The Winter 2018 Anime Preview Guide
How To Keep A Mummy
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How to keep a mummy ?
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“Mummies” and “cute” are two things that would not normally ever be found together. That being said, the first episode of this new comedy series goes all-out to prove that it is indeed possible to make a mummy adorable. I have to give it at least a decent grade just out of respect for that if nothing else.
And really, the series is so good at selling this point that little else actually matters in terms of giving a recommendation. Sure, there's some distinct comedy bits threaded through the episode, but for the most part this isn't laugh-out-loud humor. Rather, it's the kind of perpetual amusement level that chugs along without delivering any intense gags, whether it's the delivery girl toting a full-sized coffin, the flippant dad, or the way the mummy bloats up after its time in the bath. Instead, the episode concentrates much more on just making Mii-kun appealing. This is clear from the moment it first starts to cry, but just about everything else it does has that puppy-dog draw, whether it's the way it drinks, the way it eats, the way it crawls up the protagonist's back, the way it snuggles with the dog, or even something as simple as the way it shivers when frightened or concerned. Clearly it understands human speech and has a certain amount of intelligence, and while it doesn't talk, its emphatically wordless responses are also cute-bait. I fully expect to see key chains with Mii-kun in Japanese stores at some point in the near future.
So far we've only been introduced to Sora, his friend Tazuki, and Sora's mother, who appears to be either a writer or a programmer and spends most of her time holed up in her room working. Two other friends are shown prominently in the opener and closer, which both indicate that other pint-sized critters will eventually show up too. The others don't look even remotely Egyptian, so I'm a little curious to see how they fit into this world. And while I'm curious about what's under those wrappings, I don't think it matters. This is not a story that's going to be predicated on a deep plot, after all.
The technical merits courtesy of 8-Bit are decent enough for what the series does, so chalk this one up as a worthwhile watch if you need a cute break this season.
OH MY GOD...
Look, there's a lot of competition for the cutest show this season. From School Babysitters to A Place Further Than the Universe, there's gonna be something that tickles your squee-gland this winter, but if you're looking for pure weapons-grade adorable straight to the jugular, nothing has topped How to keep a mummy in that department. Despite my best efforts to keep my composure, this episode had me making unintelligible noises out loud at the screen every few minutes. It was truly embarrassing. It was so unbelievably cute that it almost made me cry. I didn't even think my tear glands were working anymore, that's how little I cry. This tiny mummy is lethal to nurturing instincts I never knew I possessed. I want to protect his smile, and he doesn't even have a smile. I would explain why in better detail, but I just don't want to spoil any of the episode's great moments, so go watch it right now if you want pure sugar injected right into your veins.
Granted, extreme cuteness is pretty much all the show has going for it right now, with little plot, character development, or interesting production work to speak of, but that's still a powerful appeal you can't underestimate when it's this potent. I sincerely hope this is the first entry in a "monster pet" genre to rival the monster girl genre we've been enjoying over the past few years. For those who want the weird taxonomy and cuteness of monsters without the fanservice, it seems like it could be a real hit trend! I'll take them both, of course, because I just love monsters of all kinds and I always will. It's also what keeps me from having reservations about the show's full-length longevity, because Mii-kun isn't the only pet monster we're going to meet in the series! There's also an oni, a (probably European-style) dragon, and a baku spirit, and they're all pint-sized. Man, I would kill for a pocket-sized baku spirit of my very own. This little slice of sweetness is definitely going to be my guilty pleasure of the winter season, and if tiny monsters are on brand for you, you'll probably love it too.
Like this season's earlier Karakai Jōzu no Takagi-san, How to keep a mummy is a little too bare-bones for its full-length runtime, and it likely would have worked just as effectively as an 8-to-15-minute short. The anime's main selling point is its titular monster's cuteness and how its limited expressions and small stature get it into adorable scenarios. It's a pleasant way to close out a work week, but there's not much to chew on in any area from artistry to thematics. This is a shut your brain off and absorb the sweetness kind of show.
In that regard, it excels. Mii-kun has the same kind of appeal of Hello Kitty, being kind of blobbish with large eyes, a round body, and no visible mouth. He does have one though, since he can both eat, drink, and even bark; it just isn't discernible from the rest of his face. The rest of his appeal is akin to a toddler attempting to imitate adults but failing because they're actually tiny, bobble-headed humans. Mii-kun slips, slides, and stumbles his way throughout the house in that clumsy and cute sort of way. His misgivings while he tries to be helpful will illicit some chuckles or maybe an uncontrollable exclamation because he's just so gosh darn cute.
That's the vein this show is attempting to tap into. If you're one of those people who enjoys footage of zoo animals romping around and baby ducks splashing around in the water, this is about 25 minutes of that in animation, but the duck is a mummy. You can't really knock it for being so unapologetically pure and good-natured. It doesn't make for a particularly compelling viewing experience, but if your job is pretty stressful and you just need to wind down with something optimistic? How to keep a mummy is a good enough place to start.
It's like a cute kitten show – but with a mummy!
Seriously, How to keep a mummy has no business being as charming as it is. The premise that Sora's dad travels the world and sends him home dangerous souvenirs until the day he ships him a teeny tiny Egyptian mummy in an oddly Christian coffin. The mummy, named Mii-kun, unlike most of the other gifts, doesn't want to kill Sora – he just wants to be loved. He honestly reminds me of the kitten I found in a flowerpot last year, willing to do anything he can in order to fit in and be one of the family. Since there's a little more doubt for Mii-kun than there was for my kitten, (I wasn't putting him back in that flowerpot!) that somehow makes it doubly adorable when Mii-kun tries to bark because he sees the dog doing it for attention or tries desperately to eat a despised slice of cucumber so he looks like a good boy. Needless to say, Sora's quickly enamored of the little guy, just like the audience.
Of course, if you know anything about ancient Egypt, there are a few barriers to overcome, such as what on earth Mii-kun was before he was mummified or how he eats when typically all of his organs would have been removed during the process. That Sora's dad was able to get the mummy out of Egypt also raises some questions. But all of that (or at least most of it) is easily swept aside by how nicely this episode generally works. Mii-kun's movements are akin to those of a toddler, with a slight wobble to his walk, and the little vocalizations he makes are appropriately cute, especially his little effort noises when he opens the coffin. Of course, most of the speaking has to come from Sora, at least until the end of the episode when we meet his somewhat suspicious friend Tazuki, and it's to the episode's credit that Sora's constant dialogue doesn't sound like over-detailed narration. Yes, it can get a little grating as he voices his every thought, but it also feels believably like someone who's by himself most of the time – there's a tendency to talk to yourself or to whatever pet is in the room at the moment.
Future episodes of How to keep a mummy look like they'll introduce a dragon, an oni, and a dream eater along with more of Sora's friends, so this could be a fun little supernatural pet program going forward. I do hope that there's a bit more context provided for some of the monsters viewers may be less familiar with, since this week just dropped a mention of yamambas in with zero context, which could make the show less inviting for some viewers. (A yamamba is a mountain witch who eats humans, for the record, and the show may also be referencing Minako Oba's story “The Smile of the Mountain Witch,” about how some must have liked humans for something other than lunch.) Even if they don't, if you prefer your cute shows to be about creatures rather than girls or babies, this is definitely one to check out.
How to keep a mummy is a resoundingly pleasant show. It's not bad and it's not exceptional, but it is very likable pretty much from start to finish. It might be a little tricky for the show to stand out in such a slice of life-happy season, but pleasant certainly isn't a bad thing to be. The world could always use more comfy things.
The show's appeal seems to be a very specific and yet surprisingly robust one: “keeping a tiny mummy as a pet would be pretty adorable, wouldn't it?” I didn't go into this show expecting to be sold on its tiny title character Mii-kun, but watching the young Sora's new quasi-pet, quasi-sibling attempt to be useful around the house quickly warmed my heart. This episode is full of enormously, unabashedly cutesy moments like that, where things like simply trying to get a cup of water that Mii-kun won't fall into drive adorable new setpieces. Even Mii-kun's base movements seem designed to evoke an unstoppable “aww,” as he waddles around on little twig legs and curls up in Sora's hoodie and collapses under the mighty weight of exactly one carrot.
While How to keep a mummy's greatest strength is clearly the charm of its big conceit, its greatest weakness is everything else. The show's production values are pretty mediocre, with little animation to speak of, not much expressive acting at all, and largely flavorless background art. The actual comedy is a lot less effective than the pure adorableness, and often fairly obvious or simplistic. And this episode's pacing felt pretty drawn out in general, with sequences like the minute-long cold open of Sora simply cleaning the house never really justifying themselves.
Still, How to keep a mummy does succeed in its main goal—it is cute as heck and kept me smiling pretty much from the moment Mii-kun appeared. Whether that appeal is enough to carry the show once the plot starts thickening is still an open question, but for now, How to keep a mummy is just too cute to stay mad at.
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