I can sum up my reasons for giving this series a shot in two words: Oota Masahiko.
And that’s no exaggeration. I can truthfully say there’s nothing else in the premise that would have made me give Himouto! Umaru-chan a second glance, but when it comes to gag comedy, Oota-sensei is the best. One thing can be said for sure – whatever mileage can possibly be gotten out of the source material, Oota will get it.
However, having watched the premiere, I’m highly skeptical that will be enough. Oota is the best when it comes to adapting gag manga, and he’s proved it with the likes of Minami-ke (the first and best season), Mitsudomoe and Kotoura-san (which while ultimately a failure, came close to seeing Oota’s miraculous transformation succeed). But not every Oota Masahiko show has worked, because even he can only do so much with the material he’s given. And that, for me, seems a big problem inherent in this series.
There’s a common problem with gag manga as anime source material, and it’s that when adapted they often amount to one joke stretched way too far (especially when they’re full-length, as this one is). Himouto seems a classic case of that. I get the joke – Umaru is a two-face, someone who’s a complete nightmare at home and plays the role of perfect angel outside it. She’s a terrible person who makes the life of her older brother a living hell, spends his money and runs him ragged, and never shows a shred of gratitude. But it’s one joke – and for me, one episode of it is too long, never mind an entire series. It’s sort of funny, as long as you don’t mind the female lead being a horrible person, but only to a point.
Well, who knows. I mean, at least it doesn’t appear to be an incest comedy, which places it above most imouto shows. Maybe unlike with Kotoura-san Oota will drop the bomb after the premiere, and the series will turn out to have depth and nuance. But if what we got in the first episode is the extent of the appeal, I don’t think even Oota Masahiko is enough of a magician to pull this trick off.
Overlord – 01
Here’s a show which certainly presents a bit of a conundrum. Let’s be honest – in broad terms, this has been done to death. .Hack, SAO, Log Horizon, the list goes on and on. I think the fundamental hurdle which Overlord must surmount is simply this: can an anime possibly put a new spin on this premise? Can anything original or essential still be mined from it?
On the other hand, Overlord is a Madhouse show. The director Itou Naoyuki has sone some terrific work (Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu, which I absolutely adore), and the Animation Director/C.D. is Madhouse stalwart Yoshimatsu Takahiro. And flat-out, the execution in the premise is very good. The visuals are not remotely impressive by Madhouse standards – lots of CGI and not much fluidity – but the storytelling and cinematography is pretty much perfect. As I said, a conundrum.
I’m not sure exactly what the timeline is between this, LH and SAO – the Overlord LNs premiered in 2010 – but does the anime have an obligation to try and do something fresh? I think it sort of does, actually. That’s a tough ask, but it’s obviously far too early to tell – for now, all I can do is focus on the material in the can, which is as I said pretty good. I especially love the first ten minutes when protagonist Momonga (Hino Satoshi) is preparing to say goodbye to the elaborate Tomb HQ he and his guild built inside the VRMMORPG Yggdrasil, which is being shut down. The year may be 2136, but the melancholy here is very universal – this was a fantasy he and his online friends threw themselves into building over more than a decade, but they’ve all moved on and now it sits empty bar a few NPCs, waiting to be erased. The feels here are quite genuine.
Things get interesting when the clock runs out and the servers shut down, but for some reason Momonga remains stuck inside his Skeletor-like avatar inside the game. The NPCs start to take on personalities and free will (as well pulses and aromas), though they remain loyal to their master. What’s going on? Too early to tell – if anything, it seems as if Overlord is less tech-y and jargon-focused than its neighbors in this sphere, and heavier on the fantasy-magic side of the equation. But the feel of the premiere is interesting, with Momonga stuck seemingly alone inside his cavernous tomb, trying to make sense of what’s happened. For one episode at least, Overlord feels familiar but not played out – and if it can maintain that, it should be able to deliver a pretty satisfying run.