Forget about fake news, what about fake people? You know the ones, folks who pretend to be someone else to fit in with the cool crowd. I am useless at hiding my geeky credentials (what with my stereotypical specs, acne encrusted skin and poor social skills) but the same isn’t true for everyone else. Your strict boss could be a closet brony for example! Umaru Doma, the star of Himouto Umaru-chan, happens to be one of those social chameleons. In public she portrays the role of model student – beautiful, great at sports and top of the class when it comes to grades. Away from prying eyes however she is a hardcore otaku who loves games, manga and unhealthy snacks.
The only person privy to Umaru’s secret identity is her long-suffering elder brother Taihei Doma. Anime fans know that parents do not exist, in the wacky world of Japanese cartoons, so the aforementioned siblings cohabitate alone in a modest studio apartment. Life at home is filled with feuds over Umaru’s refusal to do chores or anything else constructive for that matter. Taihei tries to lay down the law, but more often than not capitulates to Umaru’s tantrums. A few tears and some guilt tripping is all that’s required to coerce bro into buying her hamsters, the latest comic or a new console game.
On paper I should despise Umaru, for being a selfish brat, but somehow the series manages to make her likable. It’s tough to hate the protagonist, as her egoistic personality is the catalyst for much of the show’s hilarity. I also have a soft spot for the lead as her hobbies mirror my own. We look nothing alike though. She might be able to maintain a slim figure by guzzling carbonated beverages and sitting in front of a PC all day, but I certainly can’t. Perhaps her trim waist is the result of shape shifting powers? Whenever Umaru reaches home she transforms from a regular girl to a hoodie wearing chibi cutie.
Normally when an anime character shifts into an ultra deformed look no one acknowledges the change, but in Umaru’s case it appears that she genuinely does morph into a midget. Case in point – the time her shy classmate Kirie Motoba turned up at the Doma abode. When Kirie spotted the diminutive Umaru she was easily convinced into believing that Chibi Umaru is a made up little sister named Komaru. Then again none of the cast are sharp when it comes to identification. Umaru’s academic rival Sylphyn Tachibana for example doesn’t suspect that the buddy she hangs out with, at the local arcade, is Umaru sporting an eye mask!
Speaking of buddies, Umaru’s best friend is a buxom gal named Nana Ebina. Nana has a crush on Umaru’s brother, stemming from the time she migrated over from Akita to the big city. Taihei garnered her admiration, as he was the only person to make eye contact with her. Miss Ebina is oblivious to the fact that the locals aren’t mean; they just weren’t making eye contact as their gaze was squarely focused on her knockers! Other characters of note include Taihei’s trio of office co-workers. Takeshi the slacker with an Afro, German born Alex who browses for anime girls on work computers and Kanau the flirtatious manager.
My rating for Himouto Umaru-chan is a three and a half out of five. I wasn’t too impressed with the first episode, but the series gradually grew on me. Each instalment introduces a new character to the mix and it was fun watching them bounce off each other. In terms of structure the anime reminds me of The Comic Artist & His Assistants. Each episode is a chain of skits, which are low on story and high on amusement. I dug the funny anime references and could relate to the Doma brother/sister dynamic. Like most siblings they bicker a lot, but occasionally you’ll glimpse moments that show how much they value each other’s company. Their animated relationship is more genuine than the fake news CNN peddles.