The last of my sleepers for Winter 2024 is the best of them. Bucchigiri?! was worth the wait. It’s old-school and retro in all the ways it’s good to be and none of the bad, a thoroughly entertaining romp through 22 minutes of madcap humor and outrageous visuals. There are no big seiyuu in this cast and they’re not missed – the voices are fresh and that makes the material feel fresh too. It’s easy to get caught up in it without being drawn into the personas of the actors.
The reason Bucchigiri was on the sleeper list was the staff. Principally Kishimoto Taku (for the millionth time, the writer is the most important player for an original series), whose resume includes stuff like 91 Days. But also names like director Utsumi Hiroko and animator Kagami Takahiro, industry stalwarts with experience at places like Bones and Kyoto Animation. I have a theory that the best MAPPA works are the ones without the big commercial pedigree – stuff like Dance Dance Danseur and Heion Sedai no Idaten-tachi. The stuff those tentpole productions pay for – almost as if they’re the series the studio lets the creators get on with and doesn’t meddle because it’s not worth their attention.
Bucchigiri has all the earmarks of one of those shows. It comes off as kind of Gainax-y – not as much as Idaten but then it lacks the direct Gainax links that one had. I think these sorts of throwback anime gravitate towards the Gainax vibe because it’s so closely identified with that sort of “real anime”. The look is classic 2000s and so is the comic style, which may or may not be your thing. The basic premise here is a seemingly meek kid named Tomoshibi Araji (Okawa Genki) arriving at a new school (this may be Yokohama, I’m not sure). It’s the sort of delinquent paradise anime loves which probably doesn’t exist in real Japan, a battleground between two warring gang factions.
Araji has no interest in any of this – he just wants to get laid. And he immediately sets his sights on Mahoro Jin (actual teenager Nagase Anna). She’s a cutie patootie and is immediately super friendly to Araji (who dreams of their names merging into Jin Araji), but unfortunately she’s just leading him on to make her brother Marito (Sasaki Nozomu) jealous as she’s apparently a total brocon. Unfortunately for Araji Marito is the leader of one of the gangs to boot. The leader of the other one is apparently Asamine Matakara (Hoshino Yuusuke). He happens to be a childhood friend of Araji, who lived in this town until five years earlier, though Arajin is not at all glad to see him again.
The supporting cast is full of amusing oddballs. Araji’s mom runs a Chinese restaurant and seems to be rooting harding for Araji to climb the steps to adulthood than he is. His teacher frequents the sort of club teachers shouldn’t frequent. One of Asamine’s two lackeys seems to be wearing a kilt, and the two of them take an unhealthy interest in getting Araji into trouble (perhaps jealous of his obvious admiration for him). That leads to Araji getting pantsed and chased to a local shrine by gang members whose arcade turf they lure him into, where he shoots an old gun he finds and winds up summoning a genie named Senya (Kobatake Masafumi). Araji’s (“Arajin” is the Romanization of Aladdin, BTW) wish, unsurprisingly, is “I want to lose my virginity”.
There’s some jibber-jabber about the legend of the “Honki people“, which Senya is obviously tied in with and as far as I know is completely made up by Kishimoto. Araji is more than meets the eye, clearly – Matakara’s attitude alone suggests that – but his persona is very winning just the same. This is all very madcap and outrageous but it totally works for me. It replicates the experience of watching anime 20 years ago in a way only people who were actually making anime then could pull off. It never makes sense to commit to an original series after one episode, but Kishimoto being the writer instills confidence that Bucchigiri will have staying power. I hope so, because this was the best premiere of the season outside the big three.