by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Community score: 4.4
With Kakushigoto being a Kōji Kumeta manga and all, it was only a matter of time before we got a sketch revolving entirely around the intricacies and peculiarities of Japanese names. Kumeta is a man who loves puns and loves being insufferable about punning up his characters' names. For instance, I forgot to mention last week that in addition to Kakushi's full name being a homophone for “secret,” himegoto is another word that translates to “secret.” Unfortunately, I'm not anywhere close to fluent in Japanese, so there is going to plenty of wordplay I'll either miss entirely or misinterpret, but I'm going to do what I can if I think there's a good joke that needs explaining.
That cultural and language barrier proves to be somewhat of an obstacle in the first half of this week's episode, which loosely structures itself around the concept of pen names. In general, I thought the jokes here were weaker than the situations introduced in the second half, but I'll certainly acquiesce to the probability that there are some good pun nuggets here that I missed. Nevertheless, the core of this segment is easy enough to appreciate, and it addresses the contradictory fact that, despite his adamancy in hiding his manga from his daughter, he uses his real name when publishing. The answer turns out to be the simplest one: he just didn't bother thinking of using a pen name until it was too late to do so. And it certainly doesn't surprise me that Kakushi isn't the most forward-thinking of individuals, considering he also uses a nude photo of himself on his author profile.
Kumeta uses this opportunity to take some jabs at his peers in the manga world and the sometimes ludicrous collections of symbols and nonsense in their pen names. But if mangaka shade isn't your cup of tea, he also addresses the issue of weird kid names, and personally I'm relieved to see that this is indeed a worldwide phenomenon we all have to deal with. Kakushi, conversely, uses a very normal fake name, Kazushi Goto, that he can use in normal situations to get out of being recognized. The irony here is that kazu shigoto can translate to “multiple jobs,” alluding to this double-life he's forced himself to lead for the sake of his daughter. The other name-based-pun I went through the trouble of looking up is the result of Hime and Nadila's fortune-telling fun, which through a classically Kumeta-like concatenation of misunderstandings, sends the love-dazed Tomaruin away with a new name for himself. The joke here is pretty darn layered, so please forgive the following run-on sentence. The title “CEO” is transliterated into Japanese phonemes as “shī ī ō,” which sounds kinda like “shi i ou,” which is one way to read the kanji in 誌偉王, which can translate to “magnificent magazine king,” which is exactly what a megalomaniacal manga editor might think of himself as. Does that knowledge make the joke funnier to you now? Probably not, but this is what you're in for with Kumeta, and for what it's worth, I remain tickled by the lengths he'll go to for such an esoteric play on words across multiple languages.
The second half of the episode ends up being a lot stronger, or at the very least, it ends up being a lot more immediately funny due to the way it roots its jokes in Kakushi's insecurities. Hime has an art assignment that Kakushi has to help out with, and his carefully laid plans about hiding his identity from her immediately crumble once he sees an opportunity to look cool in front of her. Bless his dorky dad instincts. Kumeta, of course, uses Kakushi's momentary spark of confidence to self-deprecatingly tear down any scrap of ego any manga artist might have once had. His fear that he might draw too good and implicate Hime in yet another scandal quickly gives way to a humiliated Kakushi crashing a children's art class so he can learn how to color. Hilariously, he later secretly applies one of Hime's novel perspective techniques to his own manga, to the wide-eyed praise of his assistants. I can also imagine conversations like the one between Kakushi and Rokujo playing out countless times in Kumeta's life, with the opposite party praising manga artists as jacks of multiple trades while the uneasy artist can only focus on their mediocrity in all of them. Jokes aside, however, the ability to marry illustrations and words together in a coherent narrative form is one hell of a skill.
Between its jokes, Kakushigoto continues to impress me with the deft way it segues into its small but powerful instances of sincerity. Both segments end with a bittersweet moment shared between Kakushi, Hime, and her absent mother. The end of the episode got me especially good. One minute I was fawning over the cuteness of a dorky dad finding the most expensive and baroque frame possible for his daughter's art project. The next minute I'm getting choked up as he muses about his wife watching over the two of them through the eyes of a zoo tiger. It's easy for this kind of stuff to feel cloying, especially when contrasted with the gag-heavy rest of the show, but Kumeta's writing and the adaptation's execution have so far been in lockstep together when it comes to granting Kakushi and Hime genuine emotional depth.
It might not be gut-bustingly funny, and it might sometimes be too clever for its own good, but Kakushigoto is shaping up to be quite a special little show about a guy who draws perverts for a living.
Kakushigoto is currently streaming on Funimation.
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