Review/discussion about: Sakamoto desu ga?
I would not consider myself a cool person. Nerdy, sure. Handsome, why not. (At least, that’s what my grandmother tells me whenever I see her.) But not cool.
I’m not even kidding. Snowboarding is probably my coolest trait, and, even then, I cannot perform any tricks off ramps or rails for fear of hurting myself unnecessarily. (Falling on my bum is enough pain for me).
Although, after watching Sakamoto desu ga?, I may not be as uncool as I once thought.
Sakamoto has only one star: Sakamoto. In short, he is beyond stylish. And that’s what the anime almost exclusively focuses on. For twelve straight episodes, Sakamoto (the show) proves why Sakamoto (the man) is the coolest dude to ever live.
He doesn’t just play an arcade whack-a-mole game; he plays Bach as he hits the different heads.
He gets himself sent out into the hall while in class – to feed and protect a dying baby sparrow.
He picks up a girl’s eraser, uses it furiously, then gives it back, allowing the girl to calm down her nerves and warm her hands from the heat created by the intense friction.
Obviously, there are way too many instances to list because, to reiterate, the anime is literally all about Sakamoto being insanely cool ad infinitum. Which leads into the show’s most arguable aspect: the main joke itself.
On the one hand, the audience always “knows” what’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter if the situation looks completely grim, if Sakamoto is doing something weird, or if nothing is happening at all. The show will make sure that the coolest guy ever is the coolest guy ever. In this way, the anime loses out on suspense and intrigue since the outcome is already “known” beforehand.
On the other hand, this joke is the whole point of the show. It’s obvious that the anime will not be doing more than making Sakamoto out to be a cool cat, so it is almost unfair to expect anything else to happen. Plus, the anime does a nice job of spinning the mundane scenarios that Sakamoto finds himself in with crazy yet plausible coolness.
Disregarding the contention of repetition, Sakamoto does choose to follow some questionable routes.
For instance, the entire subplot with Fukase is odd. Having this antagonist appear way too late into the season is one issue, but it is his conclusion and relation that creates the biggest head-scratcher.
As has been mentioned many a time already, Sakamoto is an anime about a super-cool dude. By extension, it’s also about how everyone else views him as cool, too. But not Fukase. He never actually concedes to Sakamoto’s coolness, “losing” by trickery and betrayal. In other words, the anime fails to fulfill its promise that Sakamoto is, in fact, the coolest dude around (to everybody else).
The show also has the problem of regressing on its already-finished outcomes. Characters that were helped, such as Atsushi and Yuuya, are affected by Sakamoto’s cool aura, but the anime will later choose to have these same people go against Sakamoto again, removing the purpose or impact of their earlier interactions with the king of cool.
Ambiguity in the ending also does not help the anime’s execution. His leave comes out of nowhere, and his sentimental appeal is lost on the audience since he never really seemed to connect with any of the other students emotionally
But when all is said and done, Sakamoto has an underlying message that may not be clear since it is hidden behind the comedy and these problems.
Once again, Sakamoto is no doubt a cool guy. But what makes him cool? Is it those quirky moves that he employs from time to time? Is it those girls that constantly flock around him? Is it his general demeanor?
No. It is none of those qualities.
It’s true that Sakamoto kicking a rock along a slanted ramp while defying gravity is cool. Him defeating one of the bigger punks of the school at a game of pushing sumo makes him cooler than most. But what makes him the coolest is his friendship with Kubota, his way of inspiring others to be better people, and his general sense of selflessness.
That is, what’s coolest is being a genuinely good person. And that, if nothing else, makes the narrative a meaningful one.
Much of Sakamoto finds itself with mixed art and animation.
Art-wise, the show succumbs to its boring setting. The school and nearby town do not lend themselves to immense creativity and, as a result, the anime fails to be captivating visually.
Granted, it does what it can. Sakamoto’s different “secret techniques,” such as “Sleepover PE” or “Wind with No Destination (Straw Cigarette)”, add some much-needed flair with sparkles, colors, and a display of words. Furthermore, a lot of Sakamoto’s different actions are given better lighting, accentuating the “holiness” that Sakamoto seems to exude.
The character designs likewise meet a mixed fate. To be fair, they are what they should be: realistic, plain people. But they don’t do much to appeal to the audience. The exception, of course, is Sakamoto. The mole near his eye, his toned physique, his proper outfit, his tallness, and his sharp features turn him into the attractive, cool man he is supposed to be.
To be fair again, the other characters are not without their own physical traits. Indeed, Kubota’s squat face or Yuuya’s big belly highlight Sakamoto’s design that much more. But it is hard to see their designs as anything more than passable.
Actual-animation-wise, Sakamoto performs similarly. Perhaps obviously, the anime reserves most of its movement and resources for Sakamoto’s various exploits. Jumping onto debris in a swift river, competing in a snowball fight, and parachuting out of a window using a makeshift device are just some the many events involving Sakamoto that get animated throughout the season.
Meaning, everyone who isn’t Sakamoto has seen better days. Lots of streaky backgrounds, non-moving bodies, and general nuance (such as eye and hair shifts) are hardly seen from the side characters.
Although even Sakamoto cannot evade the low-quality animation hammer. Cleaning the ceiling while avoiding the dust that falls is given multiple still shots to mirror movement, and creating centrifugal wind through a video-rental store sees a similar effect. These examples, however, can be forgiven since they are used for cool, comedic effect.
There’s not a whole lot to say about Sakamoto’s characters. And this void leads to both intentional and unintentional outcomes.
Looking at the side characters first, they are more or less a single trait, missing out on characterization let alone development. Kubota is the loner. Kakuta is the mean teacher. Kuronuma is the popular girl. And so on and so forth.
Their singular purpose is to demonstrate that Sakamoto cannot be phased, cannot be thrown for a loop, and cannot be anything but cool.
Which works. It’s fun seeing Sakamoto one-up the college students, and it’s hilarious to watch the mean ring-leader unable to cope with Sakamoto’s insane attention to servitude.
Unfortunately, the anime pays a price for only having its side cast exist under the same category: severely unengaging personalities. They simply lack the necessary intrigue to make them worthwhile characters – both for the audience and for the show itself.
As for Sakamoto, surprisingly, next to nothing is given about him. Kubota even makes a comment about this – that he barely inquired about the coolest dude in the world. Because he didn’t, the audience likewise knows very little about Sakamoto. His family. His interests. His overall feelings as a person. Nothing is given.
This lack of information creates mystery surrounding his origins and self in general, fueling his cool flame further. Plus, the adage “actions speak louder than words” work wonders here to visually demonstrate who and what makes up Sakamoto.
The only other tidbit about the characters that could be said is through the reversal in their juxtaposition.
To reiterate, almost all the side characters exist to make Sakamoto look cool. Simultaneously, Sakamoto exists to make the side characters also look cool.
For example, Sakamoto using his “gun” to diffuse the balloon situation allows the two male students who framed him to reveal their true feelings. Another example is Sakamoto taking the time to not only serve as Hayabusa’s arms and legs but also to act as the face-forward decoy. Yet another example is Yuuya undressing himself to take embarrassment away from Yagi after his shoelace-tying plan against Sakamoto worked a little too well.
In this way, the anime is essentially expressing the notion that everyone can be cool. Obviously, nobody can be as cool as Sakamoto, but, after what they see of him, how they are affected by him, it becomes clear that being cool is not just reserved for the NASA-aspiring man.
Arguably speaking, the opening track of Sakamoto is its strongest facet. The triumphant tone of the piece, created by the resounding drums and loud guitar, fits easily amidst the triumph that Sakamoto so regularly champions. The chanting of “cooler, coolest”, the rising lyrics in the middle, and the overall catchiness of the piece make it a (appropriate enough) cool OP.
The ending track should not be overlooked, however, for it is just as strong of a song. The slow, calm pacing contrasts with the OP but coincides with many parts of the anime. Because coolness, both in action and in name, entails a sense of chill. The vocalist does well, and, once again, the track is quite catchy (and fun to whistle to), so the ED ends up as another solid addition to the musical lineup.
The rest of the original soundtrack is unlike the OP and the ED in that the tracks themselves are not all that interesting. But they do follow the main motif of the show: coolness. Lots of jazzy tracks and rich tunes, filled with saxophones, trumpets, wind instruments galore, inject even more coolness into the anime.
Finally, voice acting sees no notable performances except for perhaps Hikaru Midorikawa as Sakamoto and Akira Ishida as Kubota. While neither of them have any stand-out moments, the former’s composed delivery and the latter’s nasally voice fit their respective characters well.
While the repetition in the joke was evident, I never felt as though it were an issue.
Instead, I was laughing at the silliness of it all. Sakamoto riding a mop-and-bin like a Segway. All the girls during art class rushing to get near his side to draw and be drawn by him. The insane ability for him to create subliminal effects in fractions of a fraction of a second. Yes, it was “all the same,” but I still smiled regardless.
Although it wasn’t all smiles. I do wish there was more to Sakamoto than what was given. Maybe exploring that romance angle or maybe showing more of his thoughts in general. To be fair, having him end up with anyone would, in some sense, take away part of his coolness, and monologuing would defeat the surprise in the solutions he comes up with. But I still would have liked to have seen more.
My biggest gripe, however, was Kubota’s mom. Simply put, I was not a fan. At all. She was a creepy character who got too much screen time (time that could have been used to introduce another new person instead) for my liking.
Even so, she wasn’t enough on her own to completely take away how entertaining it was to see these slice-of-life moments taken to the “extreme.”
Sakamoto desu ga? gives an answer to its question. The story’s theme on coolness, the strong OP and ED, and the comedy itself are positives worth noting. But the lack of an interesting side cast, the low animation, and a certain mom are negatives also worth noting. Still, it’s a cool time nonetheless (even without any snowboard tricks).
Story: Fine, while problems exist in terms of the content and its delivery, the overall message on what is actually the coolest makes the show into more than just a comedic outing
Animation: Fine, mixed artistic direction, character designs, and actual animation
Characters: Fine, the side cast are severely unengaging, but Sakamoto’s lack of details strangely helps, and the theme on everyone having the potential to be cool is not lost
Sound: Fine, good OP, good ED, okay OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Fine, Kubota’s mom was creepy, but the “extreme” slice-of-life events were still a lot of fun
Final Score: 5/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3