Category Archives: Comedy

Good for laughs. This tag only applies to shows that have consistent attempts at humour or are particularly funny.

Lucky Star – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Lucky Star

 

Similar: K-On!

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Nichijou – An Ordinary Life

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Slice of Life Comedy

Length: 24 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • The smug.

Negatives:

  • Moe over substance.
  • Writing isn’t witty enough.
  • Mundane humour.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Lucky Star is known for its moe characters, dance routine, and smug memes. At least, that’s what I knew it for. It follows the daily happenings of four girls at high school (yes, high school) and outside, with a commentary on mundane life led by lazy otaku Konata. School, food, video games, anime, and daily hygiene are but a sample of the fields these girls discuss to no end.

This is an anime about nothing. The first conversation covers how to eat certain food. Do you eat a cream cone from the thin and easy end or from the large end where the cream can ooze out? This discussion goes at length. And to be honest, I don’t find it funny. Where is the punch line? I’m clearly not the target audience of this comedy.

Even if you look at the humour with a critical eye, it can be hard to find the jokes. Most of the time, I am unsure about whether any of this is supposed to be funny, or is this designed to be humorous though not laugh-out-loud funny? I laughed perhaps once or twice (it was the smugness). If these are meant to have you laugh, then they drag on for too long to succeed. What should be a two-minute skit takes half an episode.

It’s hard to convey the emptiness of Lucky Star, for there is little to discuss. One scene pauses for a girl to talk about another girl’s pyjamas. Is this funny? No. Does it lead anywhere? No.

The gags lack punch and wit. You know what this reminds me of? Puppies and kittens. When a puppy trips over while going down a step, it’s both funny and cute. You laugh as your heart aches with cuteness. When an adult trips over, you recoil with pain instead. It just isn’t the same. I suppose you must love moe that I don’t to find this interesting. Lucky Star masks the dullness of the conversations with cute art, which is likely the point, and there must be an audience for it to have had 24 episodes.

As I tried my best to watch Lucky Star, I recalled Seinfeld, of all shows. That sitcom too is about “nothing” (it isn’t really, but as close as you can get without having anything but a white wall for nine seasons). It took me several attempts over a decade to get into Seinfeld. But once I was in, I would finish a season every few days. It has wit and precision that Lucky Star lacks and its observations are far cleverer than this anime. When Seinfeld points out some daily oddity through comedy, it makes me think, “Huh, I never saw that way.” When Lucky Star does it, I don’t care and it isn’t something I haven’t heard before.

The catchy dance number you’ve seen online, if nothing else, is more popular than Lucky Star itself. Being a meme machine doesn’t age well. Incidentally, the lines used for memes are funnier online than in context of the anime, as they are to the point in a panel or three.

Lucky Star didn’t bother me, by any means, so don’t let me put you off if it sounds like your thing. It was simply…nothing.

Art – Medium

The most moe of moe art. It’s not to my taste, though it is very expressive and conveys character.

Sound – Low

The acting could have been worse by overdoing the moe voices, like in the post-credit Lucky Channel TV segments. Thankfully, they showed restraint. The dub sharpens up the script a little, less reliant on the “cuteness” to make the jokes, but the casting isn’t as good. Music is mostly small loops, seemingly generated by a moe music algorithm.

Story – Low

Follow a group of girls as they go about their comedic daily lives in high school. This moe comedy is an acquired taste with its story about the mundane.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Try it. An episode or even a single scene will say if Lucky Star’s humour is for you.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

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Barakamon – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Barakamon

 

Similar: Bunny Drop

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

Silver Spoon

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Comedy Slice of Life

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Great cast of characters, including the kids.
  • Funny every episode.
  • Nailed accents and dialects.

Negatives:

  • The weakest episodes are at the end.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I am not a big fan of the slice of life genre, as the dear reader who recommended this anime had pointed out. My reason for disliking slice of life in general is that it’s full of do-nothing and go-nowhere plots. And the counterpoint I always hear to this is, “But it’s not meant to go anywhere! It’s slice of life.” Why am I wasting my time with it if it’s not going to make an effort at presenting anything?

Barakamon defies genre conventions by having great characters, actual story arcs, and a point to each episode. Furthermore, it breaks the mould of the “adult with a problem meets a child that will fix the problem”, a common sub-genre of anime slice of life, by not having everything miraculously resolved by the introduction of a child. At time, I believe that manga writers of this sub-genre have never been around children long enough to realise how much extra work they are, and not some solve-all McGuffin.

Anyways, that’s beside the point. Barakamon follows young calligrapher Handa, who has his career trajectory derailed after punching an art critic in the face (great way to open a series, by the way) and his father exiles him to a fishing island for self-reflection. As a city boy, rural life doesn’t agree with him, made worse by the local kids that use his house as a hangout. Worst of all is NaruDamn you, Naru! – the rascaliest of the rascals. Her insufferable (to him) levels of energy will never allow him to get any work done – not that he could work when his well of inspiration has run dry. Perhaps the boisterous town and its nosy residents are what he needs…

Barakamon is immediately funny with Handa decking the critic followed by the introduction of Naru and the villagers. If I were to pitch this anime in a single line – artist retreats to countryside for inspiration and maturity – you’d expect it to be full of scenes with Handa staring out at sea, sombre in his musing about what it means to create art and the meaning of life. You know, the boring crap people pretend to think makes for “deep” movies. Instead, Barakamon takes the energetic approach to show us these themes through a variety of scenarios and characters.

This variety of characters is important, for it avoids the contrivance of having Handa’s every problem solved by meeting Naru, as I mentioned earlier. Everyone contributes a piece, just as in real life. And it helps that these characters are so much fun to be around, playing well as contrasts to Handa’s narcissistic Tokyo-kid tendencies. Best of all is Naru herself.

I often find little kids in anime annoying rather than the intended cute. Perhaps it’s just me, but the more annoying something is, the less cute it becomes, especially if it’s human. I’m not conflating being a kid with being annoying either. Anime kids are often nothing like real kids. What makes Naru different is that she doesn’t get her way with everything and she doesn’t come across as a moe character dropped on her head as a baby. When she does something wrong, she realises her mistake and works to remedy it – in her own goofy way, of course. Barakamon strikes a good balance with all the children. She isn’t a whiner either. She’s one of the strongest child characters in anime, no doubt. You wouldn’t know it looking at her face, but she’s excellent.

She’s an endless source of comedy as well. Oh, the way she talks is too precious. The dub is great, but you must watch Barakamon in the original Japanese for the authentic accents and dialects. This is effort. I love it when artists put the effort into capturing the voice of a region. The dialect gags, Naru’s attempts at learning innuendo from the older girls, and the country humour make Barakamon hilarious. Reminds me of the humour in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. Simply writing the lines here wouldn’t do them justice. You have to hear them for yourself.

Now, this anime isn’t perfect and I’m torn between where to place it. High or Very High? Its greatest weakness is in the conclusion. Not that’s it’s a bad ending, of course. In fact, I like the plot, the idea of the ending, but the execution feels flat. For one, it doesn’t feel Barakamon-ish, if you get my meaning. The execution feels common, lacking the voice of previous episodes. It’s almost as if they were adapting an incomplete manga and had to hastily throw a finish together to wrap it all up. It’s not bad, yet not up to quality of the overall series.

Regardless, I recommend Barakamon to everyone, even those averse to slice of life like me – especially those people. Naru has joined my favourite anime kids list and I’m sure you will love her too.

Art – High

Uses well-timed “suddenly low quality reactions” as effective punctuation to the jokes and has good animation besides that.

Sound – Very High

Great dub. Still, you do yourself a disservice if you don’t watch it in Japanese. Naru’s accent is adorable.

Story – High

A narcissistic calligrapher finds himself exiled to a lively rural town for some self-reflection. The characters, writing, and comedy make Barakamon a joy.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Watch it. Barakamon is too much fun for you to miss. I may place this in the Very High tier after it simmers for a little longer.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

CharmHilariousStellar Voice ActingStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

Hinamatsuri – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Hinamatsuri

 

Similar: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K

Mob Psycho 100

Barakamon

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Slice of Life Comedy

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Damn funny.
  • Surprising heart for a comedy.
  • Incorporates drama and conflict without compromise.

Negatives:

  • Protagonist has weak arc.
  • Shading looks auto-filled.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Nitta is your average yakuza member until a large metal egg comes through a portal and cracks him over the head. This metal egg has a human face, one that talks and asks him to push the release button, which reveals her as a young girl. As if the whole “metal egg with naked girl out of nowhere” bit wasn’t weird enough, she also has incredible psychic power and not the slightest notion of responsibility or restraint. Her powers start turning on him and wreck his life – or worse, his vase collection. However, Nitta can take advantage of his new minion, Hina, to do dirty Yakuza work.

I put off Hinamatsuri until the day before this review, as I had no inclination for it (I usually start a series a month ahead of time in case something external comes up, such as the packed work schedule I’ve had for two months now). I had judged it by the cover: generic loli/moe girls – check; whimsical art – check; slice of life – check. This is going to be another of those anime about a group of girls finding their way through life with naïve idealism that has no foundation in reality, isn’t it?

Imagine my utter astonishment when the above blurb occurred in the first episode. It cracked me up and all my prejudice went out the window (as did all of Nitta’s possessions). Hinamatsuri is funny, yes, but it gets better.

Another psychic girl called Anzu soon enters the fray, tasked with retrieving Hina for the lab from which they were hatched. Sadly for Anzu, her psychic ability is nothing compared to Hina’s might (their duel is amazing, by the way). Her mission a failure, Anzu ends up homeless and must survive by scavenging on the streets, where she ends up joining a homeless group.

Where Hinamatsuri truly nailed it was with Anzu’s story arc. Not only are her antics of having no idea how society functions hilarious, the depiction of homelessness is realistic within the bounds of comedy. The other homeless people teach her the tricks of trade, such as gathering cans to exchange at recycling depots and checking around vending machines for fallen change. When she does have a cash windfall and wastes it all on food indulgences, it’s simultaneously hilarious and creating conflict. Her actions have consequences that matter, yet without getting so dramatic that it would no longer be comedy. Later in her arc, as she works to better herself, you care for her because of the meaningful struggle that came earlier. Again, not too dramatic either.

How many times have I reviewed comedy anime like Please Teacher and said that the biggest failing was in forcing drama for the finale, at the total expense of comedy, in an attempt at “deep” emotion? I didn’t even expect Hinamatsuri to have that type of ending  – it doesn’t come across that way at all for the first half. It surprised me both by the inclusion of such drama and the success of its execution. This does me good to see.

Where Hinamatsuri does fail, unfortunately, is in Anzu’s counterpart, Hina. While her bum-like lifestyle despite living the rich life with Nitta and her monotone expression are humorous, she has no real arc to speak of. She does learn to stop taking Nitta’s caregiving for granted, but that occurs early on, after which she just sits around like the bum she is. She is so dumb that when Anzu tells her that discarded TVs are worth decent change, Hina begs Nitta for money and buys a new flat screen for thousands, just so Anzu can pawn it off to a dealer for a little cash. Palm, meet forehead. (I love it.)

She brings good laughs, certainly, but I wonder if Hinamatsuri would have been better with Anzu as protagonist. I’m not sure this time, as the funniest character rarely makes for the best protagonist. Still, a good arc is most important.

This anime has even more on offer than what I covered here, such as the sub-plot of Hina’s middle school classmate working as a bartender because she can mix drinks like no other (incidentally, she also has a stronger arc than Hina does). Suffice it say, I recommend Hinamatsuri.

Art – Medium

I am not a fan of the “auto fill” looking style of shading and highlights you see these days. It lacks artistry, as if generated by a software plugin. And as in most cases, moe/loli character designs aren’t to my taste, though these ones seem plugin generated as well. The animation and environments, however, are quite good.

Sound – High

The acting is strong and works well in English, especially in the casting of Hina as a monotone bore. That said, the original Japanese is better overall. I don’t understand the choice of OP and ED songs. They are suited for slice of life drama like A Place Further than the Universe, not a comedy.

Story – Medium

A yakuza has his life thrown sideways when a psychic girl falls into his apartment and wrecks everything. Funnier than expected, Hinamatsuri is a surprise success, though the protagonist has the weakest of the plots.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Watch it. Hinamatsuri is a very “anime” comedy, which won’t be to everyone’s taste – I often pass over these types myself – but this is one of the better ones, so give it a go. An episode or two is all you need to test.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

My Bride is a Mermaid – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Seto no Hanayome

 

Similar: Ah! My Goddess

School Rumble

To LOVE Ru

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Comedy Romance

Length: 26 episodes, 2 OVA

 

Positives:

  • So many great laughs.
  • Visual humour.

Negatives:

  • Art is cheap.
  • All attempts at drama fail.
  • Final two episodes.

(Request an anime for review here.)

When Nagasumi drowns one summer, he considers himself fortunate to be saved by the mermaid Sun. However, according to the laws of Yakuza mermaids, once a human catches sight of a mermaid, he must swim with the fishes – either by death or by marriage. Nagasumi has no choice. He becomes engaged to Sun and she joins his school to be close to her beloved, against her Yakuza family’s wishes. So not only does he have to contend with a sea dwelling gang after his hide, he must also keep Sun’s true nature secret from classmates.

Yakuza mermaids, a ridiculous concept to be sure, but an effective one. Sun’s father sends his best henchmen to kill Nagasumi and free his daughter from the shackles of marriage to such a loser. His enforcer can morph into a shark – he does this a lot in the heat of the moment. My Bride is a Mermaid is unexpectedly hilarious. The art gives an impression of mid 2000s harem with lame comedy.

Instead of turning into a full harem, as one would expect, the other girls must either kill or protect him. A tiny girl that lives in a conch has the job of assassinating the guy while pretending to be sweet and innocent in front of Sun. The disciplinarian girl from his class with a crush on him acts the police officer role, like her father, making her the perfect rival to the mermaids.

The Yakuza take up positions in the school to accomplish their mission, including the boss as a class teacher, while the bookkeeper teaches maths through criminal means. This black man with curly hair is considered so charming and attractive that the mere sight of him renders everyone enamoured. This recurring joke never failed to make me laugh. It reaches a new level when Nagasumi drinks a charm potion and becomes the apple of everyone’s eye (and loins).

Some of the gang aren’t so successful. The giant octopus teaches cooking, though often includes bits of his tentacles in the process. It isn’t long before a rival gang joins the fun to take the humour to yet greater heights. Their leader, a Terminator of a man, is a riot. He doesn’t understand his daughter at all, so plays gal games and re-enacts them as the girl to get closer to his daughter.

Mermaid has a ton of visual humour in the facial expressions, reminiscent of Great Teacher Onizuka, which alleviates the subpar art quality. One classmate is called “chimp”, but he acts like a real chimp, face included. Does anyone realise this?

The jokes come fast and they come often in this one. It is comedic beat after comedic beat, sharply timed with barely a dull moment in between. Just about every joke lands. These aren’t the greatest jokes of all time – it’s no Fumoffu – but they are fun.

My Bride is a Mermaid fails, however, in the tradition of most comedy from that era, when it attempts to inject drama in a place where it doesn’t belong. All drama fails here. Unlike Ah! My Goddess, one of the few light-hearted comedies to manage a little drama, which worked it in slowly without compromising the identity of the anime, Mermaid’s drama comes out of nowhere and contributes nothing of value.

The drama is at its worst in the final two episodes with the introduction of a new villain that goes against the tone thanks to his persistent rape vibes. Why did all of these comedies just have to finish with drama? Is comedy alone never enough? I like a story that can manage both of course, but I equally love others that stick to comedy. In the end, quality matters. Was it studio mandate at the time to have a dramatic finish, much like how every drama this decade must end in a tragic death to extract fake tears from you? Or that every fantasy has to be inside a game?

I’ve said it before, but bad final episodes leave the strongest impressions on a dissatisfied audience. My Bride is a Mermaid isn’t one of the greats. Even so, it didn’t deserve such a careless end. I went in with no expectations and came out having had a good time thanks to the comedy. Don’t let the garbage drama stop you from enjoying a laugh.

Art – Low

This cheap-looking, budget-animated, too-cutesy anime’s visuals are partially redeemed by great use of visual humour, particularly with the faces.

Sound – Medium

The acting is just as silly as the script, which it should be. I prefer the dub, for the Japanese made several poor casting choices that turn funny characters into annoyances.

Story – Low

A guy agrees to marry a mermaid to avoid death at the hands of her yakuza merman father, later bringing her to school for endless hijinks. My Bride is a Mermaid’s comedy far outshines the feeble drama.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: A must for anime comedy fans. The story may go nowhere and the drama may fall flat on every occasion, but the comedy in My Bride is a Mermaid is certainly worth sticking around for.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Weak End

Genshiken – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Genshiken

 

Related: Genshiken 2 (included in review)

Similar: Welcome to the NHK

The Tatami Galaxy

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Slice of Life Comedy

Length: 27 episodes (2 seasons with 3 OVA in between)

 

Positives:

  • A few good jokes.

Negatives:

  • The dub.
  • Low effort art.
  • Dull most of the time.
  • Shallow characters.

(Request an anime for review here.)

When college girl Saki discovers her boyfriend’s hentai stash, she consults his friend Madarame at their clubhouse and asks if his fetish for hardcore material of the 2D variety is normal. “I would not be caught dead with any regular porn,” replies Madarame. Welcome to Genshiken, the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture.

This decorative name is just another way of saying “Otaku Club”, where they play games and read doujinshi (fan made manga, usually hentai) about the characters, watch anime accompanied by more doujinshi, read manga with more – you guessed it – doujinshi on the series, and finish off the day with an eroge or two. This club is all about unfiltered otaku fandom. It is unashamed of its appreciation of naked 2D culture. Well, Madarame more so than the rest – new kid Sasahara hasn’t fully accepted his fandom.

The main theme of Genshiken is learning acceptance of you hobby and not being ashamed of what makes you happy. It captures the awkwardness of being embarrassed of by niche interest. An admirable theme, sure. It’s a shame Genshiken does so through narcosis inducing characters.

I like the general concept of a slice of life focused on discussing anime and game related media, comparing manga versus adaptations. It’s one of the many things I do after all! Where Genshiken fails for me is in the blandness of the characters and how nothing they say is interesting. It needed more critical analysis. You have two approaches for storifying analysis of a topic: You can go the abstract route, like The Tatami Galaxy where everything is metaphor and allusion, or you can straight up have characters discuss it in relation to their daily lives, as Genshiken attempted. With the latter, you must make sure that the discussions have depth. It’s the difference between a Half in the Bag review by Red Letter Media and the tripe that WatchMojo vomits out. If the audience were likely to hear what everyone thought of already, why should they attend?

I’ll use the secondary couple of Saki and her boyfriend as an example. He is an omega otaku despite his outward “handsome” appearance, spending every waking moment playing games or beating it to eroge, even with Saki around. Her arc as a non-otaku is a desire to make him normal, though of course she will come to accept him and his friends before the end. Sounds fine, right? Sure, if he weren’t a nothing character. They have no conflict. She gets angry at him for ignoring her or not satisfying her needs, but nothing comes of it. He sits there, all pleasant and boring, and we move on to the next scene. She wouldn’t be interested in him once over the lust. Their relationship has nothing to say.

The one couple that does work is the cosplay designer guy and the cosplay girl. He’s an awkward guy that thinks she’s out of his league, not realising that she’s just as awkward as he is. They help each other grow together both in public and in private (nice detail of showing how awful he is at kissing). Certainly, hearing people talk about their fetishes in an intimate moment will likely make you feel uncomfortable, yet people do that. They get a few episodes of attention.

Genshiken, like most club-based anime, ends with graduation and moving onto the next stage in life – the workforce, in this case. I appreciate that it shows the reality of how difficult it is to get a meaningful position in the creative industry (Sasahara wants to be a manga editor, just like a million other otaku), which once more like the discussions, only states the obvious.

Throwaway – that’s the word I’m looking for. Sasahara’s struggle in the finale feels throwaway, just like every piece of commentary in Genshiken.

By contrast, Welcome to the NHK covers many of the same scenarios and themes, does them better, and has content to engage people outside of otaku culture. (The one scenario Genshiken does better is the experience of selling your self-published work at a convention.) Watching Genshiken after NHK is unfortunate for the former’s chances of engaging me.

On top of the dull characters, we have the art. Recorded at what feels like four frames per second, Genshiken is ugly, with bland backgrounds and unfinished character art. Remember Saki’s boyfriend? Yeah, he’s supposed the handsome otaku – hence why a “normie” like her would be interested in him – but he looks just as ugly as the rest. I know Genshiken comes from the early years of digital animation, yet this is abominable. The stills look bad. The animation makes it even worse. If you can call that twitching animation.

Now, if you want to see Genshiken at its worst, go into the dub. This is a prime example of what we mean by a bad dub “back in the day”. Where to begin? Lifeless acting, miscast voices, and flat dialogue are just a few of the dub’s transgressions. One character has a stutter, but the English actor has no idea how to stutter, so instead we hear what sounds like an outtake of him fumbling the read. No one – no one – does a good job in the dub. Switching from English to Japanese makes Genshiken feel like a new anime. It can’t fix the art, mind you, but wow does it make a difference. This is a good case study on how performances can affect everything about a series. I am so glad the dub industry outlived that era.

Art – Very Low

Genshiken has recurring segments on an anime the club members are a fan of and it looks better than Genshiken itself. Where’s the animation? Why are the characters distorted and inconsistent? Why is this so ugly?

Sound – Medium

The dub is awful in every way. One of the worst of all time. Stick with the Japanese if you venture into Genshiken. It’s weird and amusing to hear Tomokazu Seki (Sagara from Full Metal Panic) play a depraved otaku.

Story – Low

Genshiken follows the daily life of the members of an otaku club. Otaku pandering and good intentions replaced interesting characters and good story.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For hardcore otaku culture fans only. Genshiken is otaku pandering, no question, and little more. You won’t find much of interest if you aren’t part of that culture or have a fascination with it. Welcome to the NHK is better.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Ugly Artistic Design