The development of this series is unidirectional at this stage, and it’s the right direction – it just keeps getting better and better every week. Or else it was this great all along and it’s simply taken a little longer than some elite shows to completely win me over. I’m not sure and I’m not sure it matters, because it’s risen to the top of the charts for this season either way. One of the best measures for me in judging any series is how much I look forward to the next episode, and I find this is the Winter show I’m most looking forward to every week – and the one I most often watch more than once.
I actually hadn’t realized that there were already 13 volumes of Hoozuki no Reitetsu, so if the series does as well as Stalker predicts a second season might not be so far off after all. That would be a good thing, because there are so many very funny characters in this cast and so much stylistic versatility (it reminds me of Minami-ke in that way) that the series is nowhere close to feeling tired or stale – it has so many rich veins from which to mine laughs that it feels as if it could go on for years.
This week brings us just the second appearances of two of those hilarious cast members – Peach Maki and Koban, the feline gossip hack and paparazzi wannabe. Peach has released her debut single (on the “Hell Child” label) “Caramel Peach Jam 120%”. The video is a ridiculous montage of saccharine idol vamping and freakish Hell imagery, and the song is every bit as preposterous (it doubles as the episode’s ED). Meanwhile we check in at River Styx Weekly – whose offices are a giant cat tree – where Chief Editor Sneezy orders Koban to get another Peach Maki scoop.
Intent on getting the story, Koban stakes out Maki’s appearance on Hell TV (her dressing room is full of congratulatory bouquets, many from the anime staff) , where she happens to run into Hoozuki (who’s just taped an appearance of his own). This poses a problem for Koban, whose last run-in with Hoozuki gave him a bleeding ulcer. Predictably this turns out equally poorly for the kitty columnist, whose efforts to entrap the pair into being outed for an affair (“Would you go out for a split second and then break it off?”) lead to a roll of exposed film and a sumaho full of write-protected photos of the floor in the hallway. Hoozuki also follows through on his threat to send the photo collection from the stripping hag (who dreams of idol stardom herself) to the RSW offices – which lands the editor in the hospital with two broken rear legs.
As brilliant as that is, the second chapter is even better. It again features Karauri and especially Nasubi, who’re among the best of the supporting cast. Nasubi pretty much crosses the line into ridiculously moe this week (“Oh, gyah!”) and also reveals himself to be something of an idiot savant. Sculpting, sketching, painting – the little minion is a cracker at all of it, and possessed of an encylcopedic knowledge of art history (and a delightfully eclectic sensibility) to boot. This comes in handy as the mural outside Enma’s great hall – 200 years of exposure to hot hellish winds and all – is flaking and peeling badly. Hoozuki stumbles across Nasubi sketching in the fields, and Karauri clues their boss in on his friend’s talent. Hoozuki, impressed, asks to go back to Nasubi’s dorm room and see his collection (Nasubi’s reaction here is utterly priceless – as is Karauri’s reaction to his reaction) and, even more astounded (especially by “Iron Sun Goddess”), commissions Nasubi to repaint the mural in his own unique style.
There’s a boatload of great comedy here. We have the “black cord rock” paint which Nasubi has used to paint a picture which perpetually seethes with rage at the company president’s son. There’s Hoozuki’s retelling of Hakutaku’s extreme incompetence as an artist (I have doubts about the impartiality of the reporter here). But it’s with this little group that Hoozuki no Reitetsu works best in a non-ironic way. Karauri’s weary loyalty to his trying best friend, Nasubi’s feckless idiocy, Hoozuki’s sincere words of praise – it’s about as earnest as this show gets, and it has a real charm to it. I liked the story Karauri told about how he was worried that his friend wouldn’t be able to make a living as an artist and talked him into becoming a minion, and his enthusiastic endorsement of Nasubi’s talent. I also find it interesting that Hoozuki calls the boys “-san” rather than “-kun” – which would be virtually universal in non-workplace situations, and more common even between co-workers such as these.
The upshot of all this is that Nasubi paints a mural (with Hoozuki and Karauri’s assistance) that everyone heartily approves of, though because Hoozuki slipped in some of the black cord rock paint it really does “jump out at you“. There’s one other issue – turns out the old mural was painted by none other than Hokusai Katsuhika (considered one of the greatest ukiyo-e painters in history) himself (one of Nasubi’s favorites). Karauri is horrified but Hoozuki isn’t too worried, as Hokusai (who changed his name 30 times and relocated 93 times in his life) is about to launch his new manga in “Midnight Monthly” and is far too busy to notice. There’s another joke hidden even here, as Hokusai published a collection of sketches called “The Hokusai Manga” during his lifetime that was not a manga at all in the modern sense of the word, and “Midnight Monthly” is hyping this as “The Real Hokusai Manga!” This is just that sort of show – don’t blink, because there’s treasure hidden everywhere.
ED: “Caramel Peach jam 120%” by Peach Maki (Sumire Uesaka)