Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Sep 21st 2010
Episodes 1-7 Streaming
Heart sailing aloft on wings of dreams, Satoshi Yabe begins his first day as a teacher. Then he meets his class, and the wings wither and die. Specifically, he meets the Marui triplets. Sisters. Students. Monsters. Mitsuba, the eldest, is a wannabe sadist with a bit of a weight problem. Futaba, the middle sister, is a well-meaning dervish with fists of steel, a gutter mind, and about one-quarter of the brains god gave a rock. Hitoha, the youngest, is quiet, which would be nice if it weren't the scary serial-killer kind of quiet. Together they get to work immediately making Yabe's life a hell of perverted misunderstandings, random violence, and assorted bodily fluids. And the worst of it is, they aren't even doing it on purpose.
Rule #1 of comedy is: Be funny. It's kind of a no-brainer, but enough comedies forget it that it bears repeating. Mitsudomoe isn't one of them. An astoundingly vulgar school-life comedy about mildly perverse sixth-graders, it has a savant's knack for making you laugh, often in spite of yourself. There's a sort of gutter-minded genius to its orchestration of comic misunderstandings and escalating disasters. Its best vignettes generally begin with some innocuous event, Hitoha watching a sentai show, say, or Futaba doing a group project, and via a series of hilariously contrived machinations end in a catastrophic misunderstanding, usually of a perverse nature—Hitoha implicating herself as a sadomasochist, for instance, or Futaba's childhood friend accidentally wearing panty-goggles. This being a show whose signature sight gag is someone lying face-down in a puddle of bodily fluids (tears, froth, blood and urine all do duty), naturally some of the jokes are plain gross. The extended joke about Futaba's strangely elastic snot earns its classification as a gag in more ways than one. But even the show's most disgusting gags benefit from its skill with comic escalation. There's a vignette based around a clumsy nurse and a bag of urine samples that would have been low humor of the unfunniest sort were it not for the way it continually tops itself in gleeful vulgarity.
The series isn't without its softer qualities either. When the show moves away from Yabe to focus on the sisters, the humor becomes slightly more character-driven, which not only dilutes the more transgressive joke-making, but also adds a few unexpected layers to the terrible trio. Mitsuba, it turns out, wants very badly to be a sadist, but isn't actually very good at it. Her behavior has more to do with securing her place in the schoolyard hierarchy than any innate meanness, and when the chips are down she nearly always takes the kindest course of action. Hitoha, for her part, turns out to be less antisocial than merely socially inept. She wants to have friends and talk about her favorite shows, but just can't seem to do it without scaring the bejeezus out of everyone. And Futaba... Okay, Futaba has no layers. She's just an idiot. Naturally these character complications are played largely for laughs, often in cleverly twisted ways. Hitoha's accidental destruction of a romance-loving innocent's innocence in episode seven, arguably the funniest moment in this slice of the series, is probably the cleverest and most twisted of them. But the complications also give rise to the very few sweet moments to make it through the crush of bodily functions and mistaken perversion. That a series with Mitsudomoe's below-the-belt proclivities can give birth to a relationship as realistically balanced and, well, nice as that between the Marui sisters is a bigger shock than any of the crudities it ambushes us with.
The elephant in the room here is that all of this is based around sixth-graders. The mixture of boob and panty jokes, rampant perversion (or the appearance thereof), and preteens will strike many as inappropriate at best, and deeply creepy at worst. And without doubt the series handles the combination poorly at times. Too often the kids have, or have knowledge of, sexual perversions that well-adjusted children their age shouldn't. And no one will ever argue that anything in Mitsudomoe is in good taste. On occasion the series offers the rather novel experience of being simultaneously repulsed and entertained. But for all the lines the series crosses—and it crosses some big ones, including some discomfitingly lighthearted pedophilia jokes—it never crosses the most crucial ones. Yabe thinks of and treats his kids like kids, and aside from the occasional bit of questionable fan-service, the series is far more interested in serving up a good time than pandering to the lolicon crowd. When it comes right down to it, it does little that South Park hasn't already done, though with a sweeter edge than that American warhorse, and none of the socially redeeming value.
Director Masahiko Ohta made his bones on a different comedy about three sisters; namely Minami-ke. Though their plot, tone, jokes and just about everything else are different as can be, thanks to Ohta the two do share a love of, and skill with, physical humor. The series has superior, though not top-notch animation, helped probably by the simplistic nature of the designs, and Ohta uses it for some inspired slapstick. A lot of it involves Futaba and her violent outbursts and bizarre behavior (the scene where she surfaces like a submarine from a department store's panty bin is a technical standout), but the very best of it involves the Marui triplet's father. Mr. Marui is a deeply suspicious-looking hulk of grizzled muscle and fat, drawn with the rough-hewn lines of a 70s shonen hero, who is constantly being mistaken for a criminal, despite his essential good nature. He kills in every scene he's in with his appearance alone; when you add in his habit of getting the crap kicked out of him, either by his own daughters or the police who are inevitably called on him when he's seen in public with them, well...the Looney Tunes would be proud. Oh, and by the by, the character designs—with their swollen M&M heads, crescent-moon mouths, single teeth, and Betty Boop bodies—are straight-up grotesque.
Ohta makes sparing use of Yasuhiro Misawa's suspiciously familiar score (Misawa also did the music for Minami-ke). He uses it to build comic tension, underline action, and emphasize punch-lines but little else. Rather than rely on musical cues, the series uses incidental sounds and dialogue to regulate its mood. Which is part of what makes it such an effective comedy.
Are you tired of gentle comedies that play nice and prioritize useless crap like mood and character over jokes? How about slice-of-life shows that actually try to serve slices of life? If you've had it up to your bloodshot eyeballs with precious characters and sweet-natured whimsy and want something drenched in the sundry juices of the dirtiest that comedy has to offer, then you're in luck. So long as the combo of kids and perverse humor doesn't send you heebie-jeebie-ing all the way back to the safety of K-on!.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : C
Music : B
+ A very funny comedy of equal parts shameless slapstick, brilliantly convoluted comic misunderstandings and carefully orchestrated, episode-long jokes.
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