First Look: Hozuki no Reitetsu

Great opening sequence, by the way.

Alternate Titles: Coolheaded Hozuki, The Office in Hell
Manga Adaption by Studio Wit
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise

Hozuki is the personal secretary to King Enma, the lord sovereign of the Seven Hells, in charge of hiring new employees, assigning new arrivals to their respective subdivision and taking care of troublemakers — when he’s not too busy tending to his garden, that is.

Aqua’s Verdict: What The Hell

For some reason, I feel obliged to like Hozuki no Reitetsu. It is without a doubt this season’s quintessential anime for fancy pants critic types such as myself. It’s imaginative and unconventional, it blends the mundane with the absurd, and it’s about as far from milquetoast audience proxies getting buried in feminine affections as you can get. The diligent government employee tending to his oddly adorable goldfish flowers and training the legendary Momotaro’s talking animal companions to be vicious torturers are just a few examples of the delightful little ideas Hozuki no Reitetsu can come up with when it tries. Yet aside from its occasional bouts of brilliance, Hozuki’s misadventures are frequently and surprisingly more underwhelming than the sum of their parts.

Hozuki's love for all things nature is by far his most endearing trait.

The humour in Hozuki no Reitetsu flows nicely from one oddity onto another, yet as it consists mostly of absurdities, ill-translated wit and cultural references that rarely make it through translation, I found myself appreciating its silliness rather than outright laughing at it. It’s still a far cry from the cockamamie manzai routines that plague so many cheap anime comedies, but my cup of tea, it isn’t, reducing my positive memories of it to a matter of individual moments, rather than one of the series as a whole. Hozuki no Reitetsu is a show that, with its ingenious sendups of traditional Japanese imagery, bizarre black humour and stone-cold main character, certainly has its heart in the right place. Yet in the end, it mostly makes me feel like it’s my fault for not liking it as much as I should, rather than the show’s. And for a fancy pants critic type such as myself, that sure feels like hell.

Shiba Inu will work for the highest bidder

Jel’s Verdict: A Chance In Hell

For everyone out there complaining how every anime is cute girls, high schools and the same old recycled plot lines, it’s time to back it up and give Hozuki no Reitetsu a shot. I’m not guaranteeing you’re going to like it, but this understated comedy set in a bizarrely colorful version of the afterlife is certainly the most unique thing you will watch this season. I probably would have enjoyed it more myself if I were more familiar with Japanese religion and mythology — this is pretty much the extent of my knowledge — but even so, the modern touches like a shout out to Softbank’s Shiba Inu commercials got a chuckle out of me. I’m not sure the series will pan out to be more than a workplace comedy that just happens to be set in Hell, but even that might be enough to make it worth watching. One final note: Don’t listen to Aqua, these goldfish plants are terrifying.

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