Hoozuki no Reitetsu – 03

Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -9 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -14 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -25

More than almost any anime, Hoozuki no Reitetsu reminds me how much I still don’t understand about Japanese culture.

A funny thing happened on the way to this series being hopelessly obscure – “so far under the radar it might end up on a milk carton”, as I put it in my First Impressions post.  Turns out in Japan at least, Hoozuki no Reitetsu is pretty popular.  The latest manga volume is at about 200,000 after two weeks, and the first jumped back onto the list after the premiere at is at almost 400,000.  Even more surprising, it isn’t doing half badly on the early stalker points chart – indicating that surprising numbers of Japanese may buy this show on disc.

Make no mistake, I still expect this show to have almost no following in English.  It’s streamed but the manga isn’t licensed (though Sentai Filmworks did license the anime, oddly enough), and it’s hardly an easy sell for a Western viewer.  But it’s interesting to speculate on who the Japanese audience for this series is.  Perhaps fujoshi?  This lists as a Seinen but then, so did the series I suspect might be its closest commercial analog – Shirokuma Cafe.  And in terms of hard genre classifications there really isn’t a “Fujoshi” category – popular titles here tend to be either shounen like Kurobas or Free! and seinen shows like Shirokuma.  Nasubi and Karauri are cute, it has kawaii animals like Shirou and maybe Hoozuki himself has his share of fans.  Either that, or it’s just literary types and such – and historically, while this group sometimes buys manga they very rarely buy anime (though they do watch it).

I’m completely caught up in the atmosphere of the series, but there’s a frustration factor in realizing just how much context I’m missing out on with some of the humor.  It was far less true in last week’s more mainstream effort, but this ep was more like the premiere – heavy on the Buddhism and folklore references and extremely esoteric.  That said it manages to work in some lowbrow gags and pop culture references – like Rurio the Rooster (Matsuyama Takashi) comparing Shirou to an American sitcom dog and Hakutaku (Yusa Kouji) repeatedly calling Hoozuki a “Ghibli freak”.  This high-low comedy combo is a powerhouse when it’s in the right hands, and I suspect it’s in the right hands here (even if some of the highbrow stuff goes over my head).

Much of the episode focuses on Hakutaku – the Chinese mythical beast Bai Ze, here reimagined as a bishounen who runs the apothecary business in Shangri La.  Turns out there’s a long history of Enma-ty (sorry) between these two, dating back to a bet made when both were judges in the “Friendship Games” between Japan and China a thousand years ago.  The bet itself hinged on the bust size of the next woman to emerge from the bathroom – the dispute over whether the big-bosomed youkai who appeared first was male or female (turns out the correct answer was transgendered).  Hakutaku is a real player, a womanizing sweet talker, and being told he looks just like him (in truth, I don’t see that much resemblance) is the one thing that can make Mr. Cool (Reitetsu literally means “cool-headedness”) Hoozuki lose his cool.

That’s all told in flashback, but we also get a chapter where Shirou (who really is pretty damn cute, and Kobayashi Yumiko is one of the best at playing cute whether it be girls, boys or animals) needs to go to Shangri-La to get a Peach of Immortality for his boss’ wedding present.  That means waking up Hoozuki, who doesn’t take kindly to being woken up (but also doesn’t hurt animals).  He’s just pulled an all-nighter – turns out he was digging a pit trap for Hakutaku – and Enma has given him the day off, though he thinks nothing of giving Shirou and his animal pals the OK to barge into his room and wake him.  It’s here here we get the sitcom dog reference (“Hey John, please!”) and Shirou’s outraged protestations that he’d never drink out of a toilet like those canine idiots.  When they arrive in Shangri-La – which mythically exists where Japan and China come together – Shirou’s first question is “Do they have shoronpo tabihoudai (all-you-can-eat steamed buns)?”  This is also where we catch up to Momotarou, who really seems to have taken to his peaceful new existence picking peaches for Bai Ze.

I’m not always pleased with the job translators for the big streaming sites do with anime, but I really think Crunchyroll is doing yeoman’s work here – this can’t be an easy series to subtitle, and I’m amazed at how well they’re managing to convey the essence of what’s being said while maintaining the integrity of the original dialogue.  Hoozuki no Reitetsu almost feels like a survey course in Japanese culture and comedy sometimes, and while I know the knee-jerk reaction to that is negative – it is for me too – somehow I’m really enjoying it with this series.  And the fact is, Hoozuki is genuinely very funny indeed when I actually get the jokes.  I think watching this show really gives one a better sense of the Japanese sense of humor while being very entertaining and visually interesting at the same time, and for me at least that’s definitely a winning combination.

Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -7 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -8 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -10
Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -11 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -12 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -13
Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -15 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -16 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -17
Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -18 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -19 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -20
Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -21 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -22 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -23
Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -24 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -26 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -27
Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -28 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -29 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -30
Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -31 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -32 Hoozuki no Reitetsu - 03 -33
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14 comments

  1. A

    Watching this episode, I was absolutely aware that a lot of things were going WHOOOOSH! over my head (more than in previous episodes, too), but there was still plenty enough to keep my interest.

  2. R

    I also don't see any resemblance between the two. Wonder if this is just another obscure joke.

  3. K

    I thought they looked a lot alike >.>

  4. Z

    I actually like the fact that, although they look different, there is enough similarity between the two for people to say that.

  5. M

    I think they share a similar template but Hakutaku and Hozuki's eyes seem distinctively shaped to match features of the Chinese and Japanese respectively. It's either a nice little detail or an just my incredibly racist observation…

    There is something absurdly wonderful about those animals.
    "Ghibli freak" reference was lost on me though – someone care to enlighten?

  6. k

    Re: the target audience… "shounen"/"seinen"/"shoujo"/"shounen"/etc.are pretty much marketing terms. With the exception of specialized magazines that target certain demographics and them only, readership is pretty varied. I mean, Weekly Shounen Sunday, the same magazine in which Mushibugyou, Gin no saji, Magi, Shijou saikyou no deshi Kenichi, etc. etc. run, also has Kunisaki Izumo no jijou, which is about a boy who is an onnagata kabuki actor, often crossdresses off-stage, and has a male love interest. For all intents and purposes it should be for a female audience (and those guys who are into traps, I guess, given the occasional naughty fanservice), yet it's right there in a purportedly "shounen" magazine and read by guys as well as girls. To say nothing about Yondemasu yo Azazel-san, which is in theory one of the most stereotypical seinen manga ever, except its readership consists of both genders. Or Red Data Girl which was for some reason dubbed seinen over at AnimeSuki but is actually a YA novel series with a mostly female readership.

    I'm not the publisher but I'd bet anything that the target audience of Hoozuki no reitetsu is mostly defined by "people who enjoy this kind of humor" be they male or female.

  7. But almost none of those series you mention sold well on disc (among those that got adaptations). If this one does – and that's obviously a big if – the question of who's buying it is an interesting one. I wouldn't think there are enough "people who enjoy this sort of humor and are willing to pay exorbitant prices for Blu-rays of it" to make a show a decent seller, because I'm hard-pressed to think of any other shows of this type that have even sold decently, never mind well.

    That's why Shirokuma is the only model that comes remotely close to making sense for me, because that's a show that had an unusual distribution system that saw most of its sales fall outside Oricon tracking. It clearly did pretty well judging by the huge array of merchandising and the fact that it got its own restaurant in Takadanobaba. The fanbase of that show is overwhelmingly female, as it happens.

  8. k

    Actually, the Azazel-san anime did very well for a small, niche show – I don't know the actual numbers, but it did well enough for a second season and two further OVAs (as addition to the already existing two). As for RDG, well – frankly, that didn't have too much going for it as far as disc sales go. I'm sure fans of the novel who enjoyed it bought the BDs as well, but apart from that, it wasn't the type of show that sells well to begin with, and it didn't really have any hook that would've made non-fans buy it either. It seemed to me that its purpose was mainly to promote the novel.

    I actually think Hoozuki no reitetsu is the type of show that would sell, because in my experience it's the kind of off-beat humor that sits well with lot of people, plus it's well-produced and attractive to look at and listen to. It also has enough rewatch value, and it's short (at least iirc it's 1 cour) so it's not a huge investment.

  9. k

    Btw, looking at the official site, it seems the producers expect Hoozuki to sell as well – there's two versions for the DVD/BD release, and six store-exclusive extras for the OP single. I expect there will be loads of BD extras, too.

  10. R

    It's obviously fujoshi material. You can tell by the amount of its fan art on pixiv (which reaches 16000+) with many of it depict Hoozuki x Hakutaku

  11. Z

    I get the feeling that this series is for an older audience.

  12. T

    This is my favorite anime of the season, by far (not including carryovers from previous seasons). The only others I like at all are Noragami and Tonari no Seki-kun.

  13. e

    Meheheh :,D those two do share a similar face template and hair colour after all… especially when both look serious and side by side in a profile view. And they're both medicine nuts… who get really hung up on silly bets.
    That said… Mr. Cool's sleepy face is really CUTE. And Mr. Mythical Pheasant's voice ruffles my feathers in very non kosher ways. Oops.

    Anyway… the kintama moment with the lullaby and glowing moment left me a bit 'uh?' . It really felt like there was precise ref at play there :,).
    The Kenshiro one was pretty easy at least (so glad to be old enough to remember right now. Thank you for forcing me to watch the bloody thing back then oh cousin of mine XD ).
    Regardless of the target (sorry to beat this nail again Enzo but really it's target not genre in spite of what us Westerners would like to label it or of how fuzzily the correct usage translates in reality – who reads/watches/buys what – ) I'm glad manga and anime seem to be doing well in their motherland. And as watching it go I find it quite delightful.

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