Hello, one and all, and welcome to what is a bit of a ramble. Today, I’m going to talk a little about a series called I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying. I first became aware of the anime when it lost a close match against Wanna Be The Strongest In The World in Round one of Crunchyroll of the Dice 2016. Neither show grabbed me enough to be a firm favourite going ahead, but I could feel that there was something there with ICUWMHIS, lurking deep beneath the surface. And so, given that the episodes are less-than-five-minute shorts, I decided to make my way through season one.
The series is based on a 4-Panel manga by Cool-kyō Shinja and, according to Wikipedia, is a slice of life comedy aimed at the seinen market. Now, the thing to note here is that the series is aimed at a slightly older audience than the more commonly known Shōnen series are, and as such, you would expect it to deal with some slightly different themes than a series such as Bleach or Naruto. So, what is the series actually about? Well, sticking with Wikipedia, the synopsis is:
“The series centres around the daily lives of Kaoru, a hard-working office lady, and her otaku husband, Hajime. Using popular anime and otaku tropes and in-jokes, the characters explore the conflicts and similarities between daily life and otaku culture in urban Japan. The witty dialogue accentuates the animation and sometimes slips into manzai-style humour.”
If you don’t know, manzai is a form of Japanese stand-up whereby two players (a straight man and a funny man) trade off jokes. It’s usually high on misunderstandings and puns, so that should give you an idea as to how the jokes should play out at times here.
Now, here’s the thing. Personally, I didn’t find the show to be hugely funny. There were a few moments that made me giggle, but nothing in it really stood out as laugh out loud hilarious … yet I still managed to enjoy the series. I know what you’re thinking: Given that, as a comedy, it should really be funny, how could I possibly enjoy something that has failed so immensely at its primary function?
The obvious thing would be if the series was so bad that it was good. An appalling show can be fun, after all! That’s simply not the case here though. What makes the show so worthwhile for me is Kaoru. Sure, the episodes are short, but they still somehow manage to flesh our twenty-five-year-old leading lady out so much that she’s actually a thoroughly likeable focus for the show. You see, Kaoru is like most people. She has bills to pay, she has insecurities, and she has flaws. Especially alcohol. Alcohol, as per episode five, flips Kaoru’s normal personality and turns the wildness up to eleven. The thing is, I don’t want to ramble on too long here by giving away every little trait that makes Kaoru a strong lead. The best way I can describe it in short terms is that she’s normal. There’s no magical powers or massively unusual character quirk that makes her stand out, she simply is what most people are.
In anime, there can often be a lot of fantastical stuff floating about. Now, I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing at all, but it does make Kaoru a breath of fresh air in many respects. What helps remind us of this is that her husband, Hajime, is fully immersed in otaku life. As a result, we get a lot of snippets of the normal things that we come to expect in anime via references and common tropes. Oh, and then there’s Mayotama. Mayotama is Hajime’s crossdressing, boy’s love writing, ever-so-slightly slightly perverted younger brother. Remember when we mentioned manzai humour earlier on? Well, Mayotama brings some of this when Hajime’s acquaintance Miki falls for him, at no point realising that Mayotama is in fact male. It’s the sort of whacky scenario that could border on offensive. Thankfully though, it never quite steps into that area, and instead acts as another suitable reminder of how diametrically opposite Kaoru is to the more well-known leads of manga and anime.
In many ways, these little reminders make the show a little more relatable as a whole. We may not have magical girls or giant robots in most towns, and our pizza is not normally delivered by samurai cats, but life can be a bit of a circus at times. I mean, who hasn’t encountered a person or a situation that is just so ludicrous that it beggars belief? Seeing Kaoru make her way through the quirkiness that her world throws at her and watching her stumble and trip along the way gives the series a strange sense of realism that it’s hard not to get behind.
Is that really enough to get by the lack of humour in a comedy series though? Well, that really depends. I am thoroughly aware that the humour didn’t click with me simply because some of the things that a lot of anime fans seem to find funny, I just don’t. Well, that and I didn’t get some of the references. What can I say? I love anime, manga, and Japanese culture, but that doesn’t mean that I get every little thing that’s thrown in as a reference. If you’re a bit deeper into the otaku life than I am, you may well find the humour sits easier with you. For me though, I think that the best comparison I can make here is ‘Modern Life’. That show was hyped ridiculously for me and, when I watched it, I was thoroughly disappointed to find that it didn’t make me laugh once. Over several episodes. Unlike ICUWMHIS though, that particular award winning series didn’t have a single character that I could relate to well enough to sit through another episode. Here, Kaoru is enough of a real person for me to be able to sit back and say, “That’s me.” You never know, she may be the same for you.
Thanks for reading.