Imagine that, somehow, a teleport that leads to hell opens in front of you and you decided to pass it. Now you are on top of Inferno’s highest mountain, able to gaze at every little detail. At first you are appalled by the morbidness of the tortures, the cruel nature of this doomed place. But, as you keep on looking, you notice that this place is much funnier than one would have imagined. This is Hoozuki no Reitetsu‘s (HnR) hell and we love it.
HnR is, as you may have already guessed, a parody of myths, religious tales and modern life. Almost everything from pop culture to tourism and urban stress is used as an excuse to hurt our stomachs. The cast selection is very helpful. Most characters are figures from Japanese folklore with the exception of a few Western guests. In contrast to Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, character development is almost completely absent. The joke here is the faithfulness of the cast to the stereotypes they represent. Normally, that’d be a recipe for boredom but HnR knows how to handle things properly. Instead of trying to create a coherent plot, the show prefers to create individual settings where a number of characters can be teased and have their weak side constantly exposed. Because the series manages to constantly come up with good ideas we get many different versions of how one can ridicule clichés.
Most Western viewers face a disadvantage at enjoying the series. Since we don’t know the historical and cultural context of most characters it’s inevitable that we don’t get many of the jokes and lines used during each episode. Still, from what I see online HnR had a lot of positive feedback outside of Japan. In my humble opinion, this happened thanks to two reasons:
- Hoozuki. No matter what one may think of his personality, it’s obvious that he is an excellent protagonist for a comedy. An introvert, aggressively honest workaholic who doesn’t take no for an answer and is willing to do the craziest things and torture people every way possible to achieve what he wants, Hoozuki is always fun to watch. Even when he does nothing more than offer his opinion to others, it’s more than enough to make the audience love him. Plus, that horn on his head is pretty hot. And well, he’s a gentleman despite his harsh treatment of his superior.
- Shipping. Or, to be more precise, “Hoozuki x Hakutaku” shipping. A cruel sadistic Japanese devil in a love-hate relationship with an obviously immature, carefree alcoholic Chinese dragon God who also happens to have an hellishly sexy voice and body. How can anyone not ship this like crazy?
Is there anything more to the series? Well, the visuals are excellent and the soundtrack decent. Some episodes were incredible (my favorite is the third one where Houzuki and Hakutaku are at each others’ throats; ass hat idol and cute murderous bunny were also source for laughs). The jokes are not politically incorrect with some minor exceptions (again, the end to episode three is the best example). One thing I liked was that, since the characters aren’t very deep, I could always link a certain character to a person I know in real life. Judging from what my friends told me that’s not exactly a rare occurence and makes the series more fun to watch.
It’s hard to recommend HnR because what makes it great can also make it a horrible experience. I can imagine people who hate it just as much as others love it. If you don’t watch it yourself you won’t know where you belong. But isn’t that what happens with most truly great shows? At the very least, HnR is worth a shot. Just know that the first episode is mediocre in comparison to the epic wave of laugh and pain that comes next.