Second Impressions Digest – Denkigai no Honya-san, Donten ni Warau

Denkigai - 02 -18 Denkigai - 02 -19 Donten - 02 -8 Donten - 02 -16

There’s certainly no doubt the second ep of Denkigai was creepy and uncomfortable.  The question is, was it trying to be?

Denkigai no Honya-san – 02

Denkigai - 02 -1 Denkigai - 02 -2 Denkigai - 02 -3
Denkigai - 02 -4 Denkigai - 02 -5 Denkigai - 02 -6
Denkigai - 02 -7 Denkigai - 02 -8 Denkigai - 02 -9
Denkigai - 02 -10 Denkigai - 02 -11 Denkigai - 02 -12
Denkigai - 02 -13 Denkigai - 02 -14 Denkigai - 02 -15
Denkigai - 02 -16 Denkigai - 02 -17 Denkigai - 02 -20
Denkigai - 02 -21 Denkigai - 02 -22 Denkigai - 02 -23
Denkigai - 02 -24 Denkigai - 02 -25 Denkigai - 02 -26

There’s a funny sort of disconnect with otaku-themed series like this one, shows that play up the otaku meta-humor so explicitly.  At what point is a show satirizing otaku obsessions, and at what point is it simply pandering to them under the pretense of satire?  There haven’t been many shows that can successfully navigate this minefield, IMHO – Outbreak Company did so pretty well, I thought – and based on the second episode of Denkigai no Honya-san, I have my doubts this show will be one of them.

There wasn’t much to remind you of Working! here.  Frankly, the entire episode played like an excuse to show off a lot of crass fanservice (though in its defense, it did at least partially provide it for both genders).  The barrage of jokes had a few winners, but generally speaking I didn’t find most of this funny – and it abandoned all pretense towards characterization being important.  Taking Sommelier’s obsession with Fu-chan as an example, that’s just creepy as hell – it’s not funny, it’s not heartwarming.  Just really, really wrong.

I don’t have much else to say except that I saw some promise in the first episode but not much in the second.  Not only wasn’t it as funny as the premiere, but it was depressingly calculated and crude.  It’s not like the premiere wasn’t somewhat ecchi and edgy but that was part of its charm – it had at least some delicacy in its approach, and told a couple of modestly interesting character stories.  I’m going to give Denkigai at least one more episode based on that, and it wouldn’t shock me if Shin-Ei took the most outlandishly exploitative elements it could find in the manga and used them early here, trying to draw an audience.  I certainly hope that’s the case, because if the series is closer to what we saw this week than last week, I’m going to be bailing pretty quickly.

Donten ni Warau – 02

Donten - 02 -1 Donten - 02 -2 Donten - 02 -3
Donten - 02 -4 Donten - 02 -5 Donten - 02 -6
Donten - 02 -7 Donten - 02 -9 Donten - 02 -10
Donten - 02 -11 Donten - 02 -12 Donten - 02 -13
Donten - 02 -14 Donten - 02 -15 Donten - 02 -17
Donten - 02 -18 Donten - 02 -19 Donten - 02 -20


In contrast, Donten ni Warau was substantially more involving the second time around.  I’m reminded more of Hakkenden than anything else, though the themes are certainly different.  And I suspect that’s where Donten is likely to wind up – as a generally overlooked and underrated series with a largely female audience that’s consistently good without ever being exceptional.

There was a ton of plot introduced in this episode, and with it several new characters.  Notable is the first appearance this season of the great Miki Shinichiriou as anti-government zealot Kagami Naoto.  We also met the “government dog” super-unit the Yamainu, led by Abe no Sousei (Toriumi Kousuke) and found out that Kinjou Shirasu (Sakurai Takahiro) is a survivor of the much-loathed (and historically real) Fuuma ninja clan.  And there are strong hints that the middle brother Soramaru might be the vessel of the Orochi (the eight-headed serpent of Shinto folklore) that everyone is searching for – and this Tenka knows it.

So far at least, Donten ni Warau’s blend of Meiji history and fantasy is working pretty well for me.  And the dynamic between the Cloud Brothers is as well, though the middle brother continues to be the weak link on the character side (the correlation between annoying, whiny characters and Kaji Yuuki really begs for “the chicken and the egg” analysis).  I’m still interested enough to want to see where this series is going, which moves it up a couple of slots as the season continues to sort itself out.

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5 comments

  1. H

    I didn't notice Kaji what's his face as the middle brother.. ^^; As it happens, I found all three brothers pretty annoying! Doubtfully I'm the target audience for brotherly banter. And that's a shame since the premise is decent and potentially winner.

  2. A

    My main problem with Denkigai is that all the female characters look something like 12 or under, and it's not so much that they look Far Too Young to be working, but that just accentuates the whole creepiness you observed.

    On the other hand, Donten didn't really grab me with its first episode but the second episode seemed to hold out some promise that makes sure I'll be watching the third.

  3. R

    Indeed, Donten was off my radar…I only checked it out because it's a story happened in the Meiji era. The characters are too beautiful for me, but the exposition is done well in this second episode. I don't find the second brother annoying yet, well, not yet, but his character is easily set as one going down the path, so we will see how good the writing is, which I doubt. Yes, I was screaming a little as soon as I heard Miki-san's voice — he's totally the elite of the elite.

  4. k

    I don't know if I should be happy that Dogakobo is at least doing a better job with Donten ni warau than they did with some other shows in the past, or sad that it's still not really good enough. At least they remembered to get an A list cast, Miki Shinichirou and Toriumi Kousuke were a pleasant surprise.

    Re: Kaji, at this point it's like you have a personal grudge against him. No matter how good a performance he turns in (and he does in fact turn in good performances), to you it's always going to be horrible. Anyway, if you're so bothered by Kaji and by Soramaru being "whiny" (why is he whiny, though? it's easy to see why he's not all joy and happiness, but he's not what I'd call whiny), you might as well stop watching now. I don't think it's a spoiler that drama is ahead and as one of the main characters he's going to be heavily involved in it.

  5. c

    With Donten, the only annoying thing (so far) is Ten-nii's godawful peacock hair. I feel the strongest need to pluck them right out, and being denied my rights as an audience member to hope for change is the worst. WORST.

    Otherwise: quite enjoyable a second episode. Even Kaji works. 😛

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