Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Unexpected Twists and Turns: Or Haven't You Heard of Playing with and Breaking Expectations?

Recently, I've been watching a variety of anime. I got into the format because of my job as a librarian, but I've found it has a lot to offer people who love storytelling. One thing I noticed with the latest bunch of anime to come out over the spring season is that a lot of them had unexpected twists and turns that took many of their viewers by surprise.

One of those shows was Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, a show about a young man who shows up in high school one day and becomes the center of attention of everyone because he is perfect in every way. He is as the opening credits say: cool, cooler, and coolest. This is a running gag comedy show about Sakamoto's perfection in everything and it definitely brings the laughs.

Laughing Out Loud

Each show focuses on one or more of Sakamoto's classmates (and a few other random people). Some are antagonists, others are avid fans, but all of them have something they can learn from Sakamoto. His interactions with them make each of them better people in some shape, form, or fashion.

This in and of itself would be a good show, but then the last two episodes of the season take a darker turn. This is when the show went from good to very good in my eyes. The writer could have let the ending of the series play out the running gag of Sakamoto's perfection, but instead we see how his perfection has distanced him in the minds of one of his classmates who desperately wants to be one equal footing as his friend. With some prompting from the story's main antagonist, the classmate takes drastic action that could lead to major trouble. And so a face-ff begins...


Needless to say, the last episode sees Sakamoto pulling off the perfect "save" of the situation. Again, this would've been a fine ending point, but there is one more twist to the story. A rumor starts to run through the school and it turns out Sakamoto is leaving the school. The official reason for his leaving is to take his place as a member of the "Mars migration project."

Beam Me Up

Now, with how perfect Sakamoto has been throughout the series this is almost believable (perhaps he really is an alien from outer space!), but it is clear that something else is the real reason for his leaving. What that reason is is left up to the viewer to decipher and I won't spoil it here, but I will say the clues for what is the real reason for Sakamoto leaving heavily indicate a particular outcome.

This ending works especially well because it is not only consistent with the rest of the show, but also breaks the expectations of how a running gag comedy should end. It is this unforeseen turn, this unexpected twist that makes the show so memorable for me.

If you get a chance to watch this show (or read the manga), please do so. It is full of laughs and feels and like Sakamoto's classmates, you might just become a better writer and/or person for having meet the cool, cooler, and coolest high schooler in history.