I can’t say that anything surprising happened in the finale of Binbougami. In fact, my notepad sits pristine and unsullied by writing of any kind – I guess everything was so much according to plan that nothing really felt worth writing down. But that’s not to say it didn’t satisfy – quite the contrary, it was quite an enjoyable finale as these things go. As Tari Tari showed, sometimes it’s nice to know exactly what to expect and not be disappointed.
If I had any worries about this finale, they were probably that the show might go a little too far in a serious direction. Binbougami does character stuff better than a lot of comedies and even downright serious stuff pretty well most of the time, but that wouldn’t have felt right to me as a way to end the series. Besides, there were a couple of slip-ups were those weightier moments were handled clumsily and I’d hate the see a show I like quite a bit end on that note. Fortunately we got an episode full of the snark and mean streak that drives most of the comedy, with just enough sincerity to make it feel like a real ending.
There were plenty of themes surrounding the selfish nature of happiness in this series, and it’s fitting that the series should end with that as the focus. Interestingly though, while it was Ichiko’s journey we were mostly following it was Momiji’s development that ended up driving the final arc. Her dirty little secret was that if she didn’t get dirty by the end of seven days, she’d never be able to go back to being a God – instead she’d be stuck as a sort of living automaton designed forever. But since this kindler, gentler Momiji say how far Tittyko had come as a person and felt she was moving towards resolving her own problem without having her fortune forcibly stolen, she tried to take one for the team and keep the new status quo. Fortunately Teddy stepped up and told Sakura the truth, and Bobby gave her some superpowered prayer beads just in time to save the day (and Momiji’s bacon). I liked deredere Momiji, but the balance of nature clearly demands that she and Sakura be at each others’ throats.
Way back when the first episode aired, I compared Binbougami Ga! to Haiyore! – machine-gun fast, very silly, edgy and full of otaku humor and fourth-wall breaking. And while the shows are similar in those respects they ended up being quite different as well, and I think Binbougami actually proved itself the better at dealing with character humor and even drama in addition to the slapstick and meta-humor. Haiyore! sometimes took on a leaden quality when it tried to seriously explore the relationships (and of course it had a much mover overt romantic subplot than this series), while Binbougami usually kept the balance quite well apart from the dreaded gang-rape episode. Ultimately the humor in Binbougami comes from the characters, and in Haiyore! it comes from the parodies. But both shows are quite funny.
That’s why I find it so fascinating that Haiyore! was a relative hit – around 8K per volume so far, with a second season a foregone conclusion from the moment the first ended – while Binbougami looks to be a bomb. We should have hard numbers on Vol. 1 tomorrow but it’s not going to be good – it didn’t even rank in the Monday numbers and figures to come in under 2K, and despite the mock S2 announcement (Sunrise loves fake S2 announcements in final episodes) in the preview, a second season is extremely unlikely. That announcement was pretty hilarious – a riff on ToLoveRu, “Binbougami Ga! Darkness”, and narrated by Nadeshiko – but it’s hard to take it as anything but a little sad, knowing what we know.
So why is it that Haiyore! was a hit, and Binbougami a bomb? Neither is what I’d call a classic but they’re both good comedies, with some big laughs. Admittedly the sex quotient is higher with Haiyore!, with more fanservice, as well as yuri overtones and a little something for every fetish. But is that really the deal-breaker? There’s some light ecchi in Binbougami, and the character designs and animation are prettier than in Haiyore!. The otaku element is certainly stronger in Haiyore! too, with more overt parodies, but these are things I would have thought would have made incremental commercial differences, not the dramatic numbers we’re seeing.
It’s too bad – I actually think Binbougami Ga! was the better show, and it was clearly made with a potential second season in mind (there’s plenty of manga). I can’t rank it as one of the best shows of 2012 but it holds its own pretty well in a thin summer season, and it observes the Hippocratic Oath of comedy – “First, be funny” – a good percentage of the time. It’s a handsome (some of the best facial expressions of the year), well-made comedy, with a very strong cast (KanaHana, Haruka Tomatsu, and Shimo Hiro are all very good, and Uchiyama Yumi is a revelation as Momiji) and a very consistent portrayal of its characters. Character-based comedy that can also handle slapstick and meta-humor and even straight drama well is pretty rare, and I’d like to see it rewarded with better commercial success. Sunrise can handle a few commercial flops as well as anybody, though, so there’s no harm done in the end – and we got a nice season out of it.
“Binbougami Ga! Darkness”