Flame of Recca

It's a hard call to base a review on the first two hours of a TV series. If the show is terrible, you'll usually know within the first few shows that it won't interest you, but there are exceptions. Sometimes, too, a really incredible show will pull you in from the start, but even the best shows don't always do this. For example, it was episode 4 of the original Macross that got me hooked...and if I hadn't watched that far along, I would have missed what still is my favorite anime to date. Flame of Recca is a title that hit me square in the middle--it didn't really impress me, but at the same time I feel that there might be something more lurking under the surface waiting to happen.

We know from the prologue that a young infant was sent into the future as a desperate attempt by the dying Hokage clan to keep their lineage alive. We then skip forward approximately 400 years to the present day, where an impetuous young man named Recca idolizes ninjas and fights like a man possessed. He's a bit too flippant for his own good, but he soon learns that there are dangers in the world far greater than he can imagine. He meets Yanagi, a sweet young girl who he saves from almost-certain death in an accident. He is injured, and it turns out that Yanagi has the power of healing, which she uses to save him in return. Infatuated, he calls her his "hime" (princess) and vows to protect her. As they become friends, a mysterious woman known as Kage appears on the scene. With the help of some jealous classmates prepared to fight Recca to the death, Kage seems to be intent on destroying Recca...or does she have Recca's salvation in mind instead? As Kage awakens Recca's dormant powers, Recca must decide if his enemies are actually his friends in preparing him for the challenges that lie ahead.

Flame of Recca is a typical TV show in terms of animation. The artwork is basic and occasionally a little murky, and the frame rate isn't much. In terms of plot, Recca at first appears to be a "battle of the week" show in the same vein as Fist of the North Star or perhaps Dragonball. So far, every episode has had a major showdown, so it's a fair assessment. However, there may be more here than meets the eye. Each opponent Recca has faced represents a particular element, whether that be fire, wind, water, or otherwise, and each has a unique style. The fights are at least entertaining, and so far they haven't dissolved into bouts of "my attack name is cooler than your attack name, so I win" syndrome. The series pulls off some small surprises within the first four episodes, and it starts to work on basic characterization and growth. Already, Recca is not quite the little snot who bounced his way through the first episode. That's a good sign, and I hope it continues. The show does have some humor, which generally works though sometimes is a little slapstick. It's also very much a show aimed at teenage boys, and there is a small amount of fan service here and there--very mild fan service, since it is just a TV show, but it is there.

I can't bring myself to the point where I can completely recommend Flame of Recca from the first two hours, simply because it's clear the show is just getting ramped up. I like where it's going, but I can't help but feel that the constant battles will get old if they don't take on some greater purpose in the context of the show. Take this as a cautious recommendation and see what you think--if you like action shows with a smidgen of thought behind them, you'll probably find Flame of Recca a tasty diversion, but be careful if that style of show is not your thing.

Flame of Recca ep. 1-4 -- violence, profanity, very brief nudity -- B-