Time Bokan 24 is shaping up to be as insane and deranged as most of the other entries in Tatsunoko’s backlog of crazy comedies. As explained in the previous article covering the show, the action follows the adventures of Tokio and Calen as they “Time Bokan” across different periods in history, trying to find the true stories behind the events chronicled in the textbooks. However, the Akudama group is not giving its attempts to cease their meddling ways, since they stand to benefit a lot from sustaining the facts as presented in the textbooks.
Thick and fast jokes pepper the various episodes. But some of the more esoteric ones are so bizarrely complex and obscure that you wonder whether the show is aimed at the parents, rather than the kids to whom TakaraTomy is trying to sell its Mechabuton toys–but that is part of the fun!
Let me take a bit of time to explain some of the weirder gags in the series.
Episode Five is titled, ‘Trick or Treat’ was Actually ‘Shimane or Tottori’! and the concept here is based on the idea that many Japanese people apparently get Shimane and Tottori prefectures confused–they are right next to each other geographically, and even the kanji are confusingly similar to some.
More or less the entirety of the fifth episode is taken over by a joke that spins out of control–it is Akira Fukuzawa hosting a quiz show. Fukuzawa was the host of a long-running gameshow known as Trans-America Ultra Quiz dating back to the Showa period that ran for over twenty years. It is where most of our images of crazy Japanese gameshows comes from. Here, the real Fukuzawa reprises his role as host and continually repeats his familiar mantra “Just meet!” to indicate that the contestants have given their final responses to the questions and that it is time to reveal the true answers.
Surely the parents (or perhaps grandparents, at this point?) of the kids watching Time Bokan are on a major nostalgic trip right now? They must be, because this joke seems to have been such a major event that many online news outlets picked it up as a scoop, even interviewing Fukuzawa himself, who is quoted by Oricon as saying he grew up watching the original Time Bokan and was very excited to participate in this new version.
But that is not the only reference to established mainstream Japanese television traditions.
At the start of (almost!) every episode, the JKK (Jikuu kanri-kyoku; Dimensional Management Agency) commander gives a briefing on the next mission for the Time Bokan team. In this episode, he is dressed in a typical explorer’s costume, while some background music plays which should be familiar to Japanese viewers. Anyone who has seen the long-running TBS series Sekai Fushigi Hakken!, or, The Discovery of the World’s Mysteries in English, will recognize its theme. In fact, it is such an obvious reference that he is interrupted before he utters the name of the TV show, and Tokio and Calen accuse him of blatant plagiarism.
But they are not all purely Japanese references. Many are gags based on Hollywood movies–some of them old classics, some new.
Do you remember the Hollywood adaptation of a Japanese story, Hachi, about a dog waiting every day for his master to arrive at the train station? Well, Time Bokan 24 does, since there is a very quick reference to that, too, with Tokio impersonating Richard Gere just for a second. In fact, Episode Six is all about how the famous story of the loyal dog which is now immortalized as a statue outside the Hachikou exit of Shibuya station was fake, because according to the show’s “real” history, it was in fact a bee, and not a dog at all! This is because hachi in Japanese is also the pronunciation for “bee.” The show runs with this and hilarity ensues, as we find that the bee is waiting for its mother. At the start of the episode, there is also a “blink-and-you-missed-it” reference to Scream, with someone dressed as the cloaked, masked killer among the other Halloween costumed party-goers which Shibuya has come to be synonymous with in recent years.
One other example of a callback to Hollywood movies is the brief instance in Episode Eight, where the Akudama gang fire a bunch of donuts from their mecha and Tsubuyakky mutters, amai no ga o-suki!, which literally means, “(I) like it sweet!” This is most likely a reference to O-atsui no ga o-suki, the Japanese title for Some Like it Hot, one of Marilyn Monroe’s most famous movies, which literally translates to “(I) like it hot.” This could simply be Tsubuyakky stating his tastes, but the appearance in the same episode of someone who bears more than a passing resemblance to Monroe (blonde hair, white dress, mole, and everything) would support the theory that it is referring to the movie.
As an example of more modern movie homages, in Episode Seven, the heroes are joining Christopher Columbus’s crew and sailing the oceans, but as soon as a strange black ship appears and they fall under attack, another unmistakable theme is heard–this time the theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
In fact, this same episode is also another one that put a lot of emphasis on American society, not just movies, but also in terms of current affairs. It begins with Tokio watching TV, and guess who is in the White House? Someone who looks unmistakably like Donald Trump! Considering the timing, there is a possibility that the animators may have prepared two versions of this shot, one for Hillary and one for Trump, depending on who had won the election by the time the episode aired.
Let’s keep an eye out for more Time Bokan craziness to come!
Time Bokan 24 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.