Ex-gymnast Uramichi is the high-energy, always-smiling host of the children’s show, Together with Maman, and joined by his fellow actors / musicians, including a couple of kohai dressed as abunny and bear mascots, he performs in front of and with an audience of kids, Barney the Dinosaur-style. But something is a little off—namely, the advice that Uramichi gives which, though often with a smile, presents a dark, sardonic view of life past thirty. The others aren’t quite what they seem in front of the camera either, including a bitter failed pop star and a not-too-smart singer who laughs like a maniac at even the silliest dirty jokes. But leading it all is Uramichi, who seems ready to go off the deep end at any moment—if it hasn’t happened already.
Since I read volume one of the manga, I’ve been anticipating this series, which in style is like a western dark comedy, but with an anime sensibility. And at least for one episode, it works extraordinarily well. In fact, the bright pastels featured in the animation and the wonderfully used kiddy sound effects and music (including a pitch-perfect opening and a jazzy and K-popish ED) help along the frequent gags, which don’t all hit, but at least all contain some measure of humor (often clever). The jokes are based on dialogue and build up over the course of a scene, and many reveal Uramichi’s bitter attitude, which sometimes seems to border also on the suicidal. That’s what’s really most interesting about this series—how it faces head-on the pain of living an unsatisfied life. There’s depth to be mined here in addition to all the gags. In the manga, however, the aim seemed to drift a bit toward a more conventional workplace comedy, and I’m eager to see if that happens with this adaptation. If so, it’ll take the edge off—and there is no doubt an edge and discomfort to it all—but may also take away what makes the series special. But for now, I’m happily along for the ride (more happily than the title character, for sure), especially as led by the Jekyll and Hyde performance by the perfectly cast Hiroshi Kamiya. This is a series to keep an eye one, with potential of it becoming a great comedy anime, and hopefully something even more than that.
Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan can be streamed on Funimation