The Introduction: Outbreak Company premiered this October in Japan as part of this fall's anime season. It focused on Kanou Shinichi a hikikomori, or in other words a hardcore shut in, who is whisked away to another world. Here he awakes in the Eldant Empire with a maid all his own and a well endowed bodyguard. He seems to be living the culture that he reveres! Otaku culture is revered in this world as something new, exotic, and exciting. Just the place for our expert otaku Shinichi. Here he meets new friends and begins showing this new world just what otaku culture is all about.
The Fabulous: The show really pushed a lot of buttons with me in terms of enjoyment. It focuses on character above all else, Myucel Shinichi's maid quickly became one of my favorites and they spend time fleshing out the majority of their characters. and it doesn't push fanservice too hard, while still wryly acknowledging that it exists. The humor really is top notch. While some of it comes from Shinichi's fish out of water nature in the Eldant Empire, most of it comes from the reaction that his new students have to the Otaku culture and little in jokes for people who have been fans of the industry for years. What completely took me aback though was the commentary on racism and imperialism that was threaded throughout the series. Now I'm not going to go into some Pseudo-Intellectual babble about how the show relates to real events and write a thesis about the subject, but I did appreciate some mature and complex themes peppered in with my dramedy (man I hate that word, but if it isn't apt here I'm a monkey's uncle). Elves hate the dwarves and the dwarves hate the elves, then there are half-elves despised by all and a few other races like lizard-people and werewolves and such. Oh and the humans rule them all. This is all handled matter of factly and not in a way that seems too heavy handed. The conflict that arises from these tensions and Shinichi's interactions with them is truly interesting and it permeates the whole season.
The Meh: Now, I've been singing it's praises here for a few paragraphs, but Outbreak Company's far from perfect. While it does better than most with it's large cast, a few of the characters are pushed to the side and receive little attention after a tantalizingly interesting introduction. It's like the show's teasing me. The worst offender is the werewolf character Elbia, she's introduced given a neat little backstory and then they never do too much with her after that. It's kind of a shame given how much effort went into introducing the character.
The Unfabulous: It suffers the same fate many anime do these days in that it has a very open ended ending. While better than a lot of others (it finishes the main plot) it still leaves a number of threads dangling in case of a second season. The final complaint I have with the series is that the big twist happens far too late into the season, we're left with a meager two episodes to deal with the conclusion and fallout. Then again that's one of the pitfalls of a twelve episode season, the pacing can often feel rushed in places where a twenty six episode season would have room to breathe.
The Conclusion: I think it's because I wasn't expecting anything at all going in, I hadn't heard of the series and didn't really think much about it that I found myself truly enjoying the series. I wouldn't say it's the best of the season, but I would squarely put it in the top five, seeing as there were 49 new series this fall I'd say that's pretty damn good.
This review was also featured on B-Ten.com, though in a slightly different format (namely the lack of section headers and inclusion of a numerical score. Which generally I don't like, but hey it's the site's format, so I'll go with it).