworker to do her own work

Heck, it seems like this episode might even have a thematic point – the difficulty of distinguishing between imposing your own will and desires in an honest way and being selfish

And Done

Alright, whew. That episode was muuuuch better than the premiere in a variety of ways. It actually used its visual style shifts to make some strong dramatic points, and its overarching story was significantly better than the first episode’s half-formed trapeze story. I’m still not terribly invested in these stories, and I still find the overall visual style pretty unpleasant, but on the whole that was a reasonably successful episode. Kuuchuu Buranko probably isn’t for me, but I can now at least see an appeal here.

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One thought on “Kuuchuu Buranko – Episode 2

  1. Yeah, like I said it does get a bit better. Though “Maybe it’s hardening because of your repressed emotions?” is the kind of horrendous nonsense psychology you’ll have to get used to. I get that having these metaphor-driven mental disorders adds some depth to the show, but it seems a bit too silly and irresponsible towards people with actual mental disorders. (On the plus side, I don’t remember it ever crossing into offensive territory.) I would like to see a show where the character’s development had to do more with how character try to balance their lives and work and relationships with whatever issues they have.

    Thankfully, Nakamura doesn’t give up on the whole metaphorical storytelling thing after this show. Mononoke has tons of its, and using Japanese demons for its metaphors works much better than mental disorders.

    Kuuchuu Buranko does continue its upwards ascent in quality for a while, though the difference between episodes is pretty minor. Keep an eye out for the one with the Yakuza thug afraid of sharp objects- it actually made me laugh out loud.

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