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Salaryman Kintaro: volume one
voice cast: Taisei Miyamoto, Kiyoshi Kawakubo, Nachi Nozawa, and Katsuhisa Houki

director: Tomoharu Katsumata

103 minutes (15) 2004
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Artsmagic DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
In his interview, Salaryman Kintaro's director Katsumata says that it's all very well trying to make cutting-edge anime but you'll never make any money doing it and besides he wishes he'd stayed in film production. Katsumata's complete lack of ambition is visible in every frame of this overrated and turgid piece of animation.

These four episodes tell the story of Yajima Kintaro, a former legendary leader of a gigantic biker gang who after saving the life of a company chairman is given a job as a white-collar 'salaryman'. He distinguishes himself immediately by bringing his rebellious personality to white-collar Japan. Marvel as he plays mah-jong and gets drunk with his colleagues! Gasp at the horror of an employee who rebelliously dares to travel in the same lift as a more senior employee! Somebody contact The Daily Mail... this man is a menace... he goes fishing!

Upon reading the blurb on the back of the box and some of the gushing praise on the inside of it, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was some cuttingly satirical look at office life starring a character who uses violence to cut through red tape and get what he wants. Salaryman Kintaro is nothing of the sort.

Despite being a former biker and seen by his co-workers as a wild-eyed revolutionary, Kintaro is essentially your average western office worker. Katsumata portrays him as exceptional in that he dares to ride the same lift as a more senior employee. It is quite possible that by the standards of the Japanese workplace he is exceptional. However, any satirical intent of this series is likely to be lost to westerners as Kintaro's exceptionalism owes more to how dreadful his work environment is, rather than any particularly praiseworthy characteristics on his part (an error similar to the one made by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged). So, where the DVD promises satire and violence we are actually left with a rather dull story about a single father who gave up a life as a gang leader to be a professional pencil sharpener.

When Salaryman Kintaro does try to raise the stakes, the results are frequently disastrous. A night out results in an incomprehensible problem with some yakuza and Kintaro saves a family from a car accident and bumps into some old friends who have since had sex changes (cue much joking about men in dresses). None of these poorly written and overly sentimental vignettes do much to raise the level of Salaryman Kintaro, nor does the artwork which is frequently flat and old-fashioned and occasionally astonishingly ugly (in particular the design of the president who looks like a fish). The voice acting though is zesty and all concerned put on a reasonable show and try to compensate for the dull material by putting more effort into their performances.

Not funny, not exciting and incapable of keeping your attention, Salaryman Kintaro is unworthy of your time or money. The DVD comes with a couple of rather short and depressing interviews with the director and producer who talk about themselves and the state of anime and say next to nothing about the making of this series. It is also lacking an English dub, which is surprising in this day and age, as I am sure it will be enough for some to rule it out. Avoid.

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