“I’m still a geek on the inside, that’s the important thing.” – ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic
This is a series that has seemingly passed everyone at AUKN by. It is a shame because Outbreak Company is a fun show, and a real feast for any anime fan.
Shinichi Kano is a devoted otaku and former hikikomori who ends up getting a job at a company selling anime and manga. However, just as he and his new boss Jinzaburo Matoba toast to celebrate the new appointment, Kano finds himself being drugged. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a strange room with a maid. He immediately gets excited by her presence, but things become more complicated when he discovers that he is no longer in Japan: he is in an entirely different world populated with dragons, dwarves, elves and other such creatures.
The maid in question is a half-elf named Myucel Foaran, who talks in the local tongue but allows Kano the ability to understand it using a magic ring. Kano learns from her that he is in the Lathatos Forest outside Marinos, capital of the Holy Eldant Empire. Myucel is to be Kano’s personal maid, and he is to be protected by buxom fujoshi Private Minori Koganuma of the Japanese Self-Defence Forces during his time in the country.
Kano is informed that in the forest near Mt. Fuji a portal to another dimension has been found. The Japanese government are keen to promote relations between Japan and Eldant, and it seems that the thing that Eldant is keenest on is otaku culture. As Kano is such an expert, he has been given the job of introducing and promoting Japanese anime, manga, video games and so on to the local people, with Matoba his direct superior.
Kano then meets with the Emperor of Eldant, who is in fact a 16-year-old girl, Petralka Anne Eldant III. She eventually agrees to allow Kano to promote anime, and thus Kano’s job starts. He faces many problems: for starters, most of the population are illiterate, and there is a caste system with humans on the top and other races like elves and dwarves at the bottom. Kano has to first overturn both the prejudices of the population, while also teaching the people of Eldant the Japanese language. Things are even more complicated by another rival empire and terrorist groups worried about invasions from a “foreign culture”. Kano even employs an enemy spy, a werewolf named Erbia Hanaiman, as his personal artist. Soon however, Kano’s expertise comes good, creating a school to educate the locals. Whether or not he can keep up with the local demand for anime is a big problem.
The big draw for Outbreak Company is that for anime fans there are so many references and jokes to keep you entertained. It is also not just limited to anime and manga: video games, light novels, even American comics and cartoons get mentioned. To give you a quick idea, here is a list of some of the series that are mentioned: Attack on Titan, Azumanga Daioh, Bastard!!, Clannad, The Devil is a Part-Timer, Dragonball, Evangelion, Final Fantasy, Free!, Girls und Panzer, Green Lantern, Kuso Miso Technique, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Lupin III, Metal Gear Solid, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, The Prince of Tennis, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Space Battleship Yamoto, Strike Witches, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vampire Princess Miyu, Yotsuba&! and Zero “All your base are belong to us” Wing.
Not all the references are obvious. Fortunately there are on-screen captions there to explain much. This is useful because there are a lot of references to series that have never made it to the west. Other references are related to the cast and crew. For example, characters frequently quote anime from series that their voice actors had previously worked on (the Japanese voice acting is very good by the way). There is also a self-deprecating joke concerning Outbreak Company‘s director Kei Oikawa. One boy starts writing a light novel, the text of which is the original Outbreak Company light novel. The one problem however, is that due to whole issue of copyright, for much of the time they can only hint rather than directly name a series. For example, Attack on Titan becomes Attack on Giant, and The Devil is a Part-Timer becomes The Devil is a Civil Engineer.
Also, the humour is not just limited to name-dropping and quoting particular anime. There are references to minor things, like hikikomori, fan-service, lolicon and boys’ love. One of the best scenes sees Kano becoming a teacher at the school he constructs, and the first thing he teaches the children about otaku culture is “absolute territory” – not the A.T. Field in Evangelion, but the gap of flesh between miniskirt and overknee socks. Later Minori changes the tone by teaching them boys’ love terms like “son-uke” – a total bottom. There is also the issue of the changing population. One character in particular of interest is Petralka’s aide, Garius, who seemingly becomes a fudanshi.
There is another big element to the comedy in Outbreak Company: it is a harem show. Therefore you have relationships between Kano and the main female characters: Myucel falls for Kano because he teaches her to read and fights to protect her from prejudice; Petralka also falls for Kano because of his strange customs and willingness to say things considered shocking; Minori provides moral support for Kano, and provides extra humour because of Kano’s constant habit of talking to her breasts rather than to her face; and Erbia not only likes Kano for saving her from punishment, but her werewolf-like attitudes sometimes lead to animalistic urges.
In terms of negatives, you can only get it on DVD in the UK while there is also a Blu-Ray in Region 1, the soundtrack is rather dull, the only extras are textless opening/closing and trailers, and the subtitling is at times a bit suspect. One episode sees Kano return to Japan to get some materials and visiting a “made cafe” rather than a “maid cafe”. These however are mainly problems with production and the release itself. In terms of the show itself, there is relatively little wrong with it. It is a very fun and funny show.
Outbreak Company is a rightly enjoyable geek-fest. It makes you want to binge on the light novels and manga too, but they are yet to become available in English. Hopefully that will change so we can also enjoy the original work too.