This Week in Anime
Why Himōto! Umaru-chan R is Better than the Original

by Jacob Chapman and Steve Jones,

Himōto! Umaru-chan is back for a second season, but if you haven't seen the show before, this vastly improved continuation might be the best time to jump in. This week in anime, Jacob and Steve explain what's different about UMR.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


@Lossthief

@Liuwdere

@ANNJakeH

@vestenet


You can read our weekly coverage of Himōto! Umaru-chan R here!

Jacob
Hey Steve! Boy there sure has been a lot of anime to watch every weekend, I hope you're holding up okay--huh-wuh-wuh-wagh?!?!


Steve
Please delete that, nobody can know how I live my life.

Would that we could all live like Anime Garfield...

I MEAN, THIS IS PRETTY ACCURATE

minus the hamster hoodie, but otherwise...

So this season brought us the return of Umaru-chan, the lovable new mascot of otaku sloth and worthlessness. After it became a hit last year, I guess the public demanded more Umaru, and while I can't say I didn't enjoy the show, I wasn't exactly clamoring for more either.

That first season is one joke, and yer lookin' at it.

I can't say I'm exactly shocked that the anime audience connected enough with this small, awful gremlin to merit a second season. It's one joke, but it's a highly relatable one!

Right, that's not necessarily meant to be a diss. You find a fat fertile cow, you milk it, especially in this industry.

also if anime faces were worth their weight in gold, Umaru has enough to save this economy

Yeah, she's a riot at first (largely thanks to a fun performance by Aimi Tanaka), but once you get past the pure indulgent id that Umaru awakens in your little nerd heart, I just wasn't sure "Ha ha, this pretty little high school girl is secretly horrible otaku vermin who makes life a living hell for her brother" would carry a whole 'nother season. So needless to say, I was surprised when Umaru-chan came back already 10x a better show and has only gotten better every week.

Yeah! I'm pleased that it's taken a turn toward focusing on Umaru's relationships with her friends, rather than hammering on her solo behavior and escapades, which is a well that's all but run dry.

Well, it's frankly astonishing that she's managed to form friendships at all, considering how that first season went! XD

Somehow she ended up with three girlfriends. She may be an irredeemable shitlord, but she's got game.

For those unaware, the three people in Umaru's life besides her beleaguered brother are all classmates close to Umaru's three very different personalities. Ebina is an extremely shy girl who mostly knows Umaru through her proper valedictorian facade and takes shelter in her natural confidence. Kirie is a stern weirdo who finds a peaceful moe-moe oasis in hanging out with Umaru's natural couch-potato personality, nicknamed "Komaru" because Kirie thinks she's Umaru's little sister. (Her chibi hamster-hoodie mode literally shrinks her down and plumps her up, apparently.) And Sylphyn is a foreign ojou-sama who was drawn to Umaru's professional gaming persona known as UMR, which is just Umaru in a hat and mask, but again, none of these lasses are gonna win an award for their piercing insight. In the first season, these three personalities and their interactions with the girls were split up pretty evenly. She often mistreated her friends through these personas, only her brother knew the true Umaru underneath these facades, and that was kinda the joke.

But in season two, something shocking began to happen.

Umaru is becoming...self-aware?!

I mean Umaru's no dummy, but her whole joke is built on her being self-absorbed in her otakuness to the point of near-sociopathy. So to have her finally start to recognize that she might need to change as a person is kinda bizarre to see in a gag series, but refreshing!


Well yeah, and beyond the mushy feelings level, it just allows for more interesting interactions between characters. The show is no longer predictable even in its comedy.

Like this bit is a good example:

In the first series, the joke would just be that Umaru uses this as an excuse to not help around the house. But now that she's trying to think about her brother's feelings, she does put in the effort to keep the place clean for a bit...and it turns out she was right! Poor Taihei sits around on a perfectly good Sunday with nothing to do because HE'S USED TO CLEANING UP AFTER HER AS RECREATION. Which is pretty dispiriting for him to realize too, but hopefully that'll free him up for a new hobby, like the idol concert he goes to with his friends later.

It's nice to see Umaru start to help out, even if that doesn't stop her from storing her copy of the pig cinema classic Babe in a fighting game case, which is DEFINITELY something I have NEVER done.

She's kept her relatable nerd-rodent tendencies and just grown enough of a heart to make her more interesting. The shamelessness hasn't lessened, which is all that matters.

awwww yeah that's the spot

also frankly i'm for any development that lets us spend more time with TSF

Yeah, Sylphyn has proven to be a great addition to the cast this season too! In season one, she was mostly just the silly foreigner who couldn't tell UMR was Umaru. But this season has brought her closer to the rest of the girls, as Umaru tries to spend more time with all her friends together on their terms, and she has really good chemistry with everybody else.

Anime is no stranger to the eccentric foreign rich kid (heck, we have another one in Love Live this very season), but Sylphynford is delightfully extra and comes with her own sound effects!



It really is striking what this new desire to empathize with the whole cast has added to the comedy. Before, it was just like UMR would teach Sylphyn a thing about sports or games, Sylphyn would obsess over her, rinse and repeat. But this season got more into just how lonely Sylphyn and all the other girls have been before Umaru brought them together. And unlike most moe girl friendship shows, we don't automatically take this for granted because we've seen the alternative.



Umaru was being a total user before this, and she knows it. Now she wants to change that, because being self-indulgent all the time, as it turns out, is really boring. (And it can make for boring comedy.) This is a much more entertaining and heartwarming turn of events.



Who would've thought that treating your characters as people rather than one-dimensional cutouts would result in engaging writing???

also referencing Shaun of the Dead is a sure way to win my favor regardless of the context

Right, the wacky nerd humor is all still present as well. This one in particular got me really good.

When you can't think of a good way to spice up the sequel to your imouto eroge, ADD EXPLOSIONS!

More explosions would solve a lot of problems in anime, that's for sure.

It's not just references, either. My favorite unexpected storyline in the series so far has been the Yo-kai Watch parody episode. For one thing, it was extremely #relatable as well, because when I bought Pokemon X&Y, I also expected to get through it quickly as just a little kids' nostalgia exercise, but I ended up playing it for like 10 hours straight a day. In Umaru's case, it's causing her to backslide on her efforts to be more present and helpful toward her brother, so I expected Taihei would just lose his shit and snap at her before resigning to his fate of playing eternal second fiddle to a video game for children.

But that's not what happened:

THE VIRUS SPREADS

And it solves the problem! Now that they're playing together, Taihei has the self-control to stop playing at about an hour a day, and Umaru enjoys playing with him so much that she stops too. They still get all the collectibles and bonuses in the game, but they do it together over the course of a month without destroying their hygiene and sleep schedules. The first season of Umaru-chan would never have had a storyline like that. I don't know what changed the show, but I love it.

It's weird to think about a show like Umaru-chan maturing, but that's the best way to put it. That said, since I'm not getting any younger, I find myself relating less and less with the otaku experience as presented by shows like Umaru-chan. They're still fun, but I'm glad we're also getting shows like Recovery of an MMO Junkie, which relate an experience that hits much closer to home for me. Us older nerds need representation too! But it's good to have Umaru serve as an example for how you can take what was a pretty rote gag series and deftly transform it into something more thoughtful and consequently funnier.

Oh for sure. To be honest, outside of little moments like playing too much Pokemon or overindulging the dubiously sensuous pleasures of ear-cleaning, most of my attachment to Umaru is less "it me" and more

Even when the show wasn't as good or clever, Umaru's terribleness is always relentlessly adorable.

I CAN'T...LOOK AWAY...

ANIME GARFIELD FOREVER


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