「Episode 1 」
Osomatsu-san cast a wide shadow when it came down to rebooting Tensai Bakabon. When the Matsuno brothers were brought back into the 21st century, the 2015/2016 series went the next logical step by turning the young boys into jaded younger adults, warped by the time and pleasures brought to them by the new era of anime. With Tensai Bakabon, there isn’t much to reinvent other than bringing in new technology, references, and adult humor. It’s akin to jokes people would make about a Seinfeld revival where everything is the same except Jerry and the gang have to deal with smartphones. While family comedies don’t often need dramatic reboots as per all of the American 90’s sitcoms that have returned, the first episode of Shinya! Tensai Bakabon clues us in on the issues that reinvention can have on shows where flipping the script isn’t as easy as changing the year to 2018.
The premiere follows the same premise as Osomatsu-san‘s first episode where the characters, animated to appear as if they’re still trapped in their first TV adaptation, question what they can do to fit in with the modern times. Osomatsu-san‘s first episode hit a particularly strong note as the boys went out of their way to copy every popular anime within the past two decades in all of its copyright-infringing glory until the universe crumbled underneath them. Shinya! Tensai Bakabon, however, follows Bakabon’s dad as he aims to completely change himself and those around them to adhere to a philosophy of having everyone be the opposite of who they are. With himself, he changes his voice actor to Fukuyama Jun, clones Bakabon into sextuplets like the Matsuno brothers, and gets surgery to change himself into both a musclebound man and a buxom woman, declaring herself to be Bakabon’s mom now. From then on, Bakabon’s mom goes out of her way to reinvent everything from recasting the part of Bakabon to a passerby, getting Omawari-san arrested for indecent exposure, and trying to get his youngest son Hajime-chan arrested for drug possession.
Much of the humor of the reboot sadly came in the form of cameos and references. Bringing in Fukuyama and Nozawa Masako was clever in Bakabon’s dad’s search for a new voice as was the expense it must’ve taken to get Black Jack to appear in the part where he gets cosmetic surgery and a sex change. The approval that X-Japan’s Yoshiki lent to have his likeness appear in the beginning of the episode was quite funny as well. One of the more original jokes in the episode where Omawari-san was arrested was also a funny way of poking fun at how older comedy routines would pan out in a public setting. But there is a lot to be desired with some of the punchlines such as Bakabon’s mom becoming a citizen of Cambodia specifically to participate in marathons against comedian Neko Hiroshi, or the gushing that the characters have over the bands X-Japan and Exile for some reason. Or Bakabon’s mom’s insistence that the streets should be full of Hooters to the point that they have a Hooters the size of several Tokyo Dome stadiums. It’s also a little disappointing that they aren’t going to stick with the classic 70’s/90’s aesthetic they aired the episode in because the new art style’s bright purple saturation is extremely loud. Whether it can live up to the high quality of the last Akatsuka Fujio anime will take time to tell, but so far, there is something left to be desired of the first episode.