Osomatsu-san (2015) Review — Back In Action

I wonder how many people even knew they were in action prior to this show? I mean I sure didn’t.

Well forget reviewing Prince of Stride and Undefeated Bahamut Chronicles. When I finally summoned up the urge to start giving my thoughts on those two, I realized I didn’t remember a thing about them and wasted two whole hours trying to refresh my memory before I said “fuck it” and trashed the entire mess. Well okay, that’s a bit of a lie. I remember that the former looked like a kindergartner’s watercolor assignment despite teaming up the director of Sakurasou and Hanayamata with Madhouse, whilst the latter had a male lead who looked and sounded like a girl, as well as a lead female with zero importance to the plot, and some of the worst pacing in anime history. That’s pretty much it though, and as experience has taught me in the past, even when two bland turds with nothing interesting to say about them combine their powers, they still provide less words on a piece of paper than the fucking Preamble.

So instead of reminding you that those two shows existed, let’s give even more attention to an anime that will never leave the community’s thoughts for a long time that I actually just got around to finishing: Osomatsu-san, or Mr. Osomatsu if you watch this thing on Crunchyroll or are just allergic to saying Japanese suffixes in general.

Osomatsu-san is the anniversary celebration of a 60s show centered on six identical brothers and their friends, now grown up, no longer sounding like they inhale helium for breakfast, and living in a modernized world with the humor and animation upgraded to reflect their new age. The entire show consists of a bunch of skits centered on these characters either dealing with their shitty lives or reminding us that anime is awesome, and whilst some of the characters keep their old traits from back when their creator was alive, their personalities are mostly wildly different from what old-school fans might know of them. Karamatsu is now some wannabe ladies’ man who wears tacky clothing and says lines that he thinks are way cooler than they actually are, Jyuushimatsu is now a hyperactive idiot who always seems to be on drugs, Ichimatsu is now a social recluse with a love of cats, and Osomatsu is pretty much the same as he always was except with an addiction to playing pachinko and a desire to get laid.

And you know what? It pretty much hits all the right notes when it comes to re-introducing old source material to a new audience in way that far outshines other similar projects like Yatterman Night or Young Black Jack. The show only makes token nods to the previous incarnations, and it’s not like you need to see Iyami being the main character in the 80s show to understand his frustration that he’s not the lead in this one. The new modern visual style is energetic without overdoing it. And despite how similar the brothers look, it doesn’t take too long to associate the names with the default expressions they usually have or remember the names in general. But most of all, it keeps to the spirit of its predecessor – mainly being a gag comedy – whilst understanding that humor in the 60s just isn’t the same as it is now.

Having said that, the show can try a little too hard in regards to keeping up with what’s cool. See, I know that people found the first episode where these 60s anime icons were reimagined as Utapri-style BL characters to be one of the show’s best highlights, but I don’t understand what’s supposed to be funny about parodies when the only joke is “look at how anime we are. Aren’t we cool?” with the only twist being that they’re not cool, especially when you repeat that joke five fucking times within two minutes. Even more grating when you call attention to it with that aggravating “self-aware humor” that’s been ruining all anime and Western comedies under the sun. Did I mention this anime is directed by one of the Gintama dudes? Funny how that anime never gets sued for its blatant parodies like this show did.

But whilst it’s a gag show, Osomatsu-san will occasionally try to tug on the heartstrings by focusing on the characters’ troubles regarding how modern society doesn’t fit with their views or their desire to find romance. And it generally does this without losing its sense of humor. In fact, I’d say the humor improves during those segments because it’s being used as a crutch to keep the drama from getting too heavy whilst being a core part of what makes it work. A good example is when Jyushimatsu gets himself a girlfriend who actually laughs at his lame jokes, which doesn’t make them any less lame, but it makes sense that a girl who likes them would like him too. And it also makes it all the more heartbreaking when distance separates them.

All in all, Osomatsu-san is an anime that deeply earns my respect in so many ways, mostly in its shedding of the old and embracing the new in a way that actually caused it to become one of the most popular anime of our time. It’s aware what the audience of today wants, and it gives it to them without sacrificing the spirit of it predecessors and making sure that the finished production wasn’t made solely as an obligation to fulfill the dead creator’s anniversary. Which is why it breaks my heart to say that despite all it has going for it, I don’t actually like Osomatsu-san. Why? Because it didn’t make me laugh. Once. Which for a comedy show, is pretty much the equivalent of playing basketball with no hands or legs.

Well okay, I’m exaggerating. I did laugh at that skit in the third episode where some guy who’s basically a cross between Leatherface and Jigsaw has all the siblings tied up in an underground lair and tries to kill Osomatsu, only to keep mistaking his brothers for him to the point that after ten tries, he just goes “fuck it” and mutilates one of them off-screen. That was pretty solid. And the astronaut skit prior to that was cute too. Everything else? The Mario Kart skit? The one where the sextuplets go trick-or-treating at Iyami’s house and end up robbing him for some reason? Anything involving Totoko? At most, only a brief chuckle, which is admittedly an improvement over most anime comedies, so victory?

The humor relies entirely on pop culture references, breaking the fourth wall, exaggerated faces that stopped being funny after the 90s ended, yelling out the obvious, or just being weird for the sake of being weird, which are all bargain bin jokes that aren’t worth the fifty cents you’d pay for at the dollar store. I’m not really sure what’s supposed to be funny about Osomatsu failing to discover the source of the loud snoring in his room even after covering up his brothers’ noses. Or that time when the sextuplets go trick-or-treating at Iyami’s house and end up robbing him because…um…Halloween? And even that is ineptly handled since the director brought his comedic timing from Gintama into this thing, which means that even when a skit approaches being funny, it shoots itself in the foot by dragging itself out so long it ends up looking like a skeleton at the end rather than something with actual meat.

This becomes particularly obnoxious in the show’s second half, which has some of the worst cases of a joke outstaying their welcome I’ve ever seen. Water being replaced by lubricant in a Mad Max world? Kinda funny. The idol brothers making said dystopia a better place by pouring it all over their bodies for ten minutes? Um, it’s just Utapri except in a Mad Max setting. What’s supposed to be funny about that, and why are you making this joke go on so long when the only punchline is “BL will save the desert”? Don’t even get me started on the Girly-matsu skits. I’m pretty sure the only joke in those were the male voices coming out of genderbent versions of our leads.

Osomatsu-san may have all the elements to create good laughs, but similar to when most stand-up comedians try to make it big in the movie world, something was lost in translation trying to string them all together, and I blame the lack of required energy on the fact that its setting is incredibly wacky as is – which lends itself some good heart when it wants to sell feelings, but doesn’t allow for much irony when it comes to selling itself on the absurd humor that makes up the majority of the skits. I mean take Urusei Yatsura for example. Its humor runs on combining wacky with wacky and getting more wacky, but the reason it works is because it takes place in a fairly normal anime suburbia that just happens to get invaded by aliens and the military can just have their run of the place whenever some teenage girl gets upset that she can’t go to school. Very rarely do the characters ever point out how strange it is that the folk hero Kintaro just happens to be flying around amongst the common folk, participating in kindergarten activities and swinging axes at folks with horns on their heads, or that Wendy from Peter Pan can come out of a library book and bring a bunch of other literary characters to shatter the “please be quiet in the library” rule into pieces. And my god is that show not funny when it tries to be “special” (fuck you periodical episodes).

I will say this: the final episode with the baseball match that basically resembled that one episode of Samurai Champloo combined with Space Jam was alright. Otherwise, the only other thing I can praise Osomatsu-san for are its opening and ending themes, both on a visual and sound level. Granted, the second one is generic J-pop, but something about it feels kind of triumphant. And it has every right to be triumphant. Over twenty-thousand Blu-ray sales for each volume, man!

Minor Quips

  • I haven’t actually kept up with Gintama-related news, so if it did get sued sometime during its run, feel free to correct me.
  • Rest-assured, I rewatched some of the early episodes of Urusei Yatsura for this review just to make sure it still held up and whilst they’re kind of rough, they still made me laugh.
  • So what exactly is Choromatsu’s thing, anyways?
  • Thank you Frog for reminding me what Choromatsu’s skits consisted of.

7 responses to “Osomatsu-san (2015) Review — Back In Action

  1. Choromatsu is one of the more amusing tsukkomi characters for me, because even though he tries to act like he’s above all his brothers’ nonsense it’s so obvious that he’s just as bad as the rest of them. He’s wota trash, basically.

  2. I agree that the fourth wall jokes and pop culture references weren’t very funny; at least, I thought most of them weren’t. I didn’t think the ones that were weird for the sake of being weird were funny either, but a lot of them had a different kind of appeal. I don’t really know if I have a word for it, but I felt something when Jyushimatsu split himself into a billion tiny versions of himself. “Bemused”, maybe?

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