You know, there can be tremendous power in the redemptive reading. This term, which I first came across while reading the writings of Phil Sandifer on Tardis Eruditorum (check that out by the way, some great stuff there), he defined it as an active attempt or effort to actually like what you are viewing in a media text. I have taken this on for some of my reviews, as I find that even if a show doesn’t quite work, it can be interesting to look at it as if you enjoy it. So, here I am, one day late with this April Fools Day special review, covering a show that I find fits this mode of analysis perfectly…..
Outbreak Company (Fall 2013 Anime series) review edited by Ryugama628 (ty bro ^_^)
Director: Kei Oikawa
Script: Naruhisa Arakawa, Rie Koshika, Keiichiro Ochi and Tsuyoshi Tamai
Now, Outbreak Company concerns the story of an ordinary otaku, Shinichi Kanou, who gets roped into a secret government operation. But it’s not even in Japan, or this world. It turns out that the Japanese military/government stumbled upon a portal to another world, a fantasy quasi-medieval world where a powerful kingdom, known as Eldant, resides. Shinichi’s mission? To bring attention to anime/otaku culture to the people of the kingdom as a form of cultural exchange, whether he wants to or not. In this strange endeavor, he is aided by the megane babe and soldier Minori, and the mysterious and clever manager Jinzaboru. Along the way, he finds friends among the residents of this strange new world: be it the demure maid Myucel; the sexy werewolf girl Elbia; or the cute tsundere lolita princess Petralka. Prepare for some wacky adventures!
What intrigues me the most about Outbreak Company is that, despite its issues, it is still entertaining. The hook of the story contains the commentary on cultural exchange stuffed in the midst of some rather standard, if a little off due to light novel adaptation, woes: Tropeful characterization; fanservice up the wazoo (There is a lot of it); some questionable material that doesn’t fit tone-wise; and having a non-end of sorts on top of that, since it’s not much beyond an advertisement for the light novel series. On paper this show doesn’t look good at all.
But, what saves the show for me is that it does have some interesting ideas. The world setting, while quasi medieval in the way that one sees in fiction that hasn’t been exposed to it directly, is quite quirky and delightful. Outbreak Company also has an interesting cast of characters, even if they are cut from the stereotype/trope cloth a bit too much: the otaku, the kind meido, the megane babe, the loli tsundere princess, etc. Though, I like the funny character interactions quite a lot; in fact, it’s probably the best part of the show. The show has a lot of fun with the ‘fish out of water’ culture shock that Shinichi experiences while he is living in the Eldant Kingdom.
But the show does something rather clever, and I am not sure if the creators intend to include it in here. There is a subtle imperialistic overtones between the JSDF and the Eldant Kingdom. In episode 3, a group of Eldant natives band together to form a group opposed to the outsiders coming in, and I suddenly had a flashback to me reading about similar groups in Asia during the imperial period (like the Boxer Rebellion in China and backlash in late Shogunate/early Meiji Era). The show does demonstrate how this can end being a bad thing, like to the point where the natives and making their own versions of anime/otaku culture items (see anime boom of the 00s). The show also makes an analogy to the cultural exchange phenomena associated with anime/otaku culture exported from Japan to the United States/The West, and how that has affected in both expected and unexpected ways. Of course, the issue is that it stays in the background until about the end of the show, the story more content on lol antics and comedy.
Of course, Outbreak Company has its many different issues, but they mostly pertain to the light novel adaptation section of current anime. The characterization is very trope-heavy and the fanservice factor is really high to the point where it becomes distracting from the storyline. The narrative also has a hard time deciding whether it wants to be a story arc-driven narrative or a more episodic storyline, and as a result it botches both. I mean, you would think with four writers on this show that they would talk about basic continuity or story structure?
Competent production is the best way to describe how this show looks. The directing lacks some of the epic-ness this kind of story needs, but it does excel in the more comedic moments of the episodes. Mind you, there are some moments of flashy action and neat animation that pop up every once in a while. It should come as no surprise that Kei Oikawa hasn’t done much as director besides this show, only doing work as an episode director/storyboard artist. I think one episode opens with Shinichi making a vague comment about the director sucking which, yeah, it wasn’t very funny; more self-deprecating, if you ask me. The music at points seems to muster some effort in making this sound ‘fantasy epic’, but most of the time it’s just wallpaper.
Sentai Filmworks got Kyle Jones to helm this dub, co-written by him and actor/scriptwriter George Manley. Now, Sentai Filmworks dubs fall into three known categories: great, decent/good and ‘better than it should’. With Outbreak Company, it falls into the third category. Granted, it does have a good cast mixing in newer and veteran talent. Tyler Galindo does a great job as Shinichi, making him sound like an actual desperate geek who is living the dream, acquitting himself well. Juliet Simmons is a very good VA as Myucel. Kira Vincent Davis, while initially shrill, fits the pouty princess Petralka to a tee. But the standout performance is Andy McAvin as Jinzabaro Matoba, who is just amazing at pulling off the clever sly manager. The script has a tendency of inserting American/Western references into some of the jokes, but other than that it’s quite faithful to the source material. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the special captions work done by Cayla Coats, for some of the more obscure references the show throws in for good measure.
Overall, Outbreak Company is far from perfect but still very fun and worth a watch. It contains some really interesting ideas even if it seems occupied with other things. In fact I will go so far as to say I’d rather watch this in a marathon with Problem Children, No Game No Life and DanMachi then all of SAO, take that!
Anyway, for this next month I got another review planned for the blog as well as a piece for the YuriNation. Til next time dear readers.