After being rejected by a childhood friend for little more than being an otaku, Shinichi Kanou retreated into life as a shut in. There he fell deeper into the rabbit hole of geekery and wound up a lonely 29 year old. After scoring top points on an otaku-themed quiz, he is hired by a mysterious bureaucratic organisation. It’s only after waking up from a drugged cup of coffee that he realises the extent of the job he’s signed on for.
In the shadow of Mt Fuji, a rift was discovered that led to another universe. For the otaku mindset, the mishmash of final fantasy touchstones and genre tropes is a haven, which is fortunate as Shinichi has been hired as a cultural envoy to introduce its people to the wonders of Japanese manga, anime and video games. As someone who speaks in anime quotes and references, it’s a job he’s been training his whole life for. The fact he has a half elf maid doting on him only sweetens the deal.
But this is a culture which functions on inequality; 80% of the populace is illiterate and any species other than human is forced into military duty to gain citizenship. This inevitably holds an ugly mirror up to our own world and what we deem common practice. Interestingly, there’s a subplot involving terrorists and nationalism, demonstrating Outbreak Company, like otaku themselves, are so much more than meets the eye.
It’s a concept very reminiscent of this year’s Gate, albeit in reverse, and one which has the power to startle and surprise. It’s only a few months into the job that Shinichi has introduced the Japanese language to a people whose native tongue was based on runes and other pictographs, and established a school. And the natives take otaku culture to their hearts with utter abandon, leading to a boom in Japanese exports and a dubious example of globalisation.
The barrage of game and manga references are helpfully listed like a grab bag of geeky delights, and it’s just one of the reasons why the concept works better in anime form than Ichirō Sakaki’s light novel source material.
As a bullied otaku, to escape into a fantasy land is the eternal daydream. Outbreak Company is wish fulfilment at its most affectionate, and as a cautionary tale on the evils of consumerism, it’s a pretty thoughtful experience too.
Special Features: Texltess opening and closing / Trailers
OUTBREAK COMPANY – SERIES COLLECTION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: KEI OIKAWA / SCREENPLAY: NARUHISA ARAKAWA / STARRING: NATSUKI HANAE, SUZUKO MIMORI, MAI FUCHIGAMI, MAAYA UCHIDA / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 12TH