Episode 112: “Butch Benten and the Ryuunosuke Kid”
I’m back! A combination of RL events and Anime Central have left me too distracted to blog for the past few weeks, but I’m back and better than ever, baby! I also have a couple of purchases to show off at some point.
Original airdate: May 23, 1984
Corresponding manga chapter: Original
Minor characters introduced: The Boss and other bikers, little girl, Mee, Pierce Ryuji
Summary: Down the mean, desaturated streets of Tokyo ride a gang of bikers. While they roar through the…dawn? dusk?, a voiceover tells the legend of a true biker, a man who rode and fought and also wrote poems and loved flowers. A man asks to hear it again, and tears run down his cheeks as his gang joins in.
The Boss announces that he’s quitting, as denoted by his sensible haircut and suit. He hearkens back to a time when a girl and boy defeated him, as together they were…Red Lightning!
Back in the Boss’s past and, presumably, our present, Ryuunosuke is out running when she crosses the path of a young girl with a white kitten in her backpack. The kitten squirms out and makes a break for it, and the girl runs into the road and directly into the path of three motorcycles, led by the boss himself. Ryuunosuke leaps into the road and pulls the girl to safety, and when the bikers are gone, ascertains that she’s unhurt. The girl stops to sew up a tear in Ryuu’s shirt before she leaves.
At school, Ryuunosuke is retelling the story, which Ataru takes as a chance to examine the state of her shirt. She lays him out with one punch, deservedly. This is witnessed by Benten, who’s hovering at the window on her bike. She walks in (casually tossing Ataru out the window when he runs at her) and sizes up Ryuunosuke, then abruptly launches a punch at her, which she intercepts. They compliment each others’ form, and we cut to a soba restaurant, where Lum is eating noodles and the other two are bonding by comparing punching techniques. (Lum gives the sort of eye-roll that Dot Warner used to accompany by saying “Boys…”.)
In a nearby ice cream parlor, the Boss is rhapsodizing to his boys about the dessert while wearing the most ’80s outfit ever–he literally appears to be wearing the opening credits in shirt form.
There’s a silly joke involving Cherry, who explodes, and the Boss and the headband-wearing biker agree that this town is bad news, that it rips the bones from your back and is a death trap, possibly even a suicide (w)rap.
The girls walk or hover, respectively, through a park, where they’re approached by the little girl, calling out to “onii-chan” to thank Ryuu for her help that morning. She holds out Mee to say “thank you” as well, but Ataru interposes, apparently for the purpose of flirting with the kitten. Mee sensibly claws up his face and runs off, vanishing into the underbrush. The crew splits up to look for her. Mee accidentally runs into a tough dog (you can tell it’s tough because it’s wearing an eyepatch), which gives chase. Benten and Ryuu see this and follow, catching up to them as the dog has Mee trapped on the railing of a pedestrian overpass.
Mee slips off and lands on top of a truck. Benten and Ryuunosuke launch into action by appropriating the Boss’s motorcycle in plain view of the ice cream parlor’s window. This sets off the Boss’s rage, causing his battle aura to flare, and he sends the other two to rally reinforcements and activate Plan Rose Envelopment.
The girls take off in pursuit of the truck, but find themself flanked by bikers in hockey masks, along with a bespectacled biker who taunts them, daring them to defeat their (rather absurd) Sure-Death Quadruplication technique, which involves the other three piling up on his back. Benten defeats them by going into a slide, knocking them aside like a game of Durama Otoshi.
The bespectacled biker, Pierce Ryuji, radios in news of their failure and the girls’ destination (Yokohama). On a country road, the truck takes one fork and the girls take the other, leading them into an ambush by a few dozen colorfully-dressed bikers. Benten and Ryuunosuke fight their way through with grace and ease, while the Boss watches and eats desserts, struck to the core by their grace, and coining the name…Red Lightning.
In the city, Mee jumps off the truck and runs away, through a Lost Weekend-style montage of neon signs. Dusk falls, and Red Lightning stand over the defeated gang, only the Boss remaining. He vows to show them his true strength, and they launch into what appears to be a motorcycle joust, charging toward each other while windmilling an arm. The Boss and Ryuu launch into the air, his strike missing while hers finds his chin. Benten comes up to correct her form, sending the Boss flying with another punch, and they take off while the Boss looks on in awe.
Mee walks through the dark city streets, and it this point it becomes clear that she is in fact Menchi from Excel Saga:
(Technically Menchi is a dog and Mee’s a cat, but Menchi’s a very feline dog, and Mee is animated more like a dog at times, so they’re still pretty similar.) In an overlapping set of montages, the girls seek Mee while the Boss seeks the girls (using a couple of fairly adorable chibi-style sketches as a model). Mee mews (nyas?) for help in the alley behind a restaurant, but is shooed by a man in glasses, a tiny mustache, and a sweater vest. He’s also the next person Benten and Ryuunosuke ask for help, but he blows them off by calling her a boy. (He actually says “boy” in English, and by the end starts sounding like Jaqen H’ghar from Game of Thrones.)
The headbanded biker breaks into the middle of this, recognizes Ryuu from the chibi sketch, and takes off to fetch the Boss. The Boss enters, calls them outside, and the glasses on the bar shake while the bartender continues cleaning his wineglass. The girls come back in and ask about Mee again, and the bartender, realizing what he’s dealing with, directs them to the wharf, then steps outside to see the entire gang out cold. The search continues, until they eventually find Mee in an alley. Ryuunosuke approaches her carefully, but she spooks and runs out the other side.
We cut to a quick scene at the Moroboshi home, where Mr. Fujinami is consuming vast quantities while ostensibly looking for Ryuunosuke. Back in Yokohama, Red Lightning chase Mee through the docks to the end of a pier, where Ryuu is able to finally pick her up just as the sun rises. Benten and Ryuunosuke share a moment, but are interrupted by the Boss and apparently every biker in the tri-province area, there to settle the score. Benten is about to square off when there’s a truly silly interruption.
Back in Tokyo, they return Mee to the little girl, who embarrasses Ryuunosuke with a kiss on cheek and departs. Benten teases Ryuu about her girlfriend, and when she protests that she’s a woman, smiles and says that she knows. She flies off, looks backs, and they blur into still images followed by a brief montage. (I would have brought it back to the framing sequence, even if just in narration, myself.)
Thoughts: First of all, Benten is totally flirting with Ryuunosuke at the end there.
That’s some Han Solo shit right there.
That aside, this episode isn’t terribly well-structured but is a lot of fun due to the personalities involved. Benten and Ryuunosuke make a good team, although as a result their personalities don’t spark off each other in the way that usually drives the series, so they wouldn’t work as a regular thing. It’s fun to see them work together, though, and it’s a rare episode that builds up Ryuunosuke’s confidence rather than frustrating her. The Boss is amusingly quirky; he’s more of a nuisance than a credible threat, but that’s what the episode calls for (not that this series is villain-heavy in the first place). I’d have set up Mr. Fujinami sooner and come back around with the framing sequence, but it’s not trying to be more than an entertaining episode, and it succeeds on that level.
It’s amusing to see how briefly Lum and Ataru are in this episode; they aren’t at all necessary to the plot, and I sort of get the impression that they’re there to remind people what show they’re watching.
Next: Oyuki is angry at Ran, and the heavens themselves tremble at her wrath!