Nanbaka is a gag anime, with each episode composed of multiple shorts.
In the first act, we are introduced to our four main characters: Inmate 11, 15, 25, and 69. These guys have escaped from prisons all around the world, and are now attempting to escape from Nanba prison, which is touted as a prison from which no one has ever escaped. Each inmate has a special skill/ability that helps them to pass through all of the prison’s many traps. The four inmates eventually manage to make it to the front door, but are ultimately stopped by one of the prison wardens, named Hajime.
In the second act, we get a look into the inmates’ lives when they’re not attempting to escape.
In the third act, we focus on Inmate 15, whose father is apparently a legendary fugitive. Also, he has mysterious shackles on his wrists and neck, which he’s never been able to take off.
Alright, I’m just going to talk about the most glaring thing about this anime first, and that is the character designs. Holy hell are these characters overdesigned. Nearly all the inmates have two-tone hair, and they all have special facial markings. I mean, I guess that’s kind of revolutionary that the prisoners in this series are so colorful; but some of the colors just really clash pretty badly. They look like 14-year-old me’s attempt at making OCs (sorry 14-year-old me). Out of the four, Inmate 25 would have been my favorite design if not for his LIME GREEN HAIR. The prison guards at least look a little better since they have more toned down designs (but not by much).
Story-wise, this anime appears to be attempting to be a slice-of-life… except set against a prison backdrop and also our four main characters try to escape every now and again. That’s cool, I guess…? I’m glad that the main focus of the series isn’t solely on escaping, because it appeared that they already ran out of “escape the prison” tropes in the first act alone. Having entire episodes dedicated to just that would have been boring. So we get slice-of-life/comedy antics instead, for better or worse.
Another big criticism I have for this anime (other than the character designs) is that the voices don’t seem to match the characters very well. That may just be a result of the character designs being so wacky; because I have trouble imagining any kind of human voice coming out of the mouths of these four inmates. Also… what the heck is up with the sparkles everywhere? In nearly every scene, there are a crapton of sparkles in the shot. Either that is the cleanest prison in the world, or the anime is just trying really hard to convince the audience that these four inmates are really “bishonen.” The show also apparently wants you to ship all the dudes with each other. Didn’t expect this series to be somewhat fujoshi-centric, but okay. One last criticism is that our four main characters are all housed in one prison cell together. Also they have access to laptops and money (’cause they can apparently buy things online???). That is very unrealistic for a prison, but this was never meant to be a serious anime in the first place so I can let that slide.
Despite all the criticisms I’ve listed, I just can’t bring myself to hate this series. Trickster (the FI I did before this) just felt hollow in its delivery; but for Nanbaka it at least feels like the production staff had some fun with it. The animation is also very nice–though I guess that isn’t hard since the backgrounds are simple (it’s a freaking prison) so the only things that really need to be animated are the characters themselves. There were a few small art shifts in this episode, which I wish the animators had done more of. Those were kind of neat. Sadly, I’m not too interested in this anime as the characters and the jokes don’t really appeal to me. All the characters so far are also fairly one-note (although Inmate 15 is at least hinted at having some sort of deeper backstory). Anyway, if you want a wacky anime that revels in its wackiness, you should probably check out Nanbaka.
Out of five: