Admit it, if you’re a fan of the fictional world you’ve wondered what it would be like if fantasy took that one impossible step into reality. If the magic and creatures and adventures and characters you watched on screen or on paper actually existed. Well as it stands, that hasn’t happened yet. It’s a shame I know, so all we can do is hope and ironically rely on fiction once more. To witness a fictional world wherein it is possible for one to enter a fictional world…one inside that one. It’s meta I know, but it’s the best we’ve got.
Shin’ichi Kano is what you would call an otaku, plain and simple. Having taken to a life of seclusion after high school, due in no small part to being turned down by the girl of his dreams, Shin’ichi’s life is changed by an online quiz. Not the most illustrious beginning to an adventure across dimensions, but that’s how it happened. After gaining a perfect score in said test, comprised solely of anime and manga based questions, Shin’ichi is offered a job at a mysterious company…at which point he is immediately drugged and whisked away to another world. Again, not quite the heroic entrance, but that’s how it happened. Within said world dwells all manner of magic creature, anime trope and dream for an otaku such as Shin’ichi and even luckier still, it is his new job, by order of the Japanese government, to spread the Japanese pop culture across the Holy Eldant Empire. Thus we arrive at the rather ridiculous premise of this particular anime, a premise wherein one fanboys passion can create a bridge between realms.
Ok, I’ll admit, when I first heard the premise of this series, I readied myself for your typical harem centred tropefest. Of course, for the most part, that is totally what this series is, no question about it. What I didn’t expect however, was a legitimately interesting and well present plot to go along with it. Befitting its nature as a real anime’s anime, Outbreak Company throws a human into a world unlike their own, with a vastly different social structure that is far from desirable. It is said aspect that causes Shin’ichi the most trouble with adapting to his new life, with his inability to accept this old school class society providing a paplpable tension between him and a few key individuals. That being said, I was most impressed by how swiftly and boldly a character like Shin’ichi stood up for his beliefs, with episode 2 being a surprisingly dense moment of plot development. As the series went on however, these moments became less and less frequent, as the jovial side of the series took precedent. Now, depending on your point of view, this could be seen as either a backstep or a sign that Shin’ichi’s insistence on developing society actually took hold, with the source of the turmoil weakening as he carried on.
As for his actual reason for being present within the Eldant Empire, Shin’ichi’s love of pop culture fluctuates from weird to inspiring. Though the premise sounds ridiculous (which it is) when worded properly, it’s hard to doubt the veracity of his bolder claims regarding his life choices. At its best, pop culture is explained as a free expression of ideas that never existed in this new world, a chance for the populace to enjoy themselves in a way they never have. It is tantamount to a beacon of hope in a society driven by hierarchical rule, with what is accepted in normal in our world showcasing its disparity with Eldant, namely that of education. As it stood, only the nobles of the world could even comprehend the written word, with the masses relying on simple imagery to differentiate shops and towns. Thus, what sounds like a ridiculous premise is transformed into one of merit. It’s actually pretty impressive.
Visually speaking, Oubreak Company possesses a surprising amount of fluidity in its animation. The combat scenes, when present, are visually catching and their mere existence gives credence to even the still moments, with the knowledge that they can happen supporting them as a choice rather than a necessity of budget. That being said, this isn’t a particularly action packed series, with discussion taking precedent more often than not, though one particularly explosive episode might just interest those Inazuma Eleven fans out there. For those who aren’t particularly knowledgeable about that particular series, or any other, the series provides handy dandy subtitles detailing the name of whichever anime, manga or voice actor is mentioned as it happens. It might sound like a small feature, but it is a nice little touch that might lead you into discovering a new series yourself. How meta.
In regards to dialogue, the English dub of the series was handled well. My biggest praise would probably have to go to how understated it was at times, avoiding the over the top style in exchange for quieter, more realistic discussions. Of course, there were a whole bunch of over the top moments that carried screaming along with them, though they too were handled well in their relegation.
As I mentioned previously, I did not expect this series to be more than a typical trip through a world in which a hapless, normal guy winds up with a harem of girls who experience a surprising amount of saucy accidents, as is the norm in certain anime. And whilst those elements are undeniably present, I was honestly shocked by the well thought out plot that permeated the series. It’s just impressive that a series with such a fan placating premise could be turned into a coherent and legitimate story. Of course, a constant sense of self referential humour keeps the humour flowing for the most part, stretching through an impressive selection of series, from Madoka Magica, to Attack on Titan, even series like Star Driver get a homage or two. You can pretty much make a game of trying to pick the references, though don’t make it a drinking game (if you’re over the legal drinking age) because you’ll probably…don’t make it a drinking game. So basically, to sum it all up, come for the far fetched story and reference bonanza, but stay for the grounded development of both character and plot.
I don’t think there’s actually an online quiz that’ll net you a sweet job like Shin’ichi, but you could check over at Madman, just to be sure