Should You Watch 'Nanbaka'? Episode 1 Fall 2016 Anime Review

Key art for Nanbaka. (c) Satelight Studio

Episode 1 of fall anime 2016’s Nanbaka is a wild, rollicking ride of color, sparkles, flash and zazz. I don’t know where Nanbaka is going or what it wants to do aside from be zany and fun, but it accomplishes both with so much enthusiasm and embraces what it’s doing with such vigor that I couldn’t help but enjoy episode 1.

Nanbaka episode 1 takes place in Nanba Prison, the world’s very best prison from which no one has ever, ever successfully escaped… except for our pack of four lovable protagonist idiots, who make a great effort pretty much daily thanks to their exceptional history of breaking out of prisons.

Each character has an insane character design that perfectly matches their insane personalities. We’ve got Jyugo, who’s got two different-colored eyes, shackles on his limbs and neck that are actually a plot point, and red-black gradient forelocks. He’s the hacker. We’ve got Uno, with pink and yellow hair that’s kind of… polka-dot? It’s in some inexplicable gradient in a braid down to his ankles. He, uh, has hunches and knows things, I think. There’s Rock, who has outlandish American Eagle Outfitter-looking feather accessories hanging from his ears, who just likes to fight. And then we have Nico, who is tiny, has long lime-green eyelashes, and whose strange constitution means that drugs have an opposite effect on him.

With their powers combined, they have broken out of like a billion prisons, y’all, but not Nanba. Not yet. Episode 1 takes us on a wild ride through electrified trash chutes, doors with Every Lock Type Ever, laser fields and every other crazy booby trap your mind on acid can come up with. The whole time, the “idiots with numbers” (episode 1’s very apropos title) are quipping, grandstanding and otherwise showing off their abilities and personalities. Only once we have an idea who everyone is do the opening credits play.

Oh, and everything sparkles. The walls sparkle. Bars sparkle. People’s feet sparkle. One of the guards has bright blue hair the length of my entire body, tied back with two sassy little stars. The sparkles are unrepentantly everywhere. It’s no wonder that JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure shows up under “Viewers Also Liked” on Crunchyroll, though Nanbaka s aesthetic insanity is rather more anime-typical than JJBA ’s inimitable style.

As far as ongoing plot, Nanbaka gives us a few leads, kind of. Jyugo’s shackles were placed on him by a mysterious assailant, a guard with a scar on his neck. His father is “The Eternal Fugitive” and the source of Nanba’s greatest embarrassment. But it looks like most of Nanbaka’s fun will come from character interactions as the prisoners try endlessly to escape and the guards endlessly scoop them back into their cells.

Nanbaka is an “action comedy,” so I’m not expecting any Orange is the New Black sudden tragedies to dampen this show’s sparkle. It’s fun and funny and I’m really looking forward to the next episode. I’d definitely put Nanbaka on my fall anime recommendations list.

Have you added Nanbaka to your fall anime queue? Got any hot takes? Nanbaka airs on Crunchyroll every Tuesday at 3:30 PM.  Feel free to share your thoughts on Nanbaka in our comments section below.


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