Himōto! Umaru-chan R
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Himōto! Umaru-chan R ?
Of all the great stories to come out of anime in 2017, few have been as pleasantly surprising as the amazing turnover in quality of the Himouto! Umaru-chan franchise. Even in this final episode, the series once again shows just how far it has come in this second season. This week, Himouto! Umaru-chan R again proves that the key to its particular brand of comedy is balance. The series can still have its proud slob of a heroine going out of her way to be as lazy as possible, but the only way for the show to work in the long run is if the audience feels comfortable rooting for her character. The supporting cast has pushed and challenge Umaru to be more aware of the others in her life that she holds so dear, and there's no better occasion to spur on those emotions than Christmas. This final episode uses the spirit of the holidays to show how Umaru has grown and changed from the insufferable little gremlin she started as two years ago.
From the beginning, Umaru and Taihei's back-and-forth has been a focal point of this series' humor, and the vignettes in this finale offer some sweet examples of how Umaru has learned to take her brother's wisdom to heart in even her most pizza-starved of moods. The vignette of Umaru helping Taihei and his friends make okonomiyaki doesn't have much emotional impact, but it definitely serves up heaping helpings of cuteness while giving Umaru another moment to appreciate her brother's exceptional cooking skills. Does she throw a tantrum about wanting pizza instead? Of course, but the new and improved Umaru also takes to her new dinner menu easily enough. Now the humor lies in watching a deceptively small child and a bunch of grown men get way too excited about their dinner. This might not have the comedic edge of season one Umaru-chan, but I prefer this cozier humor to having to watch poor Tahei bear the brunt of Umaru's abuse for another twelve weeks.
The other vignettes see Umaru more explicitly preparing for the Christmas season, and all of them involve Umaru spending time with her friends. One scene has Umaru take Ebina shopping for a last-minute present for Taihei, which is noteworthy for having Umaru finally realize that she should think of getting other people gifts at all. The dialogue is a bit on the nose when Umaru flat-out says that she never knew getting gifts for family and friends could be so fun, but I can't be too mad about it, since that level of empathy is what I've been asking to see from this character from the beginning of the series.
Even better is the scene where the girls all get to spend New Year's together, eating fancy food in their kimonos and playing silly games. This final story is excellent because it has almost nothing to do with the series' main gags; Umaru is normal-sized, she's being charming and sociable, and the other girls get more time to shine. It says a lot that Himouto! Umaru-chan R has been at its most successful when relying as little as possible on the overly-obnoxious sense of humor it fell back on so frequently in season one. While it may have worked to set up this world and its characters who would all eventually become best friends, the tone and style of the show needed to shift to something warmer to realize its full potential.
The Hikari and Kanau scene is the weakest link of the episode again, which is an unfortunate but unsurprising note to end the season on. The story hones in on Kanau's perspective for the first time, but it only reinforces the two sisters' defining character traits: Kanau's crush on Taihei is going nowhere, and Hikari is still obsessed with having a big brother to impress. Nothing more about the girls or their lives is revealed; there are just a few quick jokes that don't offer any punchlines we haven't seen too many times already.
Even with that misstep, this last episode of Himouto! Umaru-chan R is a fitting send-off for the franchise and the character (at least for now), reminding us of the potential the series has realized this season. Is Umaru the kind of lazy slob who will try to grift her big brother for every yen he has? One-hundred percent. Is the audience still able to laugh along with her hijinks? Before this season began, I would have been on the fence with my response, but now I can cast a resounding vote of confidence in favor of everyone's favorite little himouto. Despite her flaws, Umaru has truly grown as an adorable symbol of id made manifest, a girl who fully indulges her favorite hobbies while still making time to bring some joy into the lives of the people that she loves. Just like the show that bears her name, it simply took Umaru a little while to find her feet and establish the right balance of selfishness and thoughtfulness. In doing so, she's become a heroine worth rooting for, and Himouto! Umaru-chan R has become a shockingly sweet comedy that's absolutely worth watching.
Himōto! Umaru-chan R is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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