Do you want to watch something that will put a smile on your face regardless of what mood you are in? Specifically, an anime that has one particular character that has the charisma and charm to make an entire series into a glorious package of fun and cuteness all by herself? If you do, oh boy, do I have an anime for you.
Himouto Umaru-chan is one experience that still perplexes me as I am writing this. Not just because of how much I loved it, but also how something like this could exist. It is essentially a gag comedy anime with the most generic formula you could ever witness if you were just reading this idea on paper. An otaku girl who, even though she is an all star student to her peers on the outside, tries to keep her secret away from the people around her, even her close friends. Only her brother is aware of this since he lives with her and takes care of her despite her wacky and almost nerve racking antics that drive him almost to the edge of insanity. When you read these two sentences, more often than not, you would most likely just shrug off and browse off to the next anime on the anime list. But just hear me out for a spare moment of your time.
I’ll start with the strongest positive to Himouto Umaru-chan: Umaru-chan. There is no denying her cuteness exists, there’s just not. But since I know cuteness is not a character structure that is very clear to many people, I will explain her merits with less vague terms than just being cute. What character merits she has, one in particular she manages to show off with great tenacity and spark is charisma. Thanks in no part to how she transitions from your stereotypical perfect girl to a wild chibi character who loves to play games, drink large amounts of cola, and reading the latest manga issue. After all, who could not relate to a character that exhibits these quirks?
There are two aspects to this aspect that make it wonderful: how seamlessly the art style shifts from normal to chibi character design and how the voice actress shifts her voice pitch from this transition. It gives Umaru-chan a great sense of character, not really from a development standard, but an engaging one at that. Her presence in the world demands your attention to her in many ways that could easily become annoying by the 2nd or 4th episode when done badly. But to the writer’s credit, they know how to pace off the comedic chibi bits and add in new and interesting subtle ways to make the jokes involving her seem fresh and new with each episode. Even when she is outright selfish and acting like a crybaby, she still comes off as incredibly lovable thanks to the great charm that his inhibited from her over-the-top design and personality.
Another aspect to her that I enjoy immensely is her relationship with her brother, Taihei. You could say it is a relationship, albeit a bit exaggerated, that is both hilarious and kinda realistic if you’ve ever had an annoying little sister, or brother, who pestered you. Despite her constant barraging of wants and needs to her big brother, they still form a close relationship of sibling love that is honestly touching in a few episodes where Taihei does good things for her out of the kindness of his heart, and vice versa with Umaru-chan. He isn’t overshadowed by Umaru-chan’s over-the-top personality as he does carry himself as another funny character in what can be described as the best sibling duo in anime in recent memory.
Himouto Umaru-chan’s brand of comedy is one other big positive that sets itself higher than most comedies that center around otaku life. For one, it does not really overly state that the otaku lifestyle is inherently great or bad at the same time. It mostly keeps the message subtle so that it does not distract us from the comedy bits too much. It has no well defined message written into the narrative or characters, since it knows what type of show it is and just runs with it as a silly comedy. This is where the subject matter of being an otaku is seen better than most that try to because it can be enjoyed by everyone who has a particular view on this particular issue that can be against or for it.
As for the comedy jokes themselves, most of them hit the mark quite well. A lot of it centers around satire of real-life issues that we all go through, whether it is how we go through the internet, social situations, and our need for material goods more than anything else. What’s great about it is that you do not have to be a self-described otaku, or know the culture for the matter, to get the jokes. Such as not getting any internet connection for today and realize how life seems meaningless without it, and so on and so forth. The banter with Umaru-chan and her brother is always the biggest highlight in the show’s comedy, as I’ve mentioned before about the great relationship they have. And there are even some funny moments with the supporting cast; unfortunately they are not on the same comedic level of our two siblings.
The supporting cast, what little there is that garner a big role in a specific arc, have their moments here and there. Umaru-chan’s best friend, Ebina, is certainly one note in how she is constantly shy whenever she is near people. Not to say that they are not funny by any stretch, it just does not raise the bar for one of the best shy girls in anime. Sylphinford is pretty hilarious as Umaru-chan’s gaming rival. Kirie Motoba, however, is my least favorite of the cast. It mostly comes down to the fact that whenever she is with any other character, like Umaru-chan, her personality gets really overshadowed by how bland it is.
I’d like to give an honorable mention to the OP/ED, which I rarely ever do in reviews only if it is something special. To which Umaru-chan’s is quite the special one that always sets the stage for what you are in for. Just from the first ten seconds of the OP always makes me bob my body up and down to the rhythm of the cute repetition of Umaru-chan shouting “Umr hai” over and over just makes me giddy with excitement every time. Aimi Tanaka’s performance proves she can be exciting not only with her voice over but also her singing, even if it isn’t the best voice in the business.
Finding a great otaku comedy is hard to come by. As many as there are, some are good or decent enough to just think of it as a good time waster and some are completely average or below that do not have any punch to their jokes. Himouto Umaru-chan has officially risen my optimism for more comedies of this nature like this one to come out more often. It succeeded in proving to me that this type of comedy is far from dead. I know some may groan at that notion, but if more studios take notes from Himouto Umaru-chan, I’m all for it.