Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto
Sakamoto is a literally perfect person- he can do ANYTHING with admirable finesse. If jealous school delinquents try their hardest to harm and/or humiliate him, they not only utterly fail, but themselves end up being "owned" by one of Sakamoto's magnificent performances, which are physical ripostes analogous to Cyrano de Bergerac's verbal sparring against his feckless opponents.(Being "cool" and mysterious, Sakamoto is a man of action rather than words.) And yet these encounters with Sakamoto, no matter how embarrassingly they backfire on their perpetrators, somehow often still lead to improvements in those perpetrators' own characters.
What do you do when your lead character has NO arc??? Traditionally, the nominal hero has to engage in at least some struggle to win, but Sakamoto always wins, in the grandest of fashions, with no apparent difficulty at all. Sakamoto actually comes off as a cartoon character more of the Warner Brothers sort than the anime kind. He often defies the laws of physics to get out of scrapes, but being taciturn he doesn't even offer Bugs Bunny's classic excuse, "But I never studied law." Bugs had to be clever, but Sakamoto seems to do it all by absolutely perfect instinct, combined with flawless athletic prowess AND, at times, that complete suspension of natural law. (If he HAD stood in midair while his opponent fell, as repeatedly happened in Warner's Roadrunner cartoons, it wouldn't have felt that out of place in THIS show.)
Now this show subscribes to the idea that being cool ALSO requires being aloof, and, as with the lead of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., we have a girl who's particularly set on pursuing our leading man precisely BECAUSE of his aloofness; her name is Aina Kuronuma, and she's this show's version of Saiki's Teruhashi. And yet I found all this less interesting than the equivalent situation in Saiki, again because Sakamoto thinks that being "cool" necessitates being inscrutable; in Saiki we KNOW why the lead avoids people: because of his mind-reading ability, he simply finds ordinary humans completely predictable and therefore boring. But in Sakamoto, the only explanation seems to be that Sakamoto's mystique requires it. Sakamoto is almost never emotional, for that would be "uncool." (Though he CAN manage frosty disdain, at times.)
But this is all primarily a comedy, so is it funny? Well, YES, a number of the jokes are just fine; even some of Sakamoto's elegant-but-absurd physical responses to the curveballs thrown at him by the school's delinquents work well enough, but most of the humor arises from those delinquents themselves- and much of the human drama, too, such as it is. (Remember, Sakamoto has NO ARC; he seems exactly the same at the end of the show as he was at the beginning.) The delinquents find their own characters improved by their encounters with Sakamoto, even when their original intention was to sabotage him. It kind of reminded me of the salutary effect Miyazaki's Nausicaa had on everyone she encountered, especially in the manga version of that story- though Nausicaa could make her opponents better people without humiliating them in the process.
Of course, it helps that the "delinquents" here are rather softcore, as is usually true in anime school comedies (with one major exception, who I'll get to shortly.) Three of them are Atsushi Maeda and his pals "Mario" and "Ken Ken." There's an amusing recurring bit where we see them from a distance, in a perfect triangular formation, tossing a ball to each other while their conversation grows more and more inane; when it finally goes completely off the rails, they (literally) drop the ball. (Yes, this is funnier than it sounds.) We'll note here that there's a hierarchy among the delinquents (not surprising at all, given Japanese culture), but the person at the top of the heap, named Fukase, is objectively the worst of the lot- or maybe the only REALLY bad one, depending on your point of view- and he rules through persuasion rather than through regular "chain of command", exploiting the psychological weaknesses of the other delinquents. His machinations occasionally do lead to serious violence.
I never found Sakamoto's other classmates as interesting or endearing as those in, say, Saiki K., for some reason. I never found the guy in the bee shorts funny (maybe the attempted humor involving him was lost in the translation.) I thought Shigemi Kubota, the mother of Sakamoto's classmate Yoshinobu, was just...sad. Yoshinobu himself is a sad-sack schlub whose association with Sakamoto brings him some relief from being bullied- and some improvement in his self esteem- though I think he'd still be regarded by his classmates as "goldfish poop" (the Japanese term for an unpopular individual who tries to improve his/her social status by attaching themselves to a popular person.) (And yet, for all that, I liked Yoshinobu more than just about anyone else in the show, but I found that kind of a low bar.)
There was a nice bit of meta-awareness in Episode 13, though here the show was a little hard on itself, for there really IS some original material in the last ep. The closing ballad was really my favorite part of the whole show; it's lovely.
Having a lead without vulnerability, who never has to struggle, just didn't appeal to me; nor did I think ANY of the rest of the cast were really strong enough as characters to fill that sort of role. The lead is just too strong a character (a complaint you seldom hear, but it applies here), while the rest of the characters were just too weak, even for a comedy. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: There's some graphic violence late in the show; mild violence throughout. No fanservice. Young children should be cautioned that some of Sakamoto's stunts can't be done in reality.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto © 2016 Studio DEEN
|© 1996-2015 THEM Anime Reviews. All rights reserved.|