Review

by Theron Martin, Nov 14th 2013

Outbreak Company

episodes 1-6 streaming

Synopsis:
Outbreak Company episodes 1-6
Shinichi Kano has been something of a recluse since his female childhood friend shot him down in his attempt to upgrade their relationship to boyfriend/girlfriend status, apparently primarily because he is an otaku. When a job opportunity comes up for one who has extensive otaku knowledge, Shinichi jumps at it, only to find himself kidnapped and taken to a fantasy world. He learns that his employer AmTec is a Japanese government entity which has been charged with conducting a cultural exchange with the Eldant Empire, which lies on the other side of a recently-discovered interdimensional portal and thus is effectively now a neighbor of Japan. The government has decided to accomplish this by introducing Japanese entertainment like anime, manga, and games to the people of the Empire (including its young-looking Empress Petralka), and Shinichi has been chosen to spearhead that effort because the government has found that a non-otaku just doesn't have the right content understanding and mindset for such a task. Assisting Shinichi in that endeavor are busty JSDF bodyguard Minori (who turns out to be a dedicated fan of BL content), Japanese government representative Matoba, and Myucel, a local half-elf maid who looks after Shinich's “embassy” and becomes his first pupil. As Shinichi progresses with his mission, he finds himself contending with stark cultural differences, racial prejudice, political realities, a temperamental Empress, a terrorist group opposed to any kind of outside cultural influence, and fierce arguments between elf and dwarf students over things like what the best kind of dating sim characters are.
Review:

Any basic description of this light novel-based series strongly implies that it will just be trashy hard-core otaku bait. Indeed, the sophistication of the humor in it certainly leans in that direction, as jokes range from basic gags that even a neophyte might understand all the way up to ones that only an über-otaku will fully appreciate. However, along the way it does something that many other self-aware, otaku-targeted series fail to do: it actually deigns to be clever. The result is a production which is usually greatly entertaining and certainly far better (and far less sleazy) than it easily could have been.

The first sign that the series might actually be striving for a little more comes just a couple of minutes into the first episode, when in a flashback we see Shinichi getting rejected in his attempt to romantically pursue his childhood friend, which is a rare reversal of the normal “mixed gender childhood friend” scenario. The second comes in the initial interactions between Shinichi and Myucel, where he shows that he actually regards her status as a half-breed as a plus (what otaku wouldn't consider a true half-elf to be cool?) and proceeds to consistently treat her with dignity and respect, rather than the prejudice, deprecation, and beatings to which she is accustomed as both a half-breed and a servant. (One sobering scene in the second episode involves Brooke, the dragon man gardener, matter-of-factly offering Shinichi a big enough stick that will actually be felt through his scales when he thinks that Shinichi wants to beat him.) He even goes as far as to teach her how to read, an opportunity that someone of her race and station would normally never have in Eldant. When Myucel later declares, without hesitation, that she will accompany Shinichi wherever he might go, viewers should find nothing contrived about why.

That sets a pattern both for some of the humor and for the occasional bursts of more serious content. For all that he tries to act properly, Shinichi is still an otaku at heart, and sometimes his otaku nature can get the better of him, often with humorously problematic results. The series also shows a willingness to be thoughtful about some of the practical aspects of what Shinichi is being asked to do, such as how it might stir up dissent from some hard-line groups, how Shinichi has to be wary about not causing too much culture clash, or how he has to find ways that the Eldantians can understand to explain some of the finer points of otaku-focused entertainment. The middle point is especially important, as Shinichi has to walk a fine line between trying to enlighten Eldantians about things like racial tolerance and not seeming like he is trying to impose outside ideals on them – although he does not hesitate to do the latter when it comes to introducing the merits of gal games to his Eldantian students.

But while the series does have its serious content, it is mostly an exercise in humor, otakudom, and the interesting interactions of technology-based and magic-based cultures. The series has great fun tossing in all manner of sly and not-so-sly anime and manga references and parodies and applying otaku attitudes and behaviors onto character types that one would not normally associate with being otaku, such as elves and dwarves; one of the funniest lines in the first six episodes involves an unexpected but surprisingly logical argument from one dwarf concerning lolicon. The series also gets great mileage out of showing what happens when otaku influences get out of hand, such as the elves and dwarves who take sports anime and manga ideas about how to conduct a soccer game too literally. (Ever see Shaolin Soccer?) Minori's BL tastes, and how one of the Eldantians that she tries to ship together with Shinichi might actually not be objectionable to the idea, is likewise good for a few laughs, as is female werewolf Elbia, who easily gets distracted by her dog-like obsession with things like balls.

The strengths of the series do not extend to the visuals. While they are perfectly adequate for the kind of humor the series is pitching, they do little to stand out; dwarves, elves, and dragon men have generic fantasy looks, the fantasy trappings are all standard fare, and action scenes are flashy enough but nothing visually spectacular beyond the sight gags they deliver. The feature character design is unquestionably Myucel in that darling, tasteful maid outfit, but beyond that the most notable visual features are the occasional visual references to/parodies of other anime titles in background shots. The animation fares a little better, although it does use its share of stills for crowd shots. The content is surprisingly mild on the fan service, which is limited to an occasional breast size comment and a handful of other rather tame scenes, but that fits fine with the more high-minded approach the series takes and a seeming effort to appeal to a broader fan base. Not every otaku-oriented title needs to be trashy to be entertaining, a fact which the creators of the series seem to fully appreciate.

Highlighting the humor of the series is a playful musical score which comes up with all sorts of offbeat ditties to liven things up without pushing too hard. The opener and closer are likewise fun songs, though largely forgettable beyond one great shot in the opener where Brooke and a dragon woman share a tender tail touch. Japanese vocal performances are solid and effective, especially Sumire Uesaka (the voice of Sanae in Love, Chunibyo, & Other Delusions) as Elbia.

Although the first six episodes have not been flawless (the series is not entirely above using cheap gags, for instance), so far Outbreak Company has yet to have a major stumble and typically gets far more humor or sincerity out of its content than one would reasonably expect to be possible; the scene from episode 6 depicted in the screen shot, where Empress Petralka very publicly shares her joy and friendship with one of the despised half-elves, and is suggested to have made quite an impression by doing so, is one such scene. This is one of the year's biggest and most pleasant surprises, and it deserves a broader audience than it is probably getting.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A-
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B+

+ Remarkably fun and funny without being trashy, sharp and clever writing, some inspired otaku culture references.
Not the sharpest-looking series, some jokes and references will fly over the heads of all but the most hard-core otaku.

Director:Kei Oikawa
Series Composition:Naruhisa Arakawa
Script:
Naruhisa Arakawa
Rie Koshika
Keiichirō Ōchi
Tsuyoshi Tamai
Storyboard:
Tetsuo Hirakawa
Takehiro Ishii
Itsuro Kawasaki
Kei Oikawa
Osamu Tadokoro
Takeo Takahashi
Episode Director:
Shōgo Arai
Takashi Ikehata
Mitsuhiro Iwasaki
Kōsuke Kobayashi
Shūhei Matsushita
Satoshi Saga
Takeyuki Yanase
Risako Yoshida
Music:Keiji Inai
Original creator:Ichiro Sakaki
Original Character Design:Yuugen
Character Design:Takashi Mamezuka
Art Director:Yuki Ikenoue
Chief Animation Director:
Takashi Mamezuka
Kuniaki Masuda
Kosuke Murayama
Yasunari Nitta
Motoaki Satou
Yumi Shimizu
Masakazu Yamazaki
Animation Director:
Mitsuru Chiba
Yoshinori Deno
Yū Fujii
Reika Hoshino
Shinichiro Kajiura
Hitoshi Kamata
Yūko Kanai
Shou Kawashima
Tomoyuki Kitamura
Yuuji Kondou
Masaru Koseki
Takashi Mamezuka
Kuniaki Masuda
Tomoyuki Matsumoto
Kosuke Murayama
Masashi Ōmura
Madoka Ozawa
Atsushi Sato
Motoaki Satou
Wakako Shigemoto
Yumi Shimizu
Shuuji Takahara
Yumenosuke Tokuda
Ayaka Tsujikami
Ruriko Watanabe
Yoshiya Yamamoto
Shunryō Yamamura
Masakazu Yamazaki
Aoi Yoshii
Sound Director:Takahiro Enomoto
Director of Photography:Yuuta Nakamura
Producer:
Takeichirō Aida
Mitsutoshi Arimoto
Tomoko Kawasaki
Gorō Shinjuku
Masashi Takatori
Junichiro Tanaka

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Outbreak Company (TV)

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