It’s a shame there’s not enough material for a second season of Hoozuki no Reitetsu yet, because from the looks of things it would be very likely to get one if there were. As of now Stalker predicts this will be the top selling Winter anime which, if true, would be one of the unlikeliest and most delightful stories I’ve ever seen on the commercial side of the medium. Much – though not all – of the fanbase seems to be the fujoshi market. I sort of get that and sort of don’t – I did muse in my First Impressions post that Hoozuki could draw on a similar demo to Shirokuma Cafe, but on the face of it this doesn’t match up especially well with the really big-selling fujoshi titles.
The great thing about Hoozuki, though, is that it doesn’t really match up well with any other anime, period – for me, as I said, it has a touch of Shirokuma but this series is obviously its own animal. One of the hallmarks of great comedy for me is the ability to entertain across a broad range of styles (check) and to able to get laughs from both unapologetically intellectual and grade-school silly humor (check) in the Python/Seinfeld/SCTV tradition.
I liked but didn’t love this show out of the box, but the upward trajectory has been pretty steady and it’s really in a groove now, with pretty much every chapter a classic. Hoozuki has an impressively large stable of funny and likeable characters to draw from, but two of my favorites are Nasubi and Karauri – the “Chip ‘n Dale of Hell” as the manga describes them. Every mini-episode they’ve starred in has been hilarious, and the first chapter this week was the equal of the superb “Funiculi Funicula” chapter. It finds the two minions on assignment washing clothes in Mortal Hell, where the frequently-lovestruck Karauri has developed a crush on hottie hellion Okou-sama (Kitamura Eri). He persuades Hoozuki-sama to give the boys a tour of Mortal Hell, and hijinks ensue.
This sequence is pretty much flawless start to finish, top to bottom. For starters Karauri and Nasubi are a blast to watch, each funny in their own right and hilarious in their extreme personality differences. Nasubi has the attention span of a mayfly and his libido seems to operate on a fifth-grade level – he’s equally distracted by yakitori and boobies (and not shy about praising a woman’s oppai to her… face). So much win here – I lost it when Hoozuki asked about Nasubi “Is he all right – in every possible implication?” Later, when Okou-sama is describing the Hell for philanders who’ve had affairs, Nasubi muses “I’d love an eclair…”
As for Karauri, he reveals himself to be an “M” here, and a rather full-bore one at that. He gazes longingly at the voluptuous Okou and sighs “I don’t know why, but I wish she would scold me.” When Hoozuki slaps him for his transgressions his reply is “I don’t want to be punished… by a man!” When Okou introduces her “Pervy Madams” punishment squad (Mortal Hell is moving with the times by getting more women into torturing roles) Karauri is practically orgiastic. There’s also a truly hilarious (I’m using that word a lot) cameo here by Haru, Shizuku and Natsume (with original seiyuu) from Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (the cameo – though not the scene itself – is anime-original, no doubt here because Hoozuki director Kaburaki Hiro also directed that great series).
Not to be outdone is the great second episode, where Great King Enma throws out his back and rather than call a doctor, Hoozuki-sama decides he’s going to treat his boss himself. If Nasubi and Karauri are one of this show’s great odd couples Enma and Hoozuki are the other – it’s pretty much impossible for them not to be funny together. Hoozuki decides to put his amateur skills to the test with everything from acupuncture to leeches to shiatsu (including a legendary pressure point that causes diarrhoea) to moxibustion, with predictably disastrous (for Enma) results.
Along the way Shirou and Momotarou’s animal pals stop by, and we get a look in the Mirror of Johari (a real piece of folklore) and a Buddhist scroll depicting Enma and the mirror (and Hoozuki), the latter of which gives Hoozuki another opportunity to insult his boss. The mirror (after Hoozuki rewinds too far and shows the birth of Momotarou) reveals Hoozuki’s trip to Australia. Here we see him taming a Tasmanian devil and petting a koala (he offers the menagerie a truly terrifying “would you like me to pet you, too?”) under the adoring eyes of a pretty blonde zookeeper. What of his ears and horns? He just wears a hat – and if that doesn’t work he uses “an incantation only Japanese people may evoke” – he tells the zookeeper in Engrish, “I am ninja. It’s shugyou.” Then, to the menagerie, “In particular, nine out of ten Japanese animation fans actually like this.”
Truly, that’s an impressive breadth of material for any comedy to cover in 22 minutes, touching on pretty much every color in the comedic rainbow. I said once that Hoozuki no Reitetsu was like a survey course in Japanese culture, and while that’s true it doesn’t do justice to how universal much of this humor is – and to how ruthlessly it’s willing to use its own mirror and parody the modern Japanese character. You get so much with this show – Japanese history, timely cultural references, meta-humor, kawaii in a good way, sight gags and puns. I’m still not surprised Hoozuki isn’t finding much of an English-language audience, but I’m pleased as hell that it’s a hit in its home country.