Story time with Shinichi!
This episode was really hard to watch. Shinichi has his stuff brought over from Earth. And of course, the show has to slowly pan over his endless shelves of power levels. So now I have to keep pausing every now and then to identify all the references…
A True Otaku
Welcome to the crib.
Now, I’ve seen a few other shows with displays of otaku power levels, but I have to say that Shinichi tops it all without a doubt. This guy has his own private library/study lined on all sides with posters, figures, manga, and games. Heck, he even has an anime carpet! I bet if Galious took a look at the room, he would no longer doubt Shinichi’s otaku expertise. Anyway, all of this works as an obvious appeal towards the “otaku crowd”. If you’re at all remotely familiar with “otaku culture”, it’s hard to resist stepping up to the challenge of identifying everything in Shinichi’s room. Especially when it’s all waved so tantalizingly in your face. And odds are, if you’re this kind of person, you’ll be able to recognize most, if not all of the items. Which leads to instant gratification. That said, none of this has anything explicitly to do with the plot of Outbreak Company (aside from demonstrating Shinichi’s passion), so it might come across as a bit of a cheap tactic. But I say why not?
It’s not as if the show is reliant on humorous references like Nyaruko-san; the stuff is just presented almost matter-of-fact-ly. So in that way, it doesn’t come across as condescending or polarizing. The glimpses we get of Shinichi’s “repertoire”, as well as his “field samples”, are only that: a view into how seriously he takes his otaku pride. Whether or not you recognize any of it is irrelevant to the quality of the show. I do want to add, however, that the level to which you identify with Shinichi’s goods does not necessarily translate to how “otaku” you are. As far as I am aware, the label “otaku” does have very real and serious negative connotations in Japanese society, and should not be used so carelessly. With this in mind, Shinichi’s childhood friend rejecting him is slightly more understandable, although no less grating.
A sobering reality.
Moving on, Outbreak Company delivers the first of its darker matters without delay. Granted, we’d already seen hints of social problems in the premiere, but they’re front and center here. From the tour of the child-soldier training camp to Petrarca’s rail at Myuseru, the class stratification and ethnic discrimination is made painfully apparant. What I find most striking, however, is Shinichi’s exchange with Bluk and Myuseru. The show takes what could have been a simple comical moment and masterfully transforms it into an exhibition of Shinichi’s idealism contrasted with the conventions of their world. I thought Bluk’s dismissal of being pummeled was rather striking, as was his offering his master a tool that would actually inflict pain through his tough scales. Think about it: the social hierarchy is so natural to the servants that they would willingly submit themselves to punishment, even going so far as to enable it.
And then when Myuseru walked in, the obvious reaction we were all expecting (Shinichi himself included) was for her to freak out from his appearing to raise his hand against Bluk. But instead she rushes over to tend to her master’s bruises and doesn’t respond to the potentially violent scenario before her. That right there hammered down in my mind the difference between the two worlds more effectively than the widespread illiteracy and discrimination. Shinichi confronting Petrarca was also nice, and an indication of the clearly telegraphed direction this show will head down. But that part, to go back on my word, was held back by a poor choice of reference (really, the only one in the episode). It’s hard to take Shinichi’s inspiring words about social peace and equality seriously when the manga he was just reading with Petrarca happens to be Attack on Titan. That is not a world without class distinctions…
I was already impressed by Outbreak Company’s premiere, and this second episode continues the positive trend. The novelty of a “moe missionary” remains, but the expansion into the realm of thought-provoking social concerns adds a new layer of complexity that meshes surprisingly well with the initial concept. It might be a bit pretentious if the show were to simply throw in social stratification for the heck of it. But when it is formally introduced as a consequence of Shinichi’s decision to observe the people of the land to understand them better, it becomes a believable addition. Most importantly, however, I am impressed with the show’s ability to retain its roots in the spread of “otaku culture” while simultaneously tackling deeper matters.