After three episodes of Sakamoto desu ga?, maybe the secret it out just a little bit. This is actually a pretty dark comedy, which I’ve always felt was one of the reasons why it’s racked up such stupendous sales numbers as a manga. There were hints of it in the first two episodes but it’s with this one, I think, that the true nature of the humor in this series really begins to assert itself. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to keep holding some of its secrets close to the vest.
The intro this week is another bullying tale – and if you’ve noticed this is a recurring theme in Sakamoto desu ga?, you’re right. What happens when you make the coolest-o high-schooler in the world you’re personal slave? The answer, of course, is that he takes to being a dogsbody the same way he takes to everything else. That may sound like a good thing if you’re the bully in question, but for Maruyama (Inada Testsu) it all goes horribly wrong – especially when, exasperated with trying to come up with new orders for a slave so efficient, he turns Sakamoto-kun loose to serve him as he sees fit.
The really interesting question here, as usual, is just how in on the joke Sakamoto is. He talks of respect for elders in seemingly reverent fashion (it has a staggering importance in Japanese culture), but is there a sinister intent in the way he messes with Maruyama’s head? It depends, I suppose, on just who (or what) you think Sakamoto is – how he got to be such a badass at everything he does, and where his seemingly obsessive interest in human societal norms comes from.
Then we have a love story, and a truly messed-up romance it is. Kubota’s mother Shigemi (Kujira) is pretty much what you expected Kubota’s mother to be. When Kubota begs Sakamoto to come over to his house to tutor him he opens up Pandora’s Box in a rather predictable way, and Shigemi’s obsession with her son’s friend takes on a rather creepy and unsettling tone. I think it’s going to take more than a few UV rays to cleanse the eyes after watching all that go down.
There’s some pretty funny stuff in this sketch – all the various ways Sakamoto-kun manages to hide from Shigemi, or her turning to “Winter Sonata” after she believes he’s escaped her clutches. Mostly, though, it’s just disturbing and sad – and indeed, “sad” is definitely part of Sakamoto’s reaction to Shigemi’s debasing behavior. He does come up with a rather novel way to let her down easy – he films himself, then stages a disappearance into the TV from whence he came. And you know, that’s as good an explanation as any…