Osomatsu-san has built up a reputation of going all-out with the first episodes of each season. The very first episode of the reboot is now considered a “lost episode” because it was plagued with copyright restrictions from the number of unlicensed parodies it crammed into the brothers’ attempts to integrate themselves into the contemporary anime scene. Season 2 began with them being colossal sell-outs, but eventually morphed into a pseudo-Avengers where each brother was animated in a different animation-style to fight an unknown force. But this time around, something feels….different.
Between Season 2 and 3, something happened with the anime’s brand of humor where they lost sight of the first season’s best strengths. Managing to take cartoon characters from the 60’s and making them go through the despair of getting older in a cynical comedy about making it in the world as jaded NEETs was funny within itself. But with Season 2 and Bakabon, they leaned so heavily into the controversy that came from copyright infringement and biting the hand that feeds them that every other joke was either a pop culture reference or making fun of how execs or production companies are always on their backs. It felt like they ignored everything else they’ve made by the end of Season 1 and only allowed themselves to focus on what gave that first episode and the crude Anpanman joke that also got them in trouble.
You might say that they’re probably laughing at the negative reception they got from executives from those parodies, but after they poked that nerve, every other jokes felt like it came from a combination of resentment and fear. Resentment that they would be asked to change their show, causing them to double-down on the parody jokes. And fear that there would be consequences from going too far with their parodies, causing their parody jokes to be as watered down as it can get.
This was a major issue for Season 2 and Bakabon, but Episode 01 of Season 3 doesn’t instill any hope that they’ve changed that trajectory of their jokes. This premiere is yet another tussle with the executives, but instead of having to change their image or genre, they were told not to show up as they opt to have them replaced.
They did manage to make it funny when the voice actors came in to mention how they don’t have to bother caring about being replaced because there are plenty of other shows waiting for them. It was also humorous to see their interactions when Irino Miyu doesn’t show up for his Matsuno or when Ono Daisuke happens to be the only actor that clicks with his Matsuno by joining in mutual Jyushimatsu mannerisms. The beginning even had a funny send-off to reality shows like Terrace House where the narrator and actors/participants give a warm greeting to the viewers and goes the Aloha State route of expanding the cast to include a diverse range of brothers and sisters to the Matsuno family.
But much of this, the “compliance” spiel, and the sanitization room have that dreadful air of self-indulgent ranting against political correctness in otherwise tame comedies. That “they’d never air The Office today!” mentality when The Office was a sitcom tailor-made to be inoffensive. The one or two jokes about race or sexual harassment are a droplet of water in the show’s ocean of topical humor about flash-mobs, Applebee’s, HBO’s Entourage, and Harry Potter.
Similarly, Osomatsu-san is a show that claims to be offensive and fighting the good fight against the shackles of censorship because the brothers misbehave and that’s it. The “war against the execs” angle has overstayed its welcome if all we’re getting out of it is that the television execs don’t like it if the Matsuno’s are nude or referencing Kimetsu no Yaiba too flippantly for their own good. When Ishuzoku Reviewers is getting yanked off of television because TV channels didn’t realize they were airing pornography and assumed that the show would be plain ecchi, the bar has been set too high for you to act like your show’s mildly irreverent comedy is too dangerous to be on television.
The edgiest joke the first episode made was that one of the new actors playing the Matsuno brothers has cocaine, and even then, the joke is that the old Matsuno’s are now deemed perfect enough to take their own roles back because the police and the older cast members were appalled by their drug use. Again, the window-dressing of being offensive turns out to be perfectly acceptable because no one wants to actually be caught dabbling in anything as subversive or offensive as taking drugs. It took a year for Denki Groove to be streamed again because Pierre Taki’s cocaine use had him scrubbed from any media he was a part of. The only obstacles the Osomatsu-san writers had to face was watering down their pop culture references so that they don’t count as copyright infringement. It’s that “we’re edgy but not THAT edgy,” stuff that makes Osomatsu-san after Season 1 difficult to take seriously. It’s disappointing to see that the third season is starting out as a neutered version of its former self. Hopefully, the remaining episodes will be a change of pace and gets more laughs from jokes that don’t involve the appearance of parodies, cameos, and/or meddling execs.