To Be Hero
A father is made a "superhero" to defend Earth (and in particular his daughter) from an alien invasion. NONE OF THIS LOOKS LIKE YOU'D EXPECT IT TO!
This has become my favorite "short" series (episodes less than 15 minutes long), and it packs a surprising amount of storyline into its 12 mini-episodes, including a 180 degree turn in its attitude toward, and depiction of, its characters, to the point that it doesn't seem like we're talking about the same people at all. Well...
It begins as a tasteless, but frequently hilarious, farce. OK, it's NOT all that funny that the "Old Man" has a job as a toilet-seat designer. You wouldn't think the job would require all that much creativity- how many variants can there be?- and this would certainly not seem to make him much of a "chick magnet" (even though he's depicted as such), but having to go to all those conventions? THAT I can believe- EVERY occupation has conventions! (Don't they?) Our hero, that "Old Man", is never known by any other name in the series (he's only 38, by the way), because his daughter calls him that; his actual name is as much a mystery as the name of Kyon's sister in The Melancholy of Haruhi. He's actually a slender, handsome, goateed fellow - but that won't last.
The daughter is only known as "Min-Chan". She's 16. In the beginning, we're shown the "Old Man" as a neglectful parent, and a philanderer to boot, and I wondered why Min-Chan elected to stay with him rather than her long-suffering mom when her parents divorced, but the show explains this later. Min-Chan is a tsundere in the classical mode (at least at first), including bust size. (The invading aliens refer to human females as "globers"- for reasons that shouldn't require more than two seconds of contemplation- and Min-Chan is, as is usual with tsunderes, sadly austere in the globes department, as the aliens point out.)
The Old Man gets sucked down one of his own toilets. (An aside: I was trying to think of characters to whom this had happened, and aside from Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter novels, and some rats in an Aardman Animation film, the image that came to me was from an old Robert Crumb "underground" comic, where a character named Pete the Plumber meets this fate, and comments while being squeezed through the plumbing: "Seems I can remember installing this very pipe. Wish I'd used a wider gauge." Some images just stay with you, you know. Even when you wish they wouldn't.)
-But back to the present show. At the end of his journey through the plumbing, the "Old Man" is made into a "superhero"- though I can't see how the term is at all applicable here. He's physically transformed from a good-looking guy into what looks like an out-of-shape (and ugly as sin) sumo wrestler. AND HE'S STUCK IN THIS BODY! Despite his most exhaustive searches he fails to find a cure. ("Damn! I can't find a way to go back to normal even on Yahoo Answers!") And worst of all, he can't even tell Min-Chan who he actually is. Apparently part of the curse (for such it is) is that if he tries to talk to her, only obscene remarks come out. Given that he was portrayed as neglectful at the beginning of the show, I thought, OK, the theme's that he's doing penance - the most dreaded thing (and so the most effective punishment) for someone like this is to have the thing they've taken for granted placed beyond their reach.
In any case, Old Man ends up having to move in with Yamada, the pervert-next-door. Yamada is pretty annoying, AND has an excessively large head (ALSO pointed out in the show), but he undergoes a transformation later that I think anyone would agree was a 100% improvement.
The alien invaders are almost all INCREDIBLY incompetent, much more a danger to themselves than to the human race- I counted two unintentional suicides in their ranks- and even when they field a mecha, it's a rather poorly thought-out design, and this is all just as well, for our "superhero" is actually not able to DO much more than a sumo wrestler can. (His "signature takedown move" is to slap his opponent with his sandal. Of course this only works up to a point...)
As I said, I found most of this fun, tasteless chaos, and we'll even meet a few delightful aliens- one being the middle son of the evil alien emperor (this son is named MoeMoe; his older brother is Moe, and his younger of course MoeMoeMoe), who falls in love with Min-Chan because she's just as violent as his own mother was to him. (We'll see the emperor's story, including his terrible luck with females that's made him bitter- and HIS backstory contains a double take from a doctor that's one of the smoothest (and most hilarious) verbal recoveries I've ever witnessed.) The other notable alien is called a Dataling; it reminded me somehow of the Rykors and Kaldanes from Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Chessmen of Mars, and in time the show gets out of the Dataling's rather unique physiology one of the most original scatological jokes ever.
The show is filled with delightful one-liners (or two-liners, like Min-Chan's delightful gratuitous dig at Assassination Classroom), but as we progress through the show, we get more of Old Man and Min-Chan's backstories that present a very different, much more serious picture of this father and daughter and their relationship, and things in their present also start going south, to the extent that by the penultimate episode I couldn't see any way a happy ending could occur without some gimmick. Well, at least the show didn't go for the more obvious gimmick- as the show itself went to great pains to point out, when we got there- though I'm really not that comfortable with leaving things this open to interpretation.
The art is a bit crude- not uncommon in the maniacal-farce genre, though. I liked the closing ditty and its video-game-inspired graphics, though even I'm not sure why.
Definitely one of the most clever anime series I've seen, and while by its own admission it can't rap, it CAN give us some delightfully funny verbal (and sight) gags- IF you're OK with vulgar humor. Its attempts to get serious are a little jarring in contrast to the rest of the show, but some are quite moving considered by themselves. If its attempts to meld vulgar chaos with serious pathos don't quite work, at least each can engage the viewer in its appropriate manner. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Potty humor, of course, but MoeMoe is an especially bad offender. Quite a bit of profanity. Min-Chan in a towel is about as fanservicey as it gets, though. Adults only please.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
To Be Hero © 2016 Animation League
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