Pile of Shame
Yagami-kun's Family Affairs
by Justin Sevakis,
Yagami-kun's Family Affairs
I mean that honestly. There was a time not long ago, even in otaku circles, when the idea of incest was odd and outré enough to elicit giggles from the less mature parts of ourselves, and maybe even an "oh god." You can tell what we used to be like by going up to your non-otaku friends and telling them about shows like Oreimo and OniAi They might cringe, they might snort and then crack up, they might roll their eyes and express some form of dismay. These are all fairly normal responses. We used to have those.
I'll leave it to the various sections of the Internet Sanctimony Squad to discuss whether this is a good or a bad thing, because it's beside my point. I thought about this while watching this week's Pile of Shame entry, Yagami-kun's Family Affairs, because the entire show relies on the inherent shock value of incest for its laughs. And you know what? It's not shocking anymore. While the show has a bawdy South Park-esque sense of dirty-mindedness, its main joke, in which the protagonist has fallen obsessively and completely in love with his own mother, just has no shock value anymore. The fact that it once did was something of a revelation to me, proof that even if we don't accept the idea of it anymore than we once did, the subject has become entirely worn out.
At any rate, Yagami-kun is a cheaply made three-part OAV from Kitty Films, based on a 7-volume gag manga by Kei Kusunoki that ran in Shonen Sunday Magazine. It's one of countless such cheap OAVs that were aimed at the rental market in the late 80s and early 90s, some of which made their way to US shores, but most of which mercifully stayed in Japan.
It's one of those comedies that doesn't have a plot so much as a premise that it jumps on and around, like a hyperactive child, trying to be funny and occasionally succeeding. The premise is that Yagami-kun, a high school kid attending an all-boys school, has developed an insane, desperate crush on his mother (who is, by all accounts, incredibly cute and looks nowhere near old enough to be his mother). He knows this is wrong, he accepts that this is wrong, but he's also an idiot who lets his hormones get the better of him pretty much constantly.
And so he starts conspiring against his dad, and his parents' loving, incredibly stable marriage. His friends at school, who are somehow even more lobotomized by their hormones than Yagami, start in on him, both ribbing him about his out-of-control mother complex as well as getting a little excited over her, themselves. Getting rid of his increasingly annoying friends provides fuel for the show's countless City Hunter-esque wild takes.
While Yagami's mother stays mostly bubble-headed and ignorant of just how far her son's perversions have gone, she's not dumb, and often proves herself to be a capable adult. But more often she's just there to act the part of the idealized Japanese girl -- eternally youthful and effervescent, devoted to her family, and adorable. Other women try for Yagami's attention, but against his mother, they have no chance. Yagami's sleazy homeroom teacher also falls in love with his mother, and starts competing for her attention (usually at Yagami's expense).
There are funny moments in Yagami-kun, mostly involving dick jokes and other crass humor that's not all that common in anime, but mostly the show just kind of drags. The stories are short and are broken up by eye-catches, clearly adopted from a manga that didn't continue its stories from one chapter to the next very often. Its cartooniness works towards its sense of slapstick humor, but prevents it from building anything resembling a substantial story or characters, and after a while the hijinks just get boring. The show is only three episodes and lasts merely 90 minutes total, but it sure feels a lot longer.
I once told a friend of mine (a native Japanese speaker who read a lot of manga growing up) about having found this show on DVD at Book-Off, and she remembered cracking up a lot at the manga when she read it years ago. I'm sure if I was younger I might find it funnier, and if I wasn't so used to the concept of anime incest I might find some shock value in the premise. However, recent shows have conditioned me: the concept is now about as fresh and shocking as seeing a guy trip and land in a girl's boobs. Visited with the premise, I pretty much sigh deeply and look at the floor. I find myself unable to mentally visit a time in history where such plot devices weren't just a desperate and cynical attempt at pandering to otaku.
There's not much else here to enjoy; certainly not the artistry, which is ugly and sloppy and clearly shoestring budget. And aside from a cut of the background music that sounds JUST LIKE the first few bars of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough", there's really not much else in this show to chuckle at.
Japanese Name: 八神くんの家庭の事情 (Yagami-kun no Katei no Jijō)
Media Type: OAV Series
Length: 3 X 30 min.
Genres: Comedy, ecchi, school life
Availability (Japan): An unsubtitled and barebones DVD came out in Japan years ago, and is now out of print.
Availability (English): There are fansubs, but hell will freeze over before this gets a proper US release.
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