Super Crooks
Episodes 3-4

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Super Crooks (ONA) ?
Community score: 3.6

How would you rate episode 4 of
Super Crooks (ONA) ?
Community score: 3.7

Normally, I find myself getting weary when a Netflix series dedicates entire episodes to action set pieces or long chase sequences. The way these shows are often paced, you wind up with whole chunks of a season that are dedicated entirely to setup and exposition, and then all of the payoff is left to fill out blocks of 20-40 minutes or more, without anything so much as resembling a clear plot or a set of recognizable character arcs. However, in its first couple of episodes, Super Crooks made it abundantly clear that plotting and dialogue are not its strong suits, so I was actually happy to see that “Man Mountain” and “The Praetorian” consist of pretty much nothing but action. If the show can't thrill me with its story, then maybe it can thrill me with its…er, thrills.

I will say this: I enjoyed this batch of Super Crooks episodes more than the first. I didn't even feel the need to check my phone and aimlessly browse the internet more than once or twice before they were finished, which is a marked improvement. All of my issues with those first chapters still stand here: The writing can be incredibly clunky, the artwork is inconsistent, and I don't give a damn about any of the characters. Starting with “Man Mountain”, though, those problems take a backseat to a twenty-minute long chase sequence through the streets of San Francisco, and the results are pretty fun!

Well, it gets there, anyway. The laid-back soundtrack and straightforward pacing mean that the initial run-in between our titular Super Crooks and the San Francisco PD doesn't make much of an impression, even when Johnny uses his electricity powers to somehow explode all of the cop cars in their wake. As you might expect, though, the excitement picks up when the gang has to outrun and survive the arrival of two superheroes: The Man Mountain of the episode's title, and the much more interesting Rubberball. The former is just an obscenely hulking mass of destruction, and while it's fun to see Johnny and Co. figure out how to not get squished to death, things become genuinely interesting when they have to use their powers and some genuine strategy to outmaneuver Rubberball, an egotistical prick who can bounce and roll with seeming invulnerability.

Indeed, when you combine the two-villain tango from episode 3 with the Praetorian's multi-stage beat down from episode 4, the potential of Super Crooks becomes a lot more clear. The Praetorian fight, especially, is maybe the highlight of the series so far for me, simply because it manages to take advantage of its super-heroic premise in a way that doesn't feel entirely derivative of other, better franchises. Kismet, Transmit, and Frost are little more than low-rent X-Men, except that they're all criminals and also terminally stupid; the Praetorian, though, has literally hundreds of powers that he can access and develop at random. That's something I'd like to see more of, for sure. I don't think Super Crooks is ever going to pull off the emotional spectacle of a truly great show like Invincible or Jujutsu Kaisen, but if Super Crooks can maintain the balance of decently punchy fights with its attempts at dark humor, then we'll at least have an entertaining way to kill a couple of hours on our hands.

I use the word “attempt” there because, for whatever reason, Super Crooks still can't make its moments of morbid humor into anything truly funny. The setups are all there, too, which is the frustrating part. Throughout all of Episode 3, San Francisco gets absolutely destroyed by the antics of both the crooks and the heroes, to a degree that seems like it should be categorized as a national disaster. In Episode 4, Johnny's crew gets the shit beaten out of them so hard that I was actually shocked (and a little disappointed) to find out that they all weren't instantly liquefied by the Praetorian's punches. Then, after Kasey comes in to use her mind-reading powers and save the day, we discover that all of that was for a haul of gems that totaled a mere $8,000 dollars per person. This should be a hilarious punchline, capping off a cavalcade of brutality and civilian casualties with the reveal that Johnny's crew really are pathetically small-time losers, just like Kasey's been saying. It just doesn't land though, and then the episode ruins it by having Kasey wax poetic about the value of investing in a business degree so she and Johnny can beef up their personal portfolios with their ill-gotten gains.

The point is, whenever anyone in this series opens their mouth and tries to take the world they are living in seriously, I immediately start to lose interest. Super Crooks' writing is just too stiff and awkward to get me to believe in or care about a single one of its characters or story threads. The anime has proven it can make for decent shut-off-your-brain entertainment when it gets out of its own way, though. I don't know if Johnny and Kasey's quest to team up with the old retiree known as Heat will literally turn up the heat in the action department, but a guy can hope, can't he?


Super Crooks is currently streaming on Netflix.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.

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