When it comes to comedy, anime covers a lot of different types: surreal, adult, non-PC, tragicomic, etc. There is also comedy anime that deals with anime itself. This fantasy series is such a show.
Outbreak Company was written as a series of novels in 2011 by Ichiro Sakaki, and became a 12-part anime series in 2013. It is a harem series – the genre in which one main character is surrounded by characters of the opposite genre – but most of the comedy comes from making reference to and mocking anime, manga, and the culture that comes with it.
The central figure, Shinichi Kano, a devoted anime fan, or “otaku” as they are commonly known. His expertise on the subject lands him a job at company that sells anime and manga products, but just as he is having a celebratory toast with his new boss Jinzaburo Matoba he finds himself drugged. When Kano wakes up he finds himself in a room with a maid: something that gets him pretty excited, but not as excited when he discovers that he is no longer in Japan. He is in fact a totally different world, inhabited by dragons, dwarves, and elves. Even the maid, Myucel Foaran, is half-elf and half-human.
After Kano is given a magical ring by Myucel that allows him to understand the local language, he learns that he is in the Holy Eldant Empire, a land which has been building a relationship with Japan following the Japanese discovering a portal to their world near Mt. Fuji. Kano learns also that Myucel is to be his personal maid, and he is also to have his own bodyguard, a buxom private in the Japanese army named Minori Koganuma who has a passion for homoerotic manga.
Kano comes to understand that his new boss Matoba has sent him to this land because the main thing that seems to interest the locals is otaku culture. The people have a fondness for manga, anime, video games and such, and thus the Japanese have been using it promote greater ties with the Holy Eldant Empire. With his knowledge, Kano has been put in charge of promoting otaku culture in the country, reporting directly to the emperor, who is a 16-year-old girl named Petralka Anne Eldant III.
Kano faces several problems with his task: most of the population cannot read, and there is a caste system with elves and dwarves considered lower than humans. Kano starts by trying to overturn people’s prejudices and establishing a school were children both learn how to read, but also be taught about anime. He also has to deal with rivals from other lands. For example, he comes across a werewolf spy named Erbia Hanaiman, but he protects her by making her his personal artist. Eventually Kano builds trust, but still has problems of making the locals happy, his bosses happy, and keeping up the growing demand for Japanese products.
At first this series may be intimidating, because much of the humour comes from referencing other series. If you are a newcomer, you are probably better of starting with something more accessible. However, the DVD release of this series does come with useful notes to help spot particular references. This is particularly useful, because as explained in other series such as Bakuman (No. 9), Japanese copyright law is so strict that they have to tweak titles of series they reference. They cannot refer to Attack on Titan (No. 11), instead calling it Attack on Giant. This is just one of many different series that get mentioned, and it is not just limited to Japanese stuff: comics and TV series from the west also get the odd mention too.
The comedy is not just limited to name-checking however. There are also hits of mockery of certain aspects of the anime fandom, in particular the more pervy side. One scene sees Kano and Minori in a classroom, teaching rather adult anime terms to youngsters. These include “absolute territory”, which is defined as the gap of flesh you see on a woman between the skirt and over-the-knee socks; and “son-uke”, a term in gay (yaoi) manga for a guy who always ends up as the submissive “bottom” partner. There is also the comedy gained from the locals becoming more engrossed in anime. One joke sees Petralka’s male cousin and aide, Garius, being led by Minori to become a yaoi fan.
The other comic element is the “harem” itself between Kano and the four main female characters that he builds a relationship with; Myucel, who Kano teaches to read and protects from prejudiced people; Petralka, who likes Kano’s willingness to say things others in her land find shocking; Erbia, who Kano protects from being arrested on accusations of spying; and Minori, who provides moral support.
Outbreak Company is not a series for everyone. It is a series to come later to in any collection, for those who find themselves enjoying their anime. Once you find yourself liking a couple of shows, then this maybe be one to look into.
Outbreak Company is released on DVD by MVM Films.