With all the options we have for streaming anime in the UK now you would think that there's no good show that could possibly slip through the cracks, right? Surely between Animax, Wakanim and Crunchyroll we would have everything worth watching covered. You know where this is going, let's talk about Outbreak Company.
Outbreak Company is yet another of these shows where the synopsis doesn't even sightly do it justice. Let me take a crack at it though. An interdimensional portal is discovered in Japan and, as you might expect, the Japanese military sets forth to explore. They find a fantasy realm on the other side with magic and elves and magic translation rings. Amazingly enough, both sides decide that diplomacy is the best way to go forward so they look for something they might be able to trade and it turns out that what the fantasy world really needs is otaku culture.
So the only sensible option is to hire the most hardcore shut in geek that they can to become their ambassador and to organise the otaku culture dissemination effort. Because why the hell not?
I'm going to say it's Zero no Tsukaima meets Oreimo. If you're already into it then go hunt it down. Otherwise, keep reading for spoilers.
Initially the show seems like it's managing to make this pretty serious. It has somebody from Japan confronting a massively stratified society and trying to come to terms with having servants and seeing children being trained up to be warriors and farmers and the like. He tries to instill a sense of equality in a society that is built on race and status and it causes problems from people not liking him through to straight up terrorism.
Our protagonist has a job to do though so he builds a school to teach the local children Japanese. He invites all levels of society to attend this school and we get to see some fantastic exploration of the problems of teaching different types of kids at a time as well as the difficulties of teaching Japanese in general.
All along the way this never forgets that it is a comedy and there's plenty of fanservice and slapstick going on, but then the kids learn Japanese and they can get started learning otaku culture. Guess who else learns otaku culture; you learn otaku culture.
More importantly, this is where the comedy side of it really takes off. Seeing child dwarves and elves being taught the difference between Seme and Uke or the intricacies of Zettai Ryouiki is just fantastic.
I was worried that this would get old quickly and then the latest episode had them organise a football match but they learnt football from anime. What results is some of the best ridiculous sports anime you could ever hope for. Turns out that when you have superpowered/magical beings playing football you get ridiculous sports happening. All with a moral to learn at the end.
The other fun bit is that this is not available in the UK which means I've been watching fansubs. More importantly, I've been watching well done fansubs because [anime-koi] have been doing a great job of making everything look lovely. Even going so far as having text move out of the way to make way for important things on screen. This is somewhat the problem that official releases have in that they don't have the technology to do subs this well. Hell, I had to download a new video player just to get the files to open on my computer (an up to date version of mplayer — I use mplayer osx extended — on macs and linux or an up to date CCCP on windows is very much a must) so our poor officially licensed distributors have no hope. Either way, the point is that the official licensees need to step up their game if they want to compete with the people doing it for free.
So there we have it. Hilarious show with some proper characters going on, lots of social commentary going on, an education for people new to manga and anime and plenty of fanservice to keep everybody happy. Or at least to keep me happy.
Hopefully it'll be able to keep it up for the rest of the season. Either way, I'm off to see what else is on.