Anime: Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens
Season aired: Winter 2018
Number of episodes: 12
Thoughts: Imagine a story where a crossdressing assassin, a private samurai investigator, a genius teenage hacker, a perfect pickpocket thief, two gay torturers, a young child, a plastic surgeon, and a ramen stand chef are put together in one big team to pull crazy heists and then celebrate over a bowl of ramen at the end of the day. You have Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. And it goes together as well as peanut butter and jelly (unless you don’t like peanut butter and jelly).
Honestly, this anime is a lot of fun, but you have to disassociate yourself from reality in order to make it work. Because the idea of a city where a sizeable number of people who reside there are either mafia or criminals of some nature is ridiculous on its own. And when you add in a colorful yet completely unrealistic cast of characters, nothing about this anime speaks to reality in any shape or form. It’s meant to be taken lightly, and as many audience members have pointed out, it does bear a similar resemblance to the attitude you must take towards the Durarara!! series.
The success of this anime, for me, lies in the characters more than the plot. Because yes, there were a few moments where I was caught off-guard and found my jaw dropped to the ground, but the majority of the episodes can be pretty predictable. As a result, when the plotline is not as important, the series then relies on its characters. And I personally thought the characters did just that. In fact, the reason why I was excited to wake up every Friday morning to watch this anime was for the cast of characters. They are unique, they are colorful, and all of them are just so likeable. I legitimately cannot point out a single protagonist that I found annoying.
Part of why the characters sold me so much was because all the seiyuus breathed life into their characters. Yuki Kaji always gives his all to any character he voices, but he was exceptional as Lin, the crossdressing assassin. The nuances in his voice and tone just gave so much personality to Lin. The emotional moments where Lin breaks down in pain and sorrow were heartbreaking for me to hear, and his moments of exasperation made me laugh out loud. Daisuke Ono does not disappoint either as the calm, teasing private eye samurai, giving a perfect contrast to Yuki Kaji’s intensely emotional voice with his laidback tone. Other recognizable voices include Yuusuke Kobayashi as the unfortunate idiot, Dasiuke Namikawa as one of the gay torturers, and Nakamura Yuuichi as a ninja assassin. Within each episode, I can literally hear just how much fun all the cast members had while voicing their characters, and it’s so infectious that it carries over to the audience as well.
The soundtrack also matches the atmosphere of the anime. The opening song, though catchy, is not what stole the spotlight. In fact, it’s the ending song that captured the audience’s attention because of the homage it seems to pay towards older anime like Cowboy Bebop. The next episode promo is actually embedded in the ending sequence, and there isn’t even a song being sung. It’s completely instrumental with artistic character cards. There’s a whimsicality that accompanies the instruments, and it perfectly captures the lightheartedness that encompasses the storyline despite the fact that the main characters are literally assassins.
Now before I begin to cover the more mediocre elements, I do want to applaud Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens on something extraordinarily unique – the integration of a sport into the storyline of a story that is NOT about the sport itself.
Now that is not something I’d ever associate with a city of assassins, hackers, and torturers. But yes, baseball does play an active role, and in fact, it is a role that actually meshes very well. I won’t give specific examples as it does resort to some very major spoilers, but it just feels wrong for me to not point this out in this review.
Onto the more mediocre areas: the length of the battle sequences. I got a sense that whenever I watched the duels, they were supposed to last longer than they are actually shown. However, likely due to a lack of budget and/or a lack of time, the series decided to cut down on them. Aside from one excellently and brilliantly executed battle sequence, the rest of the duels between the assassins generally ended too quickly.
The art is also particularly normal. The anime characters look like anime characters, and there isn’t really anything unique to point out or praise like some of the other characters in anime for the winter season. And the most unfortunate of all is the budgeted 12 episodes. The characters are the series’ biggest strength and biggest weakness. The series simply doesn’t have enough episodes to cover the entire team of protagonists. I could sense a lot of backstories still unexplored, and I desperately wanted them to be explored, but the series had run out of time. As a result, we are only left fully understanding Lin and Enokida (the teenage genius hacker) but remain completely ignorant to what led the other protagonists to the city of Hakata.
In summary, this anime is not meant to be some kind of earth shattering masterpiece that remains in the audience’s hearts forever. But it is an anime that leaves an imprint of the joy that can come from simply liking a series. I would suggest this anime to anyone who likes to watch something with action, comedy, and an interesting cast as long as they can remember to disassociate themselves from the reality of the world.
I am planning to rate all my anime based on the anime rating system that Japanese anime critics use. I will have 5 categories, each with the top score of 10, and then a final multiplier of 2.
Voice acting: 9
FINAL SCORE: 76/100