Himouto! Umaru-chan Series Review

himouto umaruchan ep 1

My face when a show trips at the finish line.

Himouto! Umaru-chan was another show this season that I didn’t have intent to watch initially, to the extent that I was shocked to discover in the first episode that it wasn’t a short. Initially, it held my focus solely because I couldn’t help but marvel at just how thoroughly awful Umaru was. I doubt that that alone could’ve kept me watching the entire season, though, as while temper tantrums can have the mesmerizing quality similar to a car wreck or house fire, no one would watch five minutes of temper tantrums every week for three months. Luckily, the show realized this as well, and Umaru’s behavior tones down a bit by episode three or so.

Before the final quarter of the show, I would’ve said that from here it mixed things up enough and varied its humor to make it a decent comedy. Unfortunately, though, by the final quarter, the show had come to rely entirely too much on referential humor and dull slice-of-life type material for there to be much humor involved. Are visual references to Gendo Ikari really supposed to be that side-splitting at this point? The key to referential humor is that it needs to be clever, but late-season Himouto’s are the equivalent of a person who tells a bland joke you’ve heard twenty times before and then elbows you in the side while winking to signal that it was supposed to be funny.

I suppose the final piece of the series isn’t so bad if you’re invested in the characters as people, although I myself couldn’t muster any concern for them given that most of them have little to no depth. Sylphyn is quite funny, but I don’t care in the slightest about her relationship with her older brother. Ebina spending half an episode worrying about her stomach growling is of a type of humor so overcooked that its basically mush, and she’s such a one-note character that it doesn’t inspire sympathy, either. Taihei’s female manager’s shtick (oh no, I’m a woman who is single still!) is likewise overdone and uninspired, both as comedy and as character drama (not that it is played as such, exactly – not that this is ever played as such – see Kashimashi, Toradora*, Nourin, etc., etc., etc.). If this had been slice-of-life with a dash of comedy from the get-go, I never would’ve gotten past the first episode.

I’m being hyper-negative, but the final episodes of the show really did bore me senseless, and it left a bad taste in my mouth when the final credits rolled. Remember how I mentioned being shocked that these weren’t shorts? This show should’ve taken the My Neighbor Seki-kun or Hozuki no Reitetsu with episodes of roughly twelve minutes length, as the later episodes really demonstrate a lack of comedic material.

My advice, then, is to stick to the first nine episodes and dispense with the final three. They have their moments, but not enough to justify sitting through them completely.

The one thing I will give complete… well, maybe praise isn’t the right word. Other than a couple of stupid gags about Taihei’s colleagues mistaking Umaru for a cute live-in girlfriend, the show mercifully steers clear of incest nonsense regarding its brother and sister pair. I’m a little hesitant to praise this, though, since, well, is it praise-worthy to skip the incest that pervades the imouto genre? At the same time, it was a relief to find it absent here, and I even say that as someone who has enjoyed that angle in other shows (although it may be wise to note that none of these have been imouto shows…).

All in all, Himouto isn’t bad, and it’s even good in its mid-series portion, but the final frame takes the wind out of its sails completely. There seems to be a decent chance it’ll get a second season given that it’s provided a healthy bump to manga sales, but if the comedic material has gotten this sparse, the prospect doesn’t fill me with delight.

* I like Toradora quite a bit, but isn’t it fascinating how the mid-20’s teacher is flipped about being single while Ryuuji’s grandparents are apparently totally cool with the idea that a pair of sixteen year olds are about to be wed – one of whom could easily be mistaken for thirteen?

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