Work and chores can wait. We have anime to review! Grab some cola and chips, and don’t worry about the mess, Onii-chan will clean it up.
Title: Himouto! Umaru-chan Original airing: July 9th, 2015 to September 24th, 2015 Studio: Doga Kobo
Duration: 24 minutes per episode
Genres: Comedy, Slice of Life
Source: Manga series by Sankaku Head
Where I watched: Crunchyroll (English sub)
Brief Synopsis and First Impressions
People are not always who they appear to be, as is the case with Umaru Doma, the perfect high school girl—that is, until she gets home! Once the front door closes, the real fun begins. When she dons her hamster hoodie, she transforms from a refined, over-achieving student into a lazy, junk food-eating otaku, leaving all the housework to her responsible older brother Taihei. Whether she’s hanging out with her friends Nana Ebina and Kirie Motoba, or competing with her self-proclaimed “rival” Sylphinford Tachibana, Umaru knows how to kick back and have some fun!
Himouto! Umaru-chan is a cute story that follows the daily adventures of Umaru and Taihei, as they take care of—and put up with—each other the best they can, as well as the unbreakable bonds between friends and siblings.
Himouto! Umaru-chan is not an anime that can be easily described, despite how truly simple it is. I’ve seen people throw around the word “fun” when discussing it and, honestly, this series is nothing if not frivolous. Imagine an entire anime of basically filler content. There’s no underlying story. No antagonist creating situations that will force everyone onto the edge of their seats. There’s absolute no beginning, middle, or conclusion to the series. Most importantly, no life lessons or character growth will happen (though Umaru does comically shift in size quite a bit).
Now, I know this sounds absolutely horrible at first glance, but it really isn’t. Most of the anime I have the pleasure of watching has me searching for underlying meaning, symbolism, or unraveling some hidden mystery. With Himouto! there is nothing to decipher. It’s basically the same feeling you got as a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons; just great entertainment without too much thinking involved. Himouto! is, essentially, the type of anime that will let you decompress and have a few laughs; without sinking to <insert any Adam Sandler movie> levels.
Himouto! Umaru-chan is a simple anime that involves a beautiful, intelligent, envy inducing (typical Mary Sue) high school girl, Umaru Doma. The very ideal of perfection, Umaru is the type of girl that every guy desires and every girl longs to emulate.
As the image above suggests, first impressions are not always accurate. The title itself should offer a decent explanation of the theme. “Himouto” is a pun on “imouto” (little sister) and “himono,” which means “dried fish,” but in slang can refer to a woman who is proper in public but lazy at home (ref). This brings to mind a quote from Phaedrus, a play by Plato, in which the protagonist (Phaedrus) states, “things are not always what they seem; the first appearances deceives many…” It’s rather heavy to be quoting philosophy when it comes to an anime like Himouto, but it truly fits the premise.
Fearing judgment from peers, Umaru presents herself as well-mannered, poised, bright, yet humble in public. In the comfort of her own home, however, Umaru allows her geekdom to reign supreme. Her free time is consumed with video games, manga, anime, and gorging on junk food (sounds ideal, right?). Aside from the aesthetic differences, viewers also realize Umaru can be selfish, greedy, and prone to overly dramatic fits. Seeing Umaru transform from the perfect Mary Sue to a chibi-sized mini makes the series all the more enjoyable to watch. In a split second she morphs from upper crust student, the admiration of all her peers, to the epitome of laziness and self indulgence.
The series mainly centers on Umaru’s social life and her relationship with her older brother, Taihei. Living with her brother, Umaru constantly depends on him, much to his dismay. He spends long hours at work as a salaryman before returning home to prepare dinner, clean, and tend to Umaru’s other crazy demands (like going back out at night to pick up the latest manga magazine for her). Taihei often reprimands Umaru in hopes of getting her to be more productive, but sadly ends up caving to her demands. Every so often Taihei will get his way, after some immense guilt tripping, but Umaru usually wins in the end. The back and forth bickering between the pair makes for some humorous, light-hearted situations.
Over the course of the series, Umaru also befriends a couple classmates Kirie Motoba, who has a reputation of glaring at people; and Sylphynford Tachibana, her competitive school rival. These outside relationships serve to involve Umaru’s public persona (ie: her Mary Sue form) more and depicts her struggle to maintain this perfect image. If there is one lesson to take away from the series, it is that attempting to maintain two completely different personalities is difficult. Even this is a stretch though, since Umaru isn’t shown to have a big life changing “just be yourself, that’s good enough” moment.
Another highlight of this series is how it alludes to other popular anime and otaku pursuits. Rewarding true fans of anime, there are plenty of references to amuse and delight those that recognize them. Keen eyed viewers may find many of their favorites, from the Steins;Gate mad scientist pose, to the iconic image of Evangelion’s Gendo Ikari, and even a humorous depiction of a certain popular vocaloid character.
All in all, Himouto! is basically an episodic anime devoid of any real continuous story arcs or series progression. While the series does spend some time on a few of the other supporting characters, there is really no substance when it comes to the overall plot. There were times where I found myself craving a bit more to the actual story, but it never came about. For a series that so clearly places its focus on simple and uncomplicated enjoyment, this can be forgiven. If you go into Himouto! not expecting to learn anything, then you will be left feeling satisfied.
One of the other weakpoints in the series is its reliance on a few comedic elements that repeat frequently. Umaru’s tantrums, running out of snacks, and almost getting caught being an otaku are some of the most common themes that the show keeps returning to. While the short series can manage to keep such occurrences spread out enough for the most part, there is the possibility that the viewer can grow weary of the lack of variety.
The bond between Umaru Doma and her older brother, Taihei, is much like that of a spoiled child and helpless, indulgent parent. It isn’t really surprising that Taihei takes on the role of parent, given that there has to be about a decade’s age difference between the siblings. This is an estimation on my part, as Taihei has already graduated and become established in some life draining career that involves him working long hours while Umaru is still in high school. Adding to the parental role, it appears that Umaru lives in Taihei’s apartment. There’s really no mention of the sibling’s parents (aside from briefly revealing the Doma family is wealthy) or how/why she came to live there. There is likely some interesting backstory there that I wish had been explained a bit more.
Their relationship in a nutshell is formulaic: Umaru demands something (a new game, manga, meat with dinner), her Onii chan denies her, she throws a tantrum, and eventually gets her way. But there is a softer side to their relationship too. For example, when Taihei proposes dividing the apartment with a curtain to give them both some privacy (so he can work uninterrupted), Umaru agrees. Not long after, Umaru grows lonely without the presence of her Onii-chan being in sight. She thus proceeds to go out of her way to garner his attention and bring a swift end to the ‘privacy barrier.’
The dependence Umaru has on Taihei isn’t exactly one sided. Taihei seems to be the type of individual who has an incessant need to keep busy. Viewers can tell this not only by his long work days, but even his days off are filled with the cleaning, organizing, or cooking (his passion). Aside from Umaru, he has no real close relationships and only one colleague that he could consider a friend. So I will argue that Umaru’s presence provides companionship and plenty to keep him busy with.
The supporting characters are mainly Umaru’s friends, which provide a social buffer to distinguish her perfect public persona and private, sloth-like nature. Nana Ebina lives in the apartment under Taihei and Umaru. Being in the same class as Umaru, the two begin to walk to school together and become close friends. Self-conscious about her ‘hillbilly’ dialect, Nana desperately attempts to cover it up. When overly excited or stressed, however, her regional accent sometimes manages to slip out similar to Umaru’s tantrums. While it isn’t developed much through the series, Taihei’s kindness towards Nana leads to a sort of puppy-like, nervous crush on her end. Unable to articulate her feelings, Nana spends most of the time in his company shaking and steaming (to portray embarrassment).
Himouto! Umaru-chan is visually simplistic, but still very lovely. There is not much detail that goes into the actual animation, but the mix of colorful tones makes for an eye-catching anime without being overly distracting. On a similar note, the the motion in this anime is fluid; with something constantly happening (never a dull moment) but not excessive enough to take away from the viewing experience.
The success of this simple, yet impressive anime lies in that talented collaboration of director Masahiko Ohta and series composer Takashi Aoshima. They have teamed up in the past for other well-known series, including The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura and Love Lab. Dogakobo studio has a small number of animations that mainly consist of slice of life comedies. Himouto!, therefore, fit in quite nicely and shows why comedic style animes continue to be their most popular genre. With that said, they have most recently (as of 2014) branched into action/shoujo type series, with Donten ni Warau (Laughing Under the Clouds).
In the past, I’ve seen some blog posts that mentioned insanely long transformation sequences. One example would be Ryuko Matoi from Kill la Kill activating her Senketsu uniform. You can practically get a snack, check WordPress, and take a nap for the length of time it takes. On a side note, I wonder if anyone has ever recorded how many minutes transformations eat up in an anime series? I’m getting off topic. The point I’m trying to make is Himouto! has at least one, if not more, of these per episode; as Umaru changes from her public Mary Sue appearance to her chibi otaku persona. This happens in a matter of seconds, leaving extra time for more hilarity and hijinks. Sudden shifts to her mature persona are similarly instantaneous, accompanied by a sweet “Umaruun!” chime.
When it comes to sound, there is no mistaking Himouto! for any other anime. When the high energy Kakushinteki☆Metamaruphose begins to play, viewers will immediately recognize it and mentally prepare themselves for a good time. If there is any sliver of confusion over what anime this song comes from, the lyrics begin with “U-M-R! U-M-R! Uma janai yo Umaru!” (and yes, I sung this in my head as I typed it). The song is accompanied by colorful images of Umaru with maracas and a flood of hamsters. It’s catchy, addictive, upbeat, and annoying all at the same time. Be prepared to have it stuck in your brain for days.
The ending theme, Hidamari Days, is performed by the main female cast of the series, Aimi Tanaka (Umaru), Akari Kageyama (Nana), Haruka Shiraishi (Kirie), and Yurina Furukawa (Tachibana). Given that this song was the professional debut for most of the voice actresses, I’m pretty impressed with it overall quality. While the melody and voices intertwine beautifully, after an opening theme like Kakushinteki☆Metamaruphose, the ending song is less memorable. Still, the soft pop-style music is nice to calm down to after watching such a high energy series.
The vocal talent on this series is decent as well. Prior to this role, and since, Aimi Tanaka has lent her voice mainly to supporting characters in series such as Tokyo ESP and Dogakobo’s more recent Donten ni Warau. Tanaka’s voice switching between the proper public Umaru and lazy gamer Umaru is wonderful to listen to. She can transition from speaking elegantly to a whiny, child-like voice easily. It’s when Umaru dons her hamster hoodie and pitches a full-blown fit that Tanaka truly shines.
Like Tanaka, most of the seiyuus’ work has consisted of mainly supporting roles in the anime industry. With that said, they did an amazing job bringing these characters to life. Kenji Nojima lends as Taihei, Umaru’s onii-chan. His exasperated, straight man approach are the perfect set up to Umaru’s punchline personality. Nojima has also played such notable characters as Yuuto from the High School DxD series.
As Ebina, Akari Kageyama is adorable to listen to as she grows shy and flustered when Taihei compliments her. Although Kageyama has only been in a handful of anime, she does lend her voice to the ED song of this series and another song for the soundtrack. Playing another of Umaru’s friends, Haruka Shiraishi balances Kyrie’s contrasting personalities well. She is fairly new to the anime industry as well, but this talented seiyuu can flip between goofy, nervous, and enraged seamlessly. These are people you will definitely want to keep an eye out for in future series.
Overall, I have no real complaints about this anime. Having gone into it not expecting any sort of real plot, I was able to enjoy it for the feel good comedy it is intended to be. I’ve read reviews by others who are surprised by the high rating Himouto! has on MyAnimeList. All I can say is, if you have watched the trailer or opening theme at all, what were you really expecting?
The premise is deceptively interesting. While alot of anime have done the otaku character who is shunned for their nerdy hobbies, Himouto! does this on a different level. Umaru has to hide her passions due to a preconceived image others have of her. There are a few moments where she fears being caught, but viewers never feel any sense of impending dread over the repercussions of her secret being exposed. Instead of finding it off-putting, most the other characters find the chibi otaku to be charming and likable.
While there is no actual series progression, viewers can appreciate this episodic anime for it’s light, entertaining theme. Himouto! is a nice way to wind down at the end of a stressful Taihei-type work week when your brain is in desperate need of a break. The short episodes make for a quick watch and the many jokes and comedic situations are sure to delight beyond what other slapstick series might offer.
Summary and Recommendations
Himouto! Umaru-chan is meant to be a light hearted comedy and it truly delivers just that. There is no antagonist or threat that will have viewers analyzing where the series is headed. If viewers watch this series expecting anything other than to laugh (like a plot), then prepare to be disappointed. Himouto! does offer a few meager themes like the bond between siblings and forming friendships, but they are not explored deeply.
When it comes to animation, the art is solid, but nothing special. This series remains consistent with clean lines and a bright color palette. Rarely does it venture outside this comfort zone, which might be a problem for some viewers. Since the anime shifts between a few primary locations, the result is a tired offering of the same scenes.
The music used for this series perfectly captures the mood of the show. The opening theme is quick, fun, and will stay with you long after the episode ends. While it isn’t something you would put on auto repeat (unless you wish to drive yourself crazy), you will likely want to add it to your anime mix list.
While this series is not perfect, viewers will likely still enjoy it. I’m still not entirely sure why this simple, hilarious anime captivates people or how it managed to enchant me for that matter. Maybe we all have a little of Umaru’s weird, geeky, lazy tendencies and we enjoy seeing them projected in such a highly animated way. If you don’t mind seeing the same jokes repeated or watching a show purely for entertainment value, then this anime could easily become one of the most amusing series you will ever see.
Watch if you:
Enjoy episodic anime
Appreciate savvy, well-timed humor
Crave a light, entertaining series
Don’t watch if you:
strong any character development
Have a low sense of humor
Dislike chibi style art
An anime like this was never going to score that well with my rating system, but this series deserves every bit of the 3 of 5 Umarus that I gave it.
In a way this series works on a deeper level than the superficial depiction of Umaru’s obsession with her hobbies. Unconcerned with plot or meaningful development in any form, the series simply sets out to have fun in any way it can. Ebina’s struggles to resolve her romantic interests or Kyrie’s inability to own up to her admiration of Umaru’s polished and poised demeanor take a back seat to chibi Umaru’s frivolous antics. While it may be challenging for a viewer to find any investment with this kind of direction, this series still manages to do it.
I think a great part of the appeal of an anime lies in the connection that the viewer feels with the characters or themes of the series. In the case of Umaru-chan, any otaku worth their salt can understand the appeal of being able to cast off all responsibility (and sometimes respectability) in order to relax and enjoy the things they love most. I think many of us envy Umaru on some level, and if it were possible I would love to spend an entire day drowning in anime, manga, and junk food.
Of course, just as Umaru learns in one particular episode where she is able to escape all human interruption in order to focus solely on her hobbies, many of us long for interaction even amid our personal interest. The fact that most of you are probably reading this on a blog shows at least a tacit admission that sharing this hobby with a community can make it more enjoyable as well. Even if Umaru hasn’t learned to share her otaku life with others, at least I have found blogging to be a great way to openly express myself.
In any case, I’ve had my junk food moment for the time being when it comes to anime. While this was certainly fun, I do have some work ahead of me and will be tackling some more serious titles in the coming reviews. Still, I’ll be on the lookout for more shows that I can find an easy and enjoyable viewing experience with.
Looking to laze around the internet some more? Check out these reviews from other great bloggers:
Special mention: Umaru maker – If you can’t read Japanese it’s not too hard to figure out how to work through this. I’ve included a picture of what you can do with my depiction of my wife and editor: Kimmiemaru-chan!
For more from me, you can find my other reviews on my Reviews Page or click on the tags below to see posts on similar shows. As always, thank you for reading.