By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, March 9, 2015

Every anime season seems to bring a couple of new comedy series, with the majority consisting of manga adaptations. In recent years there have been plenty of some truly great series that offered a laugh a minute and others that seemed to lose steam by the end of their run. I’ve found that the best are able to offer a combination of likeable characters and great jokes, and this is where Denki-Gai was able to stand out. The series originally aired during the fall season and takes place in a dojin shop, where a quirky cast of characters goes about their daily routine. Initially it seemed like this was going to be your basic “anime characters doing silly things in _____ setting,” but thanks to a likeable cast and the injection of some moderate romance elements into the over the top comedy formula there was a lot to like about Denki-Gai.

The first episode introduces viewers to the Umanohone (The Horse’s Bone) dojin shop and the rag-tag group of employees that work there. It wastes little time launching into the comedy, though as one might expect the majority of the episode acts as an introduction to each member of the cast. There are four female leads and three male leads, each with their own quirks that are revealed over the course of the show. The female leads were a bit more interesting than their male counterparts at first, mainly because the majority of the jokes early on were focused on them. Hiotan is a part-time clerk that gets easily flustered and isn’t much of an otaku (unlike the rest of the staff), but they often get her to admit that she might be more into eroge than she lets on. Sensei is an aspiring manga artists that goes under the pen name Jonataru, has habits that are more manly than some of the male characters, and becomes a complete baby when she becomes overly stressed. There’s also Fu Girl, a 16 year old part-time worker who is obsessed with zombies so much that she sometimes certain co-workers as zombies and tries to attack them. Kameko doesn’t get quite as much screen time as the others, as she’s a camera nut that likes to stick to the background and snap pictures of her coworker’s embarrassing moments, but doesn’t get completely left behind either. There’s enough quirkiness between these four to make for some interesting comedy, and the script runs with it.

On the male side, we have Umio, Sommelier, and Kantoku (Director). Umio often acts as the straight man of the group, though he gains a bit more of an over the top personality when any kind of manga, anime, or figurine is involved. Sommelier is a tall man with a big figure who doesn’t talk, and his name comes from the fact that he is a literally a sommelier of manga, able to recommend them a series based upon a quick judgment of their personality. Kantoku’s a senior clerk who’s essentially the one in charge while everyone is on their shift, and while he seems fairly normal at first too it doesn’t take long before Kantoku basically starts trolling everyone in various ways. There are a few side characters, including a government worker who is supposed to be ensuring pornography is properly sectioned off for adults only but is secretly a huge yaoi fanatic and a former clerk who has become a successful manga author, but for the most part the emphasis remains on the male and female leads. What I like about Denki-Gai is that after the initial introductions, it feels like each of the main characters is given a decent amount of development, and the viewer comes to know a decent amount about all of them by the end. Each episode is split into two or three skits, with each one focused on a different event or gag that ties into the theme of working at a dojin shop along with some of the traditional Japanese slice of life settings.

With this cast in place, Denki-Gai throws as much otaku centered humor as possible and isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect. If you’re not a fan of anime’s more lewd and otaku parodying humor then this series is definitely not going to change your mind, but as a viewer that likes this type of humor when it’s done well the fact that the writers always seemed committed to going over the top. This is established early on, as the second episode pits the entire cast in a large competition against other dojin stores. Events in this competition include a tug of war, a waifu carrying race (where the men must race holding their treasured anime figurines), and a gigantic water gun fight that puts Hio-tan in some suggestive positions that parodies bukkake. But this is a series with equal opportunity fan service in the name of humor, and while there are blatantly lewd jokes that have the female cast members in mind, that same water gun fight episode has both Kantoku and Umio with tight swimsuits and very obvious bulges that are then used for the sake of humor. The majority of the jokes in Denki-Gai are of the slapstick and crude humor variety, playing off of the character’s over-reaction to many situations to set up some hilarious moments. There is also some wordplay, though you may not pick up on all of it if you don’t know that much Japanese and the subtitles didn’t seem to highlight it that often.

Admittedly, like many of the other anime out there that is focused on comedy, not all of the skits work in Denki-Gai and there are some moments that drag. But rather than simply trying to go for completely random humor the entire time, there is also quite a bit of romance thrown into the mix. The difference here is that there aren’t two characters that get paired off, but almost the entire main cast gets paired off. There are romantic angles between Hio-tan and Kantoku, Fu Girl and Sommelier, and Umio and Sensei. Kameko also has a bit of a crush on Kantoku which is explored as well and makes things a bit more complicated. What works is that the romance isn’t forced and flows naturally with the slice of life/comedy, and the awkwardness of some of the potential developing romances actually adds to the comedy. Compared to some of the other comedy anime I’ve seen recently the characters seemed to develop nicely and I came to like the entire main cast by the end and not feel as though they were quite as generic as the early episodes suggested. While they don’t have quite as much charm or staying power as some of the series that have become all-time favorites, Denki-Gai knows its audience and is able to deliver just the right dose of lewd humor, budding romances, and likeable characters without becoming too repetitive by the end.

Shin-Ei Animation produced the series, and they’re not a studio that I’ve typically associated with shorter run anime like this as the company is best known for Crayon Shin-Chan and the newest Doraemon series, which have 853 and 665 episodes respectively. I like how they were really able to take the manga and bring it to life, as the characters all have distinctive looks and exhibit plenty of exaggerated facial expressions and comical actions. Not only that, but the Umanohone shop that they work in is bright and full of color as well, and a lot of emphasis seems to have been placed on making it resemble a real dojin shop. Some people may not be crazy about how the entire female cast looks like they’re extremely young despite the fact that all of them except Fu Girl are adults, but this isn’t really that out of the ordinary for anime of this type. The animation seemed fluid throughout and even with all of the quick cuts and sight gags I didn’t notice any major dips during the twelve episodes. It’s not going to necessarily grab anyone as being particularly original in its look, but viewers will still likely get the impression that a lot of care and attention to detail went into the series. The voice acting is definitely a highlight though, as the cast does a fantastic job of playing off each other and adding that extra bit of silliness to all of the characters. Even the ones that seem like they’re going to be fairly calm for the entirety of the episodes get opportunities for their voice actors and actresses to go completely over the top, and they completely sold me on the entire cast with the performance. The opening and ending themes are appropriately lighthearted, though I have to give the nod to the ending song “Two-Dimension’s Love” which is sung by all the main voice actresses and has been stuck in my head for a couple of weeks now.

Although I’m not quite sure that the comedy and character personalities are strong enough to make Denki-Gai anyone’s favorite anime, there is still a lot to like about it and it did seem like the type of series that I’d find myself wanting to give another viewing at some point in the future. Despite the familiarity of the lewd humor and wacky cast, the over the top comedy mixed with an increased focus on romance and a little drama works in its favor and this ended up catching my attention a bit more than I was expecting. If you’re looking for a fun comedy with a likeable cast in between some of the more serious fare, Denki-Gai comes recommended.

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