(And yes, it does actually have all those exclamation points.)
Ambitious for a life of manzai stardom, budding comedian Yayoi Sakamoto took the entrance exam for Kagetsu High School in Namba, a city known for its steady stream of new talent. There, by sheer coincidence, she ran into her childhood friend Yomogi Takahashi, with whom she’d performed manzai years ago, and Yuzu Hosono, another aspiring comedian. Together, the trio calls themselves Young Wai-Wai, and they’ve got their sights set on winning the Teppen Grand Prix, a national competition of manzai trios from all across Japan.
After making the qualifiers, the three move into Takako-so, a dormitory housing four other competing trios. And sure, it’s a challenge preparing for their debut on the national stage. But nothing could have prepared them for the horrible incident that would befall them days before their first trial run…
the accidental beheading of their manager’s favorite first-place bodybuilding trophy.
Another year, and another one of these manzai anime. Last time around it was Maesetsu!, and as much as I wanted to enjoy that one, I just couldn’t get into the comedy. Maybe it was the comedic timing, or the inside jokes, or the references that flew past my head because I don’t know much of anything about the manzai scene. In any case, I went into Teppen expecting to be disappointed in the same way.
This time, though, I was pleasantly surprised! Teppen‘s first episode shows that it’s possible to do a show about comedy and have it actually be funny. The comedic timing here is quick and snappy. The reactions are amusing too, but they don’t carry the humor. Instead, a series of absurd scenarios, hilariously developed, keeps viewers on their toes. And it all flows effortlessly, just like any manzai routine is supposed to. I’ll admit it: I forgot I was supposed to be writing this first impression halfway through the episode; I was just grinning at the screen like a fool until the ending song (which, as a side note, may end up as one of my favorites this season).
I will say, however, that your mileage may vary with this show. Manzai isn’t for everyone. The absurdist, slapstick humor doesn’t always land, and since it’s dependent on cultural references, those of us outside Japan shouldn’t expect to understand it all the time. Still, it’s worth a shot—even if only for the hilarious screenshots along the way.
TEPPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing ’til You Cry is streaming on Crunchyroll.