It's the end of Jump January, and with that comes the last Kochikame DVD that (seemingly) came to retail shelves. This last "Masterpiece DVD", subtitled Bakushou!! Ryo-san Oabare-hen/Roaring Laughter!! Ryo-san Rampage Chapter (no joke, Google translates "bakushou" as "LOL"), is an interesting one for one main reason.
You see, the original 32-volume retail VHS release of this anime, from late-2003 to early-2005, only covered the first 128 episodes (or 1996-1999), and every DVD I've reviewed so far has featured episodes from within that stretch of the show; one of the really early Pony Canyon-released VHS tapes from 1999 did feature episode 131, though. This last DVD, released in January 2012, went in the opposite direction & features episodes from the last few years of the anime's run, specifically 2001 & one episode from 2003. So, as a neat way to finish, we've seen how the early days of the show were like... But what about the other half?
Episode ~225: Ryo-san Becomes a Millionaire (Aired 6/3/2001)
While helping an old woman with some digging at her home, Ryo-san finds a hidden cachet of koban (not to be confused with koban); unfortunately, Ohara spoils Ryo-san's attempt at sneaking it away & the old woman becomes a multi-millionaire. Luckily, the woman gives Ryo-san $1 million-worth of yen as a "thank you". Can Ryo-san keep a hold of that much money without wasting it? Hell, can he even spend $100 million-worth in as many ways possible?
I must admit, I finally hit an episode that got a little tough for me to understand the real meat of the episode... Well, at least one half of it. The first half deals with the old woman & is easy to understand: Ryo-san gets a ton of money & wastes it all on food and horse race gambling. The second half, though is a tricky one for me to explain. Ryo-san finds an old painter on the street who needs medical attention, so he brings the man to the hospital. As a thanks the painter looks at Ryo-san's horribly drawn manga idea, Robo Deka Bancho (yes, Robot Detective Delinquent), and even paints a one-of-a-kind portrait of Ryo-san. Unfortunately, the painter dies a few days later, & Ryo-san finds out that the man was a legendary painter when the man's butler arrives at the station with news: The old man left Ryo-san $100 million-worth in yen, but only if he can spend it all within a few days, since he loved Ryo-san's sense of freedom. Unfortunately, I don't fully understand the full details of the deal, but it is fun to see Ryo-san try everything he can to spend money & realize that he can't handle spending it all. Hell, the one time he hopes to lose all his money on gambling he actually wins, giving him exponentially more money than before! This is also the first episode I've seen the actually features real-life pop-culture references: Ryo-san mentions Morning Musume at one point and praises the batting of a "Matsui" who plays for the Yomiuri Giants (this episode does predates Hideki Matsui's run with the MLB, which started in 2003). Overall, it's definitely a silly episode and still a fun one, though I do wish I fully understood everything about the second half.
Episode ~233: 100,000,000 Yen Scramble! Giant Athletic Tournament (Aired 9/2/2001)
After accidentally causing a Rube Goldberg-style disaster in Katsushika Ryo-san owes the city 100,000,000 yen. Luckily, the Nakagawa Group is opening a "Giant Athletic Field" & holding a one-day tournament which has the winning pair win that same amount of money. After Nakagawa declines a pairing offer, due to his family connections, & Bolbo and Sakonji reveal that they're teaming up for the tournament Ryo-san has no choice but to get Ohara to be his partner... By blackmailing him. Once everyone, including Komachi and Naoko & local martial arts master Hondara, is there they see why exactly the arena has the "Giant" name: The pairs will be competing in a series of rooms that are, literally, made for giants.
Oh boy, is this one a trip. First off, after seeing this tournament I now want to see something like this in real life, though you know the use of gigantic guns would never be approved. Hell, this episode could never air on American family television due to the blatant showing & use of guns, even if they are absurdly huge & only fire paintball BBs. The first round splits all of the pairs into two large groups & challenge them to run around a giant living room & kitchen & capture the other team's giant can. Bolbo & Sakonji act as the enemy here & it's a lot of fun to watch; there are even giant cockroach robots that chase the contestants! The second round is a race through a literal maze made of giant sushi, with the first four pairs that reach the end advancing. Naturally, Hondara & Ryo-san decide to simply eat through the rice walls. The third round is a game of giant ping pong, with Komachi & Naoko acting as the enemies. Finally, the last round is a game of giant bowling against Hondara, which doesn't disappoint either. This is a silly idea by far, but it's also extremely entertaining, making it one of the most enjoyable episodes I have seen from this show. Interestingly enough, some episodes of Kochikame are out there digitally via "other means", without subtitles (of course), and this episode is among those episodes; if you come across it definitely check it out.
Episode ~224: Super Editor (Aired 5/27/2001)
While hitching a ride with Ryusenshi, who works in the manga industry, Ryo-san interrupts a call & forces himself into helping a publisher out with some magazines that have to get finalized the next day; Ryo-san thinks he can be a "Super Editor" & do just as good a job as Ryusenshi. Unfortunately, while at the publisher an accidental fire results in the irreparable damage to a couple of manga chapters plus almost all of the new photos for a hot idol. Ryo-san, though, assures everyone there that you can make entire chapters & even books out of almost nothing.
This is another episode that I must admit to not fully understanding the full details, but luckily the episode does manage to redeem itself & become hilarious. Another odd thing is that this episode is featured third, even though it's first chronologically among these episodes, but c'est la vie. Anyway, this episode does start off slow with Ryusenshi doing his rounds & checking up on his (all female) clients, which make some neat jokes; one's a 4-koma manga-ka, another seems to be a romance manga-ka, and the last is likely an obvious reference to CLAMP since it's a quartet of young women. The real fun (& easy understanding) comes when Ryo-san arrives at the publisher & the fire breaks out. Everyone freaks out because two manga are left with almost nothing, but Ryo-san manages to save them... Kind of.
The first one has a page-worth of panels, showcasing the introduction of a tough-looking man, but though purposefully stretching out time, utilizing altered angles, & making the panels gigantic turns about seven panels on one page into an entire 16 page chapter. The second manga only has two panels, but through proper organization, lots of repeating, & altering text for each repeat Ryo-san manages to create a conversation. When pointed out that it looks too obvious Ryo-san simply covers some panels in nothing but black & alters the text to have it seem like the lights keep going out. Finally, with only one image of an idol, and lots of photoshop, Ryo-san makes the image look somewhat different each time! What makes this so hilarious is that this all seems completely plausible in real-life; I'm absolutely positive that these methods have been done in the industry before & since.
You know what the sad thing is, though? I'm absolutely positive these methods have been done in the industry before & since solely to cut costs & save money.
Episode ~247: Rush Out! Christmas (Aired 12/23/2001)
Ohara gets Ryo-san to work part-time at a local bakery, since they need help with the Christmas rush. The head chef asks Ryo-san for some cake ideas and after some horrible ones (seriously, natto & yakosoba-filled cakes?) is impressed with the last one: A cake that, when pressed in specific areas with needles, shoots out some small confetti or a mini-scroll, a.k.a. a "Fireworks Cake". In order to help Honda & Terai out Ryo-san decides to bake a small-building-sized "Rocket Cake", with a surprise for everyone, but gets trapped inside. Meanwhile, Reiko works herself sick trying to make a ton of cakes, requiring Komachi, Naoko, Bolbo, & Maria to call in help from Jodie Bakuryu-Karen & her father Onitora, their friends in the U.S. Army.
You know, for a Christmas special there's surprisingly a lot going on here. Luckily, it all fits together nicely & even has pulls out a really nice, fuzzy feeling of love & friendship at the end. Ryo-san's cake idea is a neat one, and seeing the size of the Rocket Cake is amazing, but once Ryo-san goes inside to set up the rocket you could tell that he was going to get locked inside; his appetite was too much for him. Really, the side-story of Komachi & Naoko getting help to finish Reiko's cakes was much more interesting & heartfelt, but the climax of Ryo-san's part of the story, where people (unknowingly) try to stab at him with giant swords, still manages to deliver the usual silly fun. Even when he brings pain upon himself Ryo-san is still a loving & caring man who's there for his friends, and the fuzzy Christmas feeling at the end really helps make this a nice episode... If only I hadn't seen this in January.
Episode ~332: Bonus Battle 8 (Aired 12/14/2003)
Every year Ryo-san gets a bonus... And every year the same group of Katsushika residents are owed money from Ryo-san. It is now the eighth time that these residents are holding a "Bonus Battle", and they are now resorting to the help of "Shakukin Mu", an apparent expert at retrieving money with a 100% success rate. Naturally, Mu is not alone, as he has an entire squadron of helpers; he'll need all the help he can get.
It's kind of tough to really get into an episode that's the eighth & final part of something that's been used every year since 1996, there was no 2004 Bonus Battle episode, but it still manages to be enjoyable to an extent. The main gist is that Ryo-san picks up his bonus & is then constantly assaulted by Mu's "forces", who try to take advantage of Ryo-san's weaknesses like his short temper with children, his love of sexy women, or the fact that he can only go so fast on his bicycle. Luckily, these people are mostly weaklings that Ryo-san takes out simply by biking past them quickly; some of them don't even get to fully explain who they are & what they are experts at. Mu himself is a big trickster & even utilizes hypnotism, which works in the wrong way, but in the end this episode just didn't do much for me. Sure, it's funny, and the ending is a perfect bit of karmic retribution after eight years of Bonus Battling, but without having seen the previous seven Bonus Battle episodes this one just doesn't feel quite as impactful as I'm sure it's meant to feel.
|Yes, there's a life-size Ryo-san stature in Kameari Park...|
In fact, there's an entire series of statues across Katsushika!
With these episodes coming from the later years there are a few new recurring characters that suddenly appear, so I'll briefly cover them here with what I could tell & research. Hondara is a crazy martial artist who seems to regularly want to compete against Ryo-san and has no problem with referencing the usual martial art jokes; he even sneaks up on Ryo-san with the good-ol' "Thousand Years of Pain" & utters "You're Already Dead... Or Something Like That." First shown on this DVD in episode 224 but shown more in episode 247 is Nana Otohime, a female motorcycle cop who moonlights as a shojo manga-ka & is Honda's girlfriend. Similar to Honda, when not on his bike, she's very shy & soft-spoken, and the two do make a really cute couple. Jodie & Onitora seem to be relatively simple American stereotypes mixed with Japanese origins; Jodie speaks fine Japanese but is given an English accent to her, while Onitora is a rough & tough war veteran. Also, Jodie is Bolbo's sort-of girlfriend, so Bolbo obviously gets a fountain nosebleed just from a kiss, and seeing someone like Onitora cook is entertainingly silly.
To comment quickly on the animation itself for a moment, these episodes are all after the show switched over to using digital animation, and it kind of shows. It's not "cheaply done", but the digital animation used in these episodes really does show off some of the cost-cutting shortcuts much more obviously than in the older, cel-animated episodes; it doesn't really detract too much, but it is worth pointing out. Just like the last DVD, the actual content of the episodes' stories are squished in between the most representative themes, so to be fair I'll cover what songs would have been used by these episodes. The first four would have used the penultimate opening theme, "Damatte Ore ni Tsuite koi" by Yoshimi Tendo. If this song sounds very old-school, that's because it's actually a cover of a 1964 song by Hitoshi Ueki; the Honeymooners-esque shot of Ryo-san in the Earth also helps give that feeling. The fifth episode would have used the final opening, "Katsushika Rhapsody ~Yum Yum version~" by Yum!Yum!Orange, which is a fast-paced cover of Kochikame's most-iconic song. The song itself is a great cover, equaling the original in my opinion. The footage even pays homage to the original version & its own footage by showing the reverse; instead of Ryo-san chasing after someone, he's instead being chased by the Bonus Battle residents. It's a fun look back at everyone that's been introduced. In terms of endings, the first four would have used "Oiedeyo Kameari", making it's use on this DVD appropriate, while the fifth episode would have featured "Katare! Namida!" by Sex Machineguns. This song was used as the ending for Movie 2, so the footage would have likely been nothing but footage of the ad, acting like an ad; "Kimochi Dayo" from Movie 1 acted the same way during it's use in the TV series.
Oddly enough, though, with all of the recurring characters featured in these five DVDs, this last opening does feature three who were never featured in any of these episodes: The Giboshi Family. From what I can tell, these characters are relatively recent (with how long this series has been going on for, that's a hard word to use) but are fairly important. The three main ones to focus on are Matoi, a young tomboy of a female police officer who's Ryo-san's effective equal in skills; Remon/Lemon, Matoi's little sister prodigy who Ryo-san treats as his own daughter; & Geparuto, the mother who tends to hate Ryo-san & is actually his great-aunt. That makes Matoi & Remon Ryo-san's cousins (first cousins once removed, to be exact), but these two essentially have come to act as Ryo-san's closest equivalent to a having a wife & child; in fact, Matoi & Ryo-san were apparently engaged at first before realizing their relation. Considering how important they are to Ryo-san's personal life it's kind of surprising that no episodes featuring them were included in any of these DVDs, but they likely debuted during the digital animation days, so it was either this DVD or nothing at all. Oh well, I guess.
Bakushou!! Ryo-san Oabare-hen is a fun look at the digitial-era of Kochikame TV, while doubling as an entertaining way to show how over-the-top the "reality" of this world can get (seriously, I want to see a real-life "Giant Athletic Field"). In total, I reviewed 21 episodes of this anime this month, which only amounts to ~5.7%... Yeah, Kochikame is that big. Outside of the Giboshi Family there are some other recurring characters that were not featured on these DVDs, but I was actually kind of surprised at how many actually got to be shown off here. Osamu Akimoto has truly created an entire world with this series and it's cool to think that so many characters have been featured in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump for over 37 years. Think about for a second: Nakagawa, Reiko, Ohara, Maria, Honda, Bolbo, and many others, let alone Ryo-san, have been featured in more issues of Jump than the likes of Goku, Yusuke, Kenshin, Kenshiro, Seiya, Gon, & even Luffy. I understand that a title as long as this will likely never be "popular", but I always believe that it's important to acknowledge & respect the legacy and iconic status of these long-runners. You should always at least check out some portion of them, if only to try to understand why they lasted as long as they have. I still stand behind my feeling that a company should at least license the two movies, but I really do hope that Daisuki might one day try putting this TV series on their site with English subtitles. Even if it's only a portion of the show or a "best of" selection chosen by ADK themselves I think anime fans at least deserve to actually understand what this series is & potentially enjoy it for themselves.