I’m actually kind of surprised at how much I’ve been looking forward to this episode. This show is just a lot of fun – it’s witty, colorful, and endearing, and has a great sense of humor that isn’t tied to any single gag. Basically, the world itself is funny – a world where the Great Ruler Kate actually makes sense, a world where those meddling do-gooders can be fooled by flipping the sign on your secret base, a world where you decide to conquer the world just because you want a bigger family. When your world is inherently funny, you don’t have to stretch too far for jokes, which is good – trying too hard is the easiest way to kill almost any joke.
Not that making jokes look natural and effortless is easy, either. They have to emerge naturally while still being witty – the fact that the base world plays with your viewer’s expectations in a way conducive to humor doesn’t mean you get to slack off.
And trying too little is also death – even when you’re going for simple jokes, that just puts that much more weight on every tool you do use. You can’t just have a character make a funny face – first the audience has to buy into that character, then the audience has to buy why that face would be funny relative to that character, then you have to perfect your pacing and direction, and even then the face better friggin’ convey what you’re trying to convey, since so much of the humor in funny faces is based in “wow, that expression makes complete yet ridiculous sense,” not just the face being silly.
Basically, humor sucks. I don’t know why anyone would try to be funny, it’s too much work and no-one appreciates it. As far as art forms go, it may be the one that gets the least credit relative to the work involved.
But this show gets it! This show gets it, and that’s very refreshing to see – unlike most anime comedy, it doesn’t rely on stale gags, manic ridiculousness, or “I understood that reference!” And it combines that with something that western comedies often seem to disregard – how much nicer it is to watch shows about people you like, who aren’t all horrible. For me personally, that mean-spirited style of comedy is mainly just tiring – even if the jokes are clever, if they’re just ways for awful people to be terrible to each other, they’re not going to endear me to the show. Beyond this style of comedy just being more pleasant, comedies that are based in negativity can so rarely be morethan comedies – when every one of your characters is a selfish stooge, you can’t pivot into drama, slice of life, or romance, because your audience is there to see the characters punished, not humanized or redeemed. They’re like horror movies in that way (and other ways too, actually, since both horror and comedy are based in the tension-release of suspense and surprise). I much prefer laughter among friends, and it’s already obvious that Sekai Seifuku definitely cares about its characters.
Alright, enough rambling about comedy. Let’s conquer the world.
0:09 – See? Base concept. Normally, it’s considered bad writing to have villains that fight just because they love evil – no one is actually like that, everyone thinks what they’re doing is just. But hey, what if you really did just friggin’ love evil? What would a person like that do on their days off? How would they feel about their goals? You don’t have to make gags here – the situation is already great
0:21 – This guy doesn’t care about evil at all! He’s just in it for the glory! DESPICABLE
0:58 – I love these signs. They’re just great little indicators of domesticity, for one thing – like this isn’t an evil hideout, it’s a tenant house (or a “home,” as the show is always quick to indicate). And then there’s also the fact that you can easily hear Kate announcing these as Great Decrees of the Dictator. And then there’s the idea that the villains are so obsessed with cleanliness and courtesy in the first place
1:08 – NO FUCKING SMOKING
2:45 – Actually laughed out loud at this. “Oh, a parachute, that’s ni-… right.”
3:48 – Again, not actually spelling out its own joke – “then why the fuck would you attach it to a giant chimney-cannon?”
4:00 – And now flipping to one again based on the premise – the Sekai Seifuku version of the classic “you’ve failed me for the last time” villain speech
4:58 – Like last episode, this one pretty much immediately set to work building its own ‘scaffolding of humor’ – natural jokes created through a tiny universe of references the show itself gives purpose. You can set up one nonsense rule or expectation and twist it into a dozen jokes if you space them well and vary them intelligently. Arrested Development was a show that thrived on this brand of humor – by its third season, it had basically created an entire in-show mythology of humor touchstones, making it hilarious to fans and completely impenetrable to new viewers
5:03 – Kate yes
5:18 – Speaking of well-chosen silly faces. Remarkable how well they can convey “turning up her nose” on a character who doesn’t actually have one
5:25 – YOUR KIND ISN’T WELCOME HERE
Kinda speaks to the power of villainy though, huh? No need for moderation here – smoking is evil, all smokers will be destroyed, problem = solved!
8:20 – Kind of cute. A deep hatred of smokers is a silly enough issue that it can illustrate how pretty much any extremism tends to look from the outside – like an eight year old girl screaming about truth and justice
8:48 – I like how her look of excitement over the thought of murdering all smokers is pretty much the same as her look of excitement over having takeout for dinner
Also a pretty great line re: the absurdity of in-house extremism squabbling
9:07 – DEBATABLE
9:32 – Oh my god no stop don’t encourage her. Okay, now we’re definitely talking about how hardliners of any ideology turn their opponents into evil aliens from outer space. Smokers aren’t human beings with personal stories, they just HATE FREEDOM
9:40 – The moral of the story is NEVER COMPROMISE EVER. This show is so good
9:47 – This is so great. “Opening a dialogue is hard – try attacking people instead!” Kate you are the best villain
And that’s actually awesome – she’s not just representing a generic evil, she’s actually campaigning on behalf of the sort of stuff that leads to injustice and human suffering worldwide. She is literally pro-evil
10:04 – Nooo, no stooop… No wonder Kate’s such a natural leader – hatred and extremism are an extremely easy sell
11:02 – Oh jeez, are you implying dehumanizing people who disagree with you and inciting us-versus-them mentalities can maybe result in a violent snowball effect or something? Why didn’t you tell us that before we started throwing rocks at smokers?
11:37 – Brilliant callback. It doesn’t even play as comedy now – the show has drawn a clear line from “haha, fuck smokers” to friggin’ smoker-cleansing, making me feel kinda guilty for laughing at this guy in the first place. Which is the point, of course – a small dehumanization can always lead to a greater one. The instinct is the same, it’s just amplified and given no push-back
12:03 – I like that they’ve chosen to have the General in his battle attire here. At this moment, he is not the member of Yasu’s family who shares dinner with him back at the hideout – right now he is a representative of Zvezda generally and Kate’s anti-smoking decree specifically, and so acts as the executor of that humanity-denying perspective
I also like how his argument isn’t Kate’s original one, about smoking being bad for you and others – it’s just “the world no longer accepts your old kind, so change or leave”
12:18 – The best dialogue
13:26 – More of this world’s strange, vague background. More importantly, they’re using the cigarettes as a bonding moment – an indicator of the personal connection between these two, the acknowledgment of common humanity that villainizing your opponent stamps out
14:21 – Smoking speakeasies. You’re pretty clever, show
15:39 – How did it come to this? Oh right, it came to this because Kate’s a crazy dictator who polarizes both sides and destroys anyone she disagrees with
15:41 – How generous of her
16:00 – They even give them these monster eyes now. See!? Aliens all along!
16:20 – Right. Peace, of course
16:54 – What a great title. Destroying the people you disagree with with a giant fist is certainly a “variation” in persuasion
19:16 – Well that’s interesting. Does she actually possess a power of propaganda, or something – the Voice of Leadership? Or is the show just being silly
19:29 – And instead of the Chief actually remembering his human bond with Yasu, Yasu is dragged back to Zvezda by the power of Kate’s charisma. Evil wins again
19:44 – Oh man, so convenient! And again playing with how silly the idea of “evil” really is – “don’t worry, our bombs only kill evil people! That’ll resolve this war of ideals!”
21:43 – GRACIOUS IN VICTORY
That was great! The funniest episode yet, and also incredibly pointed. The moral of the story was terrible – evil actually won, and not just “haha supervillains are funny” evil, but real world holy shit demonizing your enemies gets people killed evil. They set up a whole “ideology versus humanity” conflict with Yasu only to have him completely cave to ideology, and at the end of the day, smokers really were just portrayed as wretched souls beyond saving. That’s terrible! This show is great!
I was really only idly hoping this would turn out to be the season’s smart show up ‘til now, but, well, here it is. Here’s the season’s smart show. It’s witty and endearing and literally brimming with evil. Very excited for the next one.