- Genre: Action, Crime, comedy, drama
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Satelight
Still wondering where to book your next vacation? Look no further than Hakata Japan! Come enjoy a vivacious night life full of excitement. Meet the colourful locals, warm and friendly folks as well as master craftsmen the likes of which we so rarely get to see these days. While you’re here you should catch a baseball game, the amateur teams will make you wonder why they aren’t in the big leagues yet. Or maybe you could visit one of the many host clubs where the lovely personal is just dying to meet your every need. Want some entertainment on a dime, you can’t beat the prices of the Hakata net cafes. Of course if you come by in the summer time, you’re not going to want to miss the Hakata Gion Yamakasa. A cool and thrilling time is waiting for you. And of course, don’t leave without trying Hakata’s premier specialty: mouth watering tonkotsu ramen.
For some reason the cover art of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens made me decide that it was going to be like Durarara! Based on this highly scientific reasoning, I figures, since I really like Durarara!, obviously I would also like Ramens. It just makes perfect sense. Do you guys also chose your anime entirely on the cover art, or even worse, the Crunchyroll featured screen capture? How is that working out for you?
This is one of those shows with a frustrating production. Well not frustrating to watch, just frustrating to describe. It’s good. Like very good. The designs are fun and personal. Easy to tell apart from each other and striking enough to be instantly recognizable in a crowd. The animation is fantastic and the action packed storyline makes good use of it. Of course there’s an art quality tradeoff when it comes to more movement intensive scenes but you’ll likely not notice as it keeps the adrenaline pumping and really gets you in the moment. Does it look unique? Not at all. It looks great though.
Voice acting and sound design are also good. Also like very good. Perfectly cast, great chemistry. Background noises are well chosen and the moody soundtrack enhances the atmosphere beautiful. Everything works in perfect harmony. So much so that I really couldn’t pick anything out to hold up as a shining example. Once in a while an anime is just plain well made. That’s a good thing. Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is a well made show, that might not sound all that exciting but…actually we’ll talk about it.
I do however want to mention one non narrative element that captured my attention. The ED. Now this ED is pretty good, I wouldn’t necessarily have put it in a top 10 list or anything, but what did catch my eye is that it felt like a spiritual successor to Tank! Of course it’s no Tank!, I mean very few things are, but you see what I mean right? The color blocking. The establishing character scenes. The jazzy tune. This was clearly a choice made for a very specific reason.
I had a great lunch with Mel while still watching this show and she mentionned that it reminded her of Cowboy Bebop. I got super excited and talked about how the ED and she brought it a step further saying that the entire narrative was not unlike a modern take on Bebop set on Earth. I have to give Mel full credit, she came up with this and dayum, girlfriend’s so right!
For those of you who haven’t seen Bebop or don’t remember it, don’t worry, the two shows aren’t actually connected, they simply share a lot of common elements. One of the first things I noticed, aside from “great opening scene”, is that Ramens is a violent series. And not cartoon violence either. Gritty, consequential, soundtrack includes the gurgling noises made by a man that just had his throat cut open type of violence. I call it, Tarantino style casual ultra violence.
Even though the actions on screen are quite brutal, and it is to be expected when the story follows a group of mercenary hitmen, they are presented in a generally light manner of fact type of way. These people are doing their jobs. There’s no need to make a big hoopla about it. Although it does straddle a fine line, to me, it never seemed to celebrate or glorify violence. There’s a lot of talk of posturing and being cool but it was never suggested that beating up someone is what makes you cool in any way. For the most part. Let’s face it, some of those fight scenes were shot so lovingly they felt intimate but that’s somewhat par for the course with the medium.
I just realized, I haven’t talked about the story at all. I’m not going to. Look there’s a few crime drama cliches…more than a few. Brought together with some buddy comedy antics. The plot is sinewy, occasionally bordering on contrived but never takes itself seriously enough for it to become a problem. I would describe it as a tangled web. I mean the show continuously throws spiders at you in case you somehow missed it.
What saves it from being hackneyed is that the pacing is fantastic and the choice of plot developments matches perfectly the characters’. As such, we get specific character arcs exactly when they are the most likely to make a strong impact with the audience. Even though the actual narrative is more interesting than unexpected, the story construction is impeccable and completely makes up for lack of originality.
My biggest pet peeve is that we get introduced to so many great characters that some only get a few minutes of screen time and you are left wanting so much more. However, they are all written in a way as to feel like complete, 3 dimensional people who just happen to wander into the storyline for a few seconds, rather than plot elements. This is something I absolutely adore about large ensemble shows. It’s very difficult to pull off.
I debated whether I should mention this at all. I figured I would throw it in because it is something that struck me as I decided to write this review. One of the main characters is a corssdresser. It’s obvious of course and mentioned once or twice but generally speaking, no one cares. No one asks why he dresses that way or makes assumptions about his identity or orientation. It’s just a personality trait like any other. In fact, it’s so readily accepted that by the end of the second episode, I stopped noticing it myself. It just didn’t seem unusual at all. Hence why I wasn’t sure I should mention it.
I did to try and illustrate for you one special thing that brought this show from good to great for me. It’s so inclusive. Gender, orientation, race and calss are all acknowledged, the differences are made explicit but are also treated as inconsequential. In Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens, it doesn’t matter what you are, what matters is what you do. You’re actions are what make you who you are.
Every wanted to watch a super violent crime show about overcoming prejudice? The answer is yes!
What this anime taught me: Bringing a knife to a gunfight is fatally stupid, unless you win, then it’s just cool…
Hey you know what rhymes with drunk? Everything…
Suggested drink: Negroni
- Every time Lin gets mad – take a sip
- if it’s at Banba – raise your glass
- Every time Enokida seems overpowered – take a sip
- Every time there’s ramen – get a snack
- Every time Banba is inapropriatly relaxed in what should be a really stressful situation – stretch
- Every time a new character has some type of previous connection to the story – take a sip
- Every time we see latterns – take a sip
- Every time a scene takes place at dusk – take a sip
- if we see the sunset – take another
- Every time there’s a murder – take a breath
- Every time Lin calls someone a pervert – roll your eyes
- Every time there’s any baseball reference – limber up
- Every time we see a bridge – get some water
- Every time anyone is drunk – join them
- Every time anyone says “cool” – cheers
- Every time we see little Lin – brace yourself