We're seven months into a catastrophic 2022. War ranges unchecked in Ukraine. Inflation is at a forty-year high. Drought is killing the rivers in the southwestern US. The Supreme Court has taken a jackhammer to separation of church and state and to women's rights. And another episode of Chameleon is out.
Not much has changed. Pint-sized wannabe delinquent Yazawa Eisaku still tries to lord it over the hoods and girls of Narita High School. By now, his entourage accepts his pretensions either at face value or with amusement. His friend Shiina's cross-dressing brother Yu still has the hots for him. The highly dangerous Kyuu is still trying to go straight. His external rival, Matsuoka Eichi, is out of action with serious injuries received in episode 4. So the writers have to come up with new challenges, namely, younger (but still bigger) hoods from Narita Fifth Public Middle School.
The plot is predictable. The middle school students see challenging and/or killing Yazawa (who is shorter than they are) as a way of burnishing their reputations as tough guys. Yazawa tries to avoid getting sliced and diced by arranging for his friends to do the actual fighting. Even though Yazawa's plans always go awry, he gets out of dangerous situations by sheer luck or cowardly cunning and emerges with his reputation as "a man among men" intact or even enhanced. Rinse and repeat.
Chameleon reminds me of The Flashman Papers, a series of historical novels by George MacDonald Frasier. It chronicles the purported adventures of Harry Flashman (the bullying villain of Tom Brown's School Days), rake, gambler, and coward. Flashman flounders his way through Victorian England, achieving a totally undeserved reputation for bravery and dash. The series was fun at first, but the shtick quickly became repetitious and then boring. Chameleon has the same problem. Yazawa doesn't wear well as a central character. But readers know how I feel about the series by now.
I summarized the main voice cast in the blog post for Chameleon 3. Episode 5 introduces some new characters, namely, the gang leaders in Fifth Narita Middle School:
- Miki Shinichiro (Niiya) played Kojiro in Pokemon, Fujiwara Takumi in Initial D, Urahara Kisuke in Bleach, Minamoto no Yorihisa in Haruka Naru Toki no Nake de, Shintarou in Lime-iro Senkitan, Bruce Wayne in Batman: Gotham Knight, Roy Mustang in Full Metal Alchemist (2009), Katze in Ai no Kusabi (2012), and Gintarou in Gingitstune. He also played Johnny in Jikuu Bouken Nuumamonjaa, John Bishop (the sharpshooter) in AWOL Compression Remix, Minamoto no Yoritada in Haruka Naru Toki no Naka de 2, and Cyber-X in Hand Maid May, all Orphan releases.
- Horikawa Ryou (Kaoru) played Shutendou in Shuten Douji, Vegeta in Dragon Ball, Naoto in Slow Step, Anthony Brown in Candy Candy, Reinhard in LOGH, Tadao in Ghost Sweeper Mikami, Kai in Kizuna, Shinya in Okama Report, and Andromeda in Saint Seiya. He also appeared in Hi-Speed Jecy, Lunn no Kaze, and the first two Sangokushi movies, all Orphan releases
The director, Yotsuji Takao, also wrote the script. He was involved with many other anime series, most of them obscure.
Moho Kareshi did the initial translation. laalg and later tenkenX6 translation checked. convexity and Sunachan both tried their hands at the OP/ED song. ninjacloud timed. I edited and typeset; VigorousJammer provided valuable assistance by applying laalg's translation check. Nemesis and Uchuu did QC. The raw is an ancient Internet rip (DivX505!), but there are no signs of original media on the second-hand market in Japan.
One note: the preview contains rapidly flashing signs, which can affect some people adversely. There's a warning in the subtitles, but it doesn't hurt to mention it again.
Chameleon was wildly popular in Japan. (I have no idea why.) The manga sold more than 30 million copies and spawned sequels, a live-action movie, and a pachinko game. You can get this penultimate episode of the OVA series from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.