What They Say:
To her classmates, Umaru Doma appears to be the perfect girl. She’s beautiful, friendly, and fashionable, earns top grades, and seems to be able to do any task asked of her with ease. She’s even humble and polite! However, if Umaru’s classmates could see her in the privacy of her home, they wouldn’t even recognize her. Once she’s inside the door, the pretty clothes come off, the orange hamster hood goes on, and it’s time to pig-out on snack foods, binge-watch television, and play violent video games! This version of Umaru is everything that the public Umaru isn’t: she whines, rolls on the floor, leaves messes all over the apartment, and makes life miserable for her poor older brother, Taihei. Even the most guarded secrets have a way of being found out, and, as Umaru becomes even more obnoxious and outrageous, her two lives are bound to collide in disastrous fashion in HIMOUTO! UMARU-CHAN!
Japanese, English, and commentary are all encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. Music, effects, and dialog all remain clear and well balanced in the Japanese track. Samples of the English and commentary tracks demonstrated purposeful mixing to maximize the vocal effects.
Encoded in variable bitrate MPEG 2, most of the video looks fine from a normal viewing distance. Colors are bright and the lines look good. Much of the series is limited animation, so the image usually looks clean closer than recommended distance. The compression artifacts will only be a problem for the most demanding viewer.
The collection consists of four discs, each printed with a female character and an Umaru chibi. The art conveys the personalities of the characters. The set comes in a standard keepcase size box, and the discs are held on the fronts and backs of two hinged leaves. The cover is busy, showing the four young girls and Taihei embedded in arcade prizes, gaming controllers, and lots of junk food. The spine is clean with the pet hamsters over the title logo, and the normal Umaru poses with a peace sign above the Sentai logo.The back is much cleaner with thumbnails of six scenes from the series, and a larger normal version of Umaru and Taihei holding a presentation pose with the chibi Umaru and her hamsters on the left side of the summary. While the summary is written in small font, it is easy to read against the subdued yellows of the background. Special features are listed in small white font on a red field with pink stars. The credits and copyright information is written in black font on an orange field. The technical grid is clear and easy to read.
Each main menu offers an image what appears to be character goods in blister packaging, and each includes the normal character, chibi character, and representational props related to that character. With four discs, each of the school age female characters is represented. On the right side, the titles are in a vertical column with special features and language choice beneath the episode list. When moving to the languages and features menus, original character art is on the left and selections are in a vertical column on the right.
UMR Shorts (Himouto! Umaru-ChanS): These are 12 short form chibi cartoons that play off the characters in ways the main show never does. This is more like a comic strip presentation of the characters and situations than the fully developed layers of the regular series.
Japanese Commentaries: Each episode offers a commentary track with the Japanese voice actors. I only watched one episode commentary, and it was really the two actors having a conversation about gaming, internet cafes, and pressure cookers. While I don’t normally go for these, the lack of pretension and the funny insight of their personal lives made me want to watch more later.
Banquet Mondays “Daranama”: Disc 4 offers roundtables of the voice actors having discussions and playing games.
The set also includes:
Japanese Promos, Home Video Release Commercials, Song Commercials
Umaru knows how to put on a public face. For her classmates, she appears stylish, graceful, and humble. In reality, she is. In her mind, she often obsesses over things that make her happy, and when she comes home, she indulges in excess. Himouto! Umaru-Chan operates with both visual comedy as well as a comedy of manners. Even though the series is episodic without any extended story arcs, it offers room for the characters to grow.
Umaru is a different character than the types I have grown used to seeing. She is a little sister, but there is nothing creepy between her and her older brother, Taihei. She appears attractive, by Japanese social standards, but when she indulges in her childish fun, we only see her as a chibi with a body similar to a caterpillar. Umaru may be perfect on the outside, but most of the series we see a character who embodies the kind of pleasures available to most 16 year olds with an allowance. She is perfectly normal even though her childishness is exaggerated for laughs.
When watching the series through the first time, I realized that Umaru as a childish glutton had no redeeming qualities. She wastes her time, wastes big brother’s money on air conditioning, and loves to guzzle cola. OMG… she is me. We laugh at her behavior, her mood swings, and the chibi faces the creators gave her to show petty, selfish, and self-satisfied expressions. Outside of her public gamer persona, UMR, we find Umaru to be very down to earth. In reality, the stories in this series do nothing more than to allow us to see her in different situations, and sometimes unprotected at home or they contrast the public persona against her internal thoughts. I think “naughty,” as the term might apply to a 8 year old, would be a good way of understanding her. Part of Umaru refuses to be grown up all the time, and that causes her simple problems that don’t really threaten her or anyone else.
The character plays against established types without ever becoming a meta inside joke. She only offers an attractive quality when she needs to put on a public performance or knock her brother off balance by transforming from a hamster-hooded worm to a proper young lady. The smart, attractive character who likes games, manga, or anime usually gets played against the socially acceptable qualities of perfect appearance, great grades, or talent. Umaru hides her free time pleasures from her real world persona, but she only comes across as hiding her true self, one garish and selfish. I think that for some reason, the lack of trying to excuse her behavior makes her relate to a broader, non-otaku audience.
Her three companions all have connections to her older brother. Kirie has very little social skills, adores the chibi Umaru thinking she is the perfect Umaru’s younger sister. Kirie is also the little sister of Taihei’s best friend, Bomba. A busty country girl, Nana, lives in the apartment below Umaru, and after a trip to Tokyo where everyone ogled Nana’s breasts, Taihei looks her in the eyes and speaks nicely to her. Suddenly, Nana becomes both devoted to Umaru and and gets a crush on Taihei. Finally, we meet Sylphynford, who wants to be Umaru’s rival. Only Umaru really sees what drives her over-the-top, competitive behavior. Like many anime, the show’s heart is Umaru’s community building among a group of diverse personalities.
Most of the comedy takes place in the small apartment she shares with her brother. It becomes her domain as soon as she puts on the hamster hood and guiltlessly savors potato chips and a movie. She seems like the North American concept of the latchkey kid who comes home alone and is left to her own devices. There is a slightly strange subtext that makes it look like something must have happened to her parents as she no longer lives in a luxurious apartment that we see in a flashback sequence. I think that maybe we want her to be happy, even if it goes against her teenage responsibilities. But what teen doesn’t want to escape her reality once in awhile? Umaru never treats anyone, other than her brother, with anything other than respect, and she has an unusual tendency to understand and protect another person’s feelings.
Some shows look like they may be one joke wonders based on their description. Himouto! Umaru-Chan offers a simple premise, and it consistently finds ways to exploit it in unexpected and interesting ways. Each scene builds on the next, creating a fine-tuned character that can be interesting in different story lines and situations. At its heart, the show calls to viewers, who like Umaru, enjoy to geek out and de-stress when they come home from school, their jobs, or just don’t want to wear their public face 24 hours a day. Umaru is neither an otaku nor hikikomori, but she loves her games, manga, and arcade competitions.
Overall, the DVD set offers gentle comedy, slapstick, chibi exploitation, and a variety of worthwhile extras. While the concept is simple, the show never becomes monotonous or fixed on a specific joke. Both the Japanese and English tracks offer fun characters that match the tone of the action. The collection earned a place on my shelf.
Japanese DD 2.0 with English subtitles, English DD 2.0, Commentary DD 2.0, Clean Opening and Closing, and Sentai Trailers
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 30th, 2017
Running Time:300 Minutes
Video Encoding: MPEG2 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung KU6300 50” 4K UHD TV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers