Showtaro MorikuboKeiji FujiwaraJun FukuyamaAkeno Watanabe
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2001
Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Original creator: Renjuro Kindaichi
Studio: Bandai Visual, Shin-Ei Animation, Sotsu Co. Ltd.
Actor: Daisuke Kishio, Kaoru Morota, Mitsuaki Madono, Naoko Watanabe, Rikako Aikawa, Akeno Watanabe, Akira Ishida, Ayumi Furuyama, Chie Koujiro, Emi Uwagawa, Jun Fukuyama, Junichi Sugawara, Kaori Asou, Kazuhiko Inoue, Keiji Fujiwara, Konomi Maeda, Kyoko Hikami, Mari Yokoo, Masayo Kurata, Naoko Nakamura, Ryotaro Okiayu, Sayaka Aoki, Shizuka Ishikawa, Showtaro Morikubo, Souichiro Hoshi, Takahiro Yoshimizu, Tessho Genda, Tetsuya Iwanaga, Yuki Matsuoka, Yuko Kato, Yuri Shiratori
Keywords: Hare+Guu, anime, comedy, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 26 episodes
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 14 January 2014
I'd heard high praise of this one, but it nonplussed me. Tomoko preferred the original manga. It's a comedy anime and, yes, it's funny, but in a manner that manages to be both wacky and delicate.
The story is about Hare and his goof-off mother Weda, who live in the jungle. Hare's a ten-year-old boy. Weda's a lazy, happy-go-lucky drunkard with no husband and zero reliability. Fortunately jungle life is fairly relaxed... until the day Guu shows up.
Guu looks like a small girl with pink hair, except when she doesn't. We're never quite sure what Guu is, or what the limits on her powers might be. Think of her as a Lovecraftian extra-dimensional entity that can swallow anything it likes and make it live, imprisoned, in the world inside Guu's stomach. (Hundred-legged cats also live there.) Guu finds it amusing to pretend to be a small girl, but she's not pretending very hard. Her limbs might writhe like tentacles. Her laughter is like a malfunctioning carburettor. Not only would she probably be capable of going on a Godzilla rampage and destroying Tokyo, but it's something she might easily decide to do for laughs. It feels wrong to call Guu a sadistic monster, because the evidence suggests that, on balance, she's not actually evil most of the time, but she certainly enjoys causing trouble.
Guu decides to move in with Hare and Weda. Everyone except Hare thinks she's an ordinary girl. Hare thinks she lives to torture him. He's right.
This is a great set-up. However the show keeps introducing new characters who either aren't funny or don't get enough to do. I could take or leave almost everyone in the jungle. Hare's classmates at school barely even exist as individual characters. They're a multi-headed blob of underwritten non-characters, although Marie's okay. Lazy-sensei isn't funny, although he isn't unfunny either. He's their teacher and he never teaches them anything, instead going to sleep in every class. I don't mind Lazy-sensei, but he's like a walking "TODO: insert jokes". There are all sorts of characters like this, some of whom live inside Guu and only appear when she vomits them up and/or devours Hare. There's a lot in this anime that's simply bemusing, as you wait for the point and/or the joke.
Tomoko lost patience. She doesn't object to the show as such, but after a while she said I could watch it without her if I wanted. What she does object to, though, is the awesome theme music. If you're Japanese and understand the lyrics, it's a brainworm. It'll drill into your skull and settle down for a long stay.
Personally, though, I quite like the show. I found two ways in which it would become funny.
1. The first is to have an episode about one of the great characters. There are a few such episodes and some of them are brilliant. Guu's awesome, of course, and a Guu-centric episode is always worth watching. There are others too, though. Dama the senile hairdresser is a scream. She thinks Dr Clive (pervert with a bad attitude) is her late husband and will thus pursue him like a monster in a horror movie, which terrifies Clive. Robert the trigger-happy bodyguard is another fantastic character, although you'll have to wait until the anime's almost over to meet him.
I'm also fond of the intelligent Pokute episode (15). Pokute are the villagers' main food source. Imagine perambulatory mutant heads, with the apparent sentience of a guinea pig. One could probably construct a deeply symbolic reading of this anime based on the fact that Guu eats people, who in turn eat Pokute, but in practice they mostly just come across as weird.
2. The second way of making Hare+Guu funny is to watch it by yourself, late at night. I think. Don't hold me to that, but when I used to watch this show with Tomoko during the day, I think this set a bar that was a bit too high. The show's doing outrageous wacky things, but the wacky things aren't necessarily in themselves funny and I think the show's humour is actually subtle. It's cruel in a deadpan way that doesn't hurt anyone. Guu tortures Hare (not physically) in ways you couldn't imagine, but careful examination of her behaviour shows that she's liable to help him with his personal problems. Hare+Guu is a weird, weird world and I think it affects you differently if you're watching late at night, on your own, without bouncing off the wackiness.
I like this series, but it wasn't what I'd expected. It's more fragmented and bitty. Any given element, even Guu, will be a smaller piece of the whole than you'd imagine. It has an evil sense of humour, with characters unwittingly (except Guu) tormenting each other. Look out for the imaginary Santas in episode 17, for instance. It's also capable of finding meaning and strangeness in the sadness of its characters (e.g. Marie in episode 16) and episode 26 is entirely typical of this show in the way it teases us with what looks like the traditional emotional anime finale. Will it happen at all? In Hare+Guu, possibly not.
It's outrageous, wacky and often shallow, but its humour lies off-centre from that. It's quite dark, underneath the fun. It has way more story than you'd expect. It has an awesome opening theme. It has a pink-haired small girl with powers like teleportation, time travel, superhuman strength, breathing underwater, body-swapping, mind-reading and transforming into a remote-controlled robot or a Godzilla version of herself. In fairness, also, a lot of reviewers seem to think it's one of the funniest anime they've ever seen. It's different, at least. It also has two OVA follow-up series; I'll be watching those.