The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Hoozuki no Reitetsu

Title: Hoozuki no Reitetsu aka Hoozuki’s Coolheadedness
Genre: Comedy
Company: Wit Studio
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 10 Jan 2014 – 04 Apr 2014

Synopsis: Because of the post war baby boom, it’s busier than ever in Japanese Hell. Good thing King Yama can rely on his competent right-hand man, Hoozuki, to keep things on track. He manages hundreds of torture demons, greets delegations from other hells and keeps King Yama focused with such brutal efficiency and sly humour that others both fear and admire him. He is, truly, the greatest bureaucrat Hell has ever seen.

The Highlights
Hoozuki: Cold, calculating and quick to insult.
Japanese cultural references: Many, but can still be enjoyed by outsiders.
Comedy: Irreverent and usually sharp, with a few misses.

Hoozuki no Reitetsu thrives on defying expectations. Instead of the dark, horrible and chaotic Hell often imagined, this Hell is set up as a modern corporation. It apparently takes a lot of organization to make sure visitors are adequately and appropriately tortured, and Hoozuki is just the person for the job. Appearing cold and unemotional, he is in fact a passionate man who does everything at 110%. Whether chopping fish for dinner or dealing with uncooperative subordinates, his quiet intensity takes many by surprise, though he would much rather spend his time tending his screaming goldfish plants and backhandedly insulting the often incompetent King Yama.

Hoozuki alone makes this series worthwhile, and provoking him is a cast of demons and folk figures spanning several cultural traditions. There’s Hakutaku (or Bai Ze), Momotaro and his talking animals, and even the Devil himself. A lot of liberty is taken in interpreting these characters and how they would interact in a spirit world not so different from our own reality. These characters read blogs, admire idol singers and look forward to going to Heaven for vacation. The humour is irreverent, and occasionally a little less than tasteful. Some of the torture scenes, though exaggerated, were also a tad brutal. This is certainly not a series for the easily offended.

Each episode features two short stories, though characters reappear and there is continuity over the whole series. The comedic timing is generally strong and the characters’ facial expressions are often spot on. Japanese Hell is portrayed using beautiful ink painted backgrounds with muted colours to give a sense of agelessness and otherworldliness, despite the cell phones and televisions.

The greatest challenge with this series, at least for non-Japanese viewers, is the heavy reliance on Japanese cultural references, linguistic jokes and analogies to modern corporate Japan. This may prove a barrier to some viewers and I am certain I missed more than a few jokes myself. However, there is still enough for an international viewer to enjoy and some of the mythology can be learned on the go.

Coming off of their highly successful first outing with Attack on Titan, Wit Studio elected to go in a completely different direction with their second production. As a dark comedy, Hoozuki no Reitetsu gets its humour mostly right, with Hoozuki stealing the show by always being one step ahead. A few jokes left me sour, but not enough to spoil the experience. This series certainly offers something a little different from the typical anime comedy.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Kaikyaku

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