Pile of Shame
Blazing Transfer Student
by Justin Sevakis,
So let me get this straight... In 1991, GAINAX made a two-part action parody OAV, reuniting the original Project A-Ko team of Katsuhiko Nishijima and Yuji Moriyama, and NOBODY released it outside of Japan?
To be fair, the show might look like a hard sell. Ostensibly a parody of Ashita no Joe (though I don't think anybody would need even a fleeting familiarity with the seminal series to enjoy it), the show centers around boxing matches that Noboru Takizawa, the new transfer student at Honjakuniku High School, inexplicably seems to find himself in. Boxing and parodies of shows from the early 70s do not make for a bestseller Stateside.
But really, Blazing Transfer Student is about as much about boxing as Naruto is about historically-accurate ninjas. Animated with intentionally thick lines and a jerky animation style (trying to make it look, you know, 70s), and populated by characters who yell a lot and take themselves ridiculously seriously, the series definitely covers ground that has since been parodied quite a bit, in everything from Di Gi Charat to Gainax's own Gurren Lagann. But its sense of style and fun is something unique.
Takizawa is literally walking into his new school for the first time when he's stopped by a monstrous hall monitor. His name is Koichi Jonoichi. He calls himself “Hall Monitor of God”, and defends the front gate with land mines. And nevermind that he has a valid excuse, Takizawa is LATE.
Luckily, Jonoichi fights mostly in verbal cliché admonishments, and so all it takes is the admonishment of cute girl Yukari, and he's done for. Takizawa is instantly in love with this girl. Upon arriving in his homeroom, Takizawa also comes face to face with Saburo Ibuki, who is basically just an enormous jerk. He's also a boxer, and immediately picks a fight with the new kid, who just happens to be totally inexperienced at fighting. Said new kid is quickly turned into a bloody pulp on the floor.
That afternoon, Takizawa happens upon a boxing match -- one that the entire school has gathered to see. It's a grudge match between Jonoichi and the dastardly Ibuki, over their shared affections for Yukari. For her part, Yukari doesn't really care for either one, but for the purposes of this fight, she's, reduced to being a trophy. (Literally. She stands in the ring with a "Trophy" sign around her neck.) But then Ibuki, who is clearly the worse of the two, wins the fight, Takizawa can't take it anymore. He changes into shorts, ties a ribbon around his neck, and challenges the victor to a duel!
The razor thin plot acts mostly as a vessel for gags. Ibuki doesn't just kill a cockroach with his bare hands: he pummels a cartoon cockroach mid-air in slow-motion with all the dramatic embellishment the animation can muster, until… the cockroach is a little smush on the wall. Takizawa doesn't just go flying when attacked, he's picked up by the impact of the fist, sticks to it for a while, and ricochets off a pole while his face caves in.
The grudge match plays an awful lot like early scenes of Project A-Ko, except cranked up a few knotches and with more masculinity. It's incredibly stupid, but so much fun that stupid just adds bonus points to the proceedings. The characters are literally the only people taking the story -- or the matches -- seriously. The animators are more interested in silliness, like the sparrows that are drawn as little yellow blobs, but wear "sparrow" signs.
Based on an early 80s manga in Shonen Sunday by the award-winning artist Kazuhiko Shimamoto (who, despite being pretty prolific, isn't well known among Western fans), Blazing Tranfer Student owes quite a bit of its humor to storyboard artist Sumio Watanabe, a diverse talent who has worked on everything from One Piece to Ninja Scroll. But the real star of the show is Nishijima, who works his trademark sense of timing to some seriously funny effect. Meanwhile animation director Moriyama, who had transitioned to a softer-edged style by the early 90s, was always at his best when he did action comedy. Here he plays an interesting slight of hand, balancing the homage to old, limited TV art styles with flashier, higher end techniques, and peppering in modern comedy tropes like super deformed sequences.
The end result is so fast-paced and furious that it's hard to believe this show is over twenty years old. While the animation has that slightly soft shot-on-film look, the heightened contrast and angular designs that were meant to evoke the past have instead kept it looking modern. It shares that manic sense of action with newer Gainax works like FLCL and Gurren Lagann, but has the sense of parody that the Nishijima/Moriyama combo were so great at back in the 80s.
There's nothing too remarkable about Blazing Transfer Student, except that it reminds me of some of the best times I had watching anime as a teenager. I always wondered if my love for the comedic tone of A-ko was a fluke; something that I loved because of nostalgia and not for its actual comedic value. Blazing Transfer Student proves it was not a fluke, and that sometimes lightning does strike twice.
Japanese Name: 炎の転校生 (Honō no Tenkōsei)
Media Type: OAV
Length: 2 x 25 min.
Genres: Comedy, slapstick, parody, sports
Availability (Japan): Doesn't look like there's a DVD, only Laserdiscs and VHS.
Availability (English): I could only find a really badly made fansub.
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