Going Down The List: Kuuchuu Buranko

(MAL LINK)

I know I say this a lot, probably too often for it to have any impact anymore, but Kuuchuu Buranko really is a different kind of anime compared to most shows I’ve written about. The main reason for that is that Kuuchuu Buranko is really about real mental illnesses. It doesn’t treat mental illnesses as simply a hurdle that characters have to overcome to complete their respective character arcs, nor does it treat mental illness as something that can be treated solely through “the power of friendship”. That kind of sincere portrayal is, at least in my experience, fairly rare in anime. Hell, even in media in general(it’s still a taboo subject, after all).

But even though Kuuchuu Buranko tries to be sincere about the subject, it still simplifies large parts of the processes of diagnosis, treatment and therapy, often for the sake of comedy. I already noticed it when I watched the show back in early 2015, but it became very obvious after I myself was diagnosed and got first-hand experience of the processes in question. Kuuchuu Buranko’s idea of psychiatry is very dated in the sense that the different characters’ mental disorders are placed in very narrow categories and the treatment consists of confronting the source of the problem with the assistance and in the presence of Dr. Irabu. Part of the reason for this simplicity is explained by the fact that Dr. Irabu himself is fairly eccentric, but I still felt like the show got a bit too repetitive because of it.

While the show didn’t quite meet my expectations and wishes when it came to depth in the psychiatric department, it did excel in the technical and stylistic departments. The director, Kenji Nakamura, is known for directing shows such as Gatchaman Crowds and Mononoke as well as the Bakeneko arc of Ayakashi, so Kuuchuu Buranko definitely has a style that stands out. The visuals consist of a bizarre mix of traditional animation, filtered live-action footage and rotoscoping, all of which fit the themes of the show. And when the OP and ED are both by synthpop group Denki Groove, the show ends up feeling very unique indeed. I don’t think it’s a perfect show, but I definitely recommend checking it out.

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