Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi – 06
「うた変。＋」 (Uta Hen +)
“Eccentric Poems +”
G1 Grand Prix
Holy Grail G1 Grand Prix… in Fuyuki Heian Capital! The parody engine was at full throttle this week, and what better to start this hilarious episode off with than Type-Moon’s Carnival Phantasm, the epic mother of all parodies? The 12-episode OVA series was an example of a parody done pitch-perfect, and this particular segment of Uta Hen + benefits greatly from taking a page out of Carnival Phantasm’s book. Even without the association to CP though, the ox-cart Grand Prix stands on its own pretty well, culminating in a pitiful but laughable end for Munesada. A happy ending just wasn’t written in the stars for him, it seems.
A parody constructed from every morning talk show ever, these short segments serve as a more humorous take on each character’s psyche. While Narihira, Yoshiko, and Yasuhide’s rapport was entertaining as always, Yasuko and Sadaakira’s guest appearances have to be the ones that maximized the short screen time they were given. Their segment was particularly notable in the sense they were fleshed out a little better, managing to draw a few laughs while adding onto character traits that were established a few episodes back. It’s also worthwhile to note that characters like Narihira have been prevalent throughout the show so far, and have had time to establish a relationship with the viewers – it’s much easier to draw humor material from prominent characters like him, but as Carnival Phantasm managed to do, Uta Koi takes every character they introduced so far and puts their funny bones to work. Frankly, while Narihira’s perversion and Munesada’s sis-con tendencies were pretty hilarious, it’s was even funnier seeing how Yasuko’s masochistic brain worked. Looks like she and Sadaakira have their own version of the “honeymoon phase”, no matter how warped it may seem!
Ouran High School Host Club Heian Host Club
Welcome to the host club. And no, not that frilly, frothy kind – one with five top-class hosts to suit every girl’s tastes and render them speechless with eloquent poems formed on the spot. Good character-driven parodies have a trademark feature that make them enjoyable, and this host club segment hits the nail in the head. It features an outlandish, but plausible aspect of each of the poet’s personalities, assigning them a stereotypical archetype from any form of every romance-oriented adaptation ever to be created: the little brother/shota, the quintessential guy in the friendzone/childhood friend, the tsundere, the onii-san, and the lady-killer. The comic aspect is derived from the fact these roles seem like an extension of their established characters rather than a new persona created specifically for this episode. This is the groundwork of any decent character-driven parody: building the situation around the characters rather than doing it the other way around. A clever spoof will stretch its characters and play with their quirks and established traits to maximize its effect, much like Uta Koi has done here. It should also be mentioned they’re jabbing fun at the audience as well (think Jinrui’s episode 3 and 4), which is always fun.
The Song of the Cards
Let’s d-d-d-duel! Your move! This gag is hard to miss, and it is glorious. There will never be enough Yu-Gi-Oh spoofs to satisfy the world, and Uta Koi throws its own into the vast pool, complete with the “monster cards”, the sneering opponent, the unbelievable turn of the tide, and the whole “Heart of the Cards” bit that plagued the original YGO series. And again, while the segment does stand on its own, it’s obviously more difficult to enjoy it to its fullest without a full understanding of just what they’re parodying. But Yu-Gi-Oh is on a completely different level than Carnival Phantasm when it comes to exposure and fame (or is it infamy?), and hence it’s pretty difficult to miss the blatant references. Even taking YGO out of the equation though, this can be construed as a parody of every shounen series in existence, so missing some of the allusions to the original material shouldn’t be too big of a loss.
One plot-relevant thing that stands out from this segment however, is the mysterious “Heart of the Cards” that called out to Teika – she’s obviously a prominent figure in his life, perhaps even the influence behind him choosing 43 love poems to put into the Hyakunin Isshu. All those words of love he selected for the anthology is a reflection of him in some ways, a fact that becomes overshadowed by the poets and their own love stories.
It’s hard to explain why comedy – especially parodies – are good; things are complicated further by the fact different things strike different people as “funny”. Parodies in particular are tricky, since it requires the audience to have knowledge of two different things: the show they’re watching, and whatever this show is trying to make fun of. Nearly half the comedic value is lost if no one knows the original material parodies are drawing from, since that’s part of the fun. While Uta Hen + was hilarious and very well done, knowing the full story behind each reference definitely makes the episode a lot funnier. This was particularly true of the ox-cart race, since that episode of Carnival Phantasm was probably one of the best that series had to offer. Seeing it parodied here just doubled the fun, and it definitely added a lot to the value of the comedy.
Uta Koi truly lived up to its “super liberal” label, and it’s the show’s ability to mold its universe that makes it into the gem it is – unfortunately, it’ll probably fly under the radar, but for the viewers that do stick around, fun, light-hearted episodes like these where the in-show universe and characters are allowed to run wild are a nice way of saying thank-you, and creates more love for the show.
Uta Hen + probably didn’t strike the same chord in everybody, but it’s clear from this episode, and all the ones previous, that Uta Koi is a show with its viewers in mind. So for that, thank you Uta Koi – you make watching every episode worthwhile.