The image all Umaru Doma's classmates have of her is that of a top student and a cheerful, kind, and considerate girl as well; but when she arrives at her brother Taihei's apartment, which she calls home now, she dons a hamster-hooded cape and turns into a selfish, lazy, spoiled otaku (she's artistically rendered in "chibi" style to match this emotional transformation into someone about half her age.) Her brother tries to cajole her into acting more adult and responsible, but it seems he's (mostly) fighting a losing battle. His best hope might be that if his sister starts hanging out with friends outside of school, she might have to keep her "outside" face (as she calls it) on more of the time. But a lot depends on the friend, and on the circumstances...
This show is a lot more than just a new variation on the big brother/little sister setup; I think it's the most delightfully weird comedy since Mysterious Girlfriend X. Unlike many other anime attempts at comedy, this one really understands the basic elements of actual humor: timing, irony, and letting comedic situations naturally flow from your characters' foibles (of which Umaru herself has many.) It's mainly constructed of story vignettes running a few minutes each (some of which are placed AFTER the closing credits) and in content range from outrageous farce (the "pudding" story in Episode Nine is a personal favorite); to over-the-top sight gags (some of Umaru's tantrums are particularly memorable here); to simple tales of someone (usually Umaru) getting their comeuppance; to surprisingly gentle slice-of-life segments that aren't that different in structure or mood from those of shows like Non Non Biyori. Despite its apparently simplistic character art, it actually manages some amazing things with its characters' expressions; "chibi" Umaru in particular of course, but the show even eventually gets some good laughs from those of its "straight man" Taihei (again, in the "pudding" story, where Taihei himself observes, "Aren't these representations of me rather awful?")
Starting with Umaru herself, let's first note that this show does NOT have the bro-con/sis-con elements of, say, Oreimo. The relationship between Taihei and Umaru is much more like the one between a (perhaps) over-indulgent parent and their spoiled-brat child. (The actual chronological age difference between the sibs here is about a decade.) Umaru knows full well that she's a pain in the ass, but rationalizes that she can't help it. She's not a tsundere in the usual sense, and rarely actually pummels Taihei (she does one time, when he gives someone else a plushie she wanted.) But as noted before, she does throw tantrums to get what she wants, even in public if she thinks none of her classmates are around to see it. (Sometimes she slips, though.) When at home (which is Taihei's home of course- the circumstances of her arrival there are not revealed at first, but she's been there a year) she pigs out on junk food and chugs cola. (Maybe the most unrealistic part of the show is that she eats like this and still stays slender.) Her taste in video games runs toward what Oreimo's Kuroneko called "bullet hell" games, and racing games, and sword-and-sorcery RPGs - NOT eroge. Indeed, she doesn't seem to have much in the way of romantic thoughts, much less sexual ones, despite being nearly 16 when the show starts. Emotionally, she's still just a kid at heart; we get to hear her thoughts during a midnight trip to a convenience store- Umaru seldom goes out at night- and while they start out with fear, they end with the same sense of joyous wonder that a child can slip into so naturally. When Taihei proposes dividing the apartment with a curtain to give her some privacy, she's at first rather oblivious as to why she might need it. Big Brother might be aware of Umaru's chronological age, but Umaru herself usually isn't.
It may look like Taihei is not only failing to be an effective guardian to Umaru- when he tries to ration the bubble bath, she sneaks it out; when he gives her money to buy nice clothes, she returns with cheap clothes and a video game- but is not doing himself any favors by putting up with her, especially with her habit of waking him up in the middle of the night for this and that. But the relationship isn't QUITE as one-sided as it might seem. We see Taihei at work (as a salaryman in an apparently menial office position), and he's obviously the same self-sacrificing workaholic in his paid job that he is at home. He's the kind of individual who has to be doing something at all times, and of course Umaru gives him plenty to do. You also get the impression that Taihei feels lonely (in spite of having an old-classmate-turned-his-supervisor named Kanau who obviously has the hots for him.) And in one marvelous scene where Taihei's getting a little lost on the way home triggers a memory, we get yet another hint why he might be so solicitous toward his sister. Nor is Umaru's brattiness unlimited; in one episode we see her feelings toward her brother do a 180 almost instantly. We're told that the Doma family is rich- and we might even see this confirmed during the show- which makes Taihei's position as a menial office worker (apparently NOT in the family firm) very strange, and Umaru's arrival at his place, in apparently unpleasant circumstances, even more mysterious. I have a feeling there's a very interesting backstory behind all this.
As for Umaru's new girlfriends (on whom Taihei has to pin his hopes of her straightening out), the first one we meet is the endearingly pathetic ultra-waifu Nana Ebina. She moves into the apartment under Taihei and Umaru's, so naturally she ends up walking to school with Umaru and becoming a close friend. She's self-conscious about a lot of things (and when she's particularly so, she's drawn with steam coming out of her head.) She is from Akita, and at home speaks its regional dialect (which I gather is considered "hillbilly" by most Japanese); she's trying to hide it, but, like Umaru's tantrums, sometimes it just slips out. When she was traveling out of Akita, she became aware that people were staring at her for some reason, but is oblivious as to what it is- is her accent somehow coming out? (Nope. And I might add that after the outrageous chest sizes of the girls in so many animes, this actually seems an almost realistic depiction of just how modest the figure of a "buxom" young woman in Japan might actually look.) Nana's self-consciousness might explain why she's a poor student as well. When she first meets her upstairs neighbor Taihei, his kindness toward her makes her develop a crush on him, which of course she's unable to articulate. (In his presence, she just starts shaking and emitting especially copious amounts of steam.)
I fell in love with Nana pretty quickly; Umaru's next new friend took me longer. Kirie Motoba has an inability to communicate easily with others; she glares at everyone, but it's mostly out of fear rather than hostility. (She CAN be violent toward her doofus big brother, though.) Two stories featuring her warmed me to her: the first when she plays a game of Life with Umaru and Taihei; the second was when she spent the better part of a day just staring at someone because she was still so uncomfortable talking to them that she couldn't get to the point. She thinks that Umaru's "at home" personality is literally a different person- maybe Umaru's little sister?- and Umaru is content to go along with it for typical Umaru reasons ("Kirie-chan's so good at taking care of me, I'm becoming a worse person....heck, I'm fine with becoming worse.") So Umaru-at-home becomes "Komaru" to Kirie, and I guess that "Mudd's Women" episode of Star Trek was right- your attitude CAN make you look completely different. (Wasn't this also used as a plotline in an episode of Non Non Biyori as well? Oh, and as for that game of Life that the three play, I think I recognize that woman that the game has pegged as the future mother of Taihei's children. A great scene for "shippers".)
The last of Umaru's new friends, the improbably named Sylphynford Tachibana (Sylphyn for short) I never quite embraced. Her main defining characteristic is her obsession with being the "first", to hold the #1 spot in, well, everything. She'll be your friend, but only if she can defeat you at something first. Her chief competitor at school is of course Umaru, so she wants to enlist the help of one "U.M.R." in her battle against Umaru. (Of course, "U.M.R" is Umaru, in the mask and under the pseudonym she uses in "gamer" competitions.) So two of Umaru's girlfriends know her as "other" people as well as as Umaru. It's rather complicated, and of course silly, but there's a certain sweetness to this show that made me, at least, forgive it even when it's being utterly nonsensical. One also keeps watching wondering when people are going to meet in the WRONG context and things are going to become REALLY chaotic (and there are certain males in the mix that could make things awkward if it became obvious to the girls that THEY knew each other, as well.) But as for Sylphyn- maybe she just hasn't had enough time on stage in 12 anime episodes (the manga is ongoing), but I kind of felt that the components of her personality didn't quite mesh together. She's literally drawn with stars (or at least crosses) in her eyes. A strange girl, even for THIS show.
The show's playfully demented opening song (and animation) are delightful, and the closing animation, to a cheerful J-pop tune, is also sweetly upbeat; the graphics of the closer reflect Umaru at a somewhat more socially advanced stage, and the variation that ends the last episode (Episode 12) is just, simply, beautiful.
There's a rare genuine sweetness and intelligence behind this show, though it takes some time and patience to discover it, and I suspect a lot of viewers might just look at Umaru's selfish nature and give up watching early. Please don't. Even Umaru has her moments, in time. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Very mild fanservice, mostly involving Ebina's chestiness, and everyone does don swimsuits in one episode. We visit Umaru in the tub once, where she tells us how to enjoy a bath. (It involves having all your favorite stuff and food handy, as do all Umaru's lectures on how to have fun.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Himouto! Umaru-Chan © 2015 Doga Kobo,
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