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.
Hey, everyone! I’m Mokugyo, the manga-and-anime-loving writer from MANGA.TOKYO! In April, it was announced that the anime Osomatsu-san is to get a second season. There has been a lot of great news about anime this year, but I’m sure this was one of the happiest for many fans! I was a huge fan of Osomatsu-kun, the anime which was broadcast in the 80s. In those days, Osomatsu-kun was popular but not to such an extreme level, so I never imagined that the sextuplets would gain so many fans in the 21st century.
Osomatsu-san is a comical anime which was broadcast from 2015 to 2016. The story is based on the popular manga Osomatsu-kun, which was serialized during the 1960s. Osomatsu-kun was adapted into an anime in the 60s and the 80s, so Osomatsu-san is its third anime adaptation. In Osomatsu-san, the setting has been dynamically changed by turning the sextuplets into adults. Thanks to this unique setting, Osomatsu-san became a big hit. Many anime magazines in which the articles featured Osomatsu-san sold very quickly, and a lot of them got reprinted. These days, it is said that an anime is a great hit if it sells ten thousand DVDs. However, Osomatsu-san’s DVD of Volume 1 sold over 110,000 copies! Many character goods have been produced, and the anime has collaborated with various genres, such as stationery, baseball, horse racing, crepes, alcohol-free beer, amusement parks, and much more!
In the summer of 2016, an Osomatsu-san event was held in Saga Prefecture. Just by watching this video, we can tell how the fans had a great time!
In recent years, there have been many remakes of anime and movies, but there is definitely no other work that has become an extreme hit like Osomatsu-san. Even in Japan, a country which has produced tons of anime remakes, it is very rare for something like this to happen.
Osomatsu-san grasped the hearts of many otaku with its funny gags, stellar cast, and many other aspects. So, what was the major factor which made the anime gain such popularity? Many people say that the cast members’ fame played a huge part. Since the Matsuno brothers were all voiced by popular voice actors, some people think that the viewers were mainly female fans of the cast members. Although this may be true to some degree, I must point out that the anime did not become popular just for the character’s voices. In the anime Osomatsu-san, the story takes place in modern times, in which the sextuplets have all grown into lazy NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training). Although these are very different aspects from its original manga, Osomatsu-san also respects Osomatsu-kun in various ways. Today, let me introduce to you the charms of Osomatsu-san while comparing it with Osomatsu-kun!
Osomatsu-kun, the original manga on which Osomatsu-san is based, is a story about the comical everyday life of the Matsuno sextuplets. Although there may have been twin characters in the past, no one had ever heard of sextuplets in manga. Therefore, the author created the Matsuno brothers to surprise the readers. This manga, which was serialized in the 1960s, got a black-and-white anime adaptation that was very popular.
The author, Fujio Akatsuka, was a very famous manga artist in Japan. When he passed away in 2008, it even hit the national news. He is known as ‘the king of gag manga.’ Besides Osomatsu-kun, he wrote many popular manga including Tensai Bakabon, Mooretsu Atarou, and Himitsu no Akko-chan. These manga have also been adapted into anime and TV dramas quite a few times.
In the first episode of Osomatsu-san, there is a scene in which the sextuplets apologize to a photo of Akatsuka. Right before this scene, the characters say, ‘Do you think Mr. Akatsuka is angry at us?’ and ‘Don’t worry, he’s been dead for quite a while.’ These lines were added by the staff members at Fujio Productions, the company that manages the copyright of Osomatsu-kun. We can say that the reason why Osomatsu-san is so funny is because the author and Fujio Productions’ staff members were all very humorous.
In Osomatsu-kun, the Matsuno brothers give a huge impact on the viewers at the beginning, but as the story proceeds, Iyami becomes the main character of many episodes. This is something that the original manga and the anime adaptations in the 60s and the 80s all have in common. Especially when it comes to the 80s anime, the opening sequence is all about Iyami. The sextuplets were all drawn with same faces and had similar characteristics, so there weren’t clear differences among them. Therefore Iyami, with his buckteeth, French-wannabe personality, and ‘Sheeeh!’ pose, was the one who gained attention from viewers.
On the other hand, in Osomatsu-san, the Matsuno brothers become illustrated with their own unique characteristics for the first time. This is another reason this anime became so popular. Although they resemble each other, each character has slightly different facial expressions. Also, the sextuplets each have their own personalities and hobbies, and it is entertaining just to watch the relationships between them. In this long history of Osomatsu, the sextuplets were finally able to become the center of the story.
In many episodes of Osomatsu-san, such as ‘Iyami Chibita no Rental Kanojo (Iyami and Chibita’s Rental Girlfriends)’ and ‘Gyakushuu no Iyami (Iyami’s Counterattack)’, it features the battles of Iyami and Chibita versus the Matsuno brothers. The battles among these characters often occur in both the original manga and in its anime adaptations. Iyami and Chibita work together as a team and try to trick the Matsuno brothers. Then, the sextuplets get angry and plan revenge on the two. This is the storyline of many episodes. As you can see, Osomatsu-san inherits many important aspects from Osomatsu-kun.
Iyami always says ‘Sheeeh!’ and does a unique pose when he is surprised. If you had never heard of this phrase before watching Osomatsu-san, you might not know how much impact this phrase had on many children in the past. During the 1960s, when Osomatsu-kun was broadcast, the ‘Sheeeh!’ pose was extremely popular. It is even said that people who were children in those days definitely have taken a photo doing this pose at least once in their lifetime.
Even Godzilla has done the ‘Sheeeh!’ pose. At around 1:46 in this trailer, you can see Godzilla doing the comical pose. It is clear that Iyami’s peculiar pose had a strong impact that can even influence a monster.
In 1966, when The Beatles came to Japan, John Lennon did the ‘Sheeeh!’ pose too. One of the Japanese music editors had taught him that ‘Sheeeh!’ is a popular pose in Japan. We can tell that this phrase and pose was famous not just among children, but also among adults.
‘Sheeeh!’ is a phrase used when one is surprised. It is an overreacted version of the phrase ‘Hieeeh!’ (a normal phrase that shows surprise in Japanese). Iyami says this in a high voice while raising his hand and foot in a peculiar way. This phrase and pose was something very new and unique for everyone.
In Osomatsu-san, there is a scene in which Iyami talks about the ‘Sheeeh!’ boom in the past. What he is saying is not a lie. The pose appears in both the anime’s opening and ending themes. There is also a scene in the anime’s finale in which the characters do the pose all at once. For many Japanese people, this pose is the first thing that comes up in their mind when they hear the words ‘Osomatsu-kun’. It is such a famous phrase among many generations in Japan. There are very few Japanese gags that are known by people of all ages. We shall say that ‘Sheeeh!’ was an invention. That is why this phrase frequently appears in Osomatsu-san as a sign of respect to the original manga.
In Osomatsu-san, there are episodes in which the story has new settings and the sextuplets have different appearances. In ‘Jidaigeki Osomatsu-san (Period Drama Osomatsu-san)’, the story is like a period drama. In ‘Schoolmatsu’, the characters are the bad students in school, and in ‘Joshimatsu (Girlymatsu)’, the characters show up as girls. Osomatsu-san is like an omnibus, and this is true for Osomatsu-kun, too. In the original manga, there are chapters in which the characters appear as ninja or folktale heroes, and even in such unique settings, the sextuplets battle against Iyami and Chibita.
Another interesting fact about Osomatsu-san is that the screenplay is written by a scriptwriter who has worked for many variety shows. Therefore, the anime has many variety-show-like aspects. The anime’s episodes each have different time lengths, and there are stories with cynical gags and heartwarming scenes. Osomatsu-san contains the best aspects of Osomatsu-kun while adding modern factors. You can enjoy watching Osomatsu-san from any episode. Because the story does not continue on to the next episode, viewers were able to jump in at any time, and this is another reason why it became so popular.
Osomatsu-san became such a huge hit for many different reasons. Because Osomatsu-kun is an old anime, many aspects may seem out of date if you watch it now. Nevertheless, if you are an Osomatsu-san fan, I strongly recommend you to read or watch Osomatsu-kun at least once. The original manga and the anime adaptations in the 60s and the 80s all have their own unique charms. Osomatsu-kun and Osomatsu-san both have special aspects that can be loved by many generations.