The Fall 2017 Anime Preview Guide
Himouto! Umaru-chan R
How would you rate episode 1 of
Himōto! Umaru-chan R ?
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How was the first episode?
The first season of Himouto! Umaru-chan was easy to respect but hard to love. The show was well-animated and featured a cast of cute and likable characters, but Umaru's selfish little troll persona (referred to as Komaru) proved very hard to love for me. Even though I understood the gag of “The most popular and beautiful girl in school is secretly The Absolute Worst”, I simply couldn't find much humor in a protagonist whose defining traits were her selfishness, manipulations, and general inability to empathize with her long-suffering brother. Thankfully, as the first season came to a close, Umaru did show signs of developing into a more rounded character, and this second season seems to be taking that direction and running with it. Over the course of Himouto! Umaru-chan R's first episode, I went from being ambivalent about the series to being surprisingly grateful to have these characters back.
The key to this change in perception is absolutely the show's handling of Umaru as a character. Umaru is still very much the same girl, who changes between distinct modes depending on her priorities, but the shifts between different facets of Umaru feel less two-faced and more like a girl who has a complex personality now. Her Komaru persona is as loud and crass as ever, but she's at least aware of the lessons her brother is trying to teach her, and she seems to own her trashiness more than she did in season one. The gamer-geek UMR persona has a friendship with the competitive Sylphyn that's genuinely heartwarming, highlighting how Umaru can use the different sides of herself to be a good friend in her own right. The fact that Komaru only shows up for the first few minutes of the episode is proof that the show is willing to push Umaru outside of her comfort zone, which results in the small but transformative change of Umaru being less hateable and more relatable.
Also, Himouto! Umaru-chan R just works as a funny and cute slice-of-life comedy. Not every vignette is a laugh-out-loud winner, but this episode is never anything less than gently charming, and the extended soccer match that forms the episode's centerpiece is one of the best segments in either season. The ridiculous meta-commentary from the hyperactive announcer had me consistently laughing, and all of Umaru's friends get their time to shine too. The boob joke (you'll know it when you see it) should have fallen flat, but it ended up being both the stupidest and funniest gag of the episode.
So count me among the converted. Maybe it's my mood or maybe it's the fact that Himouto! Umaru-chan R is shaping up to be better than its predecessor, but I really enjoyed this episode either way. Umaru may never quite change her ways, but the show is making strides to at least make her nature as a duplicitous trash-monster endearing instead of obnoxious. I never thought I'd say this, but count me on board for whatever Umaru-chan is set to serve up next.
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