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This Week in Anime
Is Hypnosis Mic Worth Watching?
by Nicholas Dupree & Jean-Karlo Lemus,
One of the craziest premises to come out of anime, Hypnosis Mic imagines a world where government sanctioned rap battles can solve problems from turf disputes to bank robberies. Is this show wildly entertaining or full of dead beats?
This series is streaming on Funimation
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.
Jean-Karlo Right about now TWIA court is in full effect. Judge Jean-Karlo presiding in the case of TWIA versus Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima. Prosecuting attorneys are Steve and Nicky. Nick, take the mother-lovin' stand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothin' but the truth so help your nerdy ass?
Nick Judge, I respectfully request the court go to hell and suck my mic.
But yes, today we are covering the big, loud, walking meme that is HYPNOSIS MIC, also known as the lovechild of UtaPri and that one kid you knew in high school who really wanted to be a freestyle rapper.
This show came straight out of Compton nowhere for me. I knew I had something special on my hands the moment a politician on giant screens everywhere declared weapons manufacturing was outlawed and all conflicts were to be solved with microphones while what sounded like the beat to 8-Mile's "Lose Yourself" played in the background. When they say "you can make an anime out of anything, like competitive bread baking", I admit that I didn't expect it to go the route of anime rap battles.
HypMic is something I've known about tangentially for a while, probably since the music project first started actually. But I still had no frame of reference for what the anime project could possibly be. Turns out it's The Most in every conceivable way.
The idea is thus: After a political coup, an all-woman political party takes over Japan and eradicates all weapons, distributing "Hypnosis Mics" to all the men in the country that allow them to turn their sick raps into physical/psychic attacks. For reasons. From there we follow the adventures of four trios of rappers as they battle for rep and justice. And do note: all of them are terrible at it, despite what the show will tell you.
The four teams are: the Buster Bros!!!, pictured above; a trio of brothers from Ikebukuro who are your standard shonen types—all about brotherhood and kicking it and keeping it real. Then there's the MAD TRIGGER CREW from Yokohama, consisting of a yakuza, a dirty cop, and an ex-serviceman.
That may seem like a strange combo until you realize Samatoki, the yakuza, takes "Fuck tha Police" way more literally than NWA intended.
Way... way more literally.
Then there's Fling Posse, made up of a fashion designer, a gambler, and...I think an author? But he never actually writes anything and just cosplays Osamu Dazai so I can't be sure.
And finally from Shinjuku, we have Matenro, consisting of a doctor, a host who's secretly scared of women, and an overworked office worker whose spirit animal is a water flea.
Matenro are Best Boys. Especially Doppo, who I will protect with my life, and possibly the lives of several bystanders depending on the situation. Get this precious man some warm milk and a month's paid vacation.
I especially love that Doppo's style of rapping is described as like reading tweets. This guy freestyles with the power of vagueposting about his coworkers.
Hey, if 18-year-olds on SoundCloud can get #1 hits from emo posting on Tiktok then I don't see why Doppo can't do the same.
I have few kind words to say about HypMic's idea of rap, but I'll listen to it over "Mood" any day.
Readers, don't worry if this is a lot to take in, HypMic takes the first 6 out of 13 episodes to make sure you're really acquainted with these four teams. Their rhymes resolve hostage situations, solve murders, get crooked cops arrested, and bust ghosts. Talk about your... "Dead Beats"?
Honestly this show is at its best during those episodes. Just a bunch of street-rhyming himbos running around solving Scooby Doo plots with the power of wack-ass punchlines. Like literally there's an ep where Fling Posse unmasks a group of rapping ghosts trying to pull a real estate scam.
Going back to Doppo for the sake of an example, one plot-line/rap battle is kicked off because he realized a coworker he had just become friends with was a burglar and he was heartbroken over it. This. Is. Anime.
Oh that's the best episode. You can see the twist coming a mile away, but who cares when this sweet baby is bearing his heart over losing a new friend. It's ridiculous and cheesy but HypMic is just stupid enough to make it work.
Though we should note 'friend' is only being used here because Doppomine is already spoken for with his live-in boyfriend Hifumi.
But unfortunately, once the halfway mark is reached we get into the mandatory tournament arc, and this is where the real "plot" begins. It turns out the front-men for the four teams were in a team of their own, The Dirty Dawgs, but the Party of Words managed to get them to split up (with the help of Ramuda, frontman of the Fling Posse). So these four teams from four cities come to square off, and it's personal for all of them.
While the show never totally loses steam, I do think the shift to the tournament stuff is where it abandons the sheer energy that makes the early half great.
Let's not mix words here, this premise is dumb as a sack of hammers. But when it's running off of the power of cute boys and flashy visuals, it's a blast to just follow. Wrangling that energy in with a "serious" narrative kind of sucks away some of the fun, imo. Tho even the serious stuff is real dumb:
Yeah, see, it turns out the Party of Words (which is led and staffed by women, remember) is secretly plotting to maintain peace in Japan by forcing it into demilitarization via forcing all conflicts to be solved with hypnosis mics. But they also have a secret real Hypnosis Mic that can brainwash people, and the tournament is set up so that whichever team wins can be used as a mouthpiece of the party.
Which. Uh. As a plot, y'know... eh?
It's stupid as all hell, and the exact kind of thing you're not supposed to think about too hard. Like this is a show where a man takes a group of hostages with a vest full of microphones. Political commentary is several time zones away from its wheelhouse.
It also turns out these rappers have Limit Breaks, like Doppo getting so emotionally drained he just blacks out and goes beast mode, or (more importantly) Matenro's frontman being able to heal his teammates with his rhymes. And like, sure, part of why Tezuka killing the dinosaurs in Prince of Tennis was so wild was because it's an illustration of his tennis stuff. But HypMic is at its best when it's about rap battles, not getting into stat grinding.
Yeah that's the bigger issue. Once you start bringing in the game elements (I assume from the gacha game that's assuredly accompanying the franchise) and turning these into actual 3-on-3 rap battles, things get a lot less fun. And then you have time to realize how absolutely dog shit these lyrics are. Literally.
In the moment, the crazy visuals and wild attacks can distract you. And I'm gonna be honest, I could barely follow what was being rapped half the time. But yeah, these freestyle lyrics aren't the best. I give all my love to the poor translators who had to make these work in English somehow, because that can only have been a massive challenge.
Oh the translation team deserves nothing but props. Trying to translate music is a thankless task at the best of times, but doing multiple songs weekly, and making them actually rhyme? Nothing but respect. But let's be real here. Most of these guys make Vanilla Ice sound like MF DOOM by comparison. I'm no expert on rap but I recognize bad flow when I hear it.
It's all very lovingly animated at least! Aniplex tossed a lot of money at this to make sure everyone's weird contextual microphones looked amazing. Switching to CG for the rap sequences doesn't even look all that bad, with all the effects flying around.
Oh they look great, if extremely busy. Like if nothing else HypMic makes its aesthetic work for it in ways it really shouldn't be able to.
Well, most of the time.
Yeah, Ramuda's aesthetic choices are plain weird. His music is my favorite, I dig its peppy vibes, but his color schemes are just eye-vomit and also he's kinda the worst person in the show.
Oh he's definitely the biggest asshole. But that honestly makes me love him more. Especially the way his voice drops an octave when he's inner-monologuing how much of a bastard he is.
He's such a miserable little shit. I love him.
The show definitely lavishes attention on the team leaders; Ichiro's brothers kinda don't have personalities outside of being The Younger Siblings in Buster Bros!!!. Iruma and Rio from MAD TRIGGER CREW are cool, and Rio's mission to rescue his lieutenant from political imprisonment is interesting, but not as much as Samatoki's search for his sister. Dice and Gentaro from Fling Posse don't have much to do besides getting dragged around by Ramuda (even in the show, it's pointed out there isn't much holding them together). Matenro is the unique case where Jakurai is leagues less interesting than Doppo and Hifumi.
Jakurai's the team dad. He's there to help these two fragile idiots find their way in the world, so it works that he ends up getting saved by them instead of the other way around. Just another reason Matenro are definitively, objectively Best Boys.
Even in-universe! Surprisingly, the Buster Bros!!! (who are the face of the show) were the first to be eliminated, and Matenro took the championship in the rap battle. But then Plot happened and I guess we'll have to wait until the inevitable second season to see how the Party of Words strikes back at our beloved rappers.
Hey now, let's not skip over the best rap group in this entire show:
You had me at "dinosaur-themed freestyle rapper".
That's right, there's a secret FIFTH team hiding in plain sight the whole show, and the only reason nobody saw it coming is because they have a woman in the group. Fucking brilliant.
And she's easily the best in the group!... And not just because she's got the stat-buff ability, I actually dig Iris's performances a lot.
But I must also point out: you put dinosaurs into something, you're gonna get me hook-line-and-sinker.
Bold move to make the hottest, dumbest himbo in this show the dinosaur guy. This is the kind of innovation only HypMic can deliver.
Also yes, Secret Aliens' group number is a bit of a bop.
I'm definitely excited for more of these guys next season, once that rolls around. Buster Bros!!! has good, basic raps, but they're too basic. MAD TRIGGER CREW has a nice aggressive vibe, but not much else. I like Fling Posse's happy tone, but their songs are pure bubblegum pop otherwise—not very memorable. Matenro has Doppo. Secret Aliens is the eleventh-hour party member who might have to get nerfed before they join the party for realsies.
They're also globetrotting freedom fighters who save the world with song. And these are their real names. These guys are basically the children of Macross and Gundam who learned how to ride a bass line.
See, this is the kind of energy your show about competitive rapping needs. I bet you anything one of these guys is Nekki Basara's ancestor.
Gimme a whole season of Secret Aliens saving the whales with the power of trip hop. Please.
Or just let them replace MAD TRIGGER CREW in this show. I'll take T. Rex and Weathercock over the cops any day.
It makes the most sense, these rappers are taking on the government with the power of sick rhymes.
So yeah, while it's not going down as an all-time classic or anything, I'm not gonna pretend I didn't have a ton of fun with HypMic. Whatever foibles (and terrible, terrible rapping) it has, this was a stupid good time.
It's definitely a pleasant surprise of a show, and it's got enough of those "yeah, that just happened" moments that make it perfect fun for sharing with friends. It's some of the most fun I've had from start to finish, in spite of its more-boring elements or moment of less-than-stellar lyrical execution.
It's not likely to be an all-time favorite for me, but as something just innately fun to watch it was a really rewarding thing to binge. Just...somebody, please give these boys some improv classes before you make more.
And the moral of this mother-lover is, rappers: make 'em act like they know! You are was and always will be... the Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima! Peace, and be wild!
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