DDA Top 10: #6: Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou

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Taking a trip in the way back machine, I mentioned when I reviewed Outbreak Company that I generally regretted watching comedies.  I can appreciate funny stuff. My girlfriend watches stand up comics aplenty and Family Guy is frequent on the TV, but for my own personal enjoyment comedy is, on the whole, a waste of my fucking time.

I love funny shit, don’t get me wrong.  But my take comes in the form of, say, Thug Notes or Zero Punctuation, or little Newgrounds flashes. But comedy stories? No. Not even once.

Well okay once or twice.

But I really do find them abhorrent and insulting most of the time.

Either way, as anime fans, even among genres we don’t typically enjoy, there is always a best of the worst, so to speak.  And today’s installment, Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou (InuHasa) is the one that trumps my “favorite anime comedy” spot.  Best? No, that I’d still award Baka to Test. But when it comes to favorites, it barely gets edged out by InuHasa.

Of course there’s one very strong reason. That of our female lead, Natsuno Kirihime. And other bits I’ll get into, which make this series have a very focused fanbase.

Since this isn’t a story really worthy of analysis or such, this should be a nice, short and sweet one.

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Dogs and Scissors Come Together

InuHasa (Dog and Scissors) is about Kazuhito, and he is a bit of an odd boy.  He has no interests except the written word. Girls, sports, school, it’s all pale in comparison to the strokes of an author’s pen. Of all authors, Akiyama Shinobu is his greatest hero.

Due to an unfortunate accident, Kazuhito…is dead.  He now inhabits the body of a small dog.  And for some reason, only the girl whose life he saved can hear his thoughts. Perhaps it is because he truly loves her with all his heart. This girl is Natsuno Kirihime, better known to the world as Akiyama Shinobu.

Together the pair begin life anew together, and it seems the best way for Kirihime to become inspired in her work is to solve mysteries. First thing’s first, of course, discovering what happened to Kazuhito’s killer…

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The Black Princess

So no surprise here. Why would your host, DataportDoll, love a series where one of the leads is a sadist author who wears all black and prefers the indoors, with a vitriolic hatred of a blonde, beach-dwelling pop idol?

…No reason.

I’ll admit it, of any character in any series, I most identify with Kirihime. This is MY favorite series countdown after all, and that’s a pretty big feather in its cap.

And…and…I can’t help it, her interactions with Suzuna are too fucking cute. And their relation to each other is spot on. Especially when she threatens to punish her by being -nice-.  Which is totally how I punish my girlfriend.

…STOP JUDGING ME!

In that same vein, you can tell when she does appreciate what Suzuna does for her. These two are adorable together.

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Humor of the Written Word

One of the things its hard to explain to people about this series is that…it is a bit of a circle jerk. It is written by authors for authors.

A lot of gags involve the author-reader relationship.  This is something that is intrinsic not just to the premise, but the base humor of the show.

For instance, in episode 2, one of the goofy things that happens is the street criminal takes fictional fighting styles from the books he has been reading and uses them to battle Kirihime. While a cute enough gag to illicit a smirk on its own, what gives it a really cute charm for people like me is that this is a sort of logical absurdity of that undeniable truth that it is the readers who make written works “real”.  Lots of the jokes run of this theme, and as a writer, that just endears the series to me.

Something else is that I know JUST enough Japanese to follow most of the wordplay going on. Kirihime uses lots of off-words and nonsense-words, things a master of the language would never, never use.  It’s like finding out Shakespeare talked like Larry the Cable Guy. This is why the “dog”-“flat-chest” gags get overused, it is ONE of these pun games. And if you aren’t aware of that, I can see how a lot of the dialogue comes off as just lazy.

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Nuanced Comedians?

One thing that elevates InuHasa above most anime comedies is the dimensions that the characters exhibit. And not even in the token “hallmark wrap up” either, but really consistent behavior of an extremely complex personality.

Admittedly, most of this is directed to Kirihime, but Kazuhito is no slouch in the depth department either.

For Kazuhito’s part…he shares an interesting with Batman. Hear me out.

While he may obsess over books, arguably at the cost of other facets of his life, much like Batman obsesses over crime, we are shown as the series progresses that he isn’t out of touch with humanity. His compassion and empathy for other human beings is one of his strong suits, even if it mostly reserved for those with whom he understands the difficulties they are suffering.  He has not let his love of books overshadow his human connections. Now, left to his own devices, he will be reading, much like Batman will be punching goons. But those side moments do exist where he can offer his presence as comfort, even if they cannot hear his words.

But Kirihime…she is on a whole different level.

There was a difficulty with presenting “Natsuno-san”.  “Sadist” and “Masochist” are thrown around in Japanese parlance as personality types, but Kirihime is the real deal.  She is rude, and inflicts pain, because she finds it amusing more than anything else (and, let’s be honest, as a business model when dealing with masochist Suzuna).

But there are so many more shades belying this sociopathic tendency.  And they hit us right with them in the second episode, the search for Kazuhito’s killer.  Finding him, and dispatching him, the conversation between Kirihime and Kazuhito is amazing.  It is truly genius, and can go toe to toe with the most serious character study out there, because it is quite honest about who this character is.

Let’s be honest, now. Sadists often have big egos and a rather…self centered view of how the universe should operate.  And we see Kirihime’s reaction to Kazuhito forgiving the man who killed him.  She can’t take it.  The entire episode she has been treating the excursion as an interesting diversion, for herself.  It’s just a spark to get her writing going as far as Kirihime is concerned. And if Kazuhito benefits from it that’s all fine. It is all fun and games, nothing of serious consequence, she’s outright smiling during their little kung fu fight.

Until Kazuhito forgives him.

And that is the moment when she breaks. The guilt she’s carrying over being the reason he died just spills over, unable to accept that a bad thing happened.  She’s used to being in control, so thus, it was her fault.  It’s a brilliant stroke that keeps the characters elevated in this show.

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Absurdity

I admit I like absurdist stuff, and this show qualifies.  Be that the mail order shark sword or shounen-esque fight scenes, the series manages to nail the right level for me.

And yet, much like Death Note, it feels relatively grounded.  It takes things to wacky places, but other than its premise, that of a boy in a dog’s body, not a lot of the supernatural gets involved. It’s always relatively human drama, building off the aforementioned points of the author-reader relationship and such. In this it stays relatively tame (no one grows trees from their foreheads or anything, which they could have easily done).

It’s really hard for me to deconstruct comedy, it’s not my area of expertise, as it were.  So all I can really say is it’s definitely worth checking out if you keep those few things in mind about the jokes.  Many are emphasized visually for you, which I think is what makes this better than a lot of comedies which are essentially “radio play with anime overlap” in terms of delivery.  Here, the visual is just as important as the audio (or written) gag.

So, that’s Number 6. Where does Number 5 go to?

We’ll be going into the past. With youkai and high schoolers, and ray guns. Kekeke.

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