As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Hello, I’m Mokugyo and this is another Anime Study! This time I want to tell you six reasons why the six brothers of Osomatsu-san are so famous in Japan.
As we have already reached November, I have started to reflect on the past year. A lot has happened in the world of anime in 2016. Dragonball Super made its premiere this year, didn’t it? But we can’t look back upon this year’s anime without talking about Osomatsu-san.
With the release of the record-breaking movie Kimi no Na wa last August, it’s been a little easy to forget, but back in spring, Osomatsu-san was the talk of the town.
(If you want to know my opinion on why Kimi no Na wa is such a big hit, click here)
— TVアニメ「おそ松さん」公式アカウント (@osomatsu_PR) October 9, 2016
Osomatsu-san is a gag-anime (a comedy that concentrates on being humorous before any concern for plot, drama, or even comprehensibility) remake of Fujio Akatsuka’s 1960s manga Osomatsu-kun. The manga was made into a black-and-white anime in 1966 by Studio Zero and it was popular with kids at the time. Iyami, a very flashy and mischievous man who claims to be from France, makes a special pose and exclaims ’She—h!’ when he is shocked. This pose was often copied by children. There was also a color anime in the 80s by Studio Pierrot, the same production company that made the third anime adaptation, Osomatsu-san.
The original manga was about a group of 10-year-old sextuplet brothers who cause all sorts of mischief, Osomatsu, Karamatsu, Choromatsu, Ichimatsu, Jyushimatsu, and Todomatsu. In Osomatsu-san the six brothers are 20 years old (even though it takes places in contemporary Japan) and all grown up to perfectly lazy NEETs. Of course, each of the brothers has developed their own unique personality and the series follows their everyday lives. Growing up the Osomatsu brothers was a daring feat. Their characters are very famous in Japan as children. Imagine a comic where Huey, Dewey, and Louie are all grown up.
That was the main reason why the anime had no expectations of becoming a hit. However, it managed to contradict assumptions. Littered with parodies, the first episode became the talk of the internet. The first volume of the DVD sold 110,000 copies. If you want a popular title to compare, Attack on Titan sold 80,000 copies. An anime is considered popular if it sells more than 10,000 copies. Osomatsu-san was not just popular; it was a phenomenon.
Why is Osomatsu-san so popular?
As there are 6 brothers, let’s look at 6 reasons.
— TVアニメ「おそ松さん」公式アカウント (@osomatsu_PR) February 22, 2016
Do you want your anime to attract attention? Use popular voice actors. It’s not easy to become a voice actor in Japan, but the most popular of them are enjoying idol-like status.
The voices of the sextuplets provided popular VAs (seiyuu) with impressive resumes. If you are a seiyuu fan then you already know what I’m talking about. What made the use of famous VAs even more succesful was the difference between the characters they were used to and the sextuplets. They went from the cool main character to the good-for-nothing Matsuno brothers. Although the series is full of low-brow jokes, it’s quite popular with the female fans due to the popularity of the male voice actors.
We’ve already talked about how seiyuu are like idols in Japan, but the real idol industry is so huge that we can’t even start describing it in this article. There are so many idols in Japan right now, and most of them are quite popular. In response to the craze, there are also countless anime with an idol theme. Contrary to the way the idol industry works in the west, in Asia you don’t have to be talented to be an idol. You just need to be cute and let your fans watch you grow. Even if an idol is bad at singing or dancing, the fans are watching over them and cheer them to become a better idol by working hard.
It might sound strange, but the sextuplets are a weird group of idols. Even the fact that each character is assigned his own member color is reminiscent of idol culture.
— TVアニメ「おそ松さん」公式アカウント (@osomatsu_PR) December 4, 2015
Do you know what a NEET is? A NEET is a young person who is “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”. The acronym was first used in the United Kingdom but its use has spread to other countries including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Especially in Japan, it has come to mean young adults who have rejected the accepted social model of adulthood. It’s their choice not to seek full-time employment after graduation.
The Matsuno siblings are both a character to relate to and to counter with. The sextuplets are able to smile even when unemployed. They are not a example to follow, but instead a reminder that it’s okay even to smile and hope even if your life is not at its brightest moment. Japan is in a serious recession and there is no rise in wages. The news have less and less positive news. Many Japanese are working crazy hours and most companies don’t seem to care. This is not the article to analyze the working conditions in Japan, but recently there have been many suicides related to fatique from work. The lifestyle of the Matsuno siblings is a counter to that way of life. It’s a relief, and people want that kind of relief.
— TVアニメ「おそ松さん」公式アカウント (@osomatsu_PR) December 7, 2015
Osomatsu-Kun is very famous in Japan. People that now have grand-children were themselves children when the manga was first published. There is a genuine respect for the original manga and anime that was carried on. Even the creators of the newest series created it with that respect deeply engraved in them. The director and the screen-writer understood the essence of the original work.
In the original manga there was no real distinction between the personalities of the brothers. In Osomatsu-san they all have their unique characteristics. They still have the same face so it may be hard to differentiate between them just by looking, but as soon as they open their mouth you can easily tell who is who. The creators re-imagined each brother thinking the kind of adult those 10-year-old children would grow to be.
Also, in contrast to the brothers, the character of Iyami hasn’t changed at all. He is the sextuplets rival, and some say, the real main character of Osomatsu-kun. In the original anime and manga, Iyami appeared more frequently than the sextuplets. Iyami’s character is very easy to recognise and that helped raise his popularity. Iyami stayed the same as a way to show the fans of the original work that this is still Osomatsu.
— TVアニメ「おそ松さん」公式アカウント (@osomatsu_PR) December 3, 2015
While retaining the old-style look. That was not easy to achieve. The artists used faint colors and gave the show a sense of modernity. The characters’ eyes were outlined in blue rather than black and prevented the series from looking too old-fashioned.
The production didn’t want the series to be a continuation of the original work. The creators wanted to respect he style of the original work, and at the same time add their own, more modern workmanship.
— TVアニメ「おそ松さん」公式アカウント (@osomatsu_PR) November 30, 2015
It is said that in the age of internet you can’t say something without offending someone. Recently, the content of many Japanese variety shows and anime is controlled by various regulations. If a show makes an ‘inappropriate’ joke, the complaints start flying in.
Osomatsu-san didn’t care, and that’s why it succeeded. The director of Osomatsu-san used to work for Gintama, and if you are familiar with the anime series then you know how politically NOT correct both shows are.
Comedy won the day.
— TVアニメ「おそ松さん」公式アカウント (@osomatsu_PR) November 22, 2015
Osomatsu-san is not an easy show to watch if you’re not Japanese. You have to be part of the culture and the problems that come with the Japanese modern way of life to properly understand every scene. That shouldn’t discourage you, though. It’s just another very important reason that I hope people outside Japan will enjoy the show. Osomatsu-san is a great anime to watch if you want to understand the condition of contemporary Japan.