The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Binbougami ga!

Title: Binbougami ga!
Genre: Comedy
Company: Sunrise
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 5 Jul 2012 – 27 Sep 2012

Synopsis: Sakura Ichiko is blessed with an enormous amount of luck. However, to be so lucky, she unknowingly saps the luck from those around her, which makes their lives worse. To restore balance, a binbougami — or poverty god — named Momiji is sent to Earth to take away Ichiko’s power to absorb luck.

The Highlights:
Comedy: Usually competent; often hilarious, particularly the physical comedy, which is high-energy.
Characters: Very broad, with one or two jokes to them, but they play off with each other well.
Drama: Mostly terrible and unnecessary. The characters aren’t interesting enough to elicit sympathy.

Mean-spirited characters when cast in the right light can be tremendously funny. They have clear wants and desires, and they go after them with unparalleled gusto, damn the consequences and social etiquette. Binbougami ga! has an excellent setup primed to take full advantage of this: Sakura Ichiko wants to keep the pampered life her luck enables, and Momiji wants to forcefully rip this existence from Ichiko’s hands. Their rivalry — and the way other characters intersect their battles — comprises the best parts of the series. It’s just too bad that when the show isn’t being funny, it’s a clumsy, ham-fisted drama.

Binbougami ga! is consistently funny. The rivalry between Ichiko and Momiji is a gold mine of comedy, not just in the why they clash, but also how they clash. Physical comedy is a staple in anime, but rarely does the medium hit the sweet spot like Binbougami ga! does. Several characters — including Ichiko and Momiji — have strength reserved for shonen anime characters. Their ridiculous battles employ many levels of cartoon logic and physics, which doesn’t make the show that different from many anime comedies, but the execution is energetic enough to make Binbougami ga! stand out from the crowd. The series also handles meta-references well. Rather than stopping at invoking another anime and moving on, as if simply referencing a show is a joke in and of itself, the references Binbougami ga! make sense in context and legitimately add an extra layer of comedy to the jokes. Perhaps the best is a Death Note reference late in the series that takes what had been up to that point a middling episode and makes it worthwhile.

The characters are also solid. They’re not much different than typical anime comedy characters in that they have one or two joke traits that are recycled throughout, but their traits do allow them ample opportunities to interact in amusing ways. For instance, Momiji is joined by a dog god, Momo, who is also a masochist who transforms from dog to human and back again after receiving enough pleasure from beatings. He’s perfect for the violent Ichiko and Momiji, and Shimono Hiro gives a dependably wacky performance. Perhaps the best side character, though, is Rindou Ranmaru. She comes off like the typical delinquent character, but she’s earnest and heroic in a fun way and is also involved in many of the show’s best action sequences.

Unfortunately, like many anime comedies, Binbougami ga! is not satisfied with simply delivering laughs. Some episodes mix drama in with the comedy, but the drama nearly always fails because it’s simplistic and dull. They typically involve a sappy scenario replete with obvious lesson Ichiko is to learn so that she can become a better, less selfish person. For instance, in one episode Ichiko meets a family struggling to make ends meet. Even though Ichiko has what they do not, she feels unhappy deep down because they have each other and are able to take solace in each other’s company when they feel down. It’s a nice thought to keep in mind, but the way the episode delivers it is clumsy and didactic. This is not an aberration; rather, it’s the norm, and the execution is downright insulting, even when you consider that the show is aimed at teenagers.

This terrible drama limits the ceiling of Binbougami ga! Any time spent not making the viewer laugh is wasted time. It’s strange that the show is so good at playing Ichiko and Momiji’s selfishness and self-absorption off each other but doesn’t seem to understand that this is what makes them engaging and entertaining. Part of comedy is inserting chaos where you couldn’t — or shouldn’t — in reality. Ichiko is funny not simply because she’s selfish, but also because she’s so gleeful about it. She protects her life with zest and zeal. It’s wrong, especially because she gets her wonderful life off the backs of others, but her fervency is funny. Neutering Ichiko makes her boring.

Binbougami ga! is a fun comedy in spite of the worthless drama. Its core isn’t much different from many comedies, but the execution of the gags puts it a cut above most. The end of the anime leaves a clear setup for more. Hopefully, if the show does receive a second season, it leaves the drama at the door.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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