Mr. Osomatsu Season 2 Episode 7
by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Mr. Osomatsu (TV 2) ?
Most of Mr. Osomatsu's humor is universally understandable, but this week's episode provides a wonderful case study of how the show's translators can sometimes struggle with the impossible.
The Cavematsu-san cold open doesn't require words to show how the inspiration of copulating mammoths unleashes even more self-destructive behavior from the Matsus than last time. I especially loved how the last two Cavematsus manage to catapult themselves in the slingshot without anyone drawing back the strip. The poor mammoth ends up petrified in more than one way, and we're ready to dive into an episode that's unusually reliant on wordplay.
While the subtitling team is giving their all to get puns across the language barrier in the second segment (where Totty, against his good judgment, takes Osomatsu to a mixer with predictably catastrophic results), they don't even try in the first Three Kingdoms segment. That's right, we're doing Three Kingdoms this week – or four in Mr. Osomatsu's case, adding the Kingdom of Matsu alongside Wei, Shu, and Wu. At Matsu Castle (which has a banner on its top saying ni hau in katakana, the Japanese script used to transcribe foreign language words, even though this story is set in China, all of which already has the language enthusiast in me giggling), everyone goes to war just to scream in unison: the drooling strategist Jyushimatsu, General Karamatsu who pops a vein from too much screaming, and barbarian king Ichimatsu who makes his entrance wearing cat accessories and taking an extra big dump all over the place. Holding their strategy meeting on a giant panda rug, they have to decide which of the three kingdoms to conquer. How do they do that? By looking at the kingdoms' names and opting for the kingdom of Wu, which is written with a character that can also mean "to let one have" (pronounced kure). Who wouldn't want to invade a kingdom that's basically telling its invaders to do so, according to Matsu logic. Of course, this joke is mostly lost on an audience unable to read Chinese characters and unaware of their different pronunciations in Japanese.
In Wu/Kure, they meet Souosou, the Japanese name for famous Three Kingdoms warlord Cao Cao. Of course, the ensuing joke based on his name wouldn't have worked with the Cao Cao pronunciation, as sou sou ("that's right") also happens to be a very common Japanese expression of affirmation. While these puns are doomed to be lost in translation, the joke that the Matsus have neither heard of Cao Cao nor this strange country of China he's trying to unite (where they also live) works in every language. When Cao Cao tells them about the Battle of the Red Cliffs, their ensuing exchange of pep talks to great music and Cao Cao's praise gets the already war-weary Matsus to throw themselves into battle, mostly unarmed and completely clueless, only to get destroyed in beautifully brutal detail (including an encore of nipple ripping) by the same southern alliance that beat the historical Cao Cao. That's what you get for placing your hopes on Matsu prowess. (There's a four-hour John Woo movie spectacle if you want to see an equally fictional but Matsu-free account of this famous battle.)
After our detour into the historical epic, the second segment features Totty and Osomatsu trying to talk to girls with naturally catastrophic results. It's always interesting to see an entire segment dedicated to different Matsu combinations, this time the oldest (and perviest) and youngest (and self-proclaimed expert on social interactions). To be honest, Totty really is years ahead of Osomatsu when it comes to dealing with women. We saw the brothers unite to try and ruin Totty's social life (or at least his vague chance at having one) in the first season, but this time Osomatsu alone is more than enough. Far from the funniest or most popular brother, Osomatsu only gets to tag along out of Totty's opportunism. If he were receptive to such things, the eldest Matsu would be in for a lesson about real girls being unlike the ones he knows from watching porn, and he quickly discovers that even relieving the stress and anticipation beforehand doesn't help much. It does make for comedy gold watching Totty violently scrub his borrowed phone, though.
Equally fun if not moreso is listening to the glorious opportunities this segment's script provides Takahiro Sakurai. Since he's playing the Matsu whose shtick is that he has none, he's finally given the chance to pull out all the stops, from dead serious to jovial to psychotic and just plain gross. For this second segment, it looks like gross will win the evening, but only for a while.
As soon as we're introduced to the girls, it's mind-boggling how even someone like Osomatsu can screw this up, given that one of one the girls' first lines is "beer is the best". These ladies aren't looking for the company of rocket scientists, just a nice normal evening, which unfortunately doesn't rhyme with Matsu. The oppai/boobs cue sets into motion what I'd describe as a translator's simultaneous wet dream and nightmare. Watching the localization team try to help an international audience follow all these puns is almost as desperate as Totty's attempts to somehow save the evening, and it's funny for the very same reason. Of course the joke's on Totty – after humiliating himself out of desperation, he's the one who ends up going home early, while Osomatsu has probably the best night of his virgin life, though sadly without any repeat value. Todomatsu's inner
monodialogue is easily the best part of the whole segment.
From the first segment balancing epic and silly to the almost sweet brotherly bonding in between gross rudeness, this episode was quite the feast for a language and history buff like myself. The way Osomatsu and Todomatsu's pre-girl-arrival handshake was set up made me root for them against my own better judgment. The gross and often brutal humor alone couldn't explain my attachment to this show, and I'm happy for it to still push different buttons in a second season that seems hellbent on destroying our NEETs without mercy
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