This weekend was the premiere of Time Bokan 24, the newest in the string of revivals of long-lived and long-loved franchises–and it is a refreshing mix of old and new.
The setting continues in the time-honored tradition of the original, with two main heroes, their animal familiars, their multi-purpose robot vehicle, and, arguably, the stars of the show, the evil but loveable Akudama Trio.
The story starts off with the Akudama Trio–Bimajo, the devilishly-beautiful main villain; her Twitter-addict henchman Tsubuyakky; and brutish oaf henchman Suzukky–chasing an intrepid young girl named Calen (in a mechanical beetle known as the “Mekabuton”) throughout time in a series of intensely-fast-paced, dynamic action scenes, jumping from one time period to another. In one instance, they are battling in nineteenth-century Paris; in the next, Edo Japan. Eventually they crash-land in Inokashira Park in 2016, narrowly missing Tokio, a seemingly-typical Japanese boy who happened to be hurrying on his way to school.
To avoid Tokio being injured by the attacks of the Trio’s giant bug-catching robot kid (because it’s the most logical way to catch a giant robot beetle, of course), Calen thinks fast and quickly grabs Tokio, throws him inside the cockpit and flies off, thus giving us virtually all the setup needed to begin a new generation of adventures in the classic Tatsunoko style.
While the breakneck pace of the first few minutes might seem confusing to viewers new to the Time Bokan formula, help is at hand in the form of Shigeru Chiba, who provides the voice of the overly-eccentric narrator, always willing to interject with his catchphrase, “Allow me to explain!”
The pioneering kings of “gag anime,” Tatsunoko Production, have an incredibly long history of comedy thanks to the sensibility of the original chief director Hiroshi Sasagawa, a disciple of the legendary Osamu Tezuka. Sasagawa helmed the first Time Bokan show in 1975, and its popularity gave rise to a whole slew of sequels in the henceforth so-called “Time Bokan Series.” This started with Yatterman, which recently was revived as both a live-action movie and a new late-night series, Yatterman Night in which Sasagawa played the role of supervisor. His comedic timing and wild characters getting up to crazy antics can be seen in Hakushon-Daimaou, Kaiketsu Tamagon, and many more, and these series set the stage for Time Bokan to take shape.
The humor is nonsensical, yet refined; dumb, yet smartly done. A visual slapstick joke can be given extra punch with a cameo from the Odate-Buta, once a brief throwaway Yatterman gag (a visual representation of a saying that Sasagawa remembered from his childhood, that “even a pig will climb a palm tree if complimented”) but now a classic mainstay of the Time Bokan franchise. It’s a silly pun that can be made funny by having a character comment on just how unfunny it was. So it is fitting–and very meta–that the first episode focuses on a couple trying to make their comedy work.
The villains of the Time Bokan series have been fan favorites for generations, and have been clear inspirations for similar characters in other anime series, too, such as Team Rocket in Pokémon, and the trio of Grandis, Sanson, and Hanson from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.
Time Bokan 24 also rewards close viewers by throwing in some bonus in-jokes and references–for example, the three main villains are played by the same voice cast of the three main characters in last year’s Yatterman Night.
All in all, this episode is a great start to a new addition in the long lineage of Tatsunoko comedy, and a worthy successor to the legacy of Hiroshi Sasagawa’s creations, to be enjoyed by fans of all ages.
Time Bokan 24 can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.