Keiji FujiwaraSuzuko MimoriNatsuki HanaeSumire Uesaka
Outbreak Company
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2013
Director: Kei Oikawa
Writer: Naruhisa Arakawa
Original creator: Ichiro Sakaki
Actor: Kazuya Ichijo, Keiji Fujiwara, Kouji Takahashi, Maaya Uchida, Mai Fuchigami, Mariko Honda, Mikoi Sasaki, Natsuki Hanae, Rikako Yamaguchi, Shinichiro Miki, Sumire Uesaka, Suzuko Mimori, Takahiro Fujiwara, Takahiro Tomita
Keywords: anime, fantasy, favourite
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2013
Review date: 7 May 2024
Outbreak Company
It's cool, funny, surprising and occasionally made me cringe in agony. Also, Myucel is adorable.
It's an isekai with a difference. An interdimensional gate opened up in Japan, leaving the government with the headache of working out what to do with a neighbouring country of dwarves, elves, magic and dragons. What should they do? Invade? Even with modern military technology, you might get your arse kicked. The solution they eventually came up with was to find a friendless otaku, drug him and send him across to teach the locals about otaku culture.
That's Shinichi Kanou. His job in the fantasy kingdom of Erdant (with no way home and no way out) is to be the general manager of the local branch of the multimedia entertainment company Amutec. He has no management experience, or indeed any work experience at all. He used to be a shut-in who never went outdoors. He's also going to have a key diplomatic role and will become a schoolteacher. (Teacher training: none. Diplomatic skills: self-destructive. He has a habit of getting overexcited and ranting aloud about things he shouldn't, e.g. girls' breasts. The guy needs more self-control and he's only staying alive because he's so obviously guileless that the locals quite like him.)
On one level, this is bog-standard anime isekai stuff, albeit with an unusual element in the presence of the Japanese military. (Sorry, that's "Japanese Self-Defence Force".) Shinichi is a well-meaning male otaku protagonist who'll end up surrounded by girls! It's lovely, though, because:
(a) his otaku education campaign does indeed change Erdant society. They're a hierarchical, racist society, including right-wing supremacists who believe humans' rightful place is above elves and dwarves. 80% of the population are illiterate. Children aren't allowed time to play, either getting military training or being used for child labour. Myucel gets it twice as bad because she's a half-elf. Shinichi is capable of yelling at the Empress for being abusive towards a maid, then realising a moment too late that he's just taken his life in his hands. We see the elves and dwarves in his school going from race hatred to putting all their argumentative powers into silly otaku disagreements.
(b) he earns his relationships. He defends Myucel from the freaking Empress, he teaches her literacy and he thinks half-elves are amazing. If I'd been her, I'd have been devoted to him too. (Her devotion goes to another level, though.) I feel sorry for Empress Petralka, though, who's never going to beat Myucel to win Shinichi, despite changing her worldview and genuinely working hard at things she's never had to do before. She's doomed romantically because of her position (and to some extent her personality).
(c) the last two episodes turn everything we knew upside-down. It's sinister, with assassination attempts. We can't be sure who's a friend or not. That was startling. Mind you, the baddies are idiots. I can see how their actions fit into their worldview, but can't they see what a great thing they had going?
On the other hand, though, some scenes caused me pain. Shinichi teaches the locals about anime and manga, including stuff that only an otaku would say aloud. Oh, wow. I nearly died. The locals then memorise it all, leading to comedy scenes in which no one has a clue and they're all getting deadly serious about nonsense. The soccer match in ep.6 just about killed me. Dwarves + elves = nuclear football.
When I dig up some old show I'd never heard of, I usually learn that it's obscure for a reason. Not this time. I was charmed. (And occasionally in mild pain.) It's obviously aimed at fanboys, both in the subject matter and in surrounding a male otaku protagonist with girls, but it's gleefully making jokes about when he's crazy or dysfunctional. "And so, lots of pretty girls practically fall into the bland male protagonist's lap," is part of the course content at school. The hikikomori episode is sympathetic, true and saying something important. It's one of the best hikikomori episodes I've seen in anime, actually. The show also sometimes has a female viewpoint, with Minori being a die-hard Boys Love fangirl. (She's so bad that I wonder if she'd even be interested in heterosexual men.)
That was a pleasant surprise. Well worth a look.