If you’d told me two months ago that Osomatsu-san was going to be a bigger hit than Haikyuu’s second season, I would have laughed almost as hard as I laughed watching this episode. But impossibly enough that’s exactly what Stalker is telling us going to happen when it comes to disc sales – for the moment, anyway. I’ll believe that when I see it, but the fact that it’s even on the table is one of the more astonishing developments I’ve seen in all my years watching anime.
I can’t really explain it – maybe there’s a bit of a nostalgia boom effect, or it’s the Gintama connection – but then comedy was always one of the toughest genres to predict when it comes to commercial success. I mean, Osomatsu-san is certainly very funny – but I’ve seen other very funny comedies tank with extreme prejudice. I wonder if there isn’t something larger going on here, because I do see an emerging theme in anime these days, and that’s a satirical focus on the angst of Japan’s young adult generations – NEETs, disaffected salarymen and office ladies (sorry, but that’s what they call them in Japan), service workers barely scraping by. This ennui has been a constant in Japanese society for two decades, but it really seems as if anime and manga have found a niche in speaking to it.
It says something about just how far down the social ladder the NEET sextuplets are that Todomatsu sees getting a job at “Sutaabaa” – for barely minimum wage in most American states, with no tipping – as a step up. But indeed it is (he says no himself – “one rung higher“), and this first sketch is genius on so many levels. There’s still a whiff of foreign exoticism to Starbucks in Japan, and it retains a level of cool and sophistication the chain hasn’t held in American for at least 20 years.
Todamatsu (I love it when the great Miyu Irino gets to stretch his comedy chops) naturally wants to keep the fact that he’s working at Sutaabaa a secret from his brothers – especially since he’s lying to his female co-workers, posing as a Keio college student. “Totty” is the most socially ambitious among his siblings anyway to this is very much in-character, as is his meltdown when they show up at the cafe. This scene is hilarious on every level, and truly awful – which is pretty much the SOP for Osomatsu-san.
After a brief but very funny link sketch in which the siblings agonize for 36 hours about what to do with four imagawayaki (four is an extremely unlucky number in Japan, and the custard-filled ones are indeed by far the best), we jump right into the second major set piece, which finds Dekapan and Dayon (Dayon!) on Harleys riding (very slowly) on “Route 666”. This skit is an extremely clever bit of Buster Keaton-esque visual comedy, with only Dayon’s “Dayon!” and Dekapan’s… whatever he says for dialogue.
This chapter was a weird one, and it had me laughing several times just as the sheer strangeness of it. As so often happens with Osomatsu-san things turned quite semi-serious and then dark, with an even stranger series of flashbacks to explain how the pair got here, then a very grisly turn of events. Eventually Dayon finds himself in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (Canada), and it’s revealed that the whole point of this trip was seemingly to see the Aurora Borealis (which, by the way, can be seen just fine from Hokkaido) and things end on a highly surreal and more than a little disturbing note.
If you stay tuned after the ED credits you get “Dayon’s Counseling Room” for pudding (which I believe is introduced by Sugita Tomozu) and it’s a fine end to the meal. I especially liked Osomatsu’s complaint that the series has been labeled a “gag comedy”, because of all the pressure that puts on it. His suggestion is a new genre – the “Jikousekinin Anime” (Anime at One’s Own Responsibility), and it hits dangerously close to the truth. With an uncomfortable style of comedy like this one, you almost feel guilty for laughing at some of what’s happening – which I think is exactly the point Osomatsu is making here. It’s pretty darn clever stuff – but since when does that add up to a hit when it comes to anime?