The Spring 2020 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Kakushigoto has no business being as good as it is, given the premise: A single dad who draws crude, adult-oriented manga for a living has made it his life's mission to prevent his daughter from ever learning the truth about his career. Thankfully, the story seems to avoid the skeevier elements that could have very easily cropped up based on this premise, but the crew at Ajia-do Animation Works also elevates what could have been a simple episodic farce into something more special by producing the ever-loving bejeezus out of this thing. We're talking lush, almost painterly colors; dynamic and kinetic shot composition; snappy editing — when it comes to energy and fun, Kakushigoto has got it in spades.
I wasn't sure whether the show would entirely win me over as I watched this premiere, though. High-concept comedies are tricky, because it is very subjective whether or not the silly hooks that anchor the show work for any given viewer. The titular Kakushi Goto is the kind of incredibly extra dork of a dad that I usually find endearing, but his antics didn't always land for me. Pretty much every person in his life openly acknowledges how silly and self-defeating his obsession with preserving his daughter's innocence concerning his dirty manga is, but I still found myself becoming a little exhausted with his thick-headedness. There's a whole bit where Kakushi is trying to figure out how to become a “mango” (a play on “bungo”, the Japanese term for “legendary author”), but the punchline is obvious from a mile away: How can he expect to become a nationally renowned author without his daughter figuring it out eventually? It's not even a bad shtick for the show to run with; I'm just not sure Kakushigoto could sustain an entire series' worth of half-hour episodes if the one joke is Kakushi running around like an idiot to keep his kid from seeing his name on a book cover, or whatever.
The other element of the premiere's plot helped balance the whole show out for me, though, when we spend more time with Hime Goto and her group of precocious friends, who have formed a mystery solving club for their neighborhood, you know, as kids do. Naturally, the girls' investigation winds up crossing paths with Kakushi while he's decked out in his bummy manga-drawing attire, which leads to a chase through a neighborhood and into Totally Not a Starbucks. I liked Kakushi's antics more when his very normal and straightforward daughter and her goofy friends were there to balance him out, not to mention that I'm always a sucker for the old “kids playing pretend misunderstand an otherwise totally normal situation” bit. For all of the episode's gags, I laughed the hardest when Hime kept trying to convince her pals that the evil witch's den they were trapped in really was just a Starbucks.
So, consider Kakushigoto a winner in my book. It may not have grabbed with a hundred percent with its comedy, but that's how it goes for virtually any work of art that's trying to elicit a chuckle or two. Besides, it's damned gorgeous to look at, and it's overflowing with visual energy that makes even the tepid gags whizz by. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Kakushi and Hime's misadventures as the spring continues.
Nearly every premiere week has its own “at last, some good *censored* food” moment, and this spring, I'm happy to report it's arrived only four premieres into the season. After weathering through a variety of passable but not terribly exciting productions, we've at last arrived at a show defined more by its strengths than its weaknesses, with a genuinely strong script and aesthetic. Kakushigoto, I am happy to offer you my first unconditional recommendation of the season.
Kakushigoto is an adaptation of a manga by Kōji Kumeta, the author of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei and Joshiraku. If you've any experience with any of his works, you likely know that's a good sign - Kumeta is an adept and flexible writer, one who specializes in comedy, but whose general knack for character voice means all of his stories are full of silly, interesting, and sympathetic characters. Centered on a man who writes dirty manga for a living and the daughter he's desperate to hide his secret from, Kakushigoto's first episode is absolutely brimming with fun, inventive gags - and more than that, its cast already feel multifaceted and well worth rooting for. Kakushigoto combines the farcical appeal of something like Zetsubou-sensei with a lot of charming father-daughter material, as well as appealing, convincing banter between its many cast members. Kumeta is an ensemble specialist, and by expanding his scope from outright farce into more realistic and character-based material, Kakushigoto is able to consistently come off as not just funny, but also world-weary, relatable, and occasionally heartwarming.
Kumeta's distinctive character designs fit naturally into Kakushigoto's generally beautiful production, inviting us to a world full of rich colors and inviting backgrounds. The dynamic direction greatly enhances both the show's overt jokes and also its more slice-of-life oriented material, creating a strong sense of atmosphere, and drawing us closer to the day-to-day realities of its cast. Backgrounds are meticulously constructed out of simplified shapes and block colors, all of which add up to just-slightly-fantastical and consistently gorgeous sets just waiting to be explored. It's nice simply to watch a show where every storyboarding decision seems genuinely purposeful; Kumeta's designs feel perfectly at home within this show's world, and I can only hope the show maintains its visual appeal.
Combining consistently inventive jokes with an engaging cast, strong emotional core, and altogether beautiful production, Kakushigoto stands as the first highlight of the spring season, and a show I'd recommend everyone at least give a shot.
Although the name of this series would appear at first to just be a combination of the names of one of the two main characters, Funimation's subtitles in an early scene (thankfully) clarify that it is also a double-wordplay on Japanese phrasing for “secret” (Kakushigoto) and Kakushi working as an artist (kakushi-goto). That kind of wordplay looks like it's going to be a regular feature of this series, as that is far from the last time in the episode that puns and jokes are based on the particulars of Japanese slang, some of which is made up for this series and/or may not be widely-known by non-Japanese otaku. That could ultimately prove a barriers to Westerners fully appreciating the series.
The other major concern up front is how thin the founding premise is. This is a comedy series centered around one essential joke: that Kakushi is frantic to keep his daughter from learning about his true profession, in large part because he thinks she'll reject him over it. (His imagining of how she rejects him is one of the episode's funnier moments.) The episode starts with Hime turning 18 and thus getting the key to her father's storehouse without knowing what it contains; whether her father is still in the picture or not at that point is unclear. Most of the episode, however, is a flashback focusing on Kakushi as he deals with Hime's birth and some incidents during her childhood where he has to insist that people don't tell her the truth. These scenes also focus some on Hime and friends putting together a detective agency to learn the truth about the unnamed individual who rescued a cat (Kakushi, actually) and the way they misinterpret warnings about snobbish people living in a neighborhood up a hill.
All of this results in a first episode which has plenty of opportunities for humor. Ten volumes of the source manga have been published since 2015, so original manga-ka Kōji Kumeta must have figured out how to handle the sustainability issue, and he does have a proven track record with previous comedy titles like Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei and Joshiraku. The introduction of an editor, a transgender shop owner friend, Kakushi's four assistants, and some wildly imaginative friends, and a teacher who knows Kakaushi's secret, all provide further avenues for potential humor. Not explained is why Hime's mother isn't present, so there could be room for some drama, but the style in both writing and relatively simple visuals does not suggest that there will ever be much for serious content.
I wasn't a fan of the previous anime titles based on Kumeta's work, nor do I have a high tolerance for wordplay that doesn't translate well, so this one doesn't work too well for me. If either of those conditions doesn't apply to you then you might find this to be much more to your liking.
The wordplay is strong with this one – not only is one of the two protagonists of Kakushigoto named Kakushi Goto, but his work (shigoto) is drawing (kaku), AND the word “Kakushigoto” can mean “secret” – as can his daughter's name, Hime Goto. Funimation's subtitles do their level best to keep up with all of this, but if you're a slower reader, have the pause button handy for these and a few other translatable moments in an episode that basically comes with liner notes. That may make reading the manga (which is currently being released in English by Kodansha) more appealing for some people, and I can't say that I would blame them.
Besides this decidedly cultural aspect of the episode, Kakushigoto is setting up to be decently fun. The base plot of a single dad trying to hide his career as an ecchi mangaka from his young daughter has plenty of possibilities, especially since he goes to some fairly extreme lengths to keep his secret. His friend isn't kidding when he refers to Kakushi as Clark Kent – the man leaves the house in a suit, changes in his buddy's clothing store into shorts and a T-shirt, and then puts the suit back on when he goes home so that Hime thinks he works in an office. He's even got her teacher telling the class not to allow the students to ask questions about what other kids' parents do for work in an effort to keep Hime in the dark about his real job. This leads to some amusing situations, naturally, with his new editor's visit to the house wearing a promotional T-shirt for Kakushi's manga resulting in the editor being forced into contortions to hide the image.
Of course, the silliest piece of all of this is that Hime is really too young to even understand what kind of manga Kakushi draws even if she did know his real occupation. We get this from the fact that she was sitting there talking to the editor for quite some time before her dad got home and didn't notice the shirt, but also in some truly good moments where Hime and her friends are just acting like little kids and running around pretending to be detectives. There's some truth to the show's statement that all kids at some point decide to form a detective agency (or to be spies if they read Harriet the Spy first), and Hime being the pragmatic member of the group while they all believe that Starbucks orders are spells is pretty great.
As an added bonus for those of us scarred by the Bunny Drop manga, this really is just a father/daughter comedy. It's clear that Kakushi adores his daughter (and has from the moment she was born), and Hime loves her dad just as much. The sort of leggy-bendy character designs take some getting used to (more so than the story's pacing, really), but the backgrounds are really beautiful, and it looks like a golden retriever is going to be added into the mix. If it keeps on in this vein, it could be a winner.
discuss this in the forum (148 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history