Happiness is Just a Narrative Away

This is a reply to something, but it’s probably late…

Two things I like in my anime are comedy and action, so it makes sense that I also like the genres of comedy and action. (If you’re wondering why this answer is different from Why I Love Magical Girl Anime, it’s because Pop Culture Literary’s prompts specify “narrative”…and magical girl anime aren’t the best on the narrative side of things.)

Comedy. It’s a versatile genre with almost no boundaries aside from maybe tragedy or melodrama, and even then, there are instances where you can mix the lot together. From quirky parodies like the Iyami Kart of Osomatsu-san to general silliness like that found in Sakamoto Desu Ga?, I like to think it’s part of why I’m so willing to give a lot of shows a chance. (However, I’m not very tolerant of toilet or sexual humour so I might just be a hypocrite there.)

Personally, I’m a big sucker for Japanese-exclusive culture or language jokes I can tear apart like the name puns in Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE! (However, some are more obvious than others…I’m looking at you, Itsumo Ichiban.) However, when it comes to thinking about my true favourites, they tend to be the ones with the humour that can cross barriers, whether those barriers are language barriers or cultural barriers – something like Hataraku Maou-sama!, which blends fish-out-of-water comedy with a reverse isekai situation to great effect, or the outrageousness of the aforementioned Sakamoto. This makes them easy recommendations, regardless of any watcher’s background – even if your sense of humour doesn’t match, at least it will translate into your language with minimal (if any) meaning lost in translation.

Likewise, action is able to cross barriers – it’s that shared need for the adrenaline rush that brings people together. You don’t necessarily have to get a character to talk to make an action series work, so that makes these sorts of shows easier to license. I’m also aware the Western anime-watching world prefers shows with lots of action, which is also a point in my favour.

Action as a genre in anime has some versatility, but not nearly as much as comedy due to looking at what could be considered their opposite (slice of life shows and those “slow” shows heavy on atmosphere and wonderment like Ancient Magus’ Bride) shows how small the genre space really is. Unlike Western comedy shows, which rely on injury a lot in a style reminiscent of Hozuki no Reitetsu, action needs no explanation: just a thrust of the blade, a dodge, some eye contact. Maybe a bit of sakuga, and you’ve got my Kryptonite. (I like sakuga by the way and I’m more attracted to a show with it than without it – it’s part of what makes Concrete Revolutio so cool, for instance. However, I’m not an industry expert or someone who deals in industry things too deeply, which is why I never really talk about it. I think the most service I can do for that aspect of the industry is the Ode to Anime Studios.)

I’ve used these answers because I like these genres in other media as well – I was a fan of the Alex Rider, The Power of Five (apparently also known as The Gatekeepers in the US, for reasons I don’t know) and Maximum Ride series while they lasted. If you ever find me watching a movie that isn’t anime, regardless of whether it’s animated or live-action, it’s likely to be a comedy or have comedic moments.

Of course, your tastes in what action gives you a thrill and your tastes in what makes comedy funny are all very subjective, so in that case just pick a show with both those genres like One Punch Man and you can’t really go wrong one way or another.

Over to you. Are you as much of an action fan or a comedy fan as I am? Or are you of another opinion?

9 thoughts on “Happiness is Just a Narrative Away

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  1. Great post!
    You got me thinking about how tough it must be to translate comedy. I never stopped to fully appreciate that before, because I don’t tend to watch much comedy. Western comedy usually goes over my head (my spouse constantly has to explain pop culture, history, and political references to me), and I just never picked up comedy anime. However, I bet it’s an interesting way to learn about Japanese culture and language quirks! I’ve learned many quirky things about the Japanese language because of puns and jokes.

    It’s interesting what you said about action possibly connecting with viewers more often because it is often more visual. Both genres have their own subjective magic, for sure.

    It’s not from a comedy, but you mentioned Japanese language jokes and it made me think about one of my favorites. There’s a scene in Natsume Yuujinchou where an angry cat character rants about his displeasure about an argument over some shrimp that he ate and a CD he broke. He tears through a crowd during his rant, and in his wake, one dazed crowd member asks “ebi? (shrimp?) “C-D?” and another dazed character slurs out “E, F, G…”. The subtitles didn’t reflect the joke at all, which was disappointing (but it was fun being the one explaining a joke for once)!

    (Sorry that it took me a while to read and respond. I’m taking on a master’s degree right now and this semester was busy!)


    1. Follow-up thought:
      You said that you enjoy these genres pretty evenly across other media as well. Do you read comics at all? My husband introduced me to a comedy/action comic that launched sometime last year called Cursewords that I’d highly recommend if you like magic, rogue wizards, hipsters, and Australian wildlife.


      1. Fair enough. I think what’s becoming pretty clear here is that comedy is reliant on an existing knowledge base that the show expects viewers to have, which varies immensely between cultures and through lots of other factors. Studying Japanese and watching anime comedies don’t always mix (speaking from experience), but you’re right in saying there is definitely some educational value in there somewhere.

        I’ve read some comics, but I haven’t read as much of those as I have novels, graphic novels or manga. Cursewords I’ve definitely never come across though – your recommendation is duly noted.

        Liked by 1 person

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