Anime, Cartoons, Comics! Plight Vol.2, No.7: Warai, Warai!

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Only slightly late for April Fool's Day, it's the next issue of Plight! I thought it would be appropriate to bring some laughs to the table.

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School Rumble is a romantic comedy...w-wait! Don't skip to the next section! What if I told you that School Rumble is the greatest romantic comedy ever made!?

On the surface, we have a basic love triangle. Our heroine is Tenma Tsukamato. She is an idiot. Tenma has a huge crush on one of her classmates, Ouji Karasuma. Our male protagonist is Kenji Harima. He is an idiot. Harima has a huge crush on Tenma. For the first several episodes, we watch as Tenma struggles to get with Karasuma, and Harima struggles to get with Tenma. Hilarity ensues. Then, things start to expand and unravel.

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School Rumble's strengths lie in its large and varied cast. From Akira, Tenma's serious and smart-talking friend (who might actually be an international super spy) to Yakumo, Tenma's younger sister who has a talent for reading people and a love for animals, most every character gets their time in the limelight and has an interesting story to tell. And as these characters' stories develop, School Rumble begins to show its true cards.

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If we were to look at a relationship chart for this show, it would be messy. The cast is widely interconnected, and tends to feel like one huge social circle. And yet at the same time, most characters aren't directly connected in ways that they would like to be. Tenma's classmate Hanai for example likes Yakumo, but she's more interested in Harima, who himself likes Tenma, who only has eyes for Karasuma. The show never misses a chance to have fun with the confusion and misunderstands this frequently causes, but it also never misses a chance to let these characters grow and gradually mature as a result of them. A lot of shows in this genre are content to rest on their laurels until the very end, but here, time progresses. Some relationships fade and others are strengthened, and before you know it it's not so messy anymore.

I watch a lot of comedy shows, so narrowing my anime recommendation down to just one wasn't easy. What ultimately allowed School Rumble to edge out some of the other contenders (Binbougamiga and Seto no Hanayome if you must know) is that it doesn't rely entirely on its comedy to be a good show. For those times when a gag falls flat for you, the show has a strong cast of characters and a decent slice of life story to fall back on. Also, did I ever tell you the legend of the Tsukamoto Fastball Special?

School Rumble is available on Hulu, and Funimation also streams it on Youtube and their main site. It can also be had on DVD for relatively cheap.

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Archer is a show about the misadventures of its titular character, Sterling Archer and his coworkers at ISIS, a spy agency working out of a ordinary looking office building. It's a show intended to parody the spy film genre, drawing inspiration from franchises like James Bond and Mission Impossible. This means that the premise of each episode often involves Archer and company going on some sort of mission, but just like in any spy movie, the mission goes horribly wrong. Except here when that happens it's hilarious instead of thrilling.

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A good comedy show is nothing without its cast, and Archer delivers. A difficult man to describe, Archer himself can be incredibly self-centered one moment and caring the next; socially inept yet sensitive. Though he constantly makes basic blunders and could easily be described as unintelligent, he still comes off as being generally good at his job and highly knowledgeable about certain subjects (including literature and drink mixing).

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The rest of the cast is no less quirky. Archer's field partner Lana is extremely opinionated about animal rights, has a short temper accompanying her twin TEC-9s and is known throughout the office for having incredibly large hands. ISIS's gadget provider Dr. Krieger spends most of his time carrying out absurd experiments and building crazy gadgets, including a pimped out Dodge Charger for Archer (complete with a drink dispenser), a chokebot to satisfy a certain co-worker's choking fetish, and his own virtual girlfriend that calls him "Krieger-san."

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Most episodes are self-contained, which means you can jump in at any point. Archer is available on Netflix Streaming and Amazon Prime Video, and can be bought on Amazon as well. Hulu also seems to be simulcasting season 5, but I don't know the details.

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Empowered is a superhero comic drawn by Adam Warren, whose art you might have seen elsewhere (he does a lot of cheesecake and pinup stuff). It's kind of a parody comic, about our titular heroine Empowered, otherwise known as Elissa M. Powers (get it?).

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Emp has a problem, you see. She sucks at being a hero. Her skintight suit grants her superhuman strength and durability and also allows her to fire energy bolts from her hands but...it's super duper fragile, and if it gets nicked even slightly? No more powers! This means poor Emp wouldn't even win a fight with a thorny rose bush, much less a group of actual goons. As a result of these deficiencies, Emp is constantly humiliated, teased and bullied, not just by her enemies but by fellow superheroes. This has led to her having incredibly low self-esteem and at the start of the comic she's leading a pretty sad, lonely life with no friends and barely any allies.

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But you know what? She doesn't give up. For all her failures, our heroine is both brave and determined, driven by a simple want to help others. And gradually, this starts to work for her as she meets characters who are able to see beyond the loser and recognize a hero who's brimming with potential.

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Empowered is a fun read, not only because because of Warren's expertise with T&A, but also because the comic rarely gets that serious. Even the more mature moments are executed with a light and easy touch, and the writing never strays far from being humorous. It's a fully character driven story, and the cast is fairly small but focused. And if you read a lot of other cape comics, you'll probably appreciate the series' constant attempts to parody the genre.

So that's it for now. Go watch/read these! Laughing is good for your health, bwahahaha!

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