If suffering for your craft means groping umpteen breasts for maximum realism, then self-confessed creepy mangaka Yuki Aito suffers like no other. For Yuki, panties are the be-all and end-all – his muse. His manga series, Shy Café, then, is exactly as you’d expect.
Based on Hiroyuki’s four-panel manga series, the anime takes the same good humoured pot shots at the industry. For all its quirks, the series does touch on the hard graft and crippling hours of manga artists in a way that only an insider could know.
With the onslaught of weekly deadlines, Yuki is only able to keep a steady turnaround with his reliable assistant Sahoto Ashisu, and a combination of energy drinks and sleepless nights. Sahoto is nursing her own dreams of being a pro, but is building up a backlog of rejected stories. Their relationship can be on the caustic side, but there’s a geniality to it.
Having failed in her own ambition to become a comic artist, Mihari Otosuna took on the mantle of Yuki’s editor instead. She’s filled with harsh truths and wake up calls, but an unbidden day dreamer nonetheless. And in the social strata of the Monthly Shōnen Gongon environment, Matome Minano is the bigwig as the kooky and creepy Editor-in-chief.
In their round table meetings, this rogue’s gallery of magazine types offer up a deconstruction of manga tropes. Trying to jazz up the waning series leads to a creative back and forth, the result of which is that if it works, use it. And there’s plenty to be gleaned from this insight, whether it be conforming to what’s popular in order to boost the chance of publication or introducing a new character to score new readers.
Away from genre conventions, the series - or more specifically Yuki - gets very philosophical about panty flashes. Apparently there’s contention among connoisseurs between a glimpse and a full flash. This ardent fascination lets viewers into the mind-set and motivation of echhi, which is on its way to being celebratory if it weren’t for the satire at the root of it all.
Told across twelve 13-minute episodes, each of with are essentially a series of sketches, the series is easy to experience in one sitting (if you don’t mind the Japanese dub only option, that is). The 6 OVAs are a nice addition but just more of the same, and the same does wear thing after a few hours.
With its mix of visual gags, sound effects and Yoshitsugu Matsuoka’s terrific voice acting, The Comic Artist and His Assistants stumbles across a winning formula. As well as offering an insight in the manga industry and placidly poking fun, it’s a series that’s charming in a perverted sort of way. A sentiment best embodied by Yuki singing Endless Panties over the end credits of the final episode.
Special Features: 6 OVAs / Clean opening and closing / Episode 12 karaoke version
THE COMIC ARTIST & HIS ASSISTANTS – THE COMPLETE COLLECTION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TAKESHI FURUTA / SCREENPLAY: AKI ITAMI / STARRING: YOSHITSUGU MATSUOKA, SAORI HAYAMI, ARISA NOTO, YUKA IGUCHI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW