Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto Complete Collection (Cert 15)
5 Discs DVD/Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running time: 340 minutes approx.
“Who’s the cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about?”
If you said “Shaft” then in this instance, you are wrong – we’re talking about Sakamoto-san. What, haven’t you heard?
Sakamoto is the cool kid of class 1-2 who isn’t fazed by anything or anyone. There is no situation insurmountable and no challenge he can’t conquer. The girls love him and the boys either want to be him or are insanely jealous of his popularity. His lanky frame, sharp features, impeccable style, trademark glasses, and softly spoken demeanour are second only to his immense resourcefulness and general altruism.
Carrying himself with poise and panache, the unflappable Sakamoto doesn’t so much go looking for trouble rather it finds him as we discover in this 12 episode series based on the manga by Nami Sano. Coming from a female artist, the effete character design of Sakamoto is less a surprise but works perfectly for this empathic and enigmatic figure.
Essentially a one note joke from which Sano somehow manages to squeeze an incredible amount of mileage, almost all the episodes are divide into two – occasionally three – mini-arcs depicting the never dull happenings in Sakamoto’s life both in and out of school. If he is not fending off the attacks from the school bullies, Sakamoto is making life better for his fellow students.
In the first episode, the class thugs Atsushi, Mario and Kenken, try everything they can to make Sakamoto’s life a chore through the usual pranks like the chalk duster on the doorframe, to extreme cruelty like removing his desk and chair. When this fails, they lure Sakamoto to the science lab where they plan to beat him up but an accidental fire and a locked door puts paid to this.
Only in anime could Sakamoto escape his fate and save everyone in the lab in the way he does, setting the tone for the rest of the far-fetched scenarios Sano throws at our suave hero. Suspension of disbelief is very much the key and asking questions about the very ploys and methods Sakamoto uses to overcome a predicament is like teaching Katie Price about humility – a pointless exercise.
Atsushi and friends become a regular fixture of the show, often aligned with Sakamoto after he saved their bacon in the science lab and later, back on the antagonists’ side under the influence of nefarious Fukase. A delinquent in is 30’s who has never graduated from high school, he likes to tease the new “cool” kids that arrive in his wake, but ahs he met his match in Sakamoto?
Some of the situations Sakamoto finds himself in are typical of Japanese school life – the cultural festival, sports day, cookery class, art class, end of term graduation ceremony – we’ve seen them all in other shows but not like this. From faultless culinary skills, to off-the-cuff flashes of brilliance to save the class display and superior athletic prowess, there is nothing the ineffably cool Sakamoto can’t handle, and the viewer is treated to a cavalcade of laughs in the process.
Much of the solutions that Sakamoto concocts, either improvised or by design, wouldn’t work in real life, and the contrivance level is a major factor in this but this isn’t about credibility, otherwise we wouldn’t have a show. Yet, beneath the whimsy and frippery of these inventive escapes is a lesson on being able to rely on ones wits and think outside the box in finding a solution to a problem.
It might not always be an obvious one but if the logic is there, chances of success might increase somewhat and give us the confidence to face future challenges head on with a calmer head. That said, how anyone can see two billowing curtains tied together as a giant pair of breasts, or a hand drawn Rolex watch on the wrist as the genuine article is a mystery, but like I said earlier, suspension of disbelief.
For all the esoteric and wondrous comic shenanigans that are the draw of this show, there is a serious undercurrent to it a Sano is keen to use Sakamoto in addressing many gnarly and prevalent social issues. At the forefront is of course bullying, which Sakamoto can deflect but others are not so fortunate, and whilst it is Sakamoto to the rescue again the journey of the victim is a subplot to keep an eye on.
Yoshinobu Kubota is a short, chubby lad obsessed with his hair being bullied by senior students for money, which he obtains by lying to his devoted mother Shigemi. Sakamoto steps in and helps Yoshinobu get a job at WacDonalds (!) helping him learn the value of hard work and earning money as well as standing up to the bullies.
However this does lead us to a peculiar arc concerning Shigemi and her unhealthy attraction to Sakamoto. Not content with dressing up to woo Sakamoto every time she sees him, Shigemi pretends to be her own son when he is taken ill and goes to school disguised as him. It’s a little wacky even for this show and whilst a serious life-lesson is learned along with a message about body shaming, this is arguably a major low point.
Production wise the animation by Studio Deen is smooth and of a high standard, using still-frames to great effect in highlight the wonder of the magic Sakamoto seems to weave. One slight niggle though is the subtitles – there are numerous info notes that appear too briefly on screen, whilst chapter titles are placed over the original Japanese text, making them very difficult to read.
By the end of the ingenious part-recap OVA episode Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto establishes itself as the perfect antidote for every clichéd anime show on the market by subverting those clichés in a humorous and thoughtful manner. And in future, if you ever find yourself in trouble, just ask yourself “What would Sakamoto do?”
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD -MA
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ****
Man In Black