Outbreak Company (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 276 minutes approx.
You can just imagine writer Ichirō Sakaki trying to come up with an idea for a light novel series and running through all the concepts which have already been covered – harem, fantasy, fan service, alternate worlds, magic, maids, furry girls, etc. Suddenly a light bulb goes off and Sakaki decides “Why not combine all of these things?” The result: Outbreak Company.
Shinichi Kano, is an otaku trying to break out of his hikikimori lifestyle. While job searching on the internet he finds a survey testing his knowledge of anime, manga and video games which he passes with a 100% score. Shinichi is then invited to an interview with Japanese Government representative Jinzaburō Matoba and is offered a job as an otaku ambassador, which is the last thing he remembers before waking up in a strange room.
Matoba and skilled female operative Minori Koganuma explain to Shinichi that he is now in the alternate world of the Eldant Empire, a fantasy land with which the Japanese government wishes to improve relations. Because they have nothing beyond farming and fighting, Shinichi has been tasked with bringing Japanese moe culture to Eldant.
All your favourite anime tropes under one roof sound like a fun time but the one thing that is missing from this show is the self-awareness as to what this show is supposed to be. To clarify, while Outbreak Company wears its influences on its sleeve it is hard to tell whether this is supposed to be a parody, a satire or a celebration of all things otaku, not in the least because it is essentially the very thing it may or may not be sending up.
Some shows flagrantly spoof the excesses of anime and the attendant factors that make it either great or embarrassing with a knowing wink and their tongue very firmly in their cheek, something this show doesn’t quite manage. Instead the impression is that Sakaki wanted to join the ranks of easy to please writers by going the easy route by employing familiar methods, albeit with a twist.
If Shinichi is supposed to be a cipher for otaku then he at least is not portrayed as a total loser, his extensive knowledge of pop culture actually landing him a dream job rather than leaving him as another failed statistic on Japan’s unemployment records. To that end this makes him, in the loosest possible way, a positive inspiration on otakus and shut-ins.
Of course Shinichi is still an otaku so when he awakens in Eldant and learns from the tough but buxom Minori that he has his own personal maid, a similarly busty half-elf girl named Myucel, he is in nosebleed heaven from the off. And wouldn’t you know it, Eldant is ruled by Petralka Anne Eldant III, who just happens to be a tsundere loli and later his little harem grows when he finds Erbia Hanaiman, a (suitably endowed) werewolf girl from a neighbouring kingdom spying on the royal palace.
Shinichi’s plan to help spread the wonders of Japanese culture is to build a school, with himself, Minori and later Myucel as tutors, breaking down the various components that make up an anime or manga plot and explaining each one to the classes. While Shinichi focuses on the female exploitation side of things, Minori, in the interest of balance, expounds on the virtues of BL manga.
Naturally in the real world this would be corruption of unformed minds of the highest level so we are grateful this is fiction. This does allow for some humour as the students, made up of dwarves and elves who coincidentally are rival races, question these raunchy facets with endearing innocence. However the joke is then spoiled when the show itself becomes a cliché with the obligatory beach/cosplay episodes.
Equally disappointing is how certain fertile plot points are ignored, such as the social clashes between elves and dwarves. Even without didactic politicising there is potential for addressing this and to have Shinichi help diffuse the hostilities through his classes with appropriate titles involving interspecies friendships.
In fact the show remains mostly lightweight comic fare until the final two episodes when a bombshell is dropped and Shinichi finds himself the pawn in a political game which he is forced to use his wits, and the goodwill of his new found friends to overcome. Aside from a brief skirmish early in the series when a group of terrorists accuse Shinichi of being an alien invader, this development comes from practically nowhere, leaving us with a rushed drama that has little time to gain any emotional traction.
One area that will be both a test and joy to seasoned fans is recognising the wealth of references littered throughout the series. While some show titles have been altered for copyright reasons, the visual tributes are the real challenge. Ranging from the classics to shows yet to have a UK release, an onscreen note identifies the source for us, very beneficial for the more obscure references.
Production values are solid in terms of animation and artwork, with Eldant looking very inch the archetypal fantasy world, while character designs are uninspired and derivative to the point you could name a dozen look-a-likes from other shows.
Some attention has been paid to world building but a few niggles slip through – for instance, a special ring is worn to overcome the language barrier yet this doesn’t explain how the Eldant natives are able to read Japanese without issue; or most importantly, where does an undeveloped world like Eldant get electricity?
Being unable to divine if Outbreak Company is meant to be a spoof or a homage is the biggest setback in deciding how successful it is. While it falls into the category of “generic mindless fluff” it doesn’t have the ambition or conviction to be a satire or feel genuine enough to be a homage.
An undemanding watch for a rainy afternoon with something to please most otaku!
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black