[My thoughts on Sakamoto Desu Ga (anime)]
Watching Sakamoto Desu Ga reminded me that the world of Anime is so vast and varied that quite a lot of content is actually undefinable. I liked this one but I couldn’t decide if it was well-packaged rubbish or a poorly crafted gift to the world. Either way, I found myself consistently turning to it, whenever I needed some background noise while folding my clothes, having dinner or clawing out the insides of a pomegranate.
It’s a simple set-up: There’s a teenager who is redefining “coolness”, sometimes by engaging in miracles, sometimes by displaying his limitless talents and sometimes through abject idiocy. It’s an art that Sakamoto Secret has mastered. It sounds silly, and yes, it really is but our protagonist pulls it off.
It’s predictable for the most part – Sakamoto always wins. However hopeless or illogical a situation may be, his victory is assured. His adversaries, naturally, seem to be unaware of this formula and often have to learn a lesson or two from him. Most of the episodes or the episodes within the episodes revolve around this pattern – we see Sakamoto encountering an assortment of common as well as uncommon problems: bullies and jealous peers conspire to trip him up, women of various ages have the propensity to flock towards him and there aren’t enough white lines on the road for him to walk on.
While it’s predictable is that he’s going to solve the problems, what’s less predictable is how he does it. His methods of dealing with these issues can be quite interesting. I knew he would react but I couldn’t always tell how he would react.
Which then made me realise that I don’t know this protagonist very well, despite watching the 12 episodes available and hearing his name over and over again. The little we know makes it quite clear that Sakamoto is a good person. He’s helpful, genuine and actually quite considerate. Also, based on his innovative solutions to problems, there’s quite a decent level of intelligence too. Maybe he’s just a model student and citizen. Maybe he’s terminally ill and living out the rest of his life to the fullest, or maybe he’s an alien infiltrating human society or a German spy sent to investigate the dynamics of young people in Japan. He could be none or all of these things. The point is, Sakamoto is an enigma.
This concept was one of the things that made the show watchable. Sakamoto’s unpredictability kept the otherwise repetitive and predictable storyline functioning. His stoic pursuit of coolness, even while engaging in really stupid actions like using a toilet roll to create white lines on the road or mimicking a robot to divert his fangirls’ attention, is admirable if not ridiculous. They also lent a touch of comedy to a show that really doesn’t have much else to it.
The comedy itself wasn’t outstanding. Most of the time, the situations just felt too strange or confusing or impossible to relate to. Sakamoto himself is so far removed from reality that even the funny things he did didn’t translate into humour. I think I was too busy being baffled by some of his responses and trying to figure out what he was up to. There were some genuinely funny moments that made me laugh out loud but these were rare.
While Sakamoto Desu Ga follows an episodic structure, we do get a loose plot towards the latter half of the show, revolving around an established bully who wants our protagonist out of the game. It’s not an interesting game because, hey, we already know who’s going to win. The whole ‘plot’ just reinforces Sakamoto’s superiority and his peculiar approach to problem-solving. At the end, Sakamoto retains his winning streak, turns more enemies into allies and gets more fans – possibly the entire school population.
Now, I can’t remember the bully’s name; I can’t remember anyone’s name except for Sakamoto and I think that reveals a lot more about the story than my attempt at a review actually does. The entire things exists as a tribute to Sakamoto, a character with almost divine abilities. We see him and only him, as the perfection that he is now. Nothing else matters– not his friends or schoolmates (who are merely plot devices and props), not his background (which is entirely missing) and definitely not the plot (which is so loose, it does almost nothing for the show). Anyone who expects anything from this show is likely to be disappointed but if you can accept it for what it is – an animated crackfic – it’s not too bad.
If you’ve watched it, feel free to share your thoughts. Did you think it was funny or was it just plain weird? And really, if you managed to crack the enigma that Sakamoto is, do let me know.