Osomatsu-san is the first of my sleeper picks this season (well – I only had two, and one of them turned out to be a short), and it delivers the goods with the funniest episode of the season so far (except perhaps for One Punch Man). But as anime comedies go, it’s certainly an odd one – all the more so if you’re a foreigner who wasn’t watching anime until years after the series it’s based on ended.
The first hurdle for this series, to be blunt, was whether it was going to be watchable at all. I suspected no one would stream or sub it (there aren’t many groups left that actually translate and sub, thanks to streaming), as that usually seems to be the fate of shows like this one. But I suppose one of the nice things about having so many competitive streaming services now is that fewer non-otaku series like this one slip through the cracks. And Osomatsu-san was picked up by the best one, Crunchyroll (though I also like what I’ve seen of Daisuki so far).
The thing is, I know next to nothing about Osomatsu-kun – the manga (1962-1988) and anime (1988-1989) this series is based on (in fact this revival was produced to honor the 80th birthday of the mangaka, Akatsuka Fujio). And on the surface, it would appear that most of the comedy in the show is based on understanding the context – if you don’t get what’s being satirized or spoofed, why would you laugh at it?
Yet, oddly enough I did – and a lot, too. Why is that? I think there are several reasons, starting with the fact that the humor here is pretty universal. Osomatsu-kun was pretty archetypical of the Japanese family comedy of the Showa era, and the modern tropes it pokes fun at are familiar to every serious anime fan on the planet. There’s also the fact that Fujita Yoichi is one of the directors of Gintama – he directed the underrated comedy Binbougami Ga! too – and he brings some of the Gintama staff with him. These are obviously folks who know how to make anime funny.
The idea here is that the original six Matsuno septuplets (played by an all-star cast of Sakurai Takahiro, Kamiya Hiroshi, Ono Daisuke, Irino Miyu, Fukuyama Jun and Nakamura Yuuichi – several of whom do an admirable job of disguising themselves) are launching a new anime, and eldest brother Osomatsu hatches a plan to make their dated Showa personas – and those of their wacky supporting cast – seem fresh and up to date. That means becoming on idol group “F6” – and enrolling at the “BL Academy” and perpetrating every modern boy-anime cliche there is.
Again, I acknowledge some of this would have been even funnier with a deeper grounding in the original series. But the parodies, from the sports “big thee” of Haikyuu, Kurobas and Yowapeda to Attack on Titan itself, are spot-on. And the notion of a bunch of Showa characters trying to make it in the cutthroat “anime warring states era” is pretty hilarious. There are no sacred cows here, and the humor is pretty fearless.
This appears to be one of those premieres that’s very different from the show itself, so a longer-term judgment will have to wait – the whole F6/BL thing was apparently a one-episode setup. But the fish out of water story of Showa kids trying to impress the Ikebukuro crowd will likely continue to drive the series, and as such the ground is spectacularly fertile for parody. Simply put there’s an awful lot there begging to be made fun of, and this series seems more than willing to take up the challenge. Even if you’ve never seen an episode of Osomatsu-kun or read the manga, if you’re an anime fan I suspect you’ll find this revival hits pretty close to home – in a good way.
OP: “Hanamaru Pippi wa Yoiko dake (はなまるぴっぴはよいこだけ)” by AOP
ED: SIX SAME FACES ~Konya wa Saikou!!!!!!~ (SIX SAME FACES ～今夜は最高!!!!!!～)” by VOICE