Comedy

Comedy is a anime/manga concept
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Nearly every anime has a comedic moment here or there. Everyone likes to laugh.

Sitcoms and funny animals have been popular since the days of Early Anime. The politically incorrect spectacle of a wife wrestling her love rival for possession of a feckless flirt in The World of Power and Women has cascaded down the generations, picking up new accretions as fashions change, to become the latest Tenchi Muyo! clone, and the funny creatures of Monkey and the Crab and Animal Olympics have mutated into the cat-girls and bunnies of shows like Mew Mew Power.

Hard to define but difficult to ignore, comedy is an ingredient in many successful anime, especially those made for TV, where weary businessmen and kids escaping from homework go to relax. Comedy can transfer to anime as a straight stand-up routine or a sketch, through short segments in shows like My Neighbor Tokoro, or Hisashi Eguchi's Rentaman segment Kotobuki Goro Show. However, it's more often given a narrative framework, however loose.

Anime has stolen some visual shorthand from manga and foreign cartoons: extreme distortion of the features, or the whole body, to convey heightened emotion. It has taken this to extremes in the "squashed down" or "super-deformed" art-style, also known as SD. Super deformation can even arise in relatively serious anime like Fullmetal Alchemist, when characters in humorous moments temporarily switch into SD-mode-see Tropes and Transformations.

To some extent, comedy will always be a personal matter: we appreciate that instances of "comical" underwear loss in soft porn may leave fans of the genre quaking with mirth, although they do nothing for us. If anime humor appears lowbrow or simple in the West, this is because complicated verbal humor is more difficult to translate, and often falls apart in the hands of translators and directors who are, quite properly, more concerned with amusing a Western high school audience than faithfully echoing ethnocentric gags. Comedy and profanity are two hot-button issues in anime translation; when faced with humor, some have taken AnimEigo's lead in faithfully translating the original jokes in Urusei Yatsura, and then appending footnotes to explain them. Others have followed the route Viz Communications took with Ranma 1/2, replacing original humor with new jokes designed to replicate the old effect on a new audience. There are also still those who take the route of Samurai Pizza Cats and Ghost Stories, dumping much of the original in favor of a new, more improvised script. Regardless of the attitude taken, all methods still depend on the ability of the translator or rewriter, not only to recognize puns and gags in the first place, but also to comprehend them and convey them. Comedy is the most recognizable place where DVD anime releases can have the most obvious divergence between dubs/dubtitles and subtitles-as witnessed by Phil Hartman's extensive improvisations as Jiji the Cat in Kiki's Delivery Service filling many moments for which the character was completely silent in the original Japanese version.

Comedies for little children are a staple of most countries' broadcast media, given TV's entrenched function as babysitter. Their formula for success is largely unchanging; they give their little viewers bright colors, simple shapes, repetition of sounds, and broad-brush characterization, covering the daily routines of a small child's life with festivals, playtime, and food, all reinforcing simple moral messages about good behavior. Shows like Pipi the Alien and Pinch and Punch didn't have much to offer adults even in their 1960s heyday, but the generation that grew up watching them went on to create Chibi Maruko-chan and Crayon Shin-chan. These two very different shows shared two important elements: they could be watched by small children, but they were made to appeal to an adult audience nostalgic for the simplicity of childhood. Crayon Shin-chan is a comedy as rude, crude, and broad as the mind of a little boy-its hero's boundaries may be very tight, but he pushes them for all he's worth. Comedies for older children tend to follow the same pattern, taking a different viewpoint on the routines of everyday life. They may throw in someone who thinks differently from the rest of the world, as in Genius Idiot Bakabon, or an alien or magical MacGuffin like Doraemon (or, for older boys, his avatar Doreimon in Visionary), or an adult who doesn't know how to be a role model, such as Doctor Slump.

Everyday life is the starting point for the gentle, observational humor of Sazae-san, Dotanba's Modern Manners, and My Neighbors the Yamadas. The advent of video in the mid-1980s showed the potential of the niche market, with a slice-of-life comedy for thirtysomething cat lovers, What's Michael, being the first show to make the transit from a cautious video release to TV success. This in turn enabled TV shows like Modern Love's Silliness to target their specific audience (in this case, adult women) in evening or late-night slots. Everyday life can also be hell, and where there's pain there is, inevitably, comedy. Japanese businessmen enduring the daily grind to support increasingly disengaged families could see the funny side of Laughing Salesman. Families forced to share a home with a dotty, irritating, or downright malicious elder could let go of the tension with a good laugh at Mad Old Bag or Ultra Gran. Teenage boys facing the twin challenges of hormonal change and social inadequacy find solace in Ping Pong Club and High School Kimengumi.

Life and its problems are the great unifiers of comedy; language and culture can be its great dividers. Westerners tend to think of Japan as a homogenous society, but its regional variations of dialect and culture are as wide as those of Britain or France. As with most developed nations, these variations are eroded by the monoculture promoted on the small screen, but are still reflected in comedy. Japan has its Tokyo lowlife comedy Friten-kun, the Kansai equivalent Naniwa Spirit, and provincial biker high jinks in Yokohama's Famous Katayama. The differences between the capital and the nation's second city are pointed up in a host of comedies featuring Osaka's distinctive dialect and reputation for wisecracking and moneymaking, Jarinko Chie and Compiler providing examples which are great fun but difficult to translate. History always has potential for humor: Ginnagashi takes us back to pre-war Tokyo to watch amusing goings-on in a local bar, while Shinsengumi Farce takes the Mel Brooks approach to right-wing extremism.

Foreign culture provides even more opportunities to generate laughs. Japan, like every other culture, is not above poking fun at foreigners in shows such as the Chocolate Panic Picture Show. Japanese attitudes can also lead to unintentional humor-a recurring problem in translating anime comes from the presence of ideas and names that can jolt an audience out of its suspension of disbelief: characters named after car models or rock bands, for example, in Rayearth and Bastard. Other modes of inadvertent humor issue from Japan's attempts to imitate Western genres-Mad Bull 34 is not intended as comedy, but is only really enjoyable to a non-Japanese audience as such, and ultimately the joke may be on the American stories the Japanese have so outrageously misread. Other abuses of foreign entertainment are intentionally humorous-the X-Files influence on Geobreeders, for example, or the gloriously inappropriate use of Beethoven in Dragon Half. Even if all other springs of laughter dry up, anime has one rich source to mine-itself. Anime parodying anime has its own short-form term, aniparo, which originated in fanzine culture to describe amateur comics spoofing favorite shows, but can also be applied to professional spoofs like the "super-deformed" Gundam spoofs, and the "cute-body" Devilman pastiches. Shows like Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Airbats, and Sign of the Otaku all follow Otaku no Video in offering up every convention of anime-story tropes, production methods, respected creations, and creators-as targets for mirth.
General Information Edit
Concept Name Comedy
Japanese Name: コメディ
Romaji Name: comedi
Aliases
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