More often than not, I find myself at my desk, head tucked into work and wishing of a return to halcyon days spent lazing around in front of the TV or with a game console in hand. Instead of fulfilling those fondest wishes however, I’ll tell you all about a series whose main character does jut that – and is actually pretty darn great. I am of course, talking about Himouto! Umaru-chan.
On the surface, Umaru Doma is an easy candidate for the most perfect high school girl ever – she’s beautiful, intelligent, athletic and sweetly caring. There’s just one big thing preventing her from being a flawless Mary Sue however – home time. Once in the threshold of her apartment, the hamster-themed hood is slung over her head, the cola bottle is cracked open and she dives straight into her geeky double life of games and anime. Outside of her despairing salary-man brother Taihei however, the world remains clueless to Umaru’s surprising duality – which makes up a lot of the humour in this genuinely funny comedy anime.
Umaru herself is a fascinating character; lay out the facts on paper and she’s a terrible person. Watch her in action however and there’s a charm that makes you root for her, even though she constantly deceives her friends, emotionally blackmails her brother and is a slob – but hey, I guess none of us are perfect (you know what you did). Fortunately, the rest of the cast are just as loveable without being as morally dubious!
The main female cast is rounded out with the hyperactive Sylphynford Tachibana (whose first name I totally didn’t Google the spelling of) and the more awkward Kirie Motoba. Swirling into every scene a tempestuous force of nature, Sylphynford is defined by her desire to best Umaru in competition, often to the point of an absurdity perfectly captured in Yurina Furukawa’s vocal performance. Kirie on the other hand, is nowhere near as loud or forward, carrying a nervous timidity oft mistaken for animosity. Together, the four arguably bring a distinctive element of comedy to the table – Umaru’s comedy of errors, Sylphynford’s surrealism, Nana’s explosive cuteness and when confronted by her idiot brother, Kirie’s slapstick. Some comedies may only choose one or two such elements, but Himouto! Umaru-chan throws them all in the pot together – creating a dish that is unexpectedly delicious!
It would be a disservice however, to discuss Himouto! Umaru-chan‘s characters without mentioning the series source of sympathy, through whom we witness the titular otaku’s most annoying traits – her older brother, the tired worker Taihei. As a former crazy gamer who has since succumbed to the working life, Taihei and Umaru’s loving yet combative relationship at times feels like a visualisation of the inner struggle between my desire to return to my hobbies and be a working, productive member of society (adulting sucks, kids). The relationship between the two is wonderfully written; at times they’re at each other’s throats over unreasonable shopping demands and at others, showing a loving concern over the other’s nervousness towards driving – an emotive range over small, day-to-day things that really helps cement them as having a genuine familial relationship.
Before I waffle on too much, I’ll leave you all with the confidence of knowing that Himouto! Umaru-chan is full of loveable characters, laughs and above all else – heart. Anime as a medium isn’t exactly starving for comedies these days, but Himouto! Umaru-chan is easily one of the best out there right now.
Also, just to finish off, here’s an Umaru gallery just for you (and well, the other readers):
Title: Himouto! Umaru-chan
Production: Doga Kobo
Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment
Platform(s): DVD / Blu-ray (Combi Pack)
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray
Released: Out Now!
Disclosure: A copy of Himouto! Umaru-chan was supplied by Animatsu Entertainment, the distributor, for the purposes of this review.