The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Kusuo Saiki is MUCH more than your typical "psychic"- in fact, he has the powers of a god. You might expect such a character to either want to save the world, or enslave it, or destroy it, but Saiki wants to do none of these things. He views normal human beings as banal and predictable (probably understandable, since he can read all their thoughts), but he's not really a complete misanthrope, and will (albeit VERY grudgingly) do a good deed from time to time. Mostly he wants to get through high school as quietly as possible, and be left alone to enjoy his solitary pleasures. But his classmates have other ideas.
This show is a "gag" anime, but unlike some other shows I've seen that are supposed to be representatives of this genre (e.g., Chronicles of the Going Home Club), this one is an overachiever in the joke department (in fact, its hyperkinetic pace is really a bit of a problem), and, amazingly, a very high percentage of the jokes really WORK here; they include some magnificent sight gags, glorious random chaos, and quite a bit of fourth-wall-breaking. (People in the show, including Saiki, have absurd hair colors? Saiki takes full credit for that himself.) It's all told through Saiki's droll stream-of-consciousness narration, but while I was able to keep up with MOST of it, I'm sure I lost some of the content through its rapid-fire delivery; in that respect I might have enjoyed this a bit more in the original manga.
A less-than-exhaustive list of Saiki's abilities includes: flying; reading minds (naturally); clairvoyance; teleportation; invisibility; turning back time; creating illusions in peoples' minds (that last as long as he wishes); and physical changes in his size and appearance (REAL ones, not just illusions.) At one point we even see him shut down a typhoon. On the other hand, there are a few things he can't do- he can't see spirits, for example (save one); and several of his other powers have rather arbitrary limitations. For example, he says that if he retrieves something by teleportation, he must replace it with something of comparable value, which certainly seems more like some weird ethical rule of his own rather than some physical (or even metaphysical) law- and to tell the truth, he's not above fudging here: when he's short the cash to pay for a meal, he commences a series of quite unwanted "exchanges" on some quite unwitting parties to make up the deficit (his father actually gets whammied TWICE), in one of the most hilarious comic cascades I've ever seen ANYWHERE.
Since I mentioned his dad, let's meet his parents and his classmates (or "nuisances", as he calls them; he even RANKS them):
His father, Kuniharu, is a literal bootlicker (well, shoe-licker) at his job, who's always trying to get Saiki to use his psychic powers to save himself from doing any work at home, which Saiki resists doing: "If I spoil him, he might become even more of a good-for-nothing adult." The relationship between his dad and his mom, Kurumi, rather dramatically alternates between the saccharine lovey-dovey, versus something resembling that modeled in the movie The War of the Roses.
As for his classmates, Riki Nendou (who Saiki ranks as Nuisance #1) is an amiable oaf who defies Saiki's telepathy because "This guy is stupid. He doesn't think at all." There's also something disturbing about the appearance of his chin, too...
Next we have Shun Kaidou (Nuisance #2), who imagines himself as a character named "Jet-Black Wings" out to defeat a conspiracy by a group called "Dark Reunion." Saiki dubs Kaidou's whole fanciful chunibyo scenario a product of "Eighth Grader Syndrome." Nevertheless I liked Kaidou a bit more than some of the other characters in the show- he's sometimes endearingly hapless- and maybe the show itself feels this way, for Kaidou does, in time, get a girl interested in him.
Kokomi Teruhashi (Nuisance #4) is the main female character; she's the "perfect girl" (she LITERALLY glows), and, alas, is herself as aware of this as her male admirers are. As far as a "serious" relationship goes, someone as awesome as her can hold out for someone with at least 40 billion yen (in her opinion), but she nevertheless becomes obsessed with Saiki, at first because he's one of the few males who refuses to acknowledge, in any way, her wonderfulness.
Reita Toritsuka (Nuisance #5) CAN see spirits, and instantly recognizes Saiki's psychic powers (which only Saiki's parents know about, at least at first.) Reita is trying to parlay his own spectral abilities into acquiring a harem of girls, but he never seems to be able to get this to work for very long. Saiki's use of Toritsuka to cover for an absence at a hotel was undoubtedly (though quite incidentally) one of the most generous things Saiki ever did for ANY of the Nuisances.
I'll just briefly mention some of the others. Nuisance #3 is Hairo Kineshi, an over-the-top, gung-ho type (and also class president.) Nuisance #7 is Chisato Mera, an overworked girl (this is a SEVERE understatement) who will accept free food of ANY kind. Nuisance #8 is Aren Kuboyasu, an ex-delinquent trying to be "normal". Nuisance #6 is Chiyo Yumehara, this show's "girl next door" in contrast to Teruhashi; Yumehara's actually pretty nice, though a bit easily distracted where men are concerned.
Inexplicably NOT on the Nuisance list is "Toru Mugami", whose REAL name is Makoto Teruhashi, Kokomi's raging sis-con brother. (This show LOVES poking fun at anime/manga/game tropes; a segment where Saiki's scornful commentary is directed at a cheap RPG is kind of brilliant.)
So what DOES Saiki enjoy? TV shows- since a show doesn't HAVE a mind, he actually CAN be surprised by it- and sweets, particularly "coffee jelly;" if he's offered the latter, he'll even endure spending time with the "nuisances."
Just a couple by-the-ways to end it all: first, you WILL find out what the "antennae" sticking out of Saiki's head are about; and second, while the opening and closing themes of the show often didn't do it for me, there's one notable exception- I found the "sunset" closer of the second half of these episodes to be extremely pleasant.
I haven't laughed this much at an anime comedy in a long time. It's a feast of outrageous humor- though a feast delivered in unseemly haste- and while it began to feel a bit repetitive to me shortly after the halfway mark, I definitely plan to see the Second Season when (and if) it gets streamed. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Mild fanservice (swimsuits) and the lecherous Toritsuka are about as carnal as the show gets; it's interesting that a show that's so preoccupied with deflating anime clichés has such a light touch where fanservice is concerned. The humor DOES get pretty crass at times, though. Rightstuf rates 14+.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (24/24)
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. © 2016 J. C. Staff/ Egg Firm
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