by Maral Agnerian,

Puppet Master Sakon


Puppet Master Sakon
Sakon is the grandson of the famous Bunraku master, Tachibana Zaemon. He is incredibly shy and lacks confidence in himself. However, when he is with his puppet, Ukon, he is able to focus himself and his crime-solving abilities. As a contrast to traditional Bunraku puppeteering, Sakon is an expert ventriloquist. He uses his talent of mimicing and throwing voices to confront the villians and often force a confession. Ukon is a beautiful Bunraku puppet created in 1870, supposedly by the Master puppet-builder Unosuke Koizumi III. But Ukon doesn't act as a good Bunraku puppet should. When he is with Sakon, he is forward, obnoxious, flirtatious, coarse, and very egocentric. Together, Sakon and Ukon travel around Japan, solving mysteries, murders, and horrific crimes. In the meantime, Sakon's aunt Kaoruko, a young and pretty police detective, helps him out and keeps an eye on him.
Oooh, it's angela Lansbury reborn as a bishounen! With a mouthy puppet! Ano...

Puppet Master Sakon is hard to pin down. On the one hand it's got a fairly unique and interesting premise involving a boy and his puppet, but on the other hand it seems to be bogged down with clichéd murder mystery storylines.

The music is also ambiguous, as the opening is a mediocre J-rock tune while the ending is a delicately beautiful offering from Akino Arai. The BGM isn't particularly memorable. The art and animation are quite nice, with clean smooth lines and subdued colours. There's some stereotyping, however, as the 'bad' characters all have haggard faces and messy hair, so there isn't much subtlety there. Then again, there isn't much subtlety in this entire show. We're hit over the head with clues, and the formulaic nature of the plot makes it difficult for it to be truly mysterious or for the viewer to get drawn into the story.

The first 3-episode storyline is an 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' deal set in an abandoned school, to which the grown-up alumni of an elementary school puppetshow club are called by a mysterious person who then proceeds to kill them one by one. The second storyline appears to be remarkably similar, which is unimpressive to say the least. A group of people are called to spooky building, they're trapped and can't leave, there are spooky puppets everywhere, people start dying, yadda yadda yadda.

Sakon and Ukon together are a weird kind of Holmes and Watson, and play off each other interestingly when trying to figure out the mystery. Sakon himself is cool, but also kind of creepy in that he speaks almost exclusively through Ukon, while Ukon is cheerful, outgoing and cute. They're saying something there about 'who's the puppet and who's the master', but while mildly interesting it's hardly original. Sakon is voiced by Megumi Ogata, whom I dearly wish would stop voicing bishounen. never fails to disturb me when a cute guy sounds like a woman. As for Kaoruko, she might be interesting if they develop her character more, but right now she's just a caricatured mid-20's ditz who's desperate for a rich husband. She's supposed to be a police detective, but Sakon and his puppet do a much better job with the detective work than she does.

Puppet Master Sakon is very serious and dramatic with lots of references to Japanese culture and folklore, which offers a fair bit of interest, but the predictable storylines detract heavily from what could have been a cool and spooky series. I've read a couple of glowing reviews of this series, but I was just underwhelmed. Maybe it picks up later, but the first two story arcs were rather tedious and unimpressive. We've seen it all before...
Production Info:

+ Interesting use of puppet as a main character; insight into Japanese folklore
Tedious and cliched murder mystery storylines

Director: Hitoyuki Matsui
Screenplay: Yuuichi Higurashi
Yuriko Nakamura
Norihiro Tsuru
Original Manga:
Sharaku Marou
Takeshi Obata
Character Design: Toshimitsu Kobayashi
Art Director: Toru Kuga
Sound Director: Katsuyoshi Kobayashi
Director of Photography: Toshihiro Kawada
Producer: Shiro Sasaki

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Puppet Master Sakon (TV)

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