「Forever『ママンとトゥギャザー』」 (Fouebaa “Maman to Tugyazaa”)
“Together with Maman Forever”
The season finale of Uramichi Oniisan follows the trend of a lackluster comedy finale by diffusing any tension in favor of making one final victory lap. But even with a forgettable final episode, some of the standout moments of the episode still shine through and make it worthwhile.
Easily, the best part of the episode was when the show’s writer Amon is having a difficult time coming up with an idea to surpass the ingredient-themed ninja that Uramichi played as. It was funny to see him do the Nightcrawler method of stalking Uramichi until he was able to get the content he wanted out of him. The payoff was even funnier as everyone’s stereotypical outfits are undercut when Uramichi shows up as a French caricature who is resentful that his baguette was as stale as it was when he was stalked at the grocery store.
But the anime is left hanging once it’s revealed immediately that Uramichi wasn’t going to leave after all. Instead of trying to angle the remainder of the episode around this, the situation is quickly diffused as the episode attempts to figure out where they should go from there. The Baguette skit was funny enough, but the last segment leaned too much on the meta-humor of trying to find a worthy season finale conflict to be involved with.
Iketeru shines the brightest through the false alarm conflicts because of how wholesome of a character he is. It’s buyable that he went through something rough like getting injured or having a sick dog, but when his injury is revealed to be a hangnail and when he finds out Sayuri won a dog show prize, it was rewarding and fun to see him react to both the good news and the puns that came with them.
But as humorous as Iketeru’s dirty joke gimmick is, the same sentiment isn’t shared with the other characters. The victory lap method of highlighting their more overplayed jokes like Utano’s marriage obsession, Capellini’s lust for Usahara, and Kikaku being unsettling to a point is far less entertaining.
At first, there were plenty of well-warranted concerns that Uramichi Oniisan would overstay its welcome if it ended up being just a half-hour of Uramichi indoctrinating children with the power of negativity. But rather than being a mouth-piece for the woes of growing up, Uramichi Oniisan serves as an interesting snapshot of what it’s like to try to find yourself as you start to grow up and realize that the destiny you once thought you had full control over had different plans in mind for you.
What helps prevent the show from being self-indulgent and nihilistic is how it humanizes many of its characters and how none of the main cast members are one-dimensional. Uramichi in particular had enough to contend with as a gymnast denied of a healthy upbringing that it would make sense that he would be as cynical as he is.
At the same time, as much as he loathes dealing with the director or being reminded of the misery he faces as an adult, he also has a soft spot as he ends up endearing himself to the children in the audience who make him feel like he’s a positive role model who has encouraged them to make the most of their lives. In spite of his constant reminders that the kids have it so good since they’re currently deluded into thinking the world is their oyster, it somehow gives his audience enough of a pep talk that he’s regularly reminded of all of the good he inadvertently brought to their lives, and, without fail, he is emotionally taken aback each time.
The other cast members of “Together with Maman” also have the same appeal as each has a reason for you to empathize with them as they battle with the trials and tribulations of being lost in their twenties. For as much of a prodigy Iketeru was at singing, he was also emotionally stunted by not experiencing much of a childhood and retains much of his innocent personality and low-brow humor as a result. Utano clawed her way through stardom as a prospective singer, but through a combination of bad luck and being trapped in an unfulfilling relationship, she ended up settling into being an actress on a kid’s show.
Even some of the smaller characters are given time to shine. Kumatani is especially fleshed out as we learn about his descent from the corporate ladder as a result of the horrid conditions he had to contend with that drove him to violence. It’d be easy to make fun of Usahara because he’s the guy the show enjoys dog-piling on for lacking any tact or dignity, but he had grown to idolize those around him because of how much they bring their A-game to everything they work on even if they hate it. For someone who has trouble proving himself to be someone who deserves to be taken seriously, he becomes a much more sympathetic character the more you learn how his personality is him trying to overcompensate for feeling like he’s outclassed by those around him.
Not every character is given the same privilege of being fleshed out, however. While characters like Kikaku hilariously serve as foils for Uramichi and the staff to bounce off of, some don’t quite stick the landing when they serve to be more one-dimensional. The director Derikida rarely gets any kind of humanization shown as he’s always seen as the impractical nuisance who only serves to be an inconvenience until he gets disciplined. Similarly, Capellini never grows out of being an offensive gay stereotype, which is a let-down considering how lazy the humor behind his character is compared to the rest of the show’s comedy.
It’s here where the show’s humor ends up being more hit-or-miss. While Uramichi Oniisan is at its best when it examines the characters’ motivations and hilariously riffs on the miserable workplace culture of the kid’s show, it’s more practical comedy isn’t the best. It never really knows what to do with Utano so she ends up getting standard jokes about how older women are hungry for marriage and a stable relationship before they head into Christmas Cake territory. Miyano Mamoru knocked it out of the park with Iketeru incessantly giggling at crude jokes, but at some point, they also started to force a lot of the puns that would make him laugh.
They also lean on Usahara so much for comedy that it feels like they have to start making up convoluted ways for Uramichi to get angry at him. It’s similar to Toby from The Office where sometimes they don’t give you a good reason to despise him as a character when he ends up being the butt of a joke. As time goes on, it feels like the show relies on him to give Uramichi substance that doesn’t revolve around telling the kids not to get their hopes up about the future.
That’s not to say that Uramichi Oniisan wasn’t a great experience. What could’ve been a comedy that’d be better served in smaller doses ended up being a cathartic way to laugh at the distance and alienation we feel as we grow up. The 30’s that our parents experienced wouldn’t be the same 30’s we could look forward to, and Uramichi’s internal and external suffering was a relieving way to see all of this unpacked before the audience.
His co-stars are also the glue that holds Uramichi Oniisan together as it gives us several perspectives of actors and actresses in their late 20’s who are also just trying to survive while also putting up with a job that you don’t exactly dream of having when you’re career-planning in high school or college. While it is still humorous as a comedy, what I believe Uramichi Oniisan excels at is critiquing the idea that hard work is key for upward mobility.
Where you can make ends meet and live comfortably, but still feel like you’re not amounting to as much as the effort you put in. You can train all your life to do the one thing that you aspired to do, but roadblocks are intentionally wedged into your dream and force you to be creative on how to make money.