Well now, that escalated quickly.
I predicted Outbreak Company to be fourth-wall-breaking as possible, and I feel fairly confident in that assumption (As typical, I try to avoid research so as to take the series on its own merits, unless I have previous exposure in my own time).
So before we get to the good, let’s get the bad and fearful out of the way. Because on the whole this introduction impressed me.
To be fair: I was worried this series might fall into “otaku worship”. That is, basically satisfying otaku fantasy where it is elevated to not just what you’d call ‘teaching tolerance’, but outright Mr. Garrison freak worship (you remember, the South Park where the gay teacher was given a medal for shoving lab rodents up his boyfriend’s butt?). I am tentatively, but optimistically, calling that this series will avert that.
While it does present nerdiness/otaku as a positive attribute, the plot kind of demands it, and since it is the premise of the series you have to give it some leeway. This very much is in the style of Rozen Maiden, where our protagonist’s odd habits are actually necessary to -lead- him to a chance encounter that furthered his growth. Yes, our hero is chosen because he is otaku, and shares the same obsessive compulsions as all nerds do. But he is rightly called out when it is weird or stupid (we certainly seem to have more of that coming next week).
There’s lots of fourth wall humor here, though to be fair, and this is what makes me think it will avert the aforementioned “otaku worship”, it’s very mean spirited. I presume Shinichi will outgrow asking a woman her cup size as his first question by the time the series is over.
And yet for all his weirdness, Shinichi remains at least moderately likable. Because for those of us who are outcasts (especially for physical attributes we cannot change), it often does take someone who embraces that, not just puts up with it, as Shinichi does with Myusel (and presumably will with Ann), to help us get over it.
The early release info for this series hinted there would be socio-political themes developed in the series. We can see this already with Myusel (it seems unlikely her half-elf status won’t be important. Probably the stand-in for “hafu” in Japan). The Eldant empire seems a stand in for “the West” in general, right down to the fact that Japan’s best cultural ties remain its exporting of anime (it is odd, in the United States, to imagine NOT having Hollywood and the super-corps like McDonalds/Coke). Though holding a kid hostage to be a diplomat still seems like a REALLY bad plan! Even more suspicious when it seems that the Japanese envoy to Eldant doesn’t trust Shinichi’s maid to listen in on basically the story of first-contact between the two nations. Something more seems to be up here.
So tickle me interested, I’m glad we picked this series to follow.