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Midonin 2013-01-17 16:01

Anime Comedy Roundtable
Comedy and drama are both about provoking an extreme reaction out of someone. Laughter and tears are both difficult to get right, though people have tried countless times for both. Perhaps it's the threads I go to, but I notice that drama receives more praise than comedy, or at least the people who would praise it are more vocal. I'm the kind of person who would watch a romantic comedy for the comedy more than the romance, and would unapologetically put something like Softenni on a list of favorites. Comedy is more than just one thing. There's a lot of different genres and types, so I wanted to start a discussion on the many different types of comedy. Which ones worked for you? Which kinds do you enjoy? What do you think about the state of comedy in anime today? I'll begin by listing my favorites.

Black Comedy/Social Satire: This is the kind of comedy that garners the most positive response. I know Humanity Has Declined is a favorite in this category, but I'm a huge fan of Joshiraku. It establishes the personalities and then creates comedy sketches where everyone works off each other, usually towards a punchline or a demented conclusion. The way Kumeta can start at Point A and end at Point B is very much like South Park, complete with a similar mix of highbrow commentary and lowbrow humor.

Sex Comedy: Seitokai Yakuindomo stands triumphant. Ujie Tozen is great at getting perverted puns out of a scene, in ways both intentional and unintentional. The innocence of Suzu and Mutsumi and the not so innocence of Shino can make it arrive at the same punchline from multiple angles and feel just right every time.

Absurd Comedy: It's only two minutes, but Teekyuu! is the current winner in this category. One of my favorite jokes is where Natsuno mentions that her dad is like "something seen in front of shops". She means that her dad looks like Col. Sanders, but Marimo pictures him as a barbershop pole. It makes perfect sense, but is also so ridiculous that it lands.

Pop Culture Reference Comedy: The first season of Hayate was once my favorite, but Nyarko is currently my top contender. Especially since much of the humor is tokusatsu-based. This means I may get more out of it than someone else, but part of the appeal of such a show like this is how it knows how to play to its niche.

Meta Comedy/Fourth Wall Humor: The more a series falls into absurd/pop culture comedy, the more likely it is to fall into here, too. Yuru Yuri is one of my favorites, with Akari's plight about her lack of screentime behind the fourth wall being used with a lot of variation. Seitokai no Ichizon (at times) also knows how to use this to its advantage.

Slapstick Comedy: This could also fall under "absurd comedy", but Nichijou excelled at this kind of thing. The sequence where Mio beats up a police officer, an old man and a goat to stop them from reading her manga is a standout scene in a series full of many standout scenes. The animation, the music, the camera angles... everything plays to make this scene as serious as it can be, which also makes it as funny as can be. The principal fighting a deer works along the same lines. Comic violence can be tough to play right, but when it succeeds, it succeeds.

Character Driven Comedy/Sitcom: A group of characters that live together and play off each other in ways that the audience finds familiar, but also funny and kinda heartwarming. Hidamari Sketch has been very successful at this kind of comedy for four years running (most of it coming from Miya), though I'd nominate A Channel and Minami-ke as other really good examples of establishing the character personalities and just letting them play off each other. Acchi Kocchi has a bit of this with its romance, as does the currently running GJ Bu. If given enough time, most character driven comedies will eventually turn into a romance, but I often love them enough while they're in the comedy phase.

Improv Comedy: This exists too. The only example I can think of is gdgd Fairies and the Dubbing Lake scenes. Really, check this series out if you're a fan of this (and of dialogue-driven comedy. The tea party scenes can spiral out of control wonderfully.)

It's very likely there are other kinds of comedy that I missed, and I'm curious to know what other people consider their favorite kind of anime comedy. I'd love for there to be an anime equivalent of something like Arrested Development. A show with a rich mythology and sense of quirkiness, but also some really tight plotting. (And some incredible word games.) I know comedy is a very subjective thing, and one of the hardest things to translate across cultural barriers. But I really want to have a discussion about it.

Is there anybody else out there that loves anime's sense of humor as much as I do? I'm eager to hear.

Triple_R 2013-01-17 18:11

I just want to put a shoutout here to Mawaru Penguin Drum, as long as the thread OP doesn't mind me doing so. :)

I feel that Penguin Drum had the misfortune of airing the same year that Madoka Magica and Steins;Gate did, and for that reason and others, I think it's sadly underrated and now rarely talked about it seems.

But I think its particularly underrated as a comedy. There's probably no anime that aired in the past two years that made me laugh more than Penguin Drum did.

I guess of the categories listed in the OP, it would fit most neatly into "Absurd Comedy".

The anime show that made me laugh more than any other is probably Excel Saga. Which also probably fits most neatly into "Absurd Comedy".

I guess I would say that Absurd Comedy is something that anime does particularly well. :)

Midonin 2013-01-17 18:13

I only gave those categories as examples. I'm really not a huge fan of listing and categorizing things. If you fit things into little boxes too much, they lose flexibility. Many of the examples I gave can fit in more than one category, too. (To use it as an example once again, Joshiraku. Kumeta's social commentary was a big part of it... but just as many of the jokes revolved around Marii's butt. And I laughed at both of them.)

Solace 2013-01-17 23:11

I greatly enjoyed Binbougami-ga. I felt it did a really good job of mixing up multiple comedy routines to keep itself from feeling stale. In one episode you'd pretty much be able to go down your list with checkmarks.

Midonin 2013-01-17 23:16

I realized I left one kind off the list. Anti-Comedy. My favorite scene in this regard was the ping pong scene in Mayoi Neko Overrun!. It moves at a glacial pace, but eventually becomes hilarious after how long it drags itself out.

That episode was directed perfectly.

sloaphone 2013-01-18 03:02

yeah, Kumeta's social commentary was a big part of it... but just as many of the jokes revolved around Marii's butt

bhl88 2013-01-18 04:44

Chuunibyou was one of the funniest ones.... Rikka and Dekamori pretending to fight some evil force out there.... and lol at Yuuta/Nibutani avoiding their chuunibyou pasts.

Sheba 2013-01-18 06:20


Originally Posted by Solace (Post 4516974)
I greatly enjoyed Binbougami-ga. I felt it did a really good job of mixing up multiple comedy routines to keep itself from feeling stale. In one episode you'd pretty much be able to go down your list with checkmarks.

I share the same stand about Binbougami-ga. And I think that what you said about it could be applied to Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou. Well, excepted for the sex comedy part. Those two stood out the most to me because they did not let themselves be shoehorned inside a single type of comedy.

One of the best part about both series is that they spared no character, regardless of the status (main or support characters) or gender (Ichiko was the butt of the slapstick at occasions and Yassan humiliated herself spectacularly,and Ikushima got punched in the face just for asking how to get a boyfriend). Yes, those are the comedies I love the most, when they don't care if you are young, old, girl, boy, homo, hetero, white, black, asian, etc... Everyone and everything should get a taste of the comedy stick.

Kotohono 2013-01-18 12:35

As someone with nearly half of the "high favorite" series as comedy or series with comedy in them, it's something I really enjoy out of series.

My favorite types would definitely be Character Driven Comedy/Sitcom, favorite ones include Lucky☆Star, K-On!, Working!! and Yuru Yuri; While I enjoy the Meta things some of Yuru Yuri, I feel it's more Character Driven comedy is a strong point to it, and a large part of what made me love the show.

A particular comedy I really enjoy and love, but some don't it seems to is Nisio Isin's sense of comedy. It does great varies for type especially in Monogatari series. As some people seem to complain about the pace of the comedy taking too much of some episode while I enjoy the comedy as much as the other parts if not more in certain episodes.

Though I suppose I enjoy most of the types, though I am a bit more picky on slapstick than other types, it can work very well at times like in nichijou though for sure.

Kanon 2013-01-18 13:30

I love pretty much all kind of comedy, with a preference for black comedy and absurd comedy. The classic tsukkomi/bokke routine the Japanese are so fond of has also always worked great for me.

I usually have a hard time picking out favorites, but when it comes to comedy anime, there is one that stand so far above everything else that it's very easy to choose. And that title is Gintama. I've watched a lot of comedies (American, Japanese and French alike) and I haven't found anything that comes close to it (except maybe It's always sunny in Philadephia, Scrubs and Seinfeld). It truly represents the pinnacle of comedy for me. To think I almost dropped it during the first season (which is by far the weakest, it's merely meant as an introduction to the crazy world of Gintama and its characters)... that would have been a humongous mistake. It integrates pretty much all kind of comedy: there is slapstick, meta, fourth wall breaking, absurd, sex, and toilet humor. There's something for everybody. It's very "japanese" however and you need to be familiar with anime if you want to understand everything, so it may not be for everybody.

Another thing I like about Gintama is that it's not only a comedy. There is drama and action, and they are as top-notch as the humor is. The serious arcs are just as amazing as the comedy arcs and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The characters are also complex, memorable and most importantly, highly likable.

Other comedy anime I love include School Rumble, Binbougami ga! (same director as Gintama *wink*), Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou (again, same director as Gintama *wink wink*), Yakitate!! Japan and Cromartie High school among others.

Alright. Now that I've promoted Gintama, my job here is done.

PS: watch Gintama

Azuma Denton 2013-01-20 23:21

This is some of my recommendation
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (Black Comedy, PopCulture Comedy)
Seto no Hanayome (Absurd Comedy, Sex Comedy)
Gintama (Sex Comedy, Absurd Comedy, Meta Comedy, Slapstick Comedy)
Fullmetal Panic Fumoffu (Absurd Comedy)
School Rumble (Character Driven Comedy)
Detroit Metal City (Sex Comedy, Absurd Comedy)

So far my favourite one is absurd comedy, because, yes it is absurd... :heh:

Midonin 2013-01-20 23:31

Really, you don't have to focus on those category listings. I'm starting to second guess myself for writing those in the first place...

I just wanted a broad discussion on the idea of comedy in anime. To see what works and what doesn't, and, if possible, how it can be respected and discussed as much as drama. Because sometimes that feels like an uphill battle.

jdennis007 2013-01-21 11:04

The problem with discussing comedy is that not everyone agrees on what is funny. Certain things I find hilarious will have others going I don't get it and other times the reverse is true.

Midonin 2013-01-21 11:06


Originally Posted by jdennis007 (Post 4522050)
The problem with discussing comedy is that not everyone agrees on what is funny. Certain things I find hilarious will have others going I don't get it and other times the reverse is true.

The same applies to drama, or what we want out of anime, but those can lead to some fruitful discussion, even if it ends up repeating itself the fifth time over. Even if we can't agree, we can at least find out what the other thinks and why.

jdennis007 2013-01-21 18:21

I am not saying we shouldn't discuss it, I was just saying why it is not discussed that much.
I actually love comedy in all it's forms and most of the stuff I watch is comedy based. Comedy is a great equalizer because its hard to sound like an elite-fag when you are discussing something funny. BTW don't take my seriously, especially when discussing comedy.

Midonin 2013-01-21 19:22


Originally Posted by jdennis007 (Post 4522446)
BTW don't take my seriously, especially when discussing comedy.

Yet the strange thing is that a serious discussion on comedy is exactly what I'm looking for. It's something I'm passionate about, but it's not discussed with the intensity I wish it was. There are plenty of things that have merit that can be discussed with it. Comedic timing, how the nature of a joke relates to the show as a whole, how it reveals little details of the characters. But it usually seems like, at least according to some of the more influential voices on this forum, that the drama is the important part and any comedy is just "filler" and unimaginative and largely ends up ignored.

I don't mind this state of affairs too much - I'd rather have a smaller thread with a more intimate fanbase than a larger one where the voices are trying to drown each other out - but just because I'm okay with it doesn't mean it can't be better than it is.

SeijiSensei 2013-01-21 20:17

Satirical anime are rare to begin with, and political satires rarer still. I attribute that to the "subject" political culture of Japan. One remarkable exception stands out though, the 2007 Madhouse work Oh! Edo Rocket. Originally produced for the stage, the playwright reworked the material into a 26-week animated romp that juxtaposed modern technologies and the late Edo period. The soundtrack by Honma Yusuke rounds out the anachronisms by making heavy use of American big-band sounds that were probably common in Japan during the immediate postwar years.

Set in 1843-44, the story focuses on a young fireworks maker, Tamaya Seikichi. Like other characters in Oh! Edo Rocket, Seikichi has historical roots in the Tamaya family of fireworks makers. Their Kagiya rivals also appear in the show. Seikichi's professional development has been restricted by the introduction of the Tenpou Reforms by the Tokugawa Shogunate. In an effort to "cleanse" Japan of foreign and modern influences, the Reforms banned many "useless" activities, one of which was entertainment. As a result Seikichi is forced to conduct his experiments in obscure locations and spends a lot of his effort avoiding the local enforcer, Nishinosuke Akai. Akai is employed by Mizuno Tadakuni, the real-life author of the Reforms.

One day a strange young woman with stars in her eyes appears before Seikichi and asks him to build her a firework that can reach the moon. That premise lets the playwright satirize political repression, the 1960's race to the moon, and the relationship between government and citizens in contemporary Japan.

The show repeatedly breaks the "fourth wall," with the characters often speaking directly to the audience. At one point the main characters all bemoan the fact that an episode is taking place without any of them appearing in it. Another time one wonders about some obscure character who "doesn't appear on the website!"

I was shocked when Funimation decided to license this show because I always thought it was "too Japanese" to appeal to foreign viewers. The cast makes the same observation in the recap episode, fourteen, when they wonder how a particular scene will play out for foreign audiences. Funimation took considerable liberties with the translation to cope with this problem. Some of their changes are quite funny and appropriate (the "playboy" character is portrayed as an Elvis impersonator at one point), but others simply miss the mark. If you are interested in watching this show, I strongly recommend finding the Shinsen fansubs. The translator ("Tom & Jerry") took great pains with this show and included notes whenever a cultural referent might not make sense to those of us outside Japan.

This is one of my all-time favorite anime series and entirely unlike anything else you might have watched.

When I watched AKB0048, I wondered if Okada Mari had watched Rocket. Her script also has a ban on entertainment at the center of the plot.

Dawnstorm 2013-01-21 22:12

I really like Joshiraku, too. One thing I notice about comedies is that they can get away with things, I'd otherwise find cheesy. One of the stengths of Joshiraku is how seriously they (seem to) take Rakugo, with the care they take in animating the bows. The way they use anime to portray this... it's a sort of contrast they keep up in the Tokyou-tour section of the show, where they constantly show how things have changed. It could easily come off as sentimental or traditionalist; the show is the opposite. It's, how shall I say this, honoring tradition, but not blindly. And humour is the perfect vehicle to transport this. It's the court-jester function.

Another comedy this year shares this feature. Shirokuma Café. It's a totally different beast. Rather than juxtaposing social critique with respect for tradition, this one is simply a feel-good show. If it wasn't a comedy, I'm not sure I could handle it. (For all that I love Tamayura, I couldn't take too much of it all at once.) Again, one of the strengths of the show is that they take animals seriously in art and behaviour. They do have strategic blind spots (e.g. I dread the day a seal comes into the café...), but I don't mind that at all. So while the animals might be stand-ins for types of people, they're sufficiently animal-like to distract from this.

Oddly enough, I think that the drama in the currently airing Kotoura san is so effective because it is a comedy. The character designs, the way they overplay visuals and music... if this was a straight drama, it would come across as cheesy. But because it's self-conscious in it's melodrama it works; it's just so heart rending. If I imagine (for example) more realistic character designs, I'd be rolling my eyes at how forced it is. At least that's my hypothesis. (Best new show of the season, IMO.)

Pocari_Sweat 2013-01-21 22:28


Originally Posted by Kanon (Post 4517849)
PS: watch Gintama

The obscene number of episodes and the fact I havent started are a huge detriment for me. It'll take forever for me to catch up and I feel like I would have missed out on the discussions. Same reason why I'm haven't started One Piece. :heh:

HybridBloodsZak 2013-01-22 01:53


Originally Posted by Pocari_Sweat (Post 4522694)
The obscene number of episodes and the fact I havent started are a huge detriment for me. It'll take forever for me to catch up and I feel like I would have missed out on the discussions. Same reason why I'm haven't started One Piece. :heh:

This is a comedy and loosely has what you call " continuity" there is a thread through the episodes but since it's not one long ongoing plot akin to other Shonen the number of episodes is actually a POSITIVE.

Gintama is like Simpsons or South Park when it comes to continuity, it kind of resets every year to where you CAN watch every episode from the beginning but you wouldn't be doing yourself a disservice if you started somewhere randomly

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