The Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide Himouto! Umaru-chan
Jul 8th 2015
How would you rate episode 1 of
Himouto! Umaruchan ?
Himōto! Umaru-chan is a very silly show. This should be clear from the hyperactive opening song, where an army of chibi sisters tumble around like the lazy hamster-people they are. Do not expect much gravity from Umaru-chan.
That's okay, though! The premise here is very simple - the protagonist's sister Umaru is beautiful and well-behaved in public, but at home, she's a lazy slob who plays constant videogames, munches unhealthy snacks, and throws tantrums if she doesn't get the manga she wants. The show's one big joke is basically “Umaru's a useless, annoying baby of a teenager,” and as far as single jokes go, this show manages to get a whole lot of mileage out of that one.
The show is divided into a bunch of skits, making it clear this was based on either a 4koma or mini-length manga of some kind. Sometimes this works to the show's detriment - not all of the show's jokes work when extended out into the length of fully animated scenes (one sequence in the middle, where the joke is basically just “real-world Umaru is perfect at everything,” feels like the four panels of a comic strip stretched out into two full minutes of anime), and the fact that the show is so one-note means it might have worked better as a series of shorts than in twenty-minute blocks. There's also some scenes that play out as direct manzai routines between Umaru and her brother, which aren't terribly entertaining either. But when Umaru works, it really works.
A lot of this comes down to the show's sense of physical comedy. One of the first gags involves Umaru being told to get up for dinner, slowly rolling herself across the carpet, and then dragging her body onto a pillow to eat. There's no real “punchline” there, but Umaru's ridiculous chibi form and infinitely lazy movements sell it. The superdeformed style of home-Umaru is consistently stretched to great humorous effect, with the show making strong use of limited but smear-heavy animation, and the direction helps keep energy high throughout. There's one sequence early on where the camera spins around the room as Umaru wails about comic books, and another that jumps to point-of-view perspective as she flops her way towards the television. It also helps that the show makes no excuses for Umaru - she's insufferable, and that's pretty funny. Umaru making faces in her ridiculous hamster-suit is funny. Umaru sliding backwards off an exercise ball because she's too lazy to stop herself is funny.
The main issue I see here is “will this be funny on a weekly basis,” and there I have my doubts. Shows like this generally have to introduce new ingredients to give themselves fresh material, and those ingredients have to prove their own worth or they drag the show down with them (see: Gugure! Kokkuri-san). I also couldn't care less about these characters - they're just vehicles for funny moments, and I think trying to make me legitimately empathize with Umaru in any more than a “yeah, I can definitely be that lazy sometimes” way would likely hurt the show's existing charm. So Umaru's got a tough road ahead. But either way, aside from a couple weaker skits, this first episode was a bunch of fun.
Himōto! Umaru-chan is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Himōto! Umaru-chan is that longer show that might have done better as a five-minute short. It follows the supposedly humorous story of Umaru, a glamorous high school girl so beautiful that she sparkles, but who at home turns into a junk-food eating otaku slob. It's a good joke the first time they tell it, and the transformation when she shucks her uniform and dons a hamster hoodie is fun, but this just isn't enough to hold up twenty-four minutes. Umaru-chan herself is pretty far from likeable as well, with a selfish, narcissistic personality that goes beyond funny and lands squarely on annoying. If I were her older brother, I think I'd have sent her back to wherever she came from.
Not that there aren't good moments in the episode. The opening theme with its video game references (visual) is great, and Umaru's attempts to win a million yen by making a viral video of her two pet hamsters is also good. Other jokes, like eating candy, chips, dried squid, cheese, and soda for dinner, just drag on, and her brother's infrequent appearances don't help the contrast between the two of them, which ostensibly is a key feature of the show. She may be the “himouto” (a portmanteau that basically means “lazy little sister”), but that implies that she needs an older sibling to play off of. Big brother in this case isn't present enough for that to really work.
The art in this feels quite lazy as well, but that makes a certain degree of sense given the concept of the series. The animation is limited, particularly when Umaru is in her chibi form, and the voices tend toward grating, particularly the titular himouto. Really the major flaw here, though is that this is too long: in five or three minute episodes, this might have worked much better.
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