Traditional comedies rely on a few tried and tested formulas for successful laughs – whether it be slapstick, gags, sarcasm or straightforward jokes… But there are some comedies out there that take a slightly different stance on what could be deemed as funny and although it doesn’t seem like it’d work as well, that uniqueness is exactly why it’s both hilarious and fresh! Of course, it could only be the ever cool, cooler, coolest Sakamoto-kun!
It seems that the trend these days is to strike while the iron is hot when it comes to popular manga titles and “Sakamoto desu ga” is definitely part of this list (another that comes to mind is the currently airing “Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu” which only has been running since May of 2015). The manga is written by Nami Sano and has had 4 volumes published from 2012 – 2015. Interestingly, it wasn’t published in a “popular” magazine but was published in Harta magazine, which is handled by Enterbrain (more well-known for publishing gaming-related magazines) and is under the umbrella of its parent company, the Kadokawa Corporation. It has also been distributed in English (if you’re interested in collecting the original material). The anime adaptation was handled by Studio Deen and directed by Shinji Takamatsu who has been involved in the making of animes such as Daily Lives of High School Boys, Gintama, Cute High Earth Defense Club Love! (the 2nd season of this show is out at the moment), School Rumble and Ixion Saga DT, to name a few.
Some of the works of Shinji Takamatsu.
The main concept of the show revolves around a super cool guy that’s in his first year of high school and is just innately popular. He’s good-looking, talented, clever and does everything in his trademark “stylish” manner. This, of course, means that he’s always popular with the girls but tends to make enemies out of most of the guys. Even though that may be the case, Sakamoto always manages to keep the girls at bay and get the guys on his side. Each episode has 1 to 3 mini-stories that revolve around Sakamoto’s daily high school life and his various encounters not only with his classmates but also some parents, teachers and all the delinquent boys in the school. Although it sounds rather straightforward, it’s the content and execution of the show that really sets it apart from the rest. Based on the plot description it may sound like it’s just a show about an ikemen that wins over his enemies in an almost warm and fuzzy manner but this show takes a very different approach and to fully understand what I’m talking about, let’s move onto the review.
Want to see how it ends? Then you can pick up the manga, which is also available in English.
Right from the outset you get the feeling that this show is something different but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is until you get to watching. It’s an almost random and absurd sort of humour that purveys the show but because it’s being pulled off by this totally capable, cool character it seems almost out of sync. But this is the beauty of Sakamoto as a character: he may be cool but he is, in fact, rather odd. This plays a big part in the random feel and borderline absurdity of this humour but his coolness and general sense of logic evenly balances the comedy out so that it doesn’t become ridiculous. The boys in the school are always trying to outdo him or the girls are trying to get to him and this forms the driver of the episodes; whether it’s trying to defeat him in sports, make him an errand boy for the delinquents or trying to literally get close to him, the episodes focus on Sakamoto and how he handles all these various situations whilst earnestly trying to help his classmates. And somewhere along the line he manages to earn the favour and respect of those round him – including those who would be his enemies/competitors. So yes, Sakamoto is strange, has conversations with birds (addressing them as Bird-san), peppers his speech with English phrases/words, has an obsession with skyfish (yes, it is an actual thing but isn’t actually a fish), employs his “secret techniques” to defeat his opponents and walks to his own beat (literally) but this is what makes him not only unique but super cool. The things he does may seem random but it does have a point to it at the end of it all and unlike other regular “cool guys”, Sakamoto is well aware of his coolness but doesn’t abuse this “power” and rather uses it to right the various wrongs he comes across.
Sakamoto’s Secret Techniques.
The one thing about this type of humour is that inevitably there are those out there that will think that it goes a bit too far into the random/absurd zone or who just wouldn’t get the joke. However, because of the various storylines and constant use of gags throughout the stories, laughs are inevitable along the way so although the humour is random, the idea of “if you shoot enough, you’ll eventually hit something” applies pretty well in this situation… The stories in this anime hold up and aren’t overextended so as to make up air time and while there are plenty of laughs, there are also moments where you feel for the characters because at the end of the day, these are kids in high school after all. There are those like Kubota that get bullied, Acchan who tries to please his delinquent superiors, girls like Megumi who just want to be close to Sakamoto and Sera who strives to be a comedian (usually with the most dry jokes/wordplay) but can be a good guy when he tries. And of course we can’t forget one of the most popular characters in the story, i.e. Hayabusa, a 2nd year that is in charge of the delinquents yet rivals Sakamoto on the “cool” factor.
Typical of Sakamoto desu ga, the humour is sometimes obvious, sometimes random but always funny.
The other thing that I must commend this manga on is the characters. Apart from the cool guy Sakamoto, we also have some of his classmates as well as 2nd and 3rd years that Sakamoto encounters. In a show like this which focusses on comedy it could be assumed that character development could be left to the wayside as we laugh along but this show actually addresses that aspect and as the characters interact with each other, they show their true personalities and even learn how to change along the way. A perfect example is Aina, a girl in Sakamoto’s class that is after him: she starts off as a perfect princess type of character that claims to be a weakling but through her interactions with the other girls in her class (and a bit of help by a fox-spirit-possessed Sakamoto) she shows that she’s actually pretty strong for a girl and her true self starts to show – especially when faced with a yeti that she wants to fight (yes.. a yeti).. The show is filled with these sorts of character developments between his classmates and especially with regard to the delinquents, who come to respect Sakamoto.
Cool guy Sakamoto knows how to warm the hearts of the delinquents who eventually come to respect him.
The animation and music is on par with what we would expect for an anime of this nature and is kept relatively simple and straightforward – we have our ikemen types and the more “normal” contingent of the school with our “atmosphere cue” music depending on the situation. That sort of simplicity is actually a tribute to the story itself since the show doesn’t rely on flashy scenes to distract you. The OP and ED are great choices, starting off strong with CustomiZ’s “Cool” and ending with a track by Suneohair. And Sakamoto’s theme song of sorts throughout the show has a nice sort of jazz vibe that goes along well with Sakamoto’s coolness.
Making the ordinary extraordinary – that is Sakamoto’s way.
Animes like this have to be seen so that you can fully grasp just how excellent the adaptation is. It’s random, a little out there and you might not be able to put your finger on why you like it so much but it’s light-hearted in all the right ways and always manages to get me laughing no matter how many times I rewatch the same episode. Feel-good animes are sort of hard to come by these days since everyone is watching the next big espionage/ mystery/ vampire/ sports/ superhero/ mecha anime, so something like “Sakamoto desu ga” is just perfect for those times where you just want to relax, have a laugh and move along. The gags are great, the humour can be silly but it all works together to create an awesome show that can be rewatched at any time and at any point in the season. So give this anime a go and let Sakamoto show you all about what it means to be cool, cooler, coolest…
Image credits: Studio Dean
End: Sakamoto desu ga Anime Review