Injections of fun / Trapeze and episodic anime

"noitaminA rocks!"

At the moment, I’m probably more satisfied with the anime I’m following than I have been for a long time. Whenever a new season begins there’s always the temptation to try to see as much as possible, particularly as an anime blogger with the self-inflicted responsibility to talk about this stuff ad nauseum, but for the autumn at least, I resolved to take things at a slightly slower pace.

The truth is that I’m not good at following anime week-in, week-out anyway, and quite frankly, I’d much rather enjoy the anime I’m watching than to make some token effort just to keep up with everyone else. There’s definitely some new series that I’m really itching to see, but it can all wait until it’s finished.

Well, there is but one exception. I mentioned before that I’m watching Trapeze (also known as Kuchu Buranko.)

Trapeze

Totally the opposite of the above, this is a series I’ll watch every week without fail. It is episodic and set-up just like Bartender, but with a psychiatrist instead; each new episode brings with it a new patient and their mental illness, yet where Bartender was all about smoky, dark rooms and healing knackered office-workers, Trapeze is… different.

A quick glance may suggest that someone barfed a pack or two of M&Ms all over the screen (and that’s a good thing by the way) but better still is the integration of live action into the animation; each new patient has a stop-frame ‘real face’ (contorted, weird-looking and just plain funny) glued atop his animated body, while the pinku-esqe nurse Mayumi appears on screen as either a straight up live-action actress (played by Yumi Sugimoto) or as a blocky video-game CG mannequin circa 2004!

The aesthetic is simply outstanding in a thrift-store, punky kind of way, as if spliced together in someone’s bedroom in a matter of hours. I love how eccentric it is, how down-right funny it looks, but one should not ignore Trapeze‘s emotional qualities either. All of its absurdity is rooted within an episodic parade of very human (and occasionally, very embarrassing) disorders like obsessive-compulsiveness and… priapism!

In episode 5, a man is constantly fighting his ever-growing urge to do something embarrassing and extreme in-front of Japan’s legions of Serious Adults and uptight co-workers. It’s not often that I’ll heartily laugh at anime comedy, but this episode especially had me in stitches, and while I realise comedy is a very subjective thing, I’m sure I can’t be the only one laughing at this show, right?

"Pardon?"

Trapeze works for me every week because it is episodic; each further installment ends with a certain, dramatic finality. There are no ‘to be continued’ cliff-hangers or frustrating plot mysteries to be solved many moons later, it’s just a short, sharp injection of colour and fun, best administered in small, managable doses (The nurse Mayumi has fun with her injections, too!)

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

16 thoughts on “Injections of fun / Trapeze and episodic anime”

  1. You covered a lot of the reasons I like this show, except maybe one: the voice acting. Irabu as child and as bear are both lovely in their own way. The guests all sound like the troubled folk that they’re supposed to be… I’m also impressed with Mayumi, her voice and her looks, especially considering IMHO she looks rather plain without that getup and makeup.

    1. Yup, that and the (musical) soundtrack! I doubt they could have a found a song better suited to the series than Shangri La, with its insane, up-beat sense of enthusiasm and surreal lyrics. I love how they start it playing about 20 seconds before the episode actually finishes, making for a lovely transition to the ED.

  2. I knew you’d love this one! Beat me to the pinch in writing about it too… :P

    But yeah, it’s not just the fact that it’s innovative and a refreshing change…it’s genuinely enjoyable and makes you care about the patients and their conditons. It says a lot when you can sit through twenty-five minutes devoted to the issue of erectile dysfunction and not feel as though it’s in bad taste. Quite the reverse in fact – I found that one, and all the episodes I’ve watched so far actually, quite profound and sympathetic to the human condition.

    The episodic structure works well in this case too. Not sure yet if it’s revisited (I’ll probably watch episode 4 tonight) but Mayumi is actually treated as a genuine character in the closing scene of episode 3. After being the token fanservice in every scene she appears in, the moment where she’s shown a bit of real personality really caught me off balance.

    1. I loved that ep#3 Mayumi scene too, in the way it worked as both an earnest confession of her feelings and as a sweet satire of the shy anime girl’s tentative ‘body language.’ I think it felt so unique because I was subconsciously expecting Mayumi to be animated, yet she wasn’t!

      Trapeze consistently catches me off guard like that, each new episode proves to be an exciting new adventure and I really hope it finds an audience, but sadly, I’m not convinced it will any time soon; only 4 out of 69 of my friends on MAL are watching it (and that includes you, Martin!) which is extremely disappointing/depressing no matter how you spin it. I wonder why people seem so allergic to it?

  3. After a couple eps where I marvelled at the sheer style I was getting annoyed at its disease-of-the-week format. It’s a question of taste, I suppose. But ep 5 was a big improvement. The animation, story, design and music came together flawlessly. If they can keep that up I’ll happily keep watching the disease of the week!

    1. Hey Peter, it’s great to see you’ve finally got yourself signed up to WordPress. I actually found it a few weeks ago now and have been following your posts on Google Reader, so keep it up! :) As for Trapeze, I think we’re in agreement, the show rocks ;)

  4. Nice to see someone blogging about this! The visual style took two watches of the first ep to grow on me, and now I can’t get enough. It looks homemade and is not ashamed of it.

    I am also finding it to be genuinely funny, which is rare amongst anime for me… and the music is great, especially the BGM playing when Mayumi appears for the shot of the week.

    1. Likewise mima, it’s always nice to hear from another that’s enjoying Trapeze, we’re an endangered species after all! :)

  5. At the beginning of the fifth paragraph I think you meant glance. Considering the M&M’s “glace” works too I guess ;-)
    Anyway, I’m proud to announce I’m one of those 4 people on your MAL friends list that are actually watching Trapeze. This show is brilliant if you like to watch anime oh so very different from what the mainstream offers. I love the overall design made by a drunken clown, reminds me a bit of Mind Game – same technique with live actors and same unpredictability. I expected no less from the team that previously created the equally brilliant Mononoke. Characters are very likeable and funny (Irabu’s laughter when he’s wearing that bear mask gets me every time) and they feel “real” – flawed, with realistic problems and can surprise with sudden development. Best show of the season if not of the year.

    1. (It’s annoying how typos like these seem to fall through the cracks, I re-read my posts a lot (as I’m writing them and as they are being published,) yet it still seems I have a blind spot for certain words/phrases. I guess I need a proof reader or something?! (BTW, if anyone wants to help me with that, I’d be delighted if you would drop me a mail at bateszii@gmail.com!))

      Trapeze makes me want to see Mind Game more than ever! I might watch it tonight, even. Having not seen it already is getting more embarrassing by the day!

  6. I’ve been keeping away from anime for some time now. It seems that in order to watch anime correctly you have to be in good spirits and unpressed by deadlines and various anxietys, but it’s also true, for me at least, that after every cycle of repression the hunger always emerges and, after seeing these eye candy screen shots with the “Bateszi approved” seal I think I might just found the thing to jump start my late autumn anime watching frenzy. I’m dowloading the episodes right now. I have a hunch it’s gonna be a great ride. Thanks B !

    1. I’m sure you won’t regret it, Laura! And yeah, I think I definitely need to be in the right mood to watch anime too. Quite often at the weekends, especially on Fri/Sat, I’ll opt for live action movies over anime just because I feel like watching something that’s more immediately ‘realistic’ and self contained.

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