Outbreak Company (2013)

Episode 01 – 12

The Moe Invader

As an avid anime fanatic, I can attest to the reality that the ‘otaku fandom’ generally gets a bad wrap, be it from self-parodying shows or by society at large, who see us all as a bunch of sexually frustrated freaks and weirdos. In actuality though, we anime, manga and gaming junkies just want to be seen in a better light as the average Joe’s we are. So you see, this is why a show like Outbreak Company comes as a breath of fresh air for all us obsessive nerds who just want to be understood as it attempts to explore the headspace and heartaches of those in the anime and gaming community whilst simultaneously providing us with an engaging narrative.

Based on the light novel series by Ichirō Sakaki, Outbreak Company (known as Outbreak Company: Moeru Shinryakusha in Japan), tells the story of Shin’ichi Kanō, a secluded young otaku who had his heart broken by a childhood crush. Withdrawing from society due to the rejection, Shin’ichi enclosed himself in the moe lifestyle over the subsequent years, eventually becoming one of the world’s leading experts on the subject. After being offered a job, thanks to his encyclopedic expertise and sharp insight on all things moe (from manga, anime, games, light novel and figures), the now 19-year-old Shin’ichi is kidnapped by his new employer and dropped headfirst into a realm known as the Holy Eldant Empire, a fantasy-like dimension where otaku culture is absent.

'I'm confused! I don't understand any of these references.'
‘I’m confused! I don’t understand any of these references.’

Upon arrival however, Shin’ichi quickly discovers that things that only exist in anime actually exist in this parallel plane (magic, dragons, sexy maids, you name it). Now, this drooling aficionado with diplomatic credentials is entrusted (by the Japanese Government) with the sole task of spreading his vast moe knowledge across the globe in order to help improve relations with the new world, so that Japan can enter its economy in a passive and peaceful manner. Though, through his teachings, Shin’ichi enlightens the people of Eldant about ideas of freedom and equality, cultivating this new dimension with the values of contemporary Japan.

As a series, Outbreak Company works on multiple levels. On the one hand, it focuses on its protagonist Shin’ichi as he tries to teach the people of the land his one-sided views on anime and gaming — for instance he makes zettai ryōiki (the area of bare skin in the gap between overknee socks and a miniskirt) mandatory for anyone under the age of 18 — on the other, it possesses a running commentary that highlights the fact that a lot of us geeks essentially do the same thing — spread our love for our favorite movies, shows or comics, even to those who many not be interested (okay, I’ll admit, even I’ve done this several times). In essence, Outbreak Company is a show about one fandom trying to convince all the naysayers why it’s worth getting into; think Trekkies, Marvel fanatics, video game addicts or horror buffs attempting to win you over.

Embrace your inner loli
Embrace your inner loli

This observation can be attributed to the show’s genuinely affable characters. Shin’ichi Kanō is basically the embodiment of your ‘generic’ fanboy — a guy who’s overly passionate about his interests and very easy to like. Our leading lady is 16-year-old Myucel Foaran (who works as Shin’ichi’s maid). Both kind-hearted and cute, this half-elf meido finds herself drawn to her master in the later part of the series, in the end becoming his most trusted follower (funnily enough, even I found myself rooting for this pairing). Then, who can forget the scene stealing Petralka Anne Eldant III, the child-looking monarch of the Eldant Empire. Although 16-years of age, the small chested, doll faced Petralka (who looks as though she’s about 12) takes an interest in Shin’ichi after noticing how casually he addresses her. Initially having little concern in his ‘moe mission,’ Petralka starts visiting Shin’ichi when she finds out that Myucel had been learning how to read Japanese. Forcing Shin’ichi to read manga to her, the loli empress eventually develops deep feelings for her teacher, too.

Minori Koganuma is a cool little character also, a gifted member of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, assigned to help Shin’ichi with his duty of spreading the otaku culture across Eldant. In fact, this 16-year-old vixen is also an otaku, but unlike our hero, she’s a fujoshi, one who specializes in boys-love merchandise — Minori continually fantasizes over Shin’ichi and Petralka’s male cousin, Garius En Cordbal, getting together. Finally there’s Elbia Hānaiman, an arty werewolf who’s originally suspected as a spy from the neighboring Bahailm Kingdom but later joins the team as Shin’ichi’s personal artist.

'I know you look up to me, but geez, keep your head down!'
‘I know you look up to me, but geez, keep your head down!’

Directed by Kei Oikawa, Minami-ke: Okaeri (2009), and lovingly animated by Studio Feel, Mayo Chiki! (2011), Outbreak Company has been zealously translated, infused with some sharp composition by Naruhisa Arakawa, Blue Seed (1994). There’s witty banter amongst characters (the jealous chitchat between Petralka and Myucel standing as a high point), dozens of visual gags, meta jokes and nods to other shows — from Attack on Titan (2013) to Gatchaman Crowds (2013) and even The Severing Crime Edge from the same year, 2013 — making Outbreak Company constantly fun to watch. Unlike most other harem shows (where the girls throw themselves at the male lead, or are linked to him through some sort of childhood association), seeing a guy earn the affection from the women around him is actually a nice change.

An episode titled ‘Soccer… Soccer?’ which sees Shin’ichi attempt to teach the elves and dwarves (who are constantly butting heads) the joys of competitive sports — hoping that they’d learn to respect one other as they bond over the match — is a rip-roaring riot, their earth-shattering abilities destroying the field — think Shaolin Soccer (2004). The sweet ‘Maid in Japan’ sees Shin’ichi and Myucel return to Tokyo for a pleasant shopping spree, while ‘The Melancholy of Her Imperial Majesty’ (did you get that one?) explores the life of a hikikomori (or shut-in), which resonated strongly with me, being the introvert that I am. Ultimately, the more otaku you are, the more you will enjoy Outbreak Company. And oh, the anime slyly breaks the fourth wall from time to time, too, bringing with it a number of clever unexpected laughs.

The sweet taste of victory!
The sweet taste of victory!

Even so, the final couple of episodes drop the ball a little (their overarching plot feeling a tad jarring) as nothing is resolved properly. Let me explain (to avoid spoilers, jump ahead to the final paragraph). In episode 11 Shin’ichi discovers that he is basically destroying Eldent’s culture by replacing it with Japan’s (kinda like wiping it out with virus), leaving the world ripe for exploitation. Unhappy about this revelation, Shin’ichi and his crew thwart the Government but their plan is fundamentally flawed as (in the end) business continues as per normal and so does the cultivation. If one gets as much as a single sharp thought concerning this whole resolve, than Shin’ichi’s entire proposal will deflate in an instant. Be that as it may, Outbreak Company still does a sound job in exploring the effects (both positive and negative) of introducing foreign customs to a previously isolated populace.

As stated earlier, Outbreak Company is a love-letter to all things otaku, so, if you dig the idea of an anime that mocks its own tropes, one with an interesting concept at its core, than this show’s for you. Otherwise, for the casual anime viewer (or those unfamiliar with otaku culture), who might get a couple of laughs here and there, I’d suggest saving this one for later.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Outbreak Company is released through Madman Entertainment Australia