Review for Himouto! Umaru-chan Complete Season Collection
I have never been terrified by the prospect of reviewing an anime series, until now. You might think that’s an adverse reaction to have, but when the check discs for Himouto! Umaru-chan showed up, I did my usual basic research, and learned that it was a show about an older brother, whose younger sister is the perfect high school student in the outside world, but turns into a total slob otaku behind closed doors. The last time I faced a premise like that in anime, it was Oreimo, which after a promising first season, turned into a total repulsive train-wreck in its second. I just hope that with my litany of crossed fingers, and ‘Please don’t go there! Please don’t go there!” I actually have the time to watch and appreciate Himouto! Umaru-chan.
Umaru Doma is the perfect young girl. She’s beautiful, elegant, poised, intelligent and athletic. She comes top of all the school tests, and she’s great at sports. On top of that, she’s got a great personality, likeable, friendly and enthusiastic. That’s outside. Back home in the apartment that she shares with her older brother Taihei, as soon as she walks through the door, she transforms into a lazy otaku slob, literally. The poised elegance becomes annoying cuteness as she sheds her school uniform, dons a hamster hood, and slobs out in front of the TV, watching anime, playing games, reading manga, and eating unhealthy snacks, annoyingly whining her reliance on her brother to take care of all other things in life.
12 episodes plus a plethora of extra features are presented across 2 dual layer Blu-rays from Animatsu.
1. Umaru and Her Brother
2. Umaru and Ebina
3. Umaru and Her Disciple
4. Umaru and Her Rival
5. Umaru and Summer Vacation
6. Umaru’s Birthday
7. Umaru’s Big Brother
8. Umaru and Christmas and New Year’s
9. Umaru and Valentines
10. Umaru and Now and Once Upon a Time
11. Umaru’s Everyday Life
12. Umaru and Everyone
The show gets a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer on these discs, at 1080p resolution. The image is clear and sharp, and as you might expect from a comedy anime, replete with bright, vivid colours, and lacking the dramatic nuance in shade of more serious fare. The upside of this is that you aren’t going to see any digital banding, or indeed aliasing or compression. The show features the detailed and referential world design that suits a show about an otaku, while the character designs are warm and appealing. Most notable is that of Umaru herself, who in the ‘real’ world is a pretty, elegant high school girl, but when she returns home to her brother’s apartment, transforms into a cute mascot sized character, low on defining features and heavy on the childlike cuteness.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with player locked subtitles and a signs only track. I went with the Japanese audio and was happy with the actor performances, and while it is a dialogue focussed, comedy piece, the few moments of action and sound design came across well. The dialogue is clear throughout, and the subtitles are timed accurately and free of typos. I gave the dub a quick try and found it to be rather unremarkable.
The discs present their content with static menus, and this time they are loaded with extra features, and that’s before the physical content in the collector’s edition packaging, which I haven’t seen to comment on.
All of the episodes have Japanese cast commentaries to them, featuring the significant cast members in each episode, while episode 11’s commentary also features the creator of Himouto Umaru-chan, Sankaku Head.
Disc 1 has the textless credits and trailers for No Game, No Life, Log Horizon, School Live!, and Girls und Panzer der Film.
Disc 2 is loaded with extra features, beginning with 2:45 of Japanese Promos, 1:25 of Home Video Release Commercials, and 1:42 of Song Commercials.
You can have more Umaru-chan goodness in the Himouto! Umaru-chanS short animations, 12 of them running to 25:48 with optional English dub.
Banquet Mondays “Daranama” contains the meat of the extra material in this release, 3 special episodes that were bundled with the Japanese Blu-rays that sees the voice cast, Aimi Tanaka, Akari Kageyama, Haruka Shiraishi, and Yurina Furukawa presenting a light-hearted live-action talk show around the series. Episode 1 lasts 38:25, Episode 2 lasts 62:03, and episode 3, 64:05. Naturally these are in Japanese with English subtitles.
It doesn’t go there. Of course it doesn’t go there! Not every anime courts controversy the way that Oreimo did, as most of the light hearted, situation comedies like Himouto Umaru-chan focus on delivering feel-good moments by the episode load for the viewer. I have to say that Himouto Umaru-chan is very good at what it does, and I looked forward to each episode, was roundly entertained by it, and never felt let down or underwhelmed by an instalment. That said, I run up against the usual problems of categorising and critiquing comedy, in that humour is the most subjective of all genres to review; what makes me laugh might leave you stone cold and vice versa. There’s also the general sense that comedy has less value than other genres, despite it actually being harder to make. With Himouto Umaru-chan as effortless as it is in delivering its humour, I’m tempted to give it a middling mark and dismiss it as a fleeting but effective show.
The comedy centres on the secret identity of its main character, Umaru Doma, the perfect girl outside, but a total lazy slob at home around her brother. It’s this which has led him to dub her a ‘Himouto’ a portmanteau word that combines a Japanese folk tale about indolence with the word for little sister. The transformation is physical, from elegant high school girl, who quickly loses her uniform as soon as she steps inside, and donning a trademark hamster cape, shrinking in stature to become a mascot version of herself, a cute blob with barely formed limbs, vegetating in front of a TV with a game controller in her hand, surrounded by snacks and cola.
It does take a while to get going, setting up its situation by exploring Umaru’s wholly dependent and whiny relationship with her older brother Taihei, revealing herself to be a total otaku. It’s in the second episode when the show starts introducing her friends and her classmates that things begin to get funnier. It’s all about trying to keep her home life a secret, so Nana Ebina, who lives in the apartment downstairs, only knows Umaru as the elegant schoolgirl. Then there is Kirie Motoba, a girl who idolises Umaru, but when she follows her home, knocks on the door and is greeted by Himouto Umaru, believes that the lazy little mascot is actually Umaru’s little sister, Komaru, and decides to become Komaru’s disciple in order to get closer to Umaru.
Meanwhile in Umaru’s class, Sylphynford Tachibana declares herself as Umaru’s number one rival in all things, although her ‘little princess’ personality lacks the modest elegance of Umaru’s. But another of Umaru’s slacker disguises lets her display her gaming skills in the local gaming arcade, a hat and a mask, and the gamer tag U.M.R. Sylphynford runs into U.M.R. in the arcade, and they wind up becoming friends as well, bonding over a few arcade games. So Umaru has to keep her identities straight when she’s with her friends.
We get to know more about her brother Taihei as well, his perspective on living with such a total slacker. We also see some more of his life, especially his job, where it turns out that he works with Sylphynford and Kirie’s older brothers. The premise, the set-up of the show certainly has enough dimension to it to sustain and develop over the 12 episode run, and there’s always that tension that somewhere down the line, Umaru’s mask will crack, and one of her friends will learn who she really is.
With this the thrust of the show, most of the episodes play out in sketch format, little gag and punchline skits with the characters that offer much in the way of comedy, if not exactly strong in ongoing narrative. Of course that’s not what you’d expect in a comedy such as this one. It’s really about getting to know the characters and revelling in their goofy interactions. I have to say that I didn’t find Himouto Umaru-chan to be belly-laugh inducing hilarious. But it is pleasantly, and consistently funny, and I was laughing more often than not. It hits the right notes with its character observations and its sense of humour, and refreshingly it’s light on the crass comedy, and fan service that certain other shows descend to. Himouto Umaru-chan is very much worth a watch, and with the on disc extras in this collection, you certainly get your money’s worth.