Binbougami Ga! First Impressions
July 7, 2012 2 Comments
Binbougami got off to great start with an excellent episode full of brilliant slapstick and wonderful humour, while still having a more serious element to the story. Binbougami Ga is everything that Medaka Box wanted to be (and arguably tried and failed miserably in both manga and anime), it is a wonderful blend of energetic slapstick, along with a element of self-referential comedy, while also having a more serious element about loneliness and friendship. Now, I went into this series already a little biased since I have read the manga (the chapters that have been translated that is) and truly enjoyed it, so this anime only helped to build upon an already good impression that this story has had on me.
The series follows Sakura Ichigo who is someone with spectacular luck, blessed with beauty, brains and wealthy she appears to have everything. Unfortunately she is also sucking out all of the good luck from everyone else and has essentially put the world out of balance. Enter the Binbougami (Poverty God) Binboda Momiji, a god with an incredibly short temper, bad attitude and unwillingness to be even the most modest of work. The chemistry between these characters is as spectacular as it is explosive, leading to some brilliant jokes and wonderfully details slapstick mini-sketches throughout this episode. Momiji in particular is a brilliant character who initially does not want to even go near the job, but changes her mind after seeing how big Ichigo’s breasts are. Such a petty reason for apparently doing a necessary and important task was wonderful to watch and essentially sums up Momiji as a character.
Interestingly this series is not all about the comedy and there are much sadder and potentially darker elements involving Ichigo and her family. You could ask yourself a question about what you could give someone who appears to already have everything and really find it difficult to answer. Ichigo appears to have everything, and much like Medaka (the comparisons are inescapable) is beautiful, sexy, smart and essentially perfect. This is however a very superficial appearance and we see that Ichigo veritably revels in the hate that she has garnered from many of the other girls at her school. To see her being so petty and essentially revelling in a little Schadenfreude demonstrates to us that Ichigo is far from perfect. There is of course more to this, and while Medaka may have been the very essence of a perfect human being, Ichigo is a little different.
Both characters are compared to gods with Momiji suggesting that Ichigo may be the reincarnation of a god, whereas Medaka is essentially meant to be the representation of god with Zenkichi as the devil. The major difference here is that Ichigo is flawed, she is not perfect and is clearly an incredibly selfish person who is happy at her current lifestyle and appears to have no thought of helping anyone else. Ichigo, while incredibly beautiful has an very petty nature and a tendency to gloat over the misfortune of others, something that is actually fascinating. Often these ‘perfect’ characters are shown to be just that, perfect, with a great character, being kind to everyone and essentially the very image of a Yamato Nadesico. What the character of Ichigo gives us is the idea of someone who appears to be this Yamato Nadeshko (essentially the perfect Japanese woman) on the outside, but is actually as flawed as everyone else in private.
The dialogue and chemistry between her and Momiji in part comes from these flaws. Both Ichigo and Momiji are inherently mischievous, devious and also simply immature, while at the same time being polar opposites when it comes to things like good luck. Seeing Momiji loosing it because of ichigo’s unwillingness to give up all her good luck just shows how much Ichigo gets under her skin. Obviously this leads to some pretty bizarre and quite surreal comedic sequences, with Momiji dressing up in a nurses outfit and giving the best get well speech ever, only to be skewered with her own giant needle. And of course their initial meeting in the girls toilets at school, something that is a little more than surreal, demonstrating the writers penchant for twisted comedy. This scene is particularly good at demonstrating the devious nature of Ichigo, a girl who fully understands her own nature and how to use her body and apparently ‘sweet’ personality to her advantage.
But, there is a significantly more serious side to this whole series, and it is one that will likely be the driving force of Binbougami Ga, staying under the surface while fireworks and plushie toys fly through the air. Ichigo is alone in life; she lacks friends and any semblance of a normal, or at least comforting family life. Her apartment is huge and yet it is only her and her butler Suwano who occupy it, when we see this, we must start to wonder what Ichigo’s life is truly like. We are shown a couple of very short, but important flashbacks, giving us some idea as to what sort of life Ichigo has been living up until npow. She may be beautiful, sexy, athletic and intelligent, but are there are any people who are truly close to her other than her butler? The answer to that is assuredly no, she is alone in life with parents who appear to prioritise their work over their own daughter and do not appear even once. We see how important her butler; someone who has been with her all her life is to Ichigo when he has a heart attack.
The shock is so much that she automatically blames Momiji as a Binbougami, that sad truth however is that it is Ichigo who has hurt Suwano. The idea that her good luck will hurt others suggests that simply having a lot of good luck does not automatically bring you untold happiness and joy. In a way we can see the opposite happening with Ichigo’s brilliant luck essentially alienating her from anyone who wishes to get close and eventually hurting those who are. While Ichigo appears selfish when she runs off with all the good luck that Momiji took from he, we can see it as an act of desperation. The idea of loosing Suwano cannot even exist in her mind, it is something so shocking and so terrible that Ichigo is willing to anger a god in order to save him. This act, while seen as selfish is in fact a truly selfless act where Ichigo is attempting to use her own luck in order to help others.
The central duo of Ichigo and Momiji therefore serve another purpose, that of the central friendship within this series. Momiji, despite her apparent hate for Ichigo (largely because of her breasts it has to be said) seems to get along with her in a way that no one else can. Similarly, Momiji is the first person that Ichigo appears to be able to be herself in front of. She does not have to put up a front of the perfect person in from of Momiji, and because of the ever present danger of that massive needle, always appears to be on her guard, but also actively talking to and engaging with Momiji as a person. Their fights, while incredibly funny also show us that they are getting along in their own way. This series looks to be fascinating, mixing brilliant self-referential comedy with a healthy dose of slapstick, while also having a more serious part to the story. On another note, the music is wonderful, with both the opening and ending credit sequences having good songs and also brilliant animation. On a final point, got to love how Goku is put in the good luck category, while Vegita is put in the bad luck category, I also love Ichgio as Super Sonico, better than the original version naturally.