What would you do if you were suddenly transported into a fantasy world where everything that were once just figments of the imagination were real? Would you…try to get the elves and dwarves hooked on light novels and anime? You would if you were Shinichi Kanou.
What They Say:
Shinichi Kanou’s father writes novels and his mother illustrates erotic video games, so it’s not unsurprising that he’d turn out a fan of comics and science fiction. However, rather than channeling his efforts into creating like his parents, he has instead become one of the world’s foremost experts on “moe,” with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things cute and adorable in every conceivable form of animation and media. This sort of explains Shinichi’s recruitment as an ambassador for moe to the Holy Eldant Kingdom, a parallel world where things that previously only existed in anime actually exist!
So, how will a hot blooded young otaku react when dropped into a world with actual cute and adorable elf maids and dragons? More importantly, how will THEY react to this drooling devotee with diplomatic credentials? And even more to the point, exactly WHY does the Japanese government feel that sending someone to represent Japan’s moe interests is a good idea in the first place? Sorry, no spoilers! If you want to learn more, you’ll have to come along for the adventure as the ultimate anime fans’ fanboy fantasy unfurls in OUTBREAK COMPANY!
Contains episodes 1-12 on 3 discs.
Audio: For this review, I listened to the Dolby Digital 2-channel 48khz 224kbps English track. While most of the activity is all in the center speaker, as this is a dialogue-heavy show, the mix felt like it had a certain richness which especially came out during the opening and ending animations, where the songs did make some use of the read speakers. The balance between spoken dialogue, sounds effects, and background music was all well calibrated, without anything interfering with being able to hear and enjoy each element on its own, creating a good sound experience when listened to all together. There were no noticeable dropouts or distortions during playback.
Originally airing in 2013, the show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for anamorphic playback. In general, this is about the level of quality which many of us have come to expect from upscaled standard 480i MPEG-2 video. If you’re not picky about video, it probably looks fine. Some of the more eagle-eyed or those with very large screens could well detect some softness in places, but I’m not that particular. As expected, on-screen text and the subtitles can sometimes appear slightly jagged, a reflection of the lower resolution they are meant to be displayed at. The video is fairly sharp and clear, without significant noise or signs of compression artifacts. The episode split is 4 episodes per disc.
Packaging: The front cover shows an image of Myucel and Petralka, the two lead females, that was probably drawn by the artist for the original light novel series, as they have a slight “watercolor” feel to them, unlike the very crisply rendered versions one finds in the anime. It’s a nice cover that shows the girls and the otaku fetishes they play to—which is all tied to the show. The back of the cover has the catalog text framed on three sides: along the top and bottom there are still frames from the show and on the right is a large picture of Myucel which again might have come from the original light novel illustrations. Below all of this is a box which notes the rather sparse “Special Features,” a listing of production staffers and then the technical grid lining the bottom. The disc art features a single one of the main girls on each disc: Myucel, Petralka, and Elbia.
The menus are static, with the same image as that used on the disc shown to the right of the menu list of episodes (four on each disc) and the language choice sub-menu selection. On the first disc only there is also a Special Features choice.
Practically nothing in terms of extras. The first disc has the usual assortment of trailers from Sentai along with the textless versions of the OP and ED. That’s it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based upon the ongoing light novel series Outbreak Company: Moeru Shinryakusha (Outbreak Company: The Moe Invader) by Ichirou Sakaki, this show, animated by feel. (the period is part of the name; while they have done a lot of secondary work for others’ main productions and quite a few erogame to anime adaptations, they’ve also recently been lead studio for Locodol< and Jinsei–Life Consulting and are currently handling the sequel series My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!) presents us with a rather wild tale: while doing some general surveying in the mountains, the Japanese Self-Defense Force (the military forces of Japan) discovers a strange anomaly: a rift and something that I guess we would call a wormhole. It leads to another world, one which resembles pretty much your standard and cliched pseudo-medieval fantasy RPG realm with dwarves and elves and dragons and magic. While this could easily have led to some kind of armed and costly conflict, both sides, the Japanese and the inhabitants of this other world, were not keen on starting a war, so instead peaceful diplomatic relations were established. But both sides are wary since their worlds are so radically different from each other.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, since the Japanese government cannot find a way to create meaningful trade relations—the people of the Holy Eldant Empire, the land that the wormhole connects to from Japan, have little use for modern industrial exports such as electronics…since they don’t even have electricity—it is decided to attempt to use culture as a means of bridging the divide in a peaceful manner. The Cabinet and the bureaucrats decide that otaku culture (manga, light novels, anime, and the whole range of stuff) is what they’ll send to Eldant, but for that they’ll need an ambassador and guide. Even better an “evangelist” of sorts for the whole subculture. Through a fairly regular recruitment process (using an online quiz to find someone truly immersed in things otaku followed by an in-person interview), Shinichi Kanou, a hikikomori who is completely consumed by the objects of his passionate consumption, becomes the “manager” for a front company that the Japanese government sets up to introduce all things otaku to the people of Eldant.
While most people would probably freak out over being drugged and transported to an alien world (the author already thought out his way to handle language problems in advance: since magic works in Eldant, they have magical rings which make communication between people possible, along the same (cheating) lines as science fiction likes to use translation microbes or devices, though here it’s a kind of telepathic magic), Shinichi simply cannot get enough of all of his otaku fetishes that are pandered to by the “realities” of this new world. He’s given a large mansion by his hosts (that’s not strange, since he’s considered an ambassador from Japan) and a personal maid who happens to be a shy and extremely comely half-elf named Myucel. So, you can start ticking boxes on your checklist of fetishes (Myucel easily handles “moe-inducing” “adorable” “perfectly proportioned” and, obviously “elf/half-elf” “hafu” and “maid”). We continue with the full range of females who can count, in one way or another, as part of Shinichi’s harem: the ruler of Eldant, the zettai ryouiki-sporting Petralka who runs a bit hot and cold with Shinichi at times (you can now check off “loli” and “tsundere” on your clipboard, along with “jealous, clingy girl” and, of course, “princess/ojousama”); Minori, a female member of the JSDF who is Shinichi’s bodguard and is big into BL, yet develops a soft spot for him anyway (you may continuing checking off boxes: “unrealistically buxom” “megane” “fujoshi” “christmas cake” “warrior woman”); and finally Elbia, a wolf-girl who is originally a spy from Eldant’s rival kingdom to the east, but who is brought under Shinichi’s supervision (so, you know the drill: “animal ears” “animal tail” “unrealistically buxom” (double checked for this show)).
The early episodes engage in a bit of the otaku-pandering that has become more and more common as the anime world has turned inward on itself during the past decade or so, with many production committees banking their financial sustainability on the otaku crowd, which has led to complaints from grumpy old men about how anime is in decline (personal opinion: they’re not entirely right, but not entirely wrong either). If the show had stayed on this level, it would have worn out its welcome with me eventually, though in general the execution is quite good even in the early parts. What saves the show is that while it does not back away from celebrating otaku culture (including a lot of visual referencing and clear homages to famous franchises and works—simple color palette swaps hide a mass of current shows and their attendant merchandise lining Shinichi’s shelves), there is some meat to the writing. Early on, Shinichi takes steps back now and then about his “mission” of bringing otaku culture to people who live in a very, very different world. He wonders whether he is an invader, though the Japanese Government’s liaison, Matoba, reassures him simply by asking him whether he feels like an invader. As Shinichi does not…then he isn’t. This is a important point, since early on, a group of reactionaries from Eldant who oppose outside influences (something Japanese people are quite familiar with in their history) attempt to sabotage his efforts and convince Petralka to oppose the “invaders.” While the terrorists are eventually subdued, the incident remains in Shinichi’s consciousness in later times, as he begins to question what it is that he’s really meant to do.
There are a couple of real standout episodes in terms of social commentary, even if the show is meant to be little more than silly comedy that plays to otaku preferences. In episode 6, in an attempt to resolve long-standing hatred between dwarves and elves in this world, Shinichi tries to have them settle their differences through a friendly game of soccer. The game itself is a hilarious sendup of sports manga cliches combined with the incongruity that results from fantasy races with supernatural powers attempting to play a game meant for mere mortal humans such as ourselves. The deeper message comes out from the literal war which breaks out between the sides, which exposes Shinichi’s naivete about the power of sports, something that the cynical Matoba had cryptically warned him about, spelling it out clearly as the dim glow of fires (literal) line the field: sports can also be a means of stoking nationalism and hatred between groups, simply war by other means. In episode 8, this show actually presents one of the better pieces on the hikikomori phenomenon that anime has to offer, since it does not play it off entirely as comedic and harmless. It starts when Petralka gets tired of ruling (she is a 16-year-old girl, after all) and decides to coop herself up in her room and never leave. Her counselors are incapable of getting through to her, so it’s up to Shinichi to talk some sense. Having been a shut-in himself, Shinichi takes the reverse-psychological approach of encouraging Petralka to embrace the hikikomori lifestyle in full…but now it is his turn to be the wiser mentor to the naive Petralka. She thinks it just means sitting in your room playing games, reading manga, and watching anime all the time without break. Shinichi basically informs her that she’s “doing it wrong,” since she lives in a gigantic bed chamber. He has brought from Japan tatami mats and creates a “room” within the room that approximates a real Japanese shut-in’s living space. He also shows Petralka that the “freedom” and “escape” that becoming a hikikomori offers is mainly illusory: you have to be even more considerate of others (such as by lowering the volume of the TV at night) since you are not doing anything to support yourself and are just sponging off others. Worse, instead of escape, you instead become trapped inside your own room. The longer you are in there, the harder it becomes to open the door and leave your “refuge.” Seeing the truth, Petralka returns to society.
It’s elements like these which keep the show from being nothing but another shallow celebration of otaku subculture. It does play further to otaku fantasy by eventually bringing in a government conspiracy which creates the final arc for the season. Shinichi is forced to outwit the Japanese government, which he does, in order to keep his dream job of spreading anime, manga, light novels, games and the rest to the inhabitant of this fantasy realm. But even that plotline is fairly well handled for the most part, even if one’s sense of disbelief is sorely tested. Perhaps being in a fantasy world to begin with helps make it seem less unreasonable. Overall, Outbreak Company is an enjoyable comedy that caters well to various otaku fetishes without veering off into blatant pandering too much. It’s a fairly tight line to keep to and of course people’s view of “pandering” will disagree a lot, but in general I think that director Kei Oikawa managed to stay on the right side of the line. While not a classic for the ages, this is a quite enjoyable show that should bring a smile here and there and hopefully make you think for a moment or two about some deeper issues, such as cultural imperialism and how one deals with socially backward cultures whose values could well use some improving while still trying to respect them somewhat. Not that I think using anime and manga would have much effect.
What would you do if your dream job was to be a promoter for anime and manga and all things otaku…but it required quite a far away relocation? As in being sent to a parallel world which is everything you’ve seen in RPG fantasy games? If you’re super-otaku shut-in Shinichi Kanou, you eagerly embrace the challenge and get rewarded with a harem including a half-elf maid and a loli ojousama. Don’t let this description put you off, however, as Outbreak Company does have some smartly written commentary about the shortcomings of the subculture and the separate, yet seemingly related, state of being a social outcast and shut-in. And don’t let that mention of seriousness overshadow the fact that this is mainly a cute and light comedy for the most part that caters to familiar themes and characters beloved by otaku. With many shows out there engaging in outright pandering (an undesirable trait of many light novels and their derivative works), this one is that rare exception, which manages both to play to familiar and desired tropes but also provide some deeper and not always celebratory thoughts about the whole thing. Not a classic for the ages, but an enjoyable diversion that might make you think a little as well.
English Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animations, Clean Closing Animations, Sentai Trailers.
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.