The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
Teppen—!!!! Laughing 'til you Cry
How would you rate episode 1 of
Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing 'til you Cry ?
Community score: 3.1
What is this?
Yayoi Sakamoto is a diehard fan of comedians and comedy acts, enrolls in the private Kazuki High School in Nanba (Osaka's entertainment district famous as the starting point for many comedians). She reunites with Yomogi Takahashi, a childhood friend who once formed the comedy duo "Konamonzu" with her when they were little. Before long, they find themselves putting together a routine at a park like they did before, in order to enter a local shopping area's contest. At that moment, a mysterious girl calls out to them.
Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing 'til you Cry is based on artist Namamugi and story developer Inujun's manga (which is itself based on Seiyū San-Shimai Team Y, a unit formed by voice actresses Mikoi Sasaki, Aimi, and Ayasa Itō) and streams on Crunchyroll on Fridays.
How was the first episode?
Manzai is basically a traditional form of Japanese stand-up comedy. It usually consists of a straight man/funny man duo, with the funny man telling a story to the straight man and the straight man reacting to it with a mixture of anger and incredulity. In the modern day, most manzai teams have some kind of special routine that sets them apart from other teams. (One I used to personally enjoy had the funny man giving a report on a famous person only to mispronounce a few words, warping the truth in hilarious ways. Meanwhile the straight man was constantly talking over the funny man, giving a running stream of corrections.) Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, however, does away with pairs in favor of a manzai trio with a straight man, funny man, and peacemaker (who tries to keep the straight man from exploding in frustration).
However, the fundamental issue with Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! is that it's a half-hour anime when most manzai routines that you see on Japanese TV only last for two or three minutes before moving on to the next group (or at least the next story). Though we do get some short stories introducing the other manzai teams, the majority of the episode is spent following Young Wai-Wai and the mystery of the broken statue.
While it's interesting to see manzai stories animated like this, there's not much here beyond that novelty. Young Wai-Wai's plight is basically a sitcom plot that has been recycled again and again since I Love Lucy was on the air. It makes for a relatively boring episode, and I imagine the show will get even more so as the novelty of animated manzai wears off completely in subsequent episodes. All in all, this show looks to be a fun little experiment, but maybe one that should have been done as a short-form anime and not a full-length one.
Here's a shocker you've never heard before: I'm somebody from the US who doesn't get manzai comedy. I know, I'm very brave to admit it. I recognize why it's so prevalent in anime as a piece of Japanese culture, with a lengthy history as involved as the kinds of comedy I'm used to, but there's something in the cadence of most manzai routines that just doesn't click with me. Suffice to say, a show entirely built around manzai comedy was going to be a hard sell, and I wasn't looking forward to it. But after this first episode I'll give Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! its due: its title has 14 more exclamation points than Maesatsu! and two more funny jokes than that show's premiere (which is to say a grand total of two).
Seriously, two whole punchlines got a modest chuckle out of me – the one about one of the girls being an alien, and the one where the rich girl built a castle onto the side of her dorm room. Everything else? Death. 20 minutes of brightly-colored anime girls screeching punchlines and then screeching to explain those punchlines. The sheer wordiness of it all really makes the whole thing more excruciating. Manzai, as I understand it, is usually written for the fact that it's almost entirely dialogue of two (or three, in this case) people on a stage, crafting a skit with very little in the way of set dressing or props. But this is an anime, so we're seeing these wacky scenarios play out visually, but the writing still has the characters explain and comment on everything as it's happening, which turns theoretically funny gags into a slog to even get through. Especially when that dynamic is spread across five different trios who each have a single defining gimmick (The Country Hicks, The Rich Ones, The Main Characters, The Dumb Ones, The Aliens) who all get introduced in this premiere.
But what really killed this premiere for me was the soundtrack. Don't get me wrong, there are some fun and upbeat tracks throughout this premiere, but they're used to constantly underscore overly long, unfunny scenes. It feels like a desperate comedian mugging at the audience and shouting their jokes louder in the hopes that it will get some laughs from the audience, and it became absolutely exhausting by the time credits rolled. Combined with introducing 15 stock characters with a single gimmick apiece, and you have the most effective way to experience time dilation that doesn't require taking hallucinogens.
Where this show about manzai comedy succeeds against its genre brethren is in the fact that it doesn't spend its runtime tediously showing how the groups were established or painstakingly going over their material. Instead it makes an attempt to be an actual comedy about comedy, which is much harder than it sounds. That's not just because humor is in itself very subjective, but also because there's often nothing particularly entertaining about the process of creating it; it's a lot of trial and error and accounting for both tastes and what you can get away with. So this show's first episode (I refuse to type out all those exclamation marks) instead tries to use the CGDCT formula with a dose of the ridiculous, and while I didn't love it, I definitely feel like it works better than virtually every other show in the manzai genre that I've seen.
In part this is because the girls we focus on this time, Yuzu, Yayoi, and Yomogi of the group Young Wai- Wai (one of five groups, which frankly worries me because that is a lot of characters), don't come off as anything more than good-hearted goofs. They are invested in their comedy routines and winning the Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Grand Prix, but rather than seeing them laboriously craft a strategy, we instead see how they turn a mishap into an ever-escalating story of mishaps and misfortunes, with their actual routine bookending the action. It's not perfect because it's also being used to clumsily introduce the other four hopeful groups and their too-familiar quirks, but there's an enjoyable mystery spoof aspect to the whole thing that works better than it might have. Plus the mockery of the manager's bodybuilding trophy that the girls create in an effort to disguise the fact that it lost its head is pretty great.
There are definitely some pacing issues, and at this early stage of the season I'm already wondering if we need to have a talk about how to properly end episodes (we needed the statuette's head bouncing on a drum as much as we needed the izakaya scene in Phantom of the Idol), but I think this is a bit more promising than not. I didn't love it, nor did I laugh (which I think may be an issue for a comedy about comedy), but it still has my tepid recommendation as at least the best of a genre that historically hasn't been great.
My first impression of Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! was, “That is too many exclamation points, I will simply never learn to count them all,” because I was a humanities major and, as my friends in STEM like to tell me, I never learned what numbers are. (It's okay, they won't know I'm talking about them because they never learned to read.) Then I learned there were 15, because the show features 15 young manzai hopefuls living in a dorm, and I thought, “That is simply too many girls.”
And it's true, 15 is a lot of girls, but at the very least, they've been conveniently sorted into five groups of three, each with their own gimmick. They're introduced as their building manager, a stock bodybuilder type, goes from room to room to clean their air conditioning units. And since this is manzai comedy, underneath the gimmicks like narcissism and natto, they all fall into the basic roles and patter of the boke and tsukkomi. Normally this is where I explain that comedy is culturally-informed and manzai is one of the forms that tend to be harder for foreign audiences to get into, except…
Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! is pretty funny. Not a wild, laugh-a-minute riot, because some of the routines in the episode are pretty tedious, but a good number of the jokes land regardless of cultural context. The gags come flying fast and thick, so perhaps it's a question of volume more than anything, but they don't 100% rely on any one style, dipping into physical and situational comedy – my biggest laugh came from Yomogi's little sisters playing house with a Barbie and a Transformer – with the glossy, detailed character animation to pull it off. There's some squash and stretch to how the characters move, with exaggerated movements to emphasize the written humor.
Plus, the OP is a certified banger and an early contender for best of the season. Instead of the expected route of an idol-style number with all the girls singing in a chorus, it's an energetic number where the bokes take turns rapping about their gimmicks. So even if you decide to skip over Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, check out the opening. It's a good time.
Aside from things like propaganda and literal hate speech, I don't know if there is any media that is more painful than bad comedy. I'm sure we've all had the experience of a friend eagerly sitting us down to show us his favorite YouTube sketch or stand-up special. His eyes lock on to your face with horrifyingly earnest expectation as the jokes go on and on, and you can literally see the joy get drained from his face every time you match one of his belly-laughs with stony silence or, worse, an awkward pity chuckle. Minutes feel like hours. The both of you sit there, not knowing how to gracefully bow out of the situation without hurting the other's feelings, helpless to the savage butchery that occurs every time one of the hack comedian's terrible jokes obliterates a fun memory or moment of genuine love from the timeline of your relationship. All you can do is simply reckon with the truth that nothing will ever be the same between you, and that you should likely never acknowledge one other again.
In other news, Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! is not very good. It certainly does not earn the “Laugh Until You Cry” half of its title, I'll tell you what. It's a comedy about teenage comedians in a manzai competition, which means it is twenty-two straight minutes of non-stop banter and monologues that bounce around between approximately forty named characters, and I'd wager that maybe one or two out of every hundred of those jokes even exists within the same general zip code as “funny”. I liked the visual gag of the abominable chimera-thing that our main trio made in an attempt to fix their manager's busted statue, and…hm…God, I could have sworn there was at least one other thing, but all of the notes I took are just repetitions of the phrase “All jokes and no laughs make James a dull boy.” Like, pages and pages of it. If I don't even remember writing that…
Er, anyways, it is important to note that the phrase “comedy is subjective” is never more relevant than when you're dealing with material from another culture that is being translated from a completely different language. I do not envy the jobs of the translators who have to tackle the incredibly dense and pun-filled tomes that the Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! scripts must be. That said, the manzai formula is incredibly hit-and-miss for me, chiefly because so much of that formula simply consists of the following: “Person A: I AM GOING TO SAY AND/OR DO SOMETHING INCREDIBLY BIZARRE AND INAPPROPRIATE TO OUR CURRENT SITUATION, AND YOU BET YOUR ASS I'M GOING TO SCREAM ALL THE WAY THROUGH Person B: I can't believe you are saying and/or doing this thing that is incredibly bizarre and inappropriate to our current situation. That's not how you should go about doing things.”
Explaining the joke like this isn't always an immediate death blow to a bit's humor quotient, but it sure doesn't help. For instance, there's a gag in Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! where a girl casually asks to scrape an inch of skin off of the bald manager guy's scalp to preserve some gold flakes. This, in and of itself, would be a perfectly acceptable non-sequitur. It immediately falls flat, though, when the bald manager guy follows up with “I can't believe you said something so weird with such a straight face.”
In any case, while there are probably fans in Japan as well as all over the world who can really dig what Teppen—!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! is going for, I am not one of them. It isn't funny, the art is too inconsistent to sell the jokes half the time, and it made a half-hour feel like a whole afternoon. Hard pass.
discuss this in the forum (216 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history