Looking back to the first trailer for Nanbaka, I believe I dubbed it bishi-prison break with overly attractive characters and very stylized animation. After watching the full season my opinion has changed slightly but not as much as I’d hoped.
The anime has a focus on 4 prisoners set in supposedly the world’s most secure prison located in an unknown body of water just off the coast of Japan. Similar to impel down from One Piece in a way only without the submerged levels and devil fruit user prisoners. The 4 main characters are from block 13 cell 13 and each block has a specialty guard looking after some of the world’s most dangerous criminals and the four we focus on are Juugo (15), Nico (25), Uno (11) and Rock (69) with main warden Hajime. All inmates from cell 13 are famous for their ability to break out of any prison but further on in the series their previous prison breaks have been for menial silly reasons but because of their talents, they could make any prison security look like Donald Trump’s twitter account.
The anime is mainly based as a gag anime not to be taken too seriously and it takes up to the final episodes to really get going and even then they manage to keep it light and fun. The beauty of being a gag anime is the plot can be non-existent in places, that’s not to say there’s not a story as there is but it is spaced out and only really takes focus in 2-3 episodes. This isn’t a bad thing just look at one of the most popular animes of all time in Gintama. Nanbaka keeps a fun vibe throughout the series with a smattering of otaku friendly jokes here and there with self-aware references and desperate attempts to cover copyright infringement with humor. The characters are well drawn, however, the animation team could have taken it easy on the glitter sparkle effect.
Over the series, we get a look at the main characters as well as the guards as well as the background and development of potentially a main focus with the man with the scar on his neck. The prisoners are all overpowered, however, too stupid to do any real damage but still they remain in prison. One of the positives from the anime has to be the guards. Block 13’s Hajime is a workaholic straight man character but the prison has a vast array of others each one looks like they are straight out of a Rocky Horror hair metal tribute band. The head warden is a great character she has a hardened bad ass reputation to be in control of the world’s most dangerous prison but deep down she’s a school girl with a crush on Hajime only her reputation scares even him and causes misunderstandings as he respects the hierarchy of the system. It all strangely comes together well, sure, it’s not a stand-out classic but the comedy is there and season 2 with a darker plot could develop and a more serious tone. And with it slated for 4th January, we don’t have to wait long to find out.
Nanbaka is a good anime; worth a watch but given it has been up against some stellar shows this season it may have been overlooked, but as a gag anime it delivers laughs and is well worth giving it a chance. You can find it over on Crunchyroll and catch up the first season so you’re prepared for the next in early January.