comedy

Outbreak Company

Outbreak Company

Outbreak Company

  • Trailer: Opening animation
  • What it’s about: Filling in an online “Otaku Quiz” is an odd way for your life to be turned upside-down, but that’s exactly what’s happened to Shinichi. It turns out that the Japanese government has made contact with another world, one filled with magical races and fantastical creatures. The ruler of this strange land has expressed an interest in learning about Japanese culture, and it’s down to Shinichi to act as a “cultural ambassador”, exporting anime, manga, and otaku culture to a new frontier.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s a fairly light-hearted comedy mixed with a fantasy adventure. Outbreak Company is otaku culture poking fun at itself, with constant references to existing anime, manga, or media tropes. On top of the referential jokes and self-parody are a lot of slapstick and some relationship humour between Shinichi and the expanding cast of characters that he meets as part of his new job. And while there’s plenty to laugh at, the show actually does do a good job of conveying some deeper messages about cultural imperialism, discrimination, and commercialism. It also has a half-elf maid, animal-girls, and a tsundere princess. What’s not to love?
  • Caveats: The show doesn’t make many mistakes, as such, but it never really tries to be *great*. While I had a lot of fun while watching it, I don’t really expect to remember all that much about the characters or plot a year from now. In short, it’s a fun but ultimately disposable show.
  • Themes: It has a little to say about a lot of things. Commercialism, materialism, objectification, cultural imperialism, the negatives and positives of “otaku culture”. But at its core, it’s about spreading the ideas that you love and support to another person, while desperately hoping that they’ll like it too. Overall, the thematic development plays second or third fiddle to the comedy and fan-service elements of the show, which is just fine in a fun, light-hearted show like this.
  • Similar works: No Game No Life. For a more serious take on “Modern Japan meets fantasy world”, Gate.

Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san.

Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san

Azazel

  • Trailer: The PV Trailer for the second season is the most I can find.
  • What it’s about: The Akutabe Detective Agency is successful for a very unusual reason: it solves its cases by summoning demons. Thankfully for the world, these demons are incompetent, lewd, and limited in their powers by the act of summoning, but their abilities are more than enough to cause trouble. Akutabe’s new intern Sakuma contracts with a particularly useless and perverted demon named Azazel, and struggles to get much work out of him at all.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s crude humour done well. Azazel-san never pretends to be more than it is, and instead revels in sex jokes, gross-out gags and slapstick. There’s just *so much* crammed into every episode that you’re certain to find something lowbrow to laugh at. And you can really tell that the voice actors were having a lot of fun with the script – to a man they all put in stellar performances. The art style and sound design are clean, bright, and complement the writing brilliantly – the character designs make great use of caricature for humour. And the episodes are only generally around 10-minutes long, so it’s not that much of a time commitment to complete the whole run in a binge.
  • Caveats: The show comprises a set of two-episode arcs, and some of the set-ups or characters do fall a little flat. When you find that you’re not enjoying a particular storyline (for me, the ‘pervert arc’ and ‘hospital arc’ of the second season were a bit of a miss), it’s easy enough to just skip ahead. There’s no real greater storyline going on, though there are a few continuity gags thrown in here and there.
  • Themes: “Be careful what you wish for”, at least in the early episodes. It’s fun to watch Sakuma’s changing attitude and outlook as the series progresses and she’s influenced by the idiocy and petty evil of the demonic side of the cast.
  • Similar works: Gintama is probably the best comparison to make.

DanMachi

Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka?

Danmachi

  • Trailer: Preview trailer
  • What it’s about: Gods have come to the world, and have decided to have some fun by running it as an RPG. Through performing heroic tasks and killing monsters in the gigantic labyrinth known only as the Dungeon, their followers gain incredible power, wealth, and status. To date, the goddess Hestia has only managed to attract one person into her Familia – the idealistic young adventurer Bell Cranel. But after a chance dungeon encounter provides Bell with the more concrete goal of becoming as strong as possible as quickly as possible, things begin to change for both of them.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s a fun, fast-paced fantasy action show. DanMachi makes the conscious decision to just embrace the tropes of stories like this and run with them, and the result is a polished, charming coming of age story. It manages to balance comedy, action and plot pretty well, and throws in light romantic notes to keep things interesting. The creators have effectively managed to boil down the source material to exactly what’s needed to keep the show moving forward – there’s no wasted space and at least one big “spectacle” scene in every episode. Hestia herself has proven a very popular character, but it’s Bell who carries the show as the naïve but well-meaning (and increasingly bad-ass) protagonist. In short, it’s great light entertainment aimed at a primarily young male audience.
  • Caveats: Well, it’s inevitably going to draw comparisons to Sword Art Online, much of them deserved. I do wish that a show about adventure had been a bit more…adventurous with the story it wanted to tell. Still, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the classic tropes if you can put a new shine on them, and DanMachi pulls that off quite nicely. The harem elements start to grind as Bell picks up an increasingly preposterous set of admirers without realising that a single one of them is interested in him romantically. Critics nit-pick the loss of the detailed stats and explanations; it’s a valid criticism, but I think it managed to strike a nice balance between exposition and leaving some stuff for the source material itself to expand on.
  • Themes: Nothing all that ground-breaking – it’s a pretty typical “power of heart” shonen action show, where not giving up is the key to both victory and the hearts of beautiful ladies alike.
  • Similar works: Sword Art Online is easily the closest comparison. They even share the same voice actor in the lead role.

Gunsmith Cats

Gunsmith Cats

Gunsmith Cats

  • Trailer: Compilation of original trailers
  • What it’s about: There’s a wide grey space between legal and illegal, and that’s where Rally Vincent and Minnie May Hopkins have chosen to set up shop, supplying guns and other arms to a diverse crowd of customers. Of course, it also leaves them open to blackmail – which is exactly what happens when ATF Agent Bill Collins strongarms the pair into assisting with the investigation of a gunrunning ring he’s been assigned to look into.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s a classic “girls with guns” show, from before fan-service became more important than action in the genre. There are only three OVAs in the series, but they use the time wisely to flesh out the overall plot. The characters are fun and charismatic, and comfortable firing off both bullets and one-liners. Rally and May in particular play off each other fantastically, though Bill is no slouch in his scenes either. The show also manages to capture the feel of a gritty American action-drama from the 80s or 90s in a way that has you forgetting that it’s actually a Japanese cartoon.  Overall, Gunsmith Cats does a really good job of blending the fight-sequences together with a certain amount of light comedy without becoming a self-parody.
  • Caveats: Since the OVAs are just a single arc, there’s not a lot of time to spare for character development. The plot itself is “classic” enough to be predictable to those familiar with the archetypes.
  • Similar works: Riding Bean, Black Lagoon, Gangsta.

Denki-gai no Honya-san

Denki-gai no Honya-san

denkigai

  • Trailer: Japanese trailer
  • What it’s about: The Umanohone is one of the many bookstores in Japan selling manga, light novels, and doujins (even the dirty ones). More importantly, it’s home to a wide range of characters with their own particular appreciation for the industry, from an aspiring manga writer to a girl obsessed with zombie-media.
  • Why you should watch it: Denki-gai is a slice-of-life comedy show focusing on relationship humour and raunchy jokes at the expense of the more easily-embarrassed members of the cast. It’s pretty trope-heavy and shamelessly pokes fun at the manga/anime industry and its otaku fanbase, but never gets mean about it. There’s also a surprising amount of time set aside for romantic developments between the characters. In all, it’s a light, fluffy comedy to relax with between heavier fare.
  • Caveats: The brand of comedy is made pretty clear in the first episode and doesn’t move away from that. So you can pretty safely decide whether to continue just based on that.
  • Similar works: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Working!!

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Gekkan

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: Nozaki has a passion for manga. For writing girls’ manga, to be specific. And he’s successful at it, too, even if nobody at school believes him. Of course, they’d be more likely to do so if his personality wasn’t so stoic and oblivious – to the point where he mistakes a girl’s confession as a request for an autograph.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s less of a romantic comedy than a comedy about romance. As a writer, Nozaki draws inspiration from all of the people he meets, and the shows cast are suitably bizarre and hilarious, from his best friend and ladykiller Mikoto who embarrasses himself with the cheesy lines he spouts, to the obliviously offensive Yuzuki. The show takes a sketch format, with each episode being broken up into several smaller stories about particular incidents or characters.
  • Caveats: There’s no real on-going plot, if that’s important to you. Though the characters are fun enough to riff off of for the whole length of the show.
  • Similar works: Daily Lives of Highschool Boys, The Comic Artist and his Assistants.

Toradora!

Toradora!

toradora

  • Trailer: English dubbed trailer
  • What it’s about: It’s a new year of high school, and once again Ryuji has to convince a new batch of classmates that he’s not as much of a thug as his appearance implies. At the same time, he’s hopelessly trying to work up the nerve to do something about his crush on the lively Minori. To that end, he strikes a deal with Minori’s best friend Taiga – he’ll help her with her own crush on his friend Yusaku, if Taiga lends a hand getting Minori’s attention.
  • Why you should watch it: Toradora! is not an innovative show. What it does do, though, is polish the tried and tested anime romcom formula to a perfect shine. There’s no flab in the story – even the standard beach episode, cultural festival episode and Christmas episode all work to progress the plot and to provide actual character development rather than empty fan-service. The characters themselves are fantastic. They’re all multilayered people and not just the bland stereotypes the first appear to be. All of them are lying to each other, to the audience, and in many cases to themselves about who they are and what they want, and the show does a fantastic job of slowly teasing out who these characters are underneath it all.
  • Caveats: While there are depths to the characters, many of them fit archetypes pretty closely at first glance. Taiga in particular seems to be your standard hyper-violent “tsundere” for the first couple of episodes. Stick with it.
  • Themes: Fumbling through adolescence and your first real relationships. Trying to “help” people by lying to yourself about what you actually want, and how it ends up just causing more problems down the road.
  • Similar works: Toradora! is a great poster-child for the entire genre of anime rom-coms, so you’ll find similarities with a lot of them. Try out Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo.

K-On!

K-On!

Kon

  • Trailer: Fanmade trailer
  • What it’s about: The Light Music Club of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School is on the verge of disbandment. With all of its members having graduated the previous year, it’s down to a new crop of girls to get together and decide what direction the club is going to take. The end result is more of an afternoon tea club. where the four girls – Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi, and Yui – get together and try in vain to practise their music while being distracted by the draw of beach holidays, tea parties and shopping.
  • Why you should watch it: K-On! is a fantastically cute, funny and heartwarming slice-of-life show. It knows exactly what kind of show it is, and plays up to its strengths. The character animation is fantastic, with each of the girls drawn as living, breathing human beings. The songs are perfectly crafted to be catchy and charming while still being believably written by high school girls. When it’s all over it’s not who did what that you remember, it’s how well they did it and how much you liked seeing them do it. You react not to specifics of detail or situation, but to the whole, to the relationships between the characters, and to your emersion in the setting. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what makes K-On! stand out from the crowd within its genre, but it really, really does. If you want to watch something set in a perfect world untouched by sadness, drama, or conflict, K-On! is there as a warm blanket – a place you can hang out with friends and not worry about anything serious.
  • Caveats: I really can’t fault K-On! in any of the areas where it actually puts in the effort. It’s not an ambitious show, but that doesn’t lessen its appeal at all. I can easily imagine something better than K-On!, and I can imagine something quite different than K-On!, but I have a hard time imaging K-On! as it exists being made much better.
  • Themes: This really is not a show to watch for its thematic content.
  • Similar works: Yuru Yuri, Yama no Susume

Tiger and Bunny

Tiger and Bunny

Tigerbunny

  • Trailer: DVD Trailer
  • What it’s about: Kotetsu “Wild Tiger” Kaburagi is a superhero. Since the emergence of superpowered individuals some years ago, corporations have begun to sponsor heroes; they pay for the damages their crime-stopping tends to accrue in exchange for prominently display of corporate logos and participation in an ongoing televised reality show. With his ratings dwindling and the acquisition of his sponsors by a larger group, Kotetsu is partnered with the upcoming hero Barnaby Brooks, who views the whole endeavour of saving civilians and being a hero as nothing more than a job.
  • Why you should watch it: Tiger and Bunny is an oddball anime. It combines elements of Super Sentai shows with Western comic books, drawing a lot of inspiration from animated adaptations such as **Batman: The Animated Series**. At its heart, it’s a buddy cop action show with superpowers. It does a good job of contextualising superheroes within a wider society, the different views and approaches to the idea of vigilante justice and the way that the job impacts on the daily lives of those caught up in it. Each character starts as a stereotype, an eccentrically dressed superman who stops crime and saves lives, but still needs to pose handsomely at the cameras lest their public image suffer. But by the end of the run, they all have their own quirks and personalities firmly established. The plot itself is not overly deep, but it’s entertaining, charming, and most importantly just plain fun. It’s an excellent show for younger viewers, though there’s enough there to keep any anime fan absorbed.
  • Caveats: The character development is there, but it’s mostly for flavour. The same is true of a lot of the ideas and themes of the show – they’re hooks to dangle the flashy action scenes off of, rather than elements to be explored in depth. Which is fine – not every superhero story has to be Watchmen – but do go into it with the right expectations. The show also uses CGI for a lot of the fighting and moving about. I think they pull it off pretty well, but we’ll have to see how well it ages a few years down the line. There are two movies attached to the franchise. The first (The Beginning) is half-recap, half-standalone. The second (The Rising) continues on from the main story.
  • Themes: Trust is a common thread throughout many of the storylines and the character development. The show touches upon some ideas about crafted identities – of how images are created through marketing, commercialism, and public expectations that people then have to live up to. It also deals with the issues surrounding being a middle-aged single father, struggling with maintaining relevance in the changing values and attitudes of a younger generation.
  • Similar works: The Incredibles, Justice League

Himegoto

Himegoto

himegoto

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: The Yakuza are after Hime Arikawa’s parents for unpaid debts, but since they’ve skipped town, they’re willing to settle for Hime himself. He’s been fleeing from them for some time and has even gone so far as to disguise himself as a girl to throw them off the scent. One day, Hime stumbles into the Student Council room of his new high school and his secrets revealed to the members within. They’re simultaneously amused and sympathetic, and offer to pay off his debts…if he submits to crossdressing and serving them for the rest of his time at the high school.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s a pretty lighthearted comedy romp for the most part, playing up the funny side of crossdressing for all it’s worth. The ridiculousness of the situation continue to escalate as new characters are introduced (with some new crossdressers among them), and the show isn’t shy about indulging heavily in fan-service to keep the audience watching. The story itself is quite simple and forgettable, being a series of 3-minute shorts. Himegoto is perfect if you just want a quick throwaway laugh without thinking too hard about the actual content.
  • Caveats: Don’t go into this expecting a very in-depth or sensitive treatment of transvestism or transsexuality, it’s not that kind of show. The humour is about as lowbrow as it can get without resorting to fart jokes. In short, it’s a low-investment, relatively low-reward series, but still worth watching if you’ve got a few minutes to spare.
  • Themes: Respect for others, and friendship despite differences.
  • Similar works: In terms of comedy shorts, Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to the Animation has a similar style of humour, though the fetish is different. In terms of crossdressing anime, Ouran High School Host Club.