One of 2018's Funniest Shows (And Why You Didn't Hear About It) | Koji's Odds & Ends


At least once a year, I’ll stumble upon a show that I really enjoy, only to find out later that there’s very little discourse surrounding it. It’s an interesting feeling. On one hand, it’s nice feeling like you’re in on an exciting secret that few other people know about. On the other, it’s frustrating when no one is around to share your joy.

The was the predicament I found myself in regarding “Shinya! Tensai Bakabon,” which aired during the Summer of 2018. While I understand why this particular show never caught on (it’s a fairly niche sort of program), perhaps it would have had a slightly larger following if more people knew it existed in the first place.

For people in Japan, Tensai Bakabon is a fairly well known property. Starting as a popular comedic manga by Fujio Akatsuka, and later becoming a family friendly cartoon in both the 70s and 90s, the series follows a dunderheaded boy named Bakabon and his even dumber father (named simply “Bakabon’s Papa).”

What the show used to look like

There are several other bizarre side characters, my favorite of which is a deadbeat cop named Mentama Tsunagari Omawari-san (meaning “Mr. Cop with the connected eyes”), who draws his pistol at even the slightest provocation (or even no provocation at all) and spends lunch breaks eating plain rice while staring at pictures of meat because he’s too poor to afford the real thing.

This is a pretty common reaction for him

A couple other characters include Rerere, Bakabon’s next-door neighbor who is constantly sweeping, and Unagi-Inu (Eel-dog) who, as you can likely tell by the name, is both an eel and a dog.


Unagi-inu pictured here with some anime babes

This particular incarnation of the Bakabon property is more adult-oriented than previous ones, and focuses primarily on mocking a lot of aspects of Japanese pop culture. Everything from modern anime, to mobile games and dating sims, to variety shows, to the show’s own sponsors and production companies (TV Tokyo and Avex, primarily) are fair game for this irreverent series. On top of this, there are also cameos from several Japanese celebrities spread throughout the 12-episode run.

Yes, this is actually from the show

While all of this would make Shinya! Tensai Bakabon appealing for a Japanese person, it’s definitely a hard sell for Americans who weren’t steeped in the colorful brew that is Japanese pop culture. However, I feel that a lot of Western otaku can still find a lot to love about this show, and they’ll likely understand a lot more references than the average Western viewer.


Who?

Now that all of the descriptive stuff is out of the way, I should probably point out the elephant in the room. As many otaku have probably noticed by now, Shinya! Tensai Bakabon resembles a certain anime that was extremely popular in the last few years, namely “Osomatsu-san.” It’s not a coincidence. Not only were Osomatsu-san and Shinya! Tensai Bakabon both based on properties by mangaka Fujio Akatsuka, they were also made by the same production company: Studio Pierrot.

The aforementioned Osomatsu-san

The similarities, however, run even deeper that that. The head writer for Shinya! Tensai Bakabon, Hosokawa Tooru, was originally meant to write Osomatsu-san as well. Due to differences with the rest of the production staff, he ended up leaving the project and was replaced with a different writer. However, some of his ideas were still used in the controversial parody-laden first episode of Osomatsu-san, which, although it was fairly well-received critically, was eventually pulled and memory-holed by its publisher for copyright reasons.

You're not supposed to see this.

Shinya! Tensai Bakabon essentially continues the ethos of that episode, parodying everything it can possibly get away with, including the aforementioned Osomatsu-san (even directly naming it a few times just so there’s no ambiguity). It also differentiates itself by staying closer to Fujio Akatsuka’s character designs, opting to update them using only bright color palettes and heavy linework.

The final result is something that resembles a show from Adult Swim’s glory days more than anything else. When I was in high school, Adult Swim had a lot of shows that used old cartoon characters and put them in absurd adult-oriented situations (Harvey Birdman, The Brak Show, and Space Ghost Coast to Coast are good examples of these).


From Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

Shinya! Tensai Bakabon feels a lot like a more polished version of these shows, and I actually feel a slight sense of nostalgia while watching it. It also shares the inconsistent quality and writing that these shows had, but that comes with the “everything goes” philosophy that they all share. When Shinya! Tensai Bakabon is at its best, it’s gut-bustingly hilarious. When it’s at its worst, it’s still pretty fun. As Bakabon’s Papa would say, “kore wa ii no da” (this is how it should be).

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Watch an episode or two yourself and let me know what you think!


"Rerere no re!"

Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope to write more posts about lesser-known shows in the near future, so stay tuned!

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