After being delayed from the previous year due to the pandemic, Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan will be getting its anime debut in Summer 2021. Before that though, Kodansha Comics released the original manga into the West this past winter. Let’s take a look at this oddball series about children’s entertainment hosted by the worst people. Is it good?
According to the official description provided by Kodansha Comics:
Uramichi is a 31-year old children’s TV host who leads physical exercises and teaches life lessons colored by one main theme: adulthood sucks. Alongside mascots played by a couple of bushy-tailed millennials, and a singing duo whose music embodies the notion of being kicked while you’re down, Uramichi wades through the misery of working life, one sardonic comment at a time…
Comedy is tough, especially when keeping a series going for long. Eventually, you hit a point where things just may end up feeling tired or repetitive. Life Lessons definitely can end up on the repetitive side of things from how it is structured. Every chapter sees our cynical lead, Uramichi, dealing with his job as a host on a children’s TV show, whether it be struggling to stay motivated or dealing with frustrating coworkers. Most chapters are like that with a new twist or variation — hosting a health event, or dealing with a concert. Very rinse and repeat in a way, with exceptions towards the end of the first volume.
And yet, this is quite possibly one of the funniest series that I have read in a very long time. It comes down to its very strong writing in many different areas. All of the characters work well off of each other, like Uramichi’s deep cynicism vs. the children’s wide-eyed, but still wise nature, leading to amazing interactions and gags. The situations they keep landing in and having to deal with, like shooting a summer episode in the middle of winter, keep everything fresh and allow for new twists on recurring gags. Despite how cynical and done with everything the cast are, there’s a strange amount of truth in what they say and do that makes it even more relatable. It just works so well with how all the elements turn out.
But despite its lighthearted attitude, Life Lessons is capable of being genuine and having a bit of depth to it. The cast does care about one another to some extent at the end of the day. Uramichi, for example, frequently goes out with everyone after work despite how much they irritate him. While the characters do all have these pasts that are mostly played for laughs (Utano being a failed pop star for instance), the series isn’t above touching on their personal histories. It is more towards the end of the book that we get that side of the series, but it does show there is a reason for why everyone’s the way they are. But again, we don’t get much of a glimpse of that until the very end of the book.
Uramichi is the exercise instructor for “Together with Maman”. He is very super cynical and just overall tired, showing plenty of false enthusiasm, just going with the flow to get through the day. He loves imparting certain wisdoms on the kids that are definitely not appropriate to tell them, but he never seems to go too far with it either. Despite his intensity and no-nonsense attitude, he does seem to actually like his coworkers and the kids themselves on some level. However, his past, alluded to throughout, is what seems to have really beaten him down into his current, depressed state.
The rest of the cast are just as fun. Tobikichi and Mitsuo play the animal costumed friends on the show, often seen together and constantly causing problems in one way or another. Mitsuo is the more popular of the two and seems the most down to earth, while Tobikichi suffers from serious confidence issues and is constantly butting heads with Uramichi. The song leaders are Iketeru, a guy with unlimited potential despite his stupidity, and Utano, a woman who constantly suffers from existential crises about where she is in her life. They are all not as developed as Uramichi, but there is a lot of personality and energy in them that’s just entertaining to read.
The artwork is no slouch either, helping to bring these characters and the comedy to life. The level of conflict, drama, fakeness, and inner torment bleeding through is sold exceptionally in the artist’s depictions of the characters. It’s an incredibly expressive series in just the faces alone, aiding the humor and even drama well. The layouts and pages have a great sense of flow, perfectly pacing the silly bits to maximize the punch they have, especially in Uramichi’s interactions with the kids. The only issue I have is that some of the male characters’ faces look the same and there’s one character that feels like a questionable stereotype, but it’s hard to say.
Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan Vol. 1 is some of the best comedic manga to come out in a long time. Even if you are not familiar with the shows the series is parodying or emulating, the humor lands almost all the time and the many existential crises feel so relatable to almost any reader. While it can be repetitive in its story, its fun cast and witty, cynical writing make the series a dark joy to read. Highly recommended.
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