Review: Himouto! Umaru-chan

We’ve all been there. There’s this one show that all of your friends like, they talk about it all the time, and you… you just don’t really get it, for one reason or another. It didn’t “click” with you. You just don’t enjoy it that much. Unfortunately, it leaves you a little bit out of the group, as everyone wants to talk about it, and you just don’t see its appeal.

But sometimes, you watch the show anyway, just so you can watch it with your friends and talk with them about it. And sometimes, in those cases, you actually end up growing to enjoy the show yourself.

An Introduction

Umaru is your standard super pretty, extremely nice girl by day, but at night, she turns into Umaru-chan (also known as UMR or Komaru), an anime-loving, video game-playing slob that lazes around. Umaru’s dual identities formed as the result of a snowball effect: one small story was told at the school that wasn’t entirely true, which lead to another not-entirely-true story or piece of gossip, which lead to another… soon enough, the discrepancy got large enough that Umaru had to take on that super nice personality to keep up with what gets said about her at school.

Umaru lives in a small apartment with her older brother Taihei, who usually spends most of the day working. Taihei is one of a select few that get to see Umaru’s slobby otaku side, and, indeed, is the one to deal with it most of the time. He acts as a foil to Umaru, trying to keep her grounded, and acting as the professional, responsible older brother when Umaru is being messy and a nuisance.

Alongside Taihei, some of the other people we get to meet is Ebina, Umaru’s best friend from school. Although Ebina lives in the same apartment complex as Umaru, she’s never seen Umaru’s otaku side. Tachibana Sylphynford (whom I’ll refer to as TSF-san) is Umaru’s self-proclaimed rival, despite how she usually fails to outwit Umaru is nearly anything, but at least she has enthusiasm. Finally, Kirie is an extremely shy girl in Umaru’s class that wants to befriend Umaru, but doesn’t quite know how to. She stumbles across otaku-Umaru, and takes otaku-Umaru to be her master.

Each episode has at least two stories, which detail random events in Umaru’s life (and sometimes the lives of others, such as Taihei), usually done for comedy.

The Plot and Characters

This is my personal taste, but I have a hard time enjoying a show where it features a lot of one character being a brat (in substitution of more crass language) towards another one. And that’s the case here, with Umaru being whiny, childish, and simply ungrateful towards Taihei. It was uncomfortable for me to watch, which is why I had a hard time getting into this anime when it started. I almost nearly dropped the series partway in because of that. Luckily, after the first few episodes, they toned it down. It was still present, but it wasn’t uncomfortably too much. Sometimes, especially in the latter half of the series, Umaru actually started to show some sympathy towards Taihei, which I really appreciated and enjoyed.

Many of the show’s stories basically were just what Umaru did on a particular afternoon. About 60 to 70% of the show takes place in Umaru and Taihei’s apartment, so we see a lot of interaction between the two of them. There was quite a bit of Umaru lazing around, being irresponsible, and Taihei scolding her. Or a lot of Umaru explaining her take on being an otaku (simply put, Umaru’s “life hacks”; here’s one: cola is amazing and goes great with everything). There’s also a notable amount of Umaru visiting arcades and basically robbing them with how unbelievably successful she is at winning almost every single game.

While some repetitive themes and other things do show up throughout the show, it didn’t come off as too repetitive. The show did pretty good to keep things fresh throughout the series, despite Umaru simply being an otaku that tends to get her way.

Indeed, Umaru could basically be summed up as just that: an irresponsible, whiny, sloppy otaku that tends to get her way. There’s not really much more to her than that, and I wouldn’t think she needs anything more to her character, with worries that anything extra would bog down the simple enjoyment of the show. Ebina, TSF-san (heck if I remember her full name), Kirie, and most other recurring characters can be similarly summed up in a single sentence; they stick as one-trick ponies, archetypes and all, throughout the entire show, for better or for worse. Taihei, though, I found quite rounded; we get to see both his home life, and his work life, and we even get glimpses of his time as a high schooler. Overall, I feel like Taihei was quite developed, and it made me more even more sympathetic of his plight.

Overall, I did find myself quite entertained, especially after the first few episodes, where they introduced more situations, settings, and characters that would reappear later on. I can’t really say the show got me to laugh (excepting some of the products they created that was totally just a substitution for a real-life copyrighted product), and it probably wouldn’t do all that much to really brighten up my mood after a tough day, but it still was simple fun. There’s something just relaxing to it; you feel so relaxed while watching an episode. It has this charm to it that just gets you to like the show, no matter how hard you try to hate it. It did take those first few episodes to get actually invested in the show though.

The Atmosphere

The art for Umaru-chan wasn’t anything that stellar, but it certainly wasn’t bad. It was most definitively “good”. They tended to not be too detailed with the backgrounds or anything, and the character designs were also relatively simple. Overall, the show had this simple look to it that worked in this case. The animation was fluid at some points, and not so much during others.

Umaru switched between this “standard” design while under her super-pretty, super-nice girl persona, and this “chibi” design while under her otaku persona. It was a bit odd at first, but it’s a quick enough thing to get, and it most visibly shows what mindset Umaru has at that time. What I found odd is that while Umaru was in her chibi form, pretty much all the other characters acted as if she was that short.

The opening theme song was another thing that really annoyed me at first when I began the show, but as time went on, it grew on me, and I found it alright. The opening animation was also pretty cool, and was pretty much the one thing that got me to not skip it all. The ending is skippable though; it’s a fine enough song and a fair enough slide-show type animation, but it feels relatively generic.

The show’s soundtrack is actually pretty nice. You wouldn’t expect something of this genre to really have anything that noteworthy, BGM-wise, but in this case, it does. I wouldn’t say it’s the most memorable of soundtracks, with an unusual instrumentation or genre, but it just works so well for this series. There’s one theme that plays a lot while at the apartment, and it’s quite simple, relying on strings and woodwinds, but it’s unique. The soundtrack gives this relaxing feeling to the entire show, even when things get a bit hectic sometimes, and it helps to keep the mood calm and not get the viewer all anxious. I’d listen to the soundtrack on its own if I could.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

To sum this show up in one word, it’s simple. Its art is simple, its characters are simple, the stories are pretty simple and straightforward, the premise is relatively simple. Simply put, it’s simple to understand, it’s simple to get into, and it’s simple to enjoy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; if this was their goal, they succeeded. However, it’s not going to make you laugh or cry or get you super invested.

At its core, it’s a slice-of-life show, featuring the lifestyle and adventures of our main character, Umaru. The crowd of anime watchers that watch primarily slice-of-life will know what they want to get out of this show. This show could maybe attract more people than an average slice-of-life with Umaru being who and what she is, but I don’t know. This show will not cause you to fall in love with it right away; it’s more something you’ll become, bit by bit, more appreciative of as time goes on, so expect yourself to need a bit of time with this show.

Rating: Average
Recommendation: Give It A Shot

+++ nice simple story and visuals, decently good soundtrack, Taihei is a surprisingly developed character
— Umaru is sometimes bratty, supporting cast are one-trick ponies, first few episodes not the best

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