Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department
Episodes 1-2

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department ?
Community score: 3.7

How would you rate episode 2 of
Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department ?
Community score: 4.0

If you know me to any degree you know that I love tokusatsu. As such, Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department is a series that should have been 200% apparent as My Jam from the moment it was revealed. But for whatever reason, the series flew under my radar until the day of its premiere. It definitely turned out in Miss Kuroitsu's favor that there was a general feeling of being…underserved this Winter 2022 season, but still, getting something that was a walking, talking love letter to a medium I adore while also being a pretty funny little comedy was a rather pleasant surprise. Suffice to say that the series had the deck stacked in its favor in terms of my disposition towards it, but where does the show's effective appeal leave it in terms of assessing its broader, more objective strengths?

It's a valid question, I think, for something with a conceit that could have potentially left it as an entirely impenetrable mash-up of obscure tokusatsu references and Japanese business etiquette. Miss Kuroitsu remains accessible because it knows to use these sorts of indulgences as seasoning for its entertainment rather than the focal front of it. Your 'average' viewer doesn't need to recognize the episode narration being done by the classic actors for Sharivan and Skyrider, or know that the likes of Fire Fox Tochiongar Seven or all of the Dogengers aren't throwaway parodies but actual 'Local Heroes' employed in regions of Japan. In fact, the show itself even clarifies the latter fact at the end of each episode, shouting out the real heroes so viewers might learn who they are and possibly even be compelled to check them out. A niche-within-niche genre show doing the opposite of gatekeeping, isn't that something?

Despite ostensibly being about the 'Bad Guys', Miss Kuroitsu actually has a rather good-natured tone, and that carries it through these first two episodes. The best example of this, and the standout character in the show so far, would be Megistus. Dude is a hulking, armored, classic villain-group-commander type, yet turns out to be the kind of empathetic, principled boss most modern workers could only dream of having. That's an easy kind of dissonance to derive humor from, sure, but the execution is what really makes all the difference here. The absurdity of seeing Megistus in a suit as he goes on a business trip, or the Showa-style superpower narration he gets describing his incredible ability to compartmentalize while working leans into the ridiculousness of the premise (and really, the presentation of toku in general). But it also lets him come off as an enjoyable character in the way he encourages Kuroitsu to use her vacation days or relinquishes his hotel room to her on said business trip. These bits encapsulate a lot of what works about the show overall, in that it's not necessarily huge, laugh-out-loud material, but rather a pleasantly amusing, welcoming genre riff.

That isn't to say Miss Kuroitsu is entirely low-key business giggles. There are more outrageous aspirations in how the show sets up the jokes related to the monsters the titular department develops. The second episode revolves around the creation of the 'Cannon Thunderbird', showing how the team's initial ideas for the mechanized monster get run through so many technical requirements of the bad guy bureaucracy that it winds up utterly different by the end. This part has that distinctive Heaven's Design Team vibe, with a lot of fun layers to this idea on display. In particular, there's the underlying sense that these sorts of compromises are as close to real-world concerns as the Local Heroes the characters are shown fighting. Take a look at the concept art for some toku monsters out there and compare them to how the physical suits ended up constructed due to the necessities of existing in three dimensions, and it'll give you a newfound respect for the conga line of compromises that Kuroitsu, Wolf, and the rest of the team had to put this poor giant chicken through. Even then, the undercurrent of this little storyline is all about Wolf coming to appreciate the satisfaction of monster-making in collaboration with all the other departments…which itself gets immediately undercut thanks to the understanding that these things primarily exist to be explosively disposed of on a weekly basis. The next time you're watching the Zenkaigers blow up the monster of any given Sunday, spare a thought for the hard work of the poor, underappreciated crews that made it all possible!

The idea behind all this silliness and the show's earnest passion in presenting it carries it a long way, even with how rudimentary its visuals look. Again, this is a first-time production, and Quad finds a few moments of flourish, like Kuroitsu's nervous little leg-shake after she gets an ominous call from Megistus. And they also find some amusing alternative approaches as asides to the animation, like the incredible scene of just blowing up a model of Cannon Thunderbird at the end of the second episode. Some bits, like the introduction of different departments across monster development, can drag and feel more repetitive than necessary in the name of the 'joke', but thus far things haven't worn out their welcome too badly. Miss Kuroitsu just feels like comfortably-paced silliness so far. I think the work-comedy angle with the regular monster-making absurdity should help it work for general audiences, but it must be said that as a toku send-up it's an absolute revelation for a devotee like me. There are incidental gags about an evil organization's mooks being day-contract gig workers. The 'Hero' the setting centers on has gear meticulously designed with the kind of functionality of modern-day Kamen Rider toys. M.A.O. is here. As much as the show is about appreciating the craft of those crazy kickable monsters, it makes me appreciate the crew behind this anime for their clearly-illustrated love for tokusatsu as a whole.

Rating:

Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.


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