Shelf Life Ultimate Otaku Teacher
by Paul Jensen,
I started re-watching Space Dandy on a whim recently, and it made me realize something: I almost never watch shows a second time these days. I remember going back through some old favorites as many as three or four times, but the constant deluge of new titles makes it harder to find the time. While I think it's great that we get so much good stuff on a regular basis, perhaps I should try a little harder to slim down my simulcast queue and make time for the occasional re-watch. Sometimes it takes more than one viewing to really appreciate a great series. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Ultimate Otaku Teacher
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Shelf Life Reviews
Last week, James found that Shimoneta was able to get away with being crass and raunchy because of its strong humor. That makes a good foil to this week's review, as I take a look at what happens when a comedy just isn't funny enough to carry its own weight.
The “otaku teacher” from the title goes by the name of Junichiro Kagami, and he naturally comes with a wild and crazy backstory. He's incredibly smart, but he suffers from a self-diagnosed case of “YD,” which means he can only do things that he truly yearns to do. Junichiro's sister eventually gets sick of him using this excuse to laze around at home all day, so she sets him up with a teaching job at a local high school. While updating his anime blog remains Junichiro's main mission in life, he takes his new job just seriously enough to help a few of his students resolve their personal problems.
In order to make a show like this work, you need three things: a unique and compelling teacher, likable students with relatable problems, and enough humor to balance out the sappy life lessons. Ultimate Otaku Teacher misses that first requirement in a big way. Junichiro is portrayed as the classic quirky professor with an otaku twist; he's blunt, abrasive, and socially inept, but despite his many anime-themed rants, he supposedly cares about the kids he's been put in charge of. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to come across as an irredeemable jerk. His supposedly brilliant ideas aren't particularly clever, and his methods usually involve forcing students into supremely uncomfortable situations. This “bull in a china shop” approach may have worked for Onizuka in GTO, but it's a disaster here. Junichiro tends to occupy a weird middle ground between mentor and bully, and his educational triumphs often ring hollow as a result.
The students in this series are a little more tolerable than their teacher, but that's not saying much. Most of these kids aren't exactly characters so much as personifications of anime tropes. There's the generic rich girl, the tough guy, the angry little sister who threatens Junichiro with a baseball bat, and the tsundere student council president. For added “shameless otaku bait” points, there's also a manga artist, a cross-dressing boy, and a girl who works at a maid café. There are a couple moments late in this set where some of these kids become vaguely likable, but for the most part, they're entirely too shallow to forge any kind of emotional connection with the audience.
That leaves the humor as Ultimate Otaku Teacher's last chance at a partial success, but it bombs here as well. There are some moments of genuinely poor taste, but for the most part, the show is simply boring. Many of the jokes are old and overused, and I kept waiting for twists and surprises that never arrived. When the rich girl reveals her army of suit-and-sunglasses henchmen or Junichiro makes his class play an online RPG, there's nothing unique or original to freshen up the routine. That's the joke, and that's all there is to it. Unless you've never seen an anime series set in a high school before, expect to have the “been there, done that” feeling on a regular basis.
The show's technical merits are right in line with its writing and direction. Character designs are largely uninspired, and the animation is downright awful. Even in scenes without much motion (which includes nearly all of them), faces and proportions wander off model with depressing regularity. The music is instantly forgettable, and most of the vocal performances sound like the actors are reading their lines on autopilot. Things don't get any better if you switch over to the English dub; a willfully silly dub can sometimes save a weak comedy, but this is a purely “get it done and move along” affair. If anything, the dub cast actually sounds less impressed with the story than their Japanese counterparts.
The idea of a zany otaku guy working as a teacher sounds amusing enough to be tempting, but it's not worth putting up with this show's lifeless execution just to see how the premise plays out. It's neither funny nor touching, and its life lessons are generally shallow. If you enjoy this kind of story, there are much better examples out there. Stick to the Assassination Classrooms and GTOs of the world and steer clear of Ultimate Otaku Teacher.
That wraps up the review section and the column for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send me photos of your anime collections at [email protected]. I need more entries for Shelf Obsessed!
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