What a remarkable story this show is turning out to be.
OP2: Zenryoku Batankyuu” by AŌP
There’s not much I could say in criticism of this episode of Osomatsu-san, which kicks off the second of what I assume will be many, many cours of anime in spectacularly funny and disturbing fashion. About the only negative would be that I really miss the old OP and ED, especially the latter (it could just as easily have been written about the Adachi Mitsuru manga library), though the new ones are catchy enough.
Indeed, we have what seems to be yet another home run (Hustle, hustle! Muscle, muscle!) for Studio Pierrot. Folks, these guys know what they’re doing – I understand why people sometimes watch Kingdom or Baby Steps and snicker disdainfully about the budgets, but the studio’s batting average in terms of actual content is perhaps unmatched in the last couple of years of anime. I mentioned that Osomatsu-san kind of struck me as Shirokuma Cafe’s nastier, pervier cousin – and of course that was a Pierrot show too. I’m glad to see the studio with a massive commercial success like this, because it can only help them keep doing good work.
What does Akatsuka Fujio (the octogenarian creator of Osomatsu-kun) think of this series, I wonder? I wish I knew the original series better so that I could hazard a guess as to the answer to that question, but it’s hard to imagine a sketch like “Sanematsu-san” would seem familiar to him. There are very few comedies that have both the chops and the daring to pull of a story like that – not only is it staggeringly dark and disturbing, but it really isn’t even trying to be funny. But then, like most great comedies this one is totally, utterly ruthless when it needs to be. There can be no sacred cows if you want to break new ground in comedy.
The life of the salaryman is depressing enough – “I need you to stay late today” is a euphemism for the 70-80 weeks kouhai and anyone looking to get ahead are expected to work, and bullying is rampant. But add to that the whole fantasy aspect of it, and Sanematsu’s young co-worker and her terrified reaction to what she sees when she gets to his house… Well, I’m sleeping with the light on tonight. It’s hard to know just what Matsubara Shuu (the man behind the scripts) was going for here – was this Sanematsu’s fantasy? Was he so desperately lonely that his flights of fancy were just about having brothers? Was it means to cast the actual sextuplets in a slightly better light, because at least they have each other? Whatever the premise was, the whole thing was brilliantly atmospheric and disturbing as hell.
Then you had the “Girlymatsu” interlude, which exemplified what it means to be ruthless in comedy. In the course of five minutes it eviscerated the female gender in savage fashion, which I suppose is only fair since the better part of 12 episodes had been spent exposing every pathetic and despicable mole on the skin of the male psyche. I found the way the female avatars of the sextuplets were shown to be utterly calculating – even Jyuushimatsu – to be especially brutal. I don’t think you can call it misogynistic, though, because Osomatsu-san is an equal opportunity accuser – this is one of the more misanthropic series you’ll ever stumble across.
Finally, we had “Fappymatsu” – a chapter which pretty much speaks for itself. I mean, this was seriously, seriously funny – one of the most hilarious things I’ve seen in anime in years. The “Caution – fapping in progress” sign, Jyuushimatsu’s jerk-off material being a bug encyclopedia, the antics at the sento… Exquisite comic timing, beautiful facial animation – it was close to a perfect comedy sketch. But even here you had some dark stuff, with the brothers systematically tearing at each other’s weak points as things got increasingly petty and juvenile. The standout for me here was when Totty noted that Jyuushimatsu was probably emotionally darker than any of them (was he really not like that as a kid? Hmm…), because you got the sense that it was actually true.
This is not a series that falls back on sentimentalism so often that it becomes a crutch, which is what happens to many wannabe dark comedies when they lose their nerve. No, Osomatsu-san is sincere so rarely that when it is, it has real impact. Let’s face it, these are incredibly pathetic guys in pretty much every way – you really have to feel for their poor parents. But there is, somehow, something honest and grudgingly satisfying in the simple fact that they are brothers, and they’re (usually) OK with that. They do have each other, for better or worse (and it’s often worse), and even after a clusterfuck like Fappymatsu-gate they’re together the next morning at breakfast, and they’ll be together the next night when they crawl into bed. It’s a small hook to hang your hat on, but it somehow does keep it from falling off the wall…
ED2: “Osomatsu Type M” by Takahiro Sakurai, Yuichi Nakamura, Hiroshi Kamiya, Jun Fukuyama, Daisuke Ono,Miyu Irino & Aya Endou