What's some quality surrealistic humor from Japan?
December 4, 2009 7:32 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for surreal Japanese humor?

Although I've been hep to the anime since Battle of the Planets in '78, there're no anime/manga fans in my peer group to get recommendations from. I dig the brooding minimalism of Gatchaman, and the beauty of Miyazaki, but what's really been floating my boat is the surreal humor of Azumanga Daioh and Cromartie High School (and Junko Mizuno's manga, but not much has made it over here). Is there anything else out there I should check out that's sorta the same flavor*?

Note: this doesn't mean I'm looking for yonkoma, or high school stories, necessarily - the weird laughs are what I'm looking for. Anime or manga OK, and I'm OK with recommendations of stuff that's not commercially available in the US so long as there's a fansub out there somewhere.

*I also like Kure Kure Takora, movies like Funky Forest, Karaoke Terror, and Wild Zero, and DDT Pro Wrestling, if that gives you more of an idea of my wavelength
posted by jtron to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Seishun Nigiri Punch by You Suck Hanakuma
posted by KokuRyu at 7:40 PM on December 4, 2009

Paniponi Dash! I happened across this on Netflix, and couldn't look away. I'm not sure if the show is amazingly, stupefyingly surreal, or if it only seems that way to me because it's a string of Japanese pop culture references I don't have the cultural context to decode.
posted by paulg at 7:40 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try Excel Saga and Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu?.
posted by fearthehat at 7:41 PM on December 4, 2009

Best answer: It's not anime, but ZOMG, you say surrealistic Japanese humor, and my brain says Vermilion Pleasure Night. Available as a DVD set with decent subtitles.
posted by mumkin at 8:24 PM on December 4, 2009

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is one of the first thing that comes to mind. Midori no Hibi, about a delinquent whose right hand becomes a girl and Mahoraba about a girl with multiple personalities. School Rumble and Yankee-kun to Megane-chan might also be worth a look.
posted by Amaterasu at 8:41 PM on December 4, 2009

The Anime Fan sitting next to me says "Marmalade Boy"
posted by GJSchaller at 8:48 PM on December 4, 2009

"Magical Witchland" (released in North America as "Magical Play") is mostly like that. There are a couple of episodes of it that are dark, but most of it is farcical and surreal. The show is made up of 5 minute episodes, and episode 19, "Battle in the 3rd Dimension" is easily to best and coolest and most surreal in the series.

In that episode, two of the flat characters somehow make their way into a rendered 3-dimensional village. Problem is, Padudu and Myumyu remain 2 dimensional.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:16 PM on December 4, 2009

Sugoi yo!! Masaru san
Pyu to fuku! Jaguar
Ike! Ina-chuu Takyuubu (most definitely "R" rated)
If you can find it, and probably an acquired taste: Patalliro(also probably "R" rated. And don't be fooled by the serious sounding description, it gets pretty ridiculous thanks to the title character)
Mahojin Guru Guru
Orochuban Ebichu (DEFINITELY for adults)
Hare nochi Guu
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:26 PM on December 4, 2009

If you don't mind live-action, you might find Takeshis interesting. It's a more recent Beat Takeshi film where he plays several characters in the film, but they are all different versions of Beat Takeshi. I saw it a while back, and even with the little I understood, it was pretty awesome.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:32 PM on December 4, 2009

Best answer: Katakuri-ke no kôfuku (The Happiness of the Katakuris)

It's live action, rather than anime, but it's quintessential Japanese surrealism. The only real response to it is:

posted by dephlogisticated at 9:56 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bobobo Bobobobo. I generally hate anime humor but this one (in addition to some lame stuff) has some extremely hilarious stuff. The humor is better in Japanese - no attempt was made to translate the script directly, and a lot of jokes were lost - but even the English version is worth watching.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:06 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Yakitate!! Japan" is a very weird manga/anime filled with all of the usual cliches, but about baking bread. For example, in a bread baking competition in France, the French team is composed of three brothers who are somehow intertwined under one large cape, with their masked faces showing. When they want to use a particular technique, they rearrange their bodies, sort of like Voltron.
posted by stavrogin at 10:56 PM on December 4, 2009

I think highly of "Ninja Nonsense" (AKA "Ninin ga Shinobuden"). It's goofy fun, and they constantly break the fourth wall. Weird shit happens in it, and it's got several fakeouts. And the girls are cute as hell.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:59 PM on December 4, 2009

FLCL is absolutely marvelous, and I love the way it switches from earnest emotions to surreal madness and back in the blink of an eye. Great music too.
posted by alexei at 3:41 AM on December 5, 2009

Seconding FLCL and Hare Nochi Guu
posted by zennoshinjou at 4:01 AM on December 5, 2009

Best answer: The funniest anime I've seen is Gag (/Gyagu) Manga Biyori. It's uneven, and the episodes are only five minutes long, but I love the last 75% of the double episode Harris Impact: 1 2.

Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu is also good. And I think nobody's mentioned Detroit Metal City.
posted by martinrebas at 4:42 AM on December 5, 2009

I didn't care much for the anime, but the manga of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is quite good. There's 4 volumes available in the US at the moment.
posted by DarkForest at 5:24 AM on December 5, 2009

Paranoia Agent, Possibly.
posted by saxamo at 7:21 AM on December 5, 2009

After reviewing the thread I can wholeheartedly doubleplus recommend Paranoia Agent as stated above.
posted by saxamo at 7:22 AM on December 5, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the recommendations, peoples!
posted by jtron at 8:39 AM on December 5, 2009

Seconding FLCL (Furi Kuri) and Paranoia Agent (if you interpret it as funny). I also love Cromartie.

This isn't exactly the right name, and googling it is hard, but Bakenamigori (?!) is pretty weird.
Golden Boy? Trigun sometimes.

What does that have to do with Pootan?
posted by cmoj at 9:47 AM on December 5, 2009

Paranoia Agent is more cerebral satire than outright comedy, though definitely surreal.

This isn't exactly the right name, and googling it is hard, but Bakenamigori (?!) is pretty weird.

You mean Bakemonogatari? I haven't seen it myself but have heard decent things about it.

Oh and nth-ing basically everything else recommended so far
posted by shoebox at 1:44 PM on December 5, 2009

Best answer: Thirding Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.

I also love Oruchuban Ebichu (anime, not the manga). Don't be deceived by the cute hamster, it has a lot of (funny) sex scenes and it's fairly violent.

Golden Boy (anime) can be pretty funny, although not that surreal. The English dub is excellent, I'd even say it's much better than the original.
posted by clearlydemon at 2:24 PM on December 5, 2009

Gintama (start with episode 3) and Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi.

And, definitely Paranoia Agent.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:21 PM on December 5, 2009

Bakemonogatari is beautiful and features probably the most interesting development of a couple I've seen a long time, but the laughs tend to come either at the very beginning or end of each episode. Most people I've shown this to have agreed that despite the visual treats, this series is too "talky."

Try out Lucky Star if you like Azumanga Daioh. Haruhi-chan is short but awesome (actually a spin-off of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, which is also a good series.)

Something complementing Cromartie... Gintama might be the right fit. It' s gag series with brief forays into hotblooded shounen battle arcs.

Not surprised that my personal favorite, Papuwa, hasn't been mentioned by anyone yet. Maybe the sight of fish in fishnet stockings too hot for most.
posted by vaghjar at 3:28 PM on December 5, 2009

Diebuster hasn't been mentioned, but FLCL has. It's a GAINAX spoof of ... GAINAX. Quote pulled from wikipedia:
Sato likes hot-blooded sports shows, while Enokido wants to do a story about an average boy coming to realize his own weaknesses and fighting to make a better life for himself, like in Evangelion and Nadia. What I want to do is combine a bunch of technical sci-fi concepts with an indescribably weird mood.”
Shinchan comes to mind as a uniquely Japanese comedy. AniDB has some pretty useful search tools if you don't mind restricting it to anime. The above search hits lists many of the previously mentioned highly.

"Surreal comedy" is a hard line to draw. For example, is Sengoku Basara categorized as surreal comedy or just the next step in aggressive period drama? Date Masamune has put massive motorcycle exhaust pipes and handlebars on his horse. Similar to bobo bobobo I guess.
posted by pwnguin at 4:07 PM on December 5, 2009

Further suggestions: Damekko Doubutsu and Kappa no Kaikata. (After watching some Kure Kure Takora, I'm feeling more certain you might like Papuwa...)
posted by vaghjar at 4:10 PM on December 5, 2009

Response by poster: I've marked a couple Best Answers because I've already seen them, and they're spot on as suggestions - thanks again, peoples!
posted by jtron at 1:28 PM on December 8, 2009

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