The Best (And Worst) Anime Comediesby The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
"What's your favorite anime comedy?" is a surprisingly hard question to answer - what someone finds funny is one of the most subjective and personal things about them, and your "favorite comedy" might depend on your mood, the circumstances of your life at the time, all manner of factors. So of course we had to ask our staff to weigh in on what their favorite anime comedy is - and their least favorite. Once you're done browsing our picks, head on over to our forums and let us know what your choices are!
Best Comedy: Tie – Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun and Excel Saga
I'm going to cheat a little here because I knew right away that one of these two was going to be my top pick but after several days of debate with myself I couldn't choose one over the other. Besides, I think they go together beautifully as a pair, as they represent entirely different takes on anime parodies from significantly different anime eras. Excel Saga represents a more old-school, throw-the-jokes-out-and-see-what-sticks kind of approach as it parodies everything it could think of, whether it be other anime titles, the industry in general, other Japanese entertainment elements dating back to the ‘70s, or even itself. (The main character kills the source manga-ka in one early scene for being a despicable human being, for instance.) It even wrapped up with an episode which was specifically intended to be too graphic to show on TV. This series about the bumbling attempts of a secret organization to take over the world is anime's ultimate example of crazy, zany fun, and that even carried over into its extra joke-laden DVD releases.
Nozaki-kun, on the other hand, is a much more calculated, sophisticated effort to lovingly parody shojo manga while also looking at aspects of its creation. It draws its humor less from slapstick and outrageousness and more from demonstrating amusing character relationships and the ridiculousness inherent in the more sappy aspects of shojo romances and dating sims, including the titular Nozaki using one of his male friends as the model for his shojo heroine. Every episode has laugh-out-loud scenes in multiples, including some of the funniest jokes I've in in anime in recent years, and it is practically unique in its entertainment value being at least as great to those who despise the genre it's based on as to those who love it.
Worst Comedy: Green Green
This entry took a lot more thought to even come up with a single candidate, as I rarely watch comedies past their first episodes if I find the humor to be a miserable failure. While I feel that I may be forgetting something even worse, one of the least funny comedies that I can ever remember seeing is this failure of a fan service-focused effort from 2003, which is also notorious for having possibly the single worst professionally-produced English dub that I've ever encountered. I only suffered through the first four episodes, so maybe it gets better, but I couldn't be bothered to find out. If we're talking about series I actually finished, it would probably have to be OniAi instead.
Best Comedy: Amagi Brilliant Park
My original pick for this was going to be Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun (a shocking and controversial choice, I know), and while that probably remains the single funniest anime comedy I've seen, I ended up going with Amagi Brilliant Park, instead. Adapting the light novels authored by Shoji Gatoh (of Full Metal Panic! fame), ABP follows the exploits of an exceptionally keen young businessman named Seiya Kanie, who has been tasked with reinvigorating the titular theme park, whose sales have been flagging for years. The only catch? This Disneyland-esque fun-land actually comes from a kingdom in another world, and all of its mascots and cartoonish denizens are legitimately magical creatures, and they need the joy and happiness of their guests in order to survive in the human world. While it might not pack the pure amount of yuks-per-minute that Nozaki-kun delivers, Amagi Brilliant Park has its own brand of off the wall humor that consistently entertains, a mix of earnest charm and out-and-out weirdness that I can't help but fall in love with.
The key to ABP's success comes with its story and its characters. Despite resembling a slice-of-life comedy in many ways, the ticking-clock nature of the theme park crew's quest to drive up revenue actually gives the whole show a feeling of momentum and urgency I find other comedies often lack. The jokes land hard and fast in every single episode, and even if not all of them land, the story itself is appealing enough that you want to see things through to the end no matter what. Not only that, but ABP features one of the most well-rounded and enduring casts I've seen in a comedy anime, bar none. From the self-serious soldier Isuzu to the charming fairy performers of the Elementario to the hilariously brazen mouse mascot Moffle, the whole park is filled to the brim with colorfully designed weirdos who all have an earnest, sweet, and genuinely funny rapport with one another.
It's a cliché to say that the cast of a show feels like a family by the time it's over, but Amagi Brilliant Park really earns that sentiment, and that's what makes it such a stand out success. It doesn't just make its audience laugh, but it manages to take them on a satisfying journey with a diverse and lovable cast of ridiculous goofballs. I would recommend it to anyone who needs some more laughter in their life, because this is some of the best comedy that anime has to offer.
Worst Comedy: Himouto! Umaru-chan
Himouto! Umaru-chan is certainly not the least funny comedy I've ever seen, nor is it the worst produced. This show, has a lot of fans, and it's really easy to see why: Umaru Doma is the kind of devil-may-care protagonist I would have totally laughed along with in my teenage years, a gaming obsessed lout who revels in her junk food and takes every opportunity she can to use her older brother Taihei's forgiving good-naturedness for everything it's worth. The show has plenty of jokes that are decently funny, and it looks and sounds like a polished, modern anime comedy. The absurd dichotomy between Umaru's gorgeous girl-next-door public persona and her gremlin-like transformation into the lazy, potato-chip devouring monster she really is at home is intentionally crass and absurd, and the James Beckett of ten years ago I might have found it pretty funny.
The problem is that the James Beckett of today finds almost everything about Umaru insufferable and obnoxious, and it ends up completely spoiling Himouto! Umaru-chan as a whole. I blame a lot of this on my chosen profession as a teacher; while I can see the joy in watching Umaru spread chaos and potato-chip crumbs wherever she goes, I find myself relating far too much with her beleaguered older brother. Taihei spends most of his time cleaning up his sister's messes and desperately trying to impart some wisdom and maturity onto her, only to have her remain the self-obsessed, inconsiderate brat she's always been, week after week. Sure, Umaru makes some friends throughout the series that help her open up the tiniest bit, but from by the end of the last episode she has not deviated far from being the manipulative, greedy, gluttonous little girl she was in the show's very first moments.
I recognize that Himouto! Umaru-chan isn't the worst made or least humorous comedy out there, and I completely understand why this series has an audience. There were even a handful of scenes and episodes that I really did find myself laughing at. As a complete experience, though, Himouto! Umaru-chan may be the single least pleasant experience I've had sitting through an anime comedy, and that made it the easy pick for this list.
Best Comedy: Cromartie High School
Cromartie High School is a bit of a sentimental choice for me, as I have fond memories of watching it with my friends as a teenager. At the time, none of us could quite explain why we found the show funny, but it made us laugh all the same. I recently watched it again on a whim, and I think I finally get it. Cromartie High School is the kind of series that exists for the sole purpose of being funny, and its singular focus is complemented by unique ideas and strong delivery.
Saying that this show has “unique ideas” might actually be an understatement; it frequently sets up absurd scenarios as if they're perfectly normal. How did a gorilla, a robot, and Freddie Mercury end up as students at a Japanese high school full of delinquents? Don't worry about it. How do none of the characters notice when one of their friends is replaced with a completely different person? Don't worry about that, either. The writing in Cromartie High School is clever enough that it can get away with just about anything by playing dumb, and it takes advantage of that opportunity to mix simple gag humor with some amusing commentary on the nature of comedy. It reminds me of more recent titles like Mr. Osomatsu or Nichijou in the way it uses absurdity as a springboard for creativity.
Despite having no major narrative to speak of, Cromartie High School also manages to make its idiotic characters seem endearing. Their designs are neither cute nor handsome, the animation is often so limited that they barely even move, and yet somehow it's easy to like these guys. Perhaps it's because, like the show itself, they make no apologies for who they are. Both the series and its cast just do what they want to, seemingly going out of their way to ignore the audience's expectations. In a medium where so many shows try too hard to be harmless and marketable, that alone is a trait worth praising. As protagonist Kamiyama declares, anyone who complains should have to watch it a thousand times.
Worst Comedy: The Comic Artist and His Assistants
Where Cromartie High School seemingly conjures humor out of thin air, The Comic Artist and His Assistants lets a perfectly decent story idea go to waste. It follows the misadventures of a manga artist who specializes in fanservice, meaning that the series is essentially a raunchy comedy about a raunchy comedy. With some clever writing and direction, that setup could easily produce plenty of fun, self-aware lowbrow humor. Instead, the show delivers a consistently dull experience with jokes that aren't very funny and sex appeal that isn't very sexy. Instead of being an amusingly dirty cousin to the likes of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, weak execution reduces The Comic Artist and His Assistants to a boring and forgettable entry in the realm of self-referential comedies.
Best Comedy: Nichijou
On the whole, anime comedies rarely work for me. A lot of this comes down to cultural or stylistic assumptions on what is inherently comedic - the base assumptions of how jokes are constructed, something I've discussed before. Manzai routines where one character explains how the other one is acting ridiculous are not inherently funny to me. Loud overreactions rarely do it, and your slapstick better be snappy if you want me to chuckle. I'm not here for toilet humor, and if you think referencing another work is the same as making a joke about it, you're gonna leave me cold. Huge swathes of anime comedies are just dead on arrival for me. And yet, in spite of that natural aversion to anime comedy, anime also boasts my favorite comedy in any medium - Nichijou.
Nichijou is essentially an absurd symphony of comic fundamentals, building titanic, almost unbelievably well-executed gags out of very simply ingredients. Parts of it feel like an incredibly well-realized adaptation of the phenomenal Yotsuba, from its ear for observation and deadpan to its terrific understanding of slice of life fundamentals. Other parts lean on the talents of its studio, Kyoto Animation, and bring what might be simple, blandly executed slapstick in another show into one of the most gorgeously animated and surreal displays of physical comedy imaginable. It is inventive and beautiful and heartfelt and weird, maintaining its unique perspective and constant laughs all along the way. Nichijou is a remarkable accomplishment, and I am perpetually thankful it exists at all.
Worst Comedy: Oreimo
And over at the far, far, far end of the spectrum, my least favorite anime comedy is absolutely OreImo. One of the main things I look for in comedies is characters I can care about - people I feel fondness for, even as they're provoking or suffering through ridiculous comic lunacy. While OreImo's actual comedy is boilerplate nonsense I wouldn't enjoy anyway (pratfalls, simple sexcapades, references to other anime, basic manzai), its most fundamental problem is that heroine Kirino may be the least likable anime character I've ever witnessed. A massive amount of OreImo's appeal rests on “oh that incorrigible Kirino,” an assumption that even as she's throwing tantrums and being selfish and generally acting like a beast in the shape of a person, we in the audience will still forgive her. OreImo mostly just made me want kill Kirino, making it my least favorite anime comedy of all time.
Best Comedy: Gintama
Anyone who's followed my reviews and write-ups on this site should not be surprised that Gintama is my favorite comedic anime. Comedy is one of my favorite anime genres and Gintama is head and shoulders above the rest—in my opinion. Set during the Meiji era, Gintama showcases a Japan where aliens landed in the 19th century, mingling with the populace and paving the way for advanced technology such as TV and computers (as well as, strangely, modern Japanese celebrities). The central characters are the Odd Jobs Trio: Gintoki, Shinpachi, and Kagura, although comedic versions of historical characters such as the Shinsengumi also help round out the very large cast.
This revisionist history series had a devoted fanbase, although admittedly, it's not to everyone's tastes. It's heavy on the manzai comedy with most of the characters taking on both the boke and the tsukkomi roles at one point or another, although some are more suited to one than the other. (Shinpachi is the king of all tsukkomi.) There's also no avoiding the copious potty humor, which isn't usually my thing. Somehow, though, between the toilet humor's clash against the bishonen/bishojo character designs and the frenetic energy of the stories, even these gags almost always make me laugh. With over three hundred episodes, the jokes somehow never get old—and they're almost always original. There are running gags (such as Katsura's insistence on correcting anyone who fails to call him by his name), but they're usually presented in a new, hilarious way each time. The vast majority of the characters are self-centered, although that's not to say they don't have each other's backs when it counts the most. Still, the absurd lengths these characters will go to serve their own interests is often the impetus for the humor. I'd say in comparison to other “selfish jerk” anime, though, that the Gintama characters are for the most part less cruel to each other and simply more self-focused—with a few glaring exceptions. (Sougo in particular.) In a series that's not very continuity-heavy (at least until more recent episodes), new and long-time viewers alike can pick a random episode and more often than not be treated to a complete comedic story or two that lifts your mood instantly.
Worst Comedy: Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo
Since I'm such a fan of Gintama, I don't know why Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo never clicked with me, but I've given it a couple of chances and I just can't bring myself to watch any more. It's so crazy and that's supposed to be the appeal, but it's so out there as to constantly lose me. I can't even offer a summary. I barely understand it. Like Gintama, it's also manzai-reliant, but because I have no love for the bizarrely-designed characters, it just doesn't make me laugh. Like Gintama, it relies on potty humor (or gross-out humor in general, as Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo having magic nose hair would likely indicate), but with only two humanoid characters (that I know of) in those early episodes, it's just hard for me to get over the ick factor to see the humor. To be fair, I've hardly given this series a fair shake, but I think of it sort of like something Gintama-esque times a hundred. It just overloads with its zaniness early on and you have to really enjoy that kind of humor to see it through.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, comedy is “any literary composition or entertainment which portrays amusing characters or incidents and is intended to elicit laughter,” which is pretty darn broad as far as definitions go. That's probably why what gets grouped under “comedy” varies so widely - we all find different things funny, and what makes you laugh might not work for me. As far as my sense of humor goes, few things tickle me quite as much as absurdity, especially when a show or story can point it out in everyday life.
Best Comedy: Daily Lives of High School Boys
I really had a difficult time deciding on just one best or favorite comedy – Ixion Saga DT and Dragon Half were definite contenders on the “sheer absurdity” level, and I still love Akazukin Chacha, but ultimately I decided that my current favorite comedy anime is The Daily Lives of High School Boys. The 2012 Square Enix/Sunrise collaboration just hits all the right notes – from the metafictional opening when the eponymous boys wonder what their show will be like based on the studios to the recurring encounters with the mysterious Girl in the Wind, there's just a wonderful sense of the absurd throughout the entire show that is nonetheless grounded in what it's like to be a teenager. (I admit to having vague concerns that I might have been a Girl in the Wind.) To top this all off, the actual presentation is wonderful, especially Tomokazu Sugita's Hidenori. From his elaborate pronunciation of the name “Jack” to the three minutes he just spends screaming “NOOOO” in his head with a suave expression on his face, Hidenori is the perfect example of a character who is both very real and totally bizarre, which is kind of a good way to sum up this show: it disguises the reality of everyday life in its absurdity, and part of the fun is remembering when you or one of your friends did something just like the characters. I rewatch this show, or at least favorite episodes, whenever I need a good laugh, because it always delivers.
Worst Comedy: Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan
On the flip side, the one thing that I never, ever find funny is cruel humor. Not just ribbing a character, as happens to forgotten protagonist Tadakuni or not-totally-heroic Dick Saucer, but actual meanness intended for laughs. While summer 2017's Aho-Girl is a good example, probably the least funny show for me is Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. While the premise, that a pervert must be taken out before he invents something that turns all women into immortal lolis, has promise as a parody of DNA2, the heavy reliance on both the trope of any slight offense meriting ludicrous physical punishment and the high gore factor just killed this for me. Dokuro's excesses began to feel actively mean rather than entertaining. I feel the same way about Love Hina, where any small infraction, even an unintentional one, is punished with excessive force, or pretty much any show where sexual predation is played for laughs. (Garo: Crimson Moon’s fifteenth episode is a prime offender there.) But Dokuro-chan stands out as the one I couldn't even get through – its combination of cruelty and gore just turned my stomach. I'll take Hidenori roleplaying or Damaramu and his very compact brain any day over Dokuro's brand of humor.
Best Comedy: Polar Bear's Café
Not only did Polar Bear's Café's realistic (in anime terms) designs of its two- and four-legged characters allow for a lot of visual comedy just by existing side by side in a mundane-but-better human world, the series remarkable display of self-restraint – and patience – in building up its jokes created some unexpectedly hilarious payoffs in an otherwise very relaxed environment. Somewhere between whimsical and deadpan, the series delivered puns which, in their absurdity, resonated with my own sense of humor a lot better than many more outwardly funny comedies. Most importantly, even the show's more capricious and selfish characters (whose petulance and selfishness were the origin of many a chuckle just as they would be in every sitcom) had a certain truthfulness about them that prevented jokes at someone else's expense from getting truly mean and off-putting (a reason for my longstanding wariness of most things labeled comedy). Its endearing blend of heart, soul and subdued wit made the titular cafe my happy place to return to after some particularly hard days at work. It was warm fuzzies, heartwarming giggles and occasional bursts of neighbor-waking laughter all around, for as long as it lasted, which – at 50 episodes – was at least another 50 episodes too short.
Worst Comedy: Nobunaga The Fool
Comedy is said to be subjective, possibly more so than other genres of dramatic works. To be successful, it also requires some pretty refined skills. Perfect timing is of crucial importance to earn a laugh, where, in many cases, all it takes to tickle a tear out of people is reuniting the fictional boy with his fictional dog. Comedy isn't a genre I actively seek out. While I can laugh myself to tears about the world's (and my own) stupidity, few works of fiction promoted under the umbrella of comedy cause me to feel anything beyond mild amusement. For the most part, I'm somewhere between cringing in second-hand embarrassment and utter indifference. Self-deprecation makes me feel uncomfortable, and it's beyond my understanding why I should care about characters constantly trying to take advantage of each other. Sadly, both make up a big chunk of modern comedy.
Picking Nobunaga The Fool as my personal worst puts me in a position where I'm bound to be unfair. The show didn't do anything wrong in particular to deserve this honor. It just happens to be the only one on my will-not-finish list featuring (surprisingly) "comedy" as a genre tag. Given that I'll drop even movies halfway through if I stop being invested, that's saying a lot about the number of comedy anime I actually decided to check out. What I did watch of this historical mecha-samurai-sci-fi hybrid was neither flamboyant enough to spark fascination, nor insufferable enough to justify hate-watching, and as the latter is kinda built on the enjoyment of second-hand embarrassment, there was simply no reason to come back to Nobunaga The Fool besides the stellar cast, the only reason I lasted as long as I did (probably around the all-important first three episodes).
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