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Salaryman Kintaro - Anime Series (Katsumata Tomoharu 2005)


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Salaryman Kintaro

Genre: Whoop-Ass White Collar Anime Series

review in one breath

When notorious bike-gang leader Yajima Kintaro abandons his gang to pursue a straighter path, he finds that even in the mundane world of white collar work there are plenty of times a man must either step up and confront injustice or acquiesce out of intimidation. Unfortunately for the bad guys, Kintaro has not forgotten his whoop-ass ways and brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "office power politics"! This is an infamously excellent and meaningful anime series for both youth and adults. Definitely a must see!

prologue

prologue

We're talking here about the animated series entitled Salaryman Kintaro directed by Katsumata Tomoharu. This distinction is important, since both IMDb and Amazon erroneously suggest this is the 1999 live-action film directed by Miike Takashi. But more on that in a second...

The widely popular Kintaro character derives from the manga (of the same name) by manga artist Motomiya Hiroshi appearing in the ubiquitous and wildly popular "JUMP" (weekly) manga publication. Following (and concurrent with) the manga, there was the aforementioned 1999 (live action) theatrical release directed by Miike Takashi, a 20 episode TV animation series originally aired on TBS in 2001, a Japanese TV drama (live action) airing for three seasons from 2002 to 2004, and several video/Playstation games all named Salaryman Kintaro.

Thus what we are discussing here is the 20 episode anime series (originally aired in 2001) released over a 12 month period (2005-2006) in English subtitled Region 1 (and Region 2) format via ArtsMagic DVD. Prior to their release of the first DVD in this collection (in June 2005), ArtsMagic sent me a copy for review. To be honest, seeing merely the first four episodes literally blew me away, leaving me VERY hungry for the rest of the series. But the following four volumes crept out of distribution at such a slow pace that I, like many of the original previewers, found themselves with not much to say other than "Here's volume 3 with episodes 9 - 12!!". -- all this despite the fact that any review you stumble across (including mongip's) absolutely loves this series.

Then, just as the FINAL DVD was released in March of this year, ArtsMagic underwent a reorganization of their PR department and thereby virtually lost track of its prior announcement mechanism. (In other words, who knew? Not me! How about you?) The result was simply that the final DVD, marking the IMPORTANT availability of the entire series, was heralded with all the fanfare of a puritanical fart on a crowded elevator.

But this anime series has been something I have not been able to put down, despite my previous access to only the incomplete series. The quality, humor and message of this is unlike anything in US anime and is purely something worth sharing with others. Thus after finally realizing the last DVD was recently released (and promptly buying and watching it), I feel compelled to bring this entire collection to your attention once again.

intro

The Salaryman Kintaro stories address not only some of the major difficulties faced by Japanese white collar workers ("salarymen"), but provides the main character (Kintaro) with enough balls and bravado to literally become a working-class hero. Thus Kintaro embodies both the diligence necessary to survive in the social ladder and the balls to stand up for himself and others when the going gets tough.

And in the Kintaro stories, things seem to get tough quickly, resulting in alot of big bad guys getting knocked and thrown all over the place. When the dust settles, not only has justice been meted out, but a moral lesson of honesty and honor has been imbued. In this way Salaryman Kintaro comes across as both action-packed and heart-warming, representing a head-to-head attack on the problems of life while maintaining one's values and character.

Yakuza beware! That guy at the copy machine is gonna kick your butt!

story

Just a few years prior Yajima Kintaro was the leader of a motorcycle gang of 10,000 and was both feared and revered. After the birth of his son Ryuta and the subsequent death of his wife Akemi, Kintaro disbanded his gang and turned instead to the life of a salaryman in order to fulfill his duties to both Ryuta and Akemi. But while his title may have changed, his fearlessness and insight have not, often leading him headlong into scenarios which cause lesser men to tremble or flee. Those who attempt to manipulate others through fear and threats had better stand back, since Kintaro will have none of it. And those who still have a little of the old-school manlihood left in them see in Kintaro a breath of fresh air in a world otherwise filled with grovelling and intimidation.

Each episode pits Kintaro against a different struggle or stage of development in his newly acquired office job and personal relationships (with some surprisingly important people!). In addition to fulfilling his often menial job requirements, Kintaro also seems to have a knack for mah-jong, can drink a beer in seconds flat, is a lady killer especially when he mentions that he has a kid. He can also beat the snot out of any Yakuza or bully foolish enough to underestimate him.

verdict

This entire collection is simply great, with top-notch anime and a thoroughly impressive story. While American audiences grew up watching a cartoon mouse hit a cat with a hammer, Japanese audiences have been privy to some of the most humanitarian and morally-rich anime ever produced. Salaryman Kintaro resides thoroughly in that tradition and provides an inspiring message wrapped in a ball-busting package. Kintaro is a man's man and as such does not forsake the importance of conscience, honor and, well, kicking butt.

As mentioned earlier, the entire series contains 20 episodes, contained on 5 separate DVDs (with no word on the availability of a box set.) Each episode runs 25 minutes, making each DVD 100 minutes in length, putting the entire series at just under 8.5 hours.

Here's a little drinking game/adventure for you:

Stock (way) up on rice wine. Pour a glass, take a sip and start the first episode. (Note: You'll need all 5 DVDs to play this game. Cheaters will not be tolerated... or believed.) Every time Kintaro (a) does something heroically noble, (b) gets the girl, or (c) yells "Yasshhoo!!", you must take another drink. Chances are by the time you get half way through the DVD's, you'll be crying your eyes out, cheering for Kintaro as if he were Batman. Oh yeah, I almost forgot...

PENALTY PHASE: If you pass out before you watch the entire 8.5 hours of the series you must START OVER!!

Good Luck on this daring mission should you choose to accept it!

Version reviewed: Region 1 DVDs with English subtitles available at all mainstream venues.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
The Salaryman Kintaro manga by Motomiya Hiroshi has been met with widespread popularity and for good reason. Kintaro beats the snot out of plenty of boisterous buffoons, resulting in alot of KAPOW and WHAM scenes. His name is Kintaro, not "Kintama"! Nevertheless, there is some mature (nothing graphic), good-natured discussion in a few of the later episodes. Far better than any anime coming out of the West both in terms of characters and message!

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