Joshiraku is an adaptation of a manga written by Kouji Kumeta (Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei) which follows a group of girls who discuss random things, reaching conclusions that are far from the initial conversation.
That is, more or less, the synopsis on MAL for Joshiraku and it’s more or less how it was sold to me. Cute girls discussing random sh*t. And, in all honesty, it’s not too far from the truth. The manga describes this really well, actually:
“This manga is about cute girls and what they do to entertain themselves. A manga that doesn’t focus on frustrating topics or similar things.”.
Just as a warning, this episodic review may be quite harsh. However, it does reflect my opinion on the show to this point and I haven’t sugarcoated anything. I’m positive when something good comes up and negative when something bad comes up. I’ve tried to find a balanced point of view when I can, but if I do appear to be too harsh, I apologise.
The characters themselves are rakugo comedians, though rakugo itself is not at all too prominent within the show thus far. It’s backstage where everything happens. One of the girls will come off stage and enter the backstage area to find the others sat down in silence. They’ll start a conversation out of the blue and this is where the show either turns into a masterpiece or falls flat on its face, depending on who you are and what your take on comedy is like.
The characters have a variety of comedic personalities and appearances that understandably could cause rifts. Personally, I found it quite difficult to pinpoint who the actual protagonist of the show was, however, it does appear to be Marii Buratei – the red-hair girl in the centre of the picture below. As a comedic act, she acts as the tsukkomi (the American equivalent would be ‘straight man’) of the group, therefore arguably the most reasonable one of the group. A tsukkomi is often found making exaggerations, as does she when she repeatedly shouts “Don’t ask a trifling question!”.
However, Kumeta also introduces Tetora Bōhatei – the brown-haired girl with the ponytail – as the true protagonist in the manga. This is just one example of how ambiguous Joshiraku can be. Whether it’s something so simple as who the protagonist is or whether it’s humour-related, this is definitely a show that can throw in some ambiguity every now and again. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. It just means that some people will like different aspects to the show than others, as I’ve noticed in various discussions about the show.
Joshiraku is a very self-aware anime. It breaks the fourth wall for the sake of comedy goodness knows how many times. It gets a little annoying for me, personally, but that’s more likely because I’m quite the conventional person and with the amount of times I’ve heard that “the fourth wall must not be broken”, I’m not surprised that I hardly laugh at the comedy aspects outside of the fourth wall. Admittedly, some lines of dialogue when breaking this wall down are funny, but breaking the fourth wall doesn’t have to happen all the time. That’s one thing that an A-Level in Film Studies taught me and it’s one thing that has irritated me since. Of course, it’s good that the show is unconventional, but it’s an effect that simply annoys me.
This isn’t the only style of humour that Joshiraku has that I don’t necessarily enjoy. From the get go, the show has some – in my opinion – really bad humour, especially in the first episode where there’s humour regarding the subject of nudity. I won’t say too much regarding this as it’s a common ‘comedic’ aspect of anime as whole that annoys me so much, but I still feel like it had to be mentioned, even if it fails to help justify my disliking of the show.
Regardless of the comedic aspects, the show itself seems quite repetitive, something that often makes a series less appealing to me as it continues. The show starts with a character performing. They return backstage. They sit with the other performers in brief silence. A conversation starts. Chaos ensues. They come to a conclusion that has nothing to do with the original conversation. How many times can they pull this off? For the sake of my sanity, I hope it’s not all 13 episodes. Not that I can see myself watching the entire series, but we’ll see.
Personally, I also think that some of the references in the show are quite obscure. You have to know an awful lot about Japanese pop culture, right down to the cultural memes and much more to understand a lot of the humour. As many people point out, a lot of the puns and jokes don’t really work unless you have knowledge of the Japanese culture and language. Whether this is because of the viewer’s cultural ignorance or whether it’s down to the joke being lost in translation, it doesn’t really matter. You either understand the jokes or not. Joshiraku as a whole is basically a slice-of-life, comedy with entire sketches that won’t be understood by the viewer. Even in the first two episodes, there are jokes that I personally didn’t understand, which doesn’t really bode well for the rest of the series.
The actual art of the show is quite nice. The style is quite a fun one with the colours often just popping out. The studio, J.C.Staff, have done a good job so far at working with how little action there actually is in this show. Sure, there’s no fancy animation or action-packed scenes like there are in some of their other shows (Alice to Zouroku, Shokugeki no Souma) but with how laid back this show is, it’s really not necessary to go all out on the animation here. As another general point, the ED is also quite fun, but again – annoying. I’ve heard it so much during the time I’ve been a fan of anime, it has lost it’s appeal to me. I feel like such a pessimist.
At this point, all I can see here is literally one purpose for this anime, if I’m being completely honest. It’s hardly comedic as the references are often too obscure or the humour isn’t actually funny. It’s a slice-of-life as it shows what these characters get up to, but even this isn’t entertaining or interesting to me. Hopefully, it gets better soon, but the one purpose for this show as I see it is, as the show itself puts it: