Tag Archives: Comedy

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

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

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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

Tiger & Bunny – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Tiger & Bunny

 

Similar: My Hero Academia

S-CRY-ed

Darker than Black

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Comedy

Length: 25 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Fun premise.
  • Late act 2.
  • More below the surface.

Negatives:

  • Sticks to “heroes doing hero things” for too long.
  • Finale fizzles out.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Now for a completely different take on superheroes, Tiger & Bunny is here! To succeed as a superhero in the city of Stern Bild City, a hero needs sponsors. After all, who’s going to pay for all the damage from a battle? The channel Hero TV follows these superheroes on the streets as they fight crime, everything filmed and performed with an eye for entertainment and, above all, a responsibility to the sponsors. You thought superhero work was about catching bad guys? Amateur.

This is a brilliant premise (and a clever way to insert the anime’s sponsors into the series). If you think about it, should a superhero ever exist in the real world, sponsors would be on their doorstep within the hour. Can you imagine how much Coca Cola would pay to have the superhero take a sip of Coke after a successful arrest broadcast to the world?

Our principal corporate patsy in this case is Kotetsu a.k.a. Wild Tiger, a has-been hero that fails to score arrests for points on Hero TV, outstripped by the popular heroes such as the flying Sky High and the young idol Blue Rose (sponsored by Pepsi). The Wild Tiger trading card is worthless. He can’t even give it away! He hits rock bottom when a larger corporation buys out his contract and pairs him with the newer, shinier hero model sponsored by Amazon and Bandai in Barnaby, who has the same power as Tiger – five minutes of super strength and speed. Together, they are Tiger & Bunny (named by Kotetsu).

This anime immediately reminded of a favourite old movie of mine called Mystery Men, which spoofed superheroes to an extreme degree. One hero’s superpower was the ability to shovel very well. The strongest hero was Captain Amazing, plastered with sponsor patches like an F1 driver. There is a strong Western influence in Tiger & Bunny, including a Joker and Harley Quinn-like villain duo.

When Tiger is about to catch a criminal fleeing aboard the monorail, Hero TV’s showrunner tells him to hold off on the capture as they must cut to commercial on a cliffhanger. Tiger & Bunny had me from that moment. As evident by the premise, this is a fun anime. I love the makeup of the world with its reality TV obsession and the un-super superheroes.

Tiger & Bunny does do more than comedy by expanding the major characters. Kotetsu is trying to balance hero life with his responsibilities as the single father to a daughter, who doesn’t know of his alter ego. He makes promises he can’t keep. It goes into lives of washed up heroes, saviours fallen from grace. What happens in retirement? What if forced to retire? Blue Rose, on the other hand, hates doing hero work when she just wishes to be a singer.

The most conflict goes to Barnaby, though. Despite outward appearances of a young hero on top of life, the death of his parents during childhood torments him to this day. His thread, which properly kicks in during the second half, is the best of the series. Until the midpoint, episodes are just “heroes doing hero things” without much story. Fun, sure, but lacking depth. Barnaby’s story and the villain he confronts elevated the anime.

It’s a shame then that the quality slouches back to basic hero vs. villain for the finale. Tiger & Bunny doesn’t quite grab all of its potential and run with it. Greatest fumble of all is the handling of the vigilante Lunatic that incinerates heroes and villains alike he deems unworthy. He comes into the story early on and makes several appearances that both aid and hinder the protagonists, but by the end, his story arc goes unexplored except for his origin story. You could suppose that they saved him for a sequel series, if meant for anything at all, yet even so, you can’t bring in such a significant element and seemingly forget about him by the end. It would be akin to forgetting Two-Face’s story in The Dark Knight. I need a little more of that conflict sauce. Give it to me!

Despite the fumbles, I had a blast with Tiger & Bunny and I can easily recommend it to anyone. The premise alone is worth your time. Let’s hope My Hero Academia, which I am watching at a snail’s pace, is at least half as inventive as this anime.

Art – Medium

The glitzy metropolis design is a pleasure, as are the sponsor-plastered heroes. CG for several of the armoured characters isn’t as bad as it could have been.

Sound – Medium

The acting is strong in Japanese and English. They managed to capture the goofiness of the heroes in this weird world quite well. The music, however, isn’t “superhero” enough. It doesn’t have the fanfare you would expect (WWE wrestlers get it right).

Story – Medium

In a world of superheroes sponsored by big corporations for profits, a has-been hero finds himself paired with the new, handsome hero to perform for the crowd while catching criminals. The fun concept of Tiger & Bunny elevates it above a generic superhero anime.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Tiger & Bunny has such a wacky idea that even if you have grown tired of superhero stories, this could refresh your interest. Do note that most episodes have an after credit scene that is necessary viewing to avoid small confusion.

(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

Aggretsuko – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Aggretsuko

 

Similar: Detroit Metal City

It’s Difficult to Love an Otaku

GeGeGe no Kitaro

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Slice of Life Comedy

Length: 10 episodes (15 minutes each)

 

Positives:

  • Adorable art.
  • The characters are great.
  • Humorous commentary on life in a Japanese office.

Negatives:

  • Doesn’t escalate.

(Request an anime for review here.)

From the outside, Japanese corporate culture has a reputation for hard work, efficiency, and quality. Beneath that highly organised exterior, however, lies an environment of rigid hierarchy and stress that results in Japan having a high suicide rate. (If you’re waiting for a delayed train in Tokyo and the staff cite a “human accident” as the cause, know that it was no accident.) Office work is so structured that employees must change their entire vocabulary to fit in and not appear rude or worse, lose their jobs. Word choices vary greatly depending on your rank in the company, whether you are talking to a superior or subordinate (mixing those up is equivalent to swearing at someone), and the time of day. There’s an entirely separate dictionary just for business vocabulary.

I don’t tell you these things as criticism of the system, but as a point of fact. And, of course, not all workplaces are like this. It’s usually reserved for the large and old corporations that will stick to tradition until death.

Netflix’s Aggretsuko takes this workplace culture and runs a commentary on it through humour and adorable characters. Retsuko is the typical image of a Japanese office lady as a red panda. She is at the bottom of the social ladder in her workplace. Her subservience and need to please everyone, to never let someone down makes her an easy target for abuse by superiors. “Extra paperwork? Just get Retsuko to do it.” And she will. She’s so subservient that when she goes into a clothing store, she will buy socks just to seem like she wasn’t wasting the shopkeeper’s time. Even subordinates will pawn off work onto her.

How does she survive the daily abuse from her komodo dragon of a supervisor and literal chauvinist pig of a boss? By counting to 10 to centre herself (good technique, by the way) and later locking herself inside a karaoke booth and screaming heartfelt heavy metal. Fans of Detroit Metal City will find familiarity here.

This gag is a funny one, yet it could have easily grown old within a few episodes. You know me; I hate “the one joke” anime type. Thankfully, the heavy metal isn’t the punch line to every joke. In fact, Aggretsuko’s best humour comes from the character interactions at work. You have Fenneko the fennec fox, friend to Retsuko, with the best emotionless laugh in fiction, Haida the hyena with a crush on our protagonist, that co-worker who always gives too much personal information, and let us not forget the protein guy. Every character is great.

Some of the best scenes come from Ton, her pig boss. He’s such an arse. Retsuko’s bottled rage around him is hilarious.

I love the choice of using animals for contrast against the adult subject matter, much like other “cute but dark” anime that came before. The company president’s secretary is a secretary bird… Perfect!

The problem Aggretsuko has is one of escalation. It reaches a peak in humour and setting within a few episodes and stays there to the end. Scenarios don’t really escalate – except outside of the protein guy – or become more ludicrous as it goes, to build up to something spectacularly hilarious. The mild office romance isn’t enough. If they were to make as sequel, I hope it reaches for a higher level.

Contrary to the cute art style reminiscent of Hello Kitty (made by the same company), Aggretsuko won’t appeal to a teenaged audience. This isn’t a slight against them. The jokes play on adult life in an office job, so you need to relate on some level to enjoy it. Even more so, a familiarity with Japanese office life will make the series better. I can see this as boring and unfunny to many. That’s not to suggest you need to work in a Japanese office or the jokes will go over your head. Some knowledge of it is enough. (I covered the basics above.)

If I hadn’t heard of Aggretsuko from several trusted sources (and had it requested by a dear reader), I wouldn’t have given it a chance. The “book cover” doesn’t give the impression whatsoever that it would be something I might enjoy. It’s always a pleasant surprise when that ends up false.

Art – High

The Hello Kitty style is the perfect choice for this workplace comedy. I love the character designs and their expressive faces. Adorable!

Sound – High

The voice acting is great no matter the language, but I preferred the Japanese because Retsuko’s voice was a tad cuter, which upped the contrast with her miserable life. To see Netflix put the extra effort of making the heavy metal work no matter the language is highly commendable.

Story – Medium

A red panda office lady vents her daily frustrations from work via heavy metal karaoke. The setting and characters are better than the story. More escalation in the scenarios and workplace crises, as you see in sitcoms, would help.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: For adult anime fans. Aggretsuko’s episodes are short and there aren’t many of them, so what do you have to lose?

(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: 

Charm

Negative: None