Mr. Osomatsu Season 2
by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 18 of
Mr. Osomatsu (TV 2) ?
It's been a while since Mr. Osomatsu dedicated an entire episode to a single story. When even the OP got cut short to save a minute of screentime, I was expecting something special. What I didn't expect was for an Iyami story to make me tear up.
While the rest of Japan is on its way to becoming an economic miracle, it's still very much post-war rebuilding time in "Starving Town". One day, Iyami, Mr. Osomatsu's good-for-nothing punk no matter the time period, meets a poor little flower girl, and something in her misery strikes a chord to prompt his change from social pariah to unlikely hero of the story. It's not a new story by any means and actually based on an OVA spinoff of Mr. Osomatsu's 1980's incarnation which in turn drew heavy inspiration from Charlie Chaplin's City Lights. But good entertainment doesn't require reinventing the story wheel, and it's at least as much a question of execution as one of originality.
In the execution department, Iyami, Alone in the Wild scores high marks for providing some powerful imagery: Okiku waiting for Iyami to come home on a raised wooden platform that looks almost like a stage, ultimately curling up like a puppy while still facing the door. Dekapan crushing their dream by stating it's too late to get the money for the doctor lets us cut to silhouettes. And Iyami, Okiku and her sad little flower are visually separated from the wealthier people passing them by on the bridge.
These are just some of the wonderfully composed images this subdued color palette has to offer. It also offers the opportunity to play around with selective coloring beyond the color-coded sextuplet outfits, most poignantly with Okiku's flowers. The one he'll pick up first will transform Iyami's life, just like the one she gives him in gratitude, little sparks of pink in a sepia-colored world. They will continue to glow like a tiny guiding light when he embraces the crying girl instead of pushing her away. And they will no longer show color when Okiku returns to the bridge once the dream seems over. On the less romantic side, there's what looks like a yellow turd (probably just mustard), thrown into Iyami's face to paint his defeat and humiliation. Or the vivid fires of what I assume to be the 1945 Tokyo fire bombing, responsible for killing Okiku's parents and painting Iyami's perception of life's random cruelty.
When Iyami's desperate, it's his (now brightly-painted) memories of Okiku that help him muster up his last bit of strength to accomplish the one thing in his life he ever set out to do: bring color into her life. While he's paying for it by being locked away in darkness, her world changes. Not only did someone build a snowman in front of the prison, the changing seasons also bring color into a no-longer-subdued world. And as the credits roll, Iyami walks by the now bright orange Tokyo Tower into a city that has healed its wounds. A city where a no-longer-blind Okiku has opened up a flower shop named after him. But where there's reunion in City Lights, this tramp decides to walk away. Excuse me, but it must be raining, because I'm refusing to imagine a world where an Iyami story can move me.
There's still enough humor to recognize this as a Mr. Osomatsu episode, but it's a slightly different, Jyushimatsu Falls in Love and Esper Kitty breed of funny – like Okiku and Iyami hugging Dekapan instead of each other or "Sheeeh Hold" turning out to be a useful wrestling technique. Everything – and everyone, for that matter – is transformed into something resembling a human being. Of all people, Osomatsu decides to ask Chibita for help, who turns from neighborhood mobster to big softie philanthropist in a heartbeat. Even the townspeople contribute a friendly brawl to let Iyami escape, which is especially sweet and funny after seeing them chase him around the streets for real in the beginning of the episode.
We've seen how great Mr. Osomatsu is at parody. But when there's enough time to evolve from parody to homage, the show turns out something even better.
Mr. Osomatsu season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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