Review of Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto (2016)

Moving picture, 5.0 hours

Seen in 2020.

The coolest, most stylish kid in school cannot be fazed.

One of those bizarre conceptual comedies enabled by Japan’s perennial flood of school manga, like “Ryusei-Kacho” (2001). It’s about the tropes: Sakamoto is idealized like the hot guys of Yuri on Ice (2016) or butler porn, to an extent comical in itself. He’s an amalgamated stereotype, an ikemen, a bespectacled yare-yare-kei, never brash but somehow a straight-laced overachiever in every subject and a gentle friend to animals (“Oh god! He’s so loving!”) and a known associate of the school’s bad boys, and a free spirit who always arrives at the last second. It’s both the semiotic game of Blazing Transfer Student (1991) and a parody of juvenile scripting: The fantasy of wish fulfillment, the kid who has it all at no cost.

One of the recurring jokes is that Sakamoto, being a character type rather than a character, has no known residence, family or given name. When forced to improvise, he calls himself “Slope-book Sakamoto”, translating his nondescript family name (坂本, meaning the family farming by “the base of the slope”) to terrible English (books being the “base” of learning, also written 本).

He’s so awesome that he’s hardly human, but he ends up pinched by the improbable, meticulously staged circumstances of Ippatsu Kiki Musume (1999) and the dubiously ultramasculine delinquent antagonists of Cromartie High School (2003), all while the whole show looks deceptively normal. The character designs and voices are played 80% straight, helped by the absence of laughter. It’s at once subtle and absurd; a One Punch Man (2015) for romantic slice of life instead of action.

moving picture animation Japanese production fiction series